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Main article: Kleiner Perkins

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KPCB has already blown through much of the $600 million it raised last year

06:32 | 30 January

Kleiner Perkins, one of the most storied franchises in venture capital, has already invested much of the $600 million it raised last year and is now going back out to the market to raise its 19th fund, according to multiple sources.

The firm, which underwent a significant restructuring over the last two years, went on an investment tear over the course of 2019 as new partners went out to build up a new portfolio for the firm — almost of a whole cloth.

A spokesperson for KPCB declined to comment on the firm’s fundraising plans citing SEC regulations.

The quick turnaround for KPCB is indicative of a broader industry trend, which has investors pulling the trigger on term sheets for new startups in days rather than weeks.

Speaking onstage at the Upfront Summit, an event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. organized by the Los Angeles-based venture firm Upfront Ventures as a showcase for technology and investment talent in Southern California, venture investor Josh Kopelman spoke to the heightened pace of dealmaking at his own firm.

The founder of First Round Ventures said that the average time from first contact with a startup to drawing up a term sheet has collapsed from 90 days in 2004 to 9 days today.

 

“This could also be due to changes in the competitive landscape … and there may be changes with First Round Capital itself,” says one investor. “It may have been once upon a time that they were looking at really early raw stuff… But, today, First Round is not really in the first round anymore. Companies are raising some angel money or Y Combinator money.”

At KPCB, the once-troubled firm has been buoyed by recent exits in companies like Beyond Meat, a deal spearheaded by the firm’s former partner Amol Deshpande (who now serves as the chief executive of Farmers Business Network) and Slack.

And its new partners are clearly angling to make names for themselves.

“KP used to be a small team doing hands-on company building. We’re moving away from being this institution with multiple products and really just focusing on early-stage venture capital,” Kleiner Perkins  partner Ilya Fushman said when the firm announced its last fund.

Kleiner Perkins partner Ilya Fushman

“We went out to market to LPs. We got a lot of interest. We were significantly oversubscribed,” Fushman said of the firm’s raise at the time.

In some ways, it’s likely the kind of rejuvenation that John Doerr was hoping for when he approached Social + Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya about “acquiring” that upstart firm back in 2015.

At the time, as Fortune reported, Palihapitiya and the other Social + Capital partners, Ted Maidenberg and Mamoon Hamid would have become partners in the venture firm under the terms of the proposed deal.

Instead, Social + Capital walked away, the firm eventually imploded and Hamid joined Kleiner Perkins two years later.

The new Kleiner Perkins is a much more streamlined operation. Gone are the sidecar and thematic funds that were a hallmark of earlier strategies and gone too are the superstars brought in by Mary Meeker to manage Kleiner Perkins’ growth equity investments. Meeker absconded with much of that late stage investment team to form Bond — and subsequently raised hundreds of millions of dollars herself.

Those strategies have been replaced by a clutch of young investors and seasoned Kleiner veterans including Ted Schlein who has long been an expert in enterprise software and security.

“Maybe at this point they think they can raise based on the whole story about Mamoon taking over and a few years from now they won’t be able to raise on that story and will have to raise on the results,” says one investor with knowledge of the industry. “Mamoon is a pretty legit, good investor. But the legacy of the firm is going to be tough to overcome.”

All of these changes are not necessarily sitting well with limited partners.

“LPs are not really happy about what’s going on,” says one investor with knowledge of the venture space. “Everybody thinks valuations are too high since 2011 and people are thinking there’s going to be a recession. LPs think funds are coming back to market too fast and they’re being greedy and there’s not enough vintage diversification but LPs … feel almost obligated that they have to do these things… Investing in Sequoia is like that saying that you don’t get fired for buying IBM .”

 


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Practice Fusion, backed by top VCs before selling in 2018, pushed doctors to prescribe opioids in kickback scheme

04:56 | 28 January

Practice Fusion, a medical records startup that attracted more than $150 million from VCs, including at Founders Fund, Kleiner Perkins, and Artis Ventures, has some negative press coverage since selling to its older and publicly traded rival Allscripts in a $100 million cash deal in early 2018.

Yet it appears that Practice Fusion, founded in 2005, was run even more poorly than has been reported. In fact, the company was just tied to same drug overdose epidemic that has killed tens of thousands of Americans in just the last few years alone. How is it possible that a venture-backed, San Francisco-based medical records startup could have that kind of impact? In a word: kickbacks.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Practice Fusion solicited and received pay from a major (unnamed for now) opioid company in exchange for using its EHR software to influence doctors in the act of prescribing opioid pain medications. Specifically, according to court documents released earlier today by federal prosecutors in Vermont, Practice Fusion solicited a nearly $1 million payment from the opioid company, promising that in exchange it would create alerts in its software that would cause physicians to write more prescriptions for extended release opioids than were needed.

Practice Fusion has agreed to pay $145 million to resolve the DOJ’s criminal and civil investigations, including a $26 million criminal fine and a $118.6 million civil settlement that “also resolves allegations of kickbacks relating to thirteen other CDS arrangements where Practice Fusion agreed with pharmaceutical companies to implement CDS alerts intended to increase sales of their products.”

Not last, it agreed to post documents about its conduct on a public website — though apparently not on its own site, which instead features very typical marketing language, beginning with the suggestion that visitors, “Meet the EHR that helps independent practices thrive.”

The news isn’t featured on Practice Fusion’s still live blog or press section or a separate “resource center” area, either. And good luck finding mention of the settlement on the site of Allscripts, which has no acknowledgment of the case listed on its site that we can find. Instead, a vice president at Allscripts, Brian Farley, today released a statement that reads:  “Since learning of this matter we have further strengthened Practice Fusion’s compliance program. Allscripts recognizes the devastating impact that opioids have had on communities nationwide, and we are using our technology to fight this epidemic.”

Allscripts has denied from the start that it knew the depths of Practice Fusion’s woes, even while it apparently had an inkling. According to numerous reports, AllScripts submitted a nonbinding letter of intent in May 2017 to purchase Practice Fusion for between $225 million and $250 million, which is twice what it paid seven months later.

According to FierceBiotech, Allscripts pulled its offer in June 2017 after an other EHR vendor, eClinicalWorks, settled with federal prosecutors for $155 million to resolve allegations that it falsified EHR certification. The “settlement suddenly clarified [for Allscripts] just how expensive a similar legal battle could be,” says the outlet, noting that the DOJ had separately reached out to Practice Fusion about its own EHR certification in March of 2017.

Either way, by last August, AllScripts had agreed to pay the $145 million settlement after reaching an agreement with the DOJ related to what was then an ongoing investigation. At the time, Allscripts President Rick Poulton told investors during a second quarter earnings call, “As you know from our previous SEC filings, DOJ began investigations into certain practices of Practice Fusion before we acquired the business early last year. These investigations had many similarities that have either been settled or remain active with many of our industry competitors.”

Poulton added, “After acquiring Practice Fusion, the DOJ investigations continued to expand and required expanding levels of resources from us to support.”

The company’s admission of guilt and accompanying settlement is a black mark for everyone involved with Practice Fusion from its earliest days, particularly given that this latest news punctuates a string of concerning revelations about the way that Practice Fusion was managed.

Soon after the startup was acquired by Allscripts, for example, CNBC published a report outlining “several years of missed targets,” a “management shake-up that resulted in the ouster of founder and CEO Ryan Howard,” and a board that was “quietly looking for a way out.” It also reported that many longtime employees left the company with nothing while managers “banked millions” in a pre-arranged carve-out.

Christina Nolan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont had her own harsh words in delivering news of the settlement earlier today, calling Practice Fusion’s conduct “abhorrent.”

Said Nolan, “During the height of the opioid crisis, the company took a million-dollar kickback to allow an opioid company to inject itself in the sacred doctor-patient relationship so that it could peddle even more of its highly addictive and dangerous opioids.

“The companies illegally conspired to allow the drug company to have its thumb on the scale at precisely the moment a doctor was making incredibly intimate, personal, and important decisions about a patient’s medical care, including the need for pain medication and prescription amounts.”

 

 


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Two Sigma Ventures raises $288 million, complementing its $60 billion hedge fund parent

21:38 | 22 January

Eight years ago, Two Sigma Investments began an experiment in early stage investing.

The hedge fund, focused on data-driven quantitative investing, was well on its way to amassing the $60 billion in assets under management that it currently holds, but wanted more exposure to early stage technology companies, so it created a venture capital arm, Two Sigma Ventures.

At the time, the firm was backed primarily by the hedge fund with a $150 million commitment. Now, eight years and several investments later, the firm has raised $288 million in new funding from outside investors and is pushing to prove out its model, which leverages its parent company’s network of 1,700 data scientists, engineers and industry experts to support development inside its portfolio.

The world is becoming awash in data and there’s continuing advances in the science of computing,” says Two Sigma Ventures co-founder Colin Beirne. “We thought eight years ago when when started, that more and more companies of the future would be tapping into those trends.”

Beirne describes the firm’s investment thesis as being centered on backing data-driven companies across any sector — from consumer technology companies like the social networking monitoring application, Bark, or the high performance, high-end sports wearable company, Whoop.

Alongside Beirne, Two Sigma Ventures is led by three other partners, Dan Abelon, who co-founded SpeedDate and sold it to IAC; Lindsey Gray, who launched and led NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute; and Villi Iltchev, a former general partner at August Capital.

Recent investments in the firm’s portfolio include Firedome, an endpoint security company; NewtonX, which provides a database of experts; Radar, a location-based data analysis company; and Terray Therapeutics, which uses machine learning for drug discovery.

Other companies in the firm’s portfolio are farther afield. These include the New York-based Amper Music, which uses machine learning to make new music; and Zymergen, which uses machine learning and big data to identify genetic variations useful in pharmaceutical and industrial manufacturing.

Currently, the firm’s portfolio is divided between enterprise investments, consumer-facing deals, and healthcare focused technologies. The biggest bucket is enterprise software companies, which Beirne estimates represents about 65% of the portfolio. He expects the firm to become more active in healthcare investments going forward.

“We really think that the intersection of data and biology is going to change how healthcare is delivered,” Beirne says. “That looks dramatically different a decade from now.”

To seed the market for investments, the firm’s partners have also backed the Allen Institute’s investment fund for artificial intelligence startups.

Together with Sequoia, KPCB, and Madrona, Two Sigma recently invested in a $10 million financing to seed companies that are working with AI. “This is a strategic investment from partner capital,” says Beirne.

Typically startups can expect Two Sigma to invest between $5 million and $10 million with its initial commitment. The firm will commit up to roughly $15 million in its portfolio companies over time.

 


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SpinLaunch spins up a $35M round to continue building its space catapult

03:41 | 17 January

SpinLaunch, a company that aims to turn the launch industry on its head with a wild new concept for getting to orbit, has raised a $35M round B to continue its quest. The team has yet to demonstrate their kinetic launch system, but this year will be the year that changes, they claim.

TechCrunch first reported on SpinLaunch’s ambitious plans in 2018, when the company raised its previous $35 million, which combined with $10M it raised prior to that and today’s round comes to a total of $80M. With that kind of money you might actually be able to build a space catapult.

The basic idea behind SpinLaunch’s approach is to get a craft out of the atmosphere using a “rotational acceleration method” that brings a craft to escape velocity without any rockets. While the company has been extremely tight-lipped about the details, one imagines a sort of giant rail gun curled into a spiral, from which payloads will emerge into the atmosphere at several thousand miles per hour — weather be damned.

Naturally there is no shortage of objections to this method, the most obvious of which is that going from an evacuated tube into the atmosphere at those speeds might be like firing the payload into a brick wall. It’s doubtful that SpinLaunch would have proceeded this far if it did not have a mitigation for this (such as the needle-like appearance of the concept craft) and other potential problems, but the secretive company has revealed little.

The time for broader publicity may soon be at hand, however: the funds will be used to build out its new headquarter and R&D facility in Long Beach, but also to complete its flight test facility at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“Later this year, we aim to change the history of space launch with the completion of our first flight test mass accelerator at Spaceport America,” said founder and CEO Jonathan Yaney in a press release announcing the funding.

Lowering the cost of launch has been the focus of some of the most successful space startups out there, and SpinLaunch aims to leapfrog their cost savings by offering orbital access for under $500,000. First commercial launch is targeted for 2022, assuming the upcoming tests go well.

The funding round was led by previous investors Airbus Ventures, GV, and KPCB, as well as Catapult Ventures, Lauder Partners, John Doerr and Byers Family.

 


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Another former Kleiner partner launches a fund; this time it’s Lynn Chou O’Keefe with Define Ventures

21:52 | 13 January

Kleiner is known for many things. Among them, increasing, the growing number of people who’ve logged time at the firm, then struck out on their own to start hang their own shingles.

The latest among them: Lynn Chou O’Keefe, who joined Kleiner Perkins in 2013 as a partner in its life sciences group, where she focused on digital health and connected devices. Today, Chou O’Keefe is taking the wraps off a new firm, Define Ventures, an announcing a debut fund with $87 million in capital commitments.

We’d first written about the fund back in October, when we spied an SEC filing for it. As we reported then, Chou O’Keefe had previously spent six years with Abbott Vascular, a division of the healthcare giant Abbott, as a global product manager and later as a global marketing director. She also logged a couple of years with Guidant (which is part of Boston Scientific and Abbott Labs) and before that, worked in venture with Apax Partners.

That SEC filing had listed a target of $65 million. Yet Chou O’Keefe, who we chatted with on Friday, suggested that interest in the fund was even greater than imagined thanks in part to investors she got to know through her work as a former board member of Livongo, a now publicly traded company that monitors and coach patients with chronic diseases like diabetes.

Unsurprisingly, she says founders are also excited about her new firm, suggesting they’d been looking for a firm that doesn’t just dabble in digital health but that focuses expressly on it, as does Define Ventures . “A lot of founders have said, ‘It’s so nice not to have to explain space to you.’ Having true partnerships is something they’ve needed and something you can do with a sector-focused found.”

Define may be announcing its final fund close today, but the firm, which is interested in telemedicine startups and teams focused on chronic disease management, among others, has been actively investing in startups over the last year.

Among its bets so far: HIMS, the direct-to-consumer digital health and wellness company focused on men; Tia, a startup that plans to open up membership-only women’s health clinics across the country, after opening its first location in New York last March; Verana Health, a clinical data startup that initially focused on ophthalmology but has been expanding into other areas; Unite Us, a care coordination software maker that looks to connect social services with healthcare; and Lightship, a startup that’s working to find and connect patients with the companies that need them for their clinical trials.

Though the lone  general partner, Chou O’Keefe isn’t running the fund alone. Helping her is principal Chirag Shah, who was most recently a vice president with Imagine Health, a Utah-based company that builds custom teams of healthcare providers for employers with large concentrations of employees in a single geography. He has also worked as a senior manager at the publicly traded company Castlight Health and and as an associate with The Carlyle Group.

The two had numerous mutual connections, says Chou O’Keefe, adding that they plan to invest in between 15 and 18 startups altogether from this debut fund, writing checks that range from $750,000 on the earlier side to upwards of $6 million.

Whether the firm proves smart to focus more narrowly on digital health will take time to know, but certainly, there seems to be growing interest in virtual healthcare across the board. According to one research outfit, Grand View Research, the global digital health market size is expected to reach $500 billion by 2025, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of roughly 27% between now and then.

In the meantime, Chou O’Keefe becomes part of a group of former Kleiner investors who are now in charge of their own destiny. Among other Kleiner alums who’ve since cofounded their own shops is Beth Seidenberg of Westlake Village Biopartners, Chi-Hua Chien of Goodwater Capital, Trae Vassallo of Defy, Mary Meeker of Bond and Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures, to name just a handful.

 


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Gift Guide: Leading VCs recommend their favorite reads from 2019

21:45 | 18 December

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2019 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’re here to help! We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here.

As we reach the end of 2019 and approach crunch time for everyone who has procrastinated holiday gift buying, we wanted to highlight a few more great reads that might add value to your life or are just plain old fun.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve asked Extra Crunch members and the TechCrunch editorial staff for their favorite books of the year. Responses covered a huge mix of genres, narrative structures and formats, with titles that would fit the interests of anyone from your techno-nerd co-founder to your craziest second-cousin that you only see around the holidays.

For our last round of book recommendations, we decided to ask the investors who control the capital in Silicon Valley, help catalyze the industry’s biggest winners and ultimately influence what our future will look like. We surveyed a select group of five leading VCs on their top book recommendations for 2019 with the only criteria being that the respondents personally read the title this year and thought it was meaningful. Among our correspondents:

The books could cover any topic, be fiction or non-fiction, and could be old, new or anything in between. Here are the six books that resonated with our panel of investors, all of which they would recommend to you, a friend or a family member looking for a great holiday gift. 

This article contains links to affiliate partners where available. When you buy through these links, TechCrunch may earn an affiliate commission.

Josh Wolfe, Lux Capital

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Knopf / 368 pages / May 2019

This year for me it was Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation”. The gap between sci-fi and sci-fact keeps shrinking. I contend either our authors are becoming less creative or our scientists more creative. Chiang disproves the former. One of the most provocative stories in this collection is The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling which parallels two protagonists set in the near future and the not-too-distant past. One sub-story centers on a Black Mirror-esque technology that gives high-fidelity perfect recall and recordings of prior experience. The other story is of a tribe that lives by oral tradition has one member encounter an outsider with the technology of writing. Together they make a provocative poignant point on the distinction between being precise and being right—and the meaning in our lives between them.

Summary: “Exhalation” is the latest composition by acclaimed sci-fi writer Ted Chiang, whose short story titled “Story of Your Life” famously acted as the inspiration for the oscar-nominated film “Arrival.” Chiang’s newest work is a collection of science fiction short stories and novelettes that stray away from the speculative dystopian side of the genre. Using common sci-fi motifs such as aliens and A.I. proliferation, the selected writings instead dial-in on the characters living in these imagined universes as they examine how societal and technological evolutions impact the ethical, philosophical and cognitive aspects of the human psyche and existence. 

Price: $16 on Amazon

Theresia Guow, aCrew Capital

Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took on Silicon Valley’s Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime, by Julian Guthrie

Currency / 304 pages / April 2019

The most interesting book to come out in 2019 that tells the story of tech and venture is “Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took on Silicon Valley’s Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime”, by Julian Guthrie. I find it a fascinating read (even if I weren’t included) – with stories that speak to both men and women, to the deals won and lost (Skype, Imperva, F5, Trulia, Facebook, Salesforce and more) and to the history of Silicon Valley through the lens of four outsiders. Despite having to pave their own path, the women jumped in headfirst in the pursuit of their dreams. You will walk away with a different view of how it is to be a woman in this male-dominated industry, and you will get a sense of the important role of male allies. “Alpha Girls” shows that women have long been “hidden figures” behind big companies and key deals. Finally, their stories are being told.

Summary: Silicon Valley’s massive gender gap is no secret, particularly in the notorious ‘boys and bros’ club that is the venture capital industry. In “Alpha Girls” The Women Upstarts Who Took on Silicon Valley’s Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime”, esteemed business journalist, international best-selling author and multi-time Pulitzer nominee Julian Guthrie details the career paths of four leading female VCs (disclosure: our respondent Theresia Guow is one of them) that have played major roles in shaping today’s tech and startup landscape.

Through first-hand accounts, Guthrie explores how Theresia, Magdalena Yesil (Broadway Angels, Salesforce, US Venture Partners), Mary Jane Elmore (Broadway Angels, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP)), and Sonja Hoel Perkins (Broadway Angels, Menlo Ventures) first found there way to the male-dominated world of venture capital, the strategies they used to find recurring success, and how they navigated the structural disadvantages of an industry built for others.

“Alpha Girls” offers tremendous, difficult-to-find depth around the professional, personal, and familial scenarios underrepresented groups in VC encounter as they look to challenge the status quo, find personal success and redefine an entire industry.

Price: $14 on Amazon

Mamoon Hamid, Kleiner Perkins

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Hadit

Penguin Press / 352 pages / September 2018

Our world is rapidly shifting around us – from evolving social norms, to the external stimuli that impact our well-being. It’s a new pace that is acutely felt in how we are raising and educating our kids and young adults. This book deeply explores the societal ramifications, and offers perspective about how we may be doing it all wrong.

Summary: “The Coddling of the American Mind” is a provocative sociological dive into how commonly-accepted modern social and parenting practices have led to increased agitation and tension in today’s youth. Written by attorney, public advocate, and First Amendment specialist Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist and NYU professor of ethical leadership Jonathan Haidt, “The Coddling of the American Mind” introduces its thesis by examining issues of censorship and free speech on college campuses, which are occurring at a more frequent clip than ever before.

As the authors debate the potential negative impacts that an overly partisan culture of “safety-ism” might have on mental health and development, they retrace the historical social trends and cultural transformations that led to today’s conditions. 

Price: $17 on Amazon

Maha Ibrahim, Canaan

The Back Channel by William Burns

Random House / 512 pages / March 2019

For the last two years, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a Trustee for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where Bill Burns serves as President. Bill is the consummate statesman and has been a central figure in international diplomacy for decades. The depth of his knowledge is a testament to his commitment to international order and peace. “The Back Channel” provides readers with an inside look into his career in foreign service, from the Cold War and Middle East affairs to modern-day Russia. My respect for Bill was immense before I read the book and it only grew bigger with every chapter.

Summary: Throughout his illustrious, nearly thirty-year career in foreign service, William Burns has held titles that include the US ambassador to Russia and the Deputy Secretary of State. Burns’ memoirs, “The Back Channel,” focuses on the biggest policy decisions of Burns’ tenure.

Burns uses his own notes, declassified State Department documents and primary-source, first-hand analysis to offer up some inside baseball and help readers understand the strategic rationale and key considerations behind some of the most important U.S. foreign policy decisions that have shaped the global geopolitical landscape over the last two decades.

Price: $13 on Amazon

The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power

Dey Street Books / 592 pages / September 2019

Ambassador Power is an icon of courage, compassion and resolve. During her recent book tour, I was fortunate enough to interview her and was struck by her humanity. The stories she writes about her impressive career are both powerful and personal. Ambassador Power immigrated to the US as a child and has since dedicated her life to human rights and equality. She is my age and has accomplished so much in her life, most recently as US Ambassador to the UN under President Obama. I don’t know anyone who, at 22, would voluntarily become a war correspondent (in Bosnia). I suspect she will one day run for political office and I will be a big supporter.

Summary: “Education of an Idealist” is the memoir of former US Ambassador to the United Nations and Pulitzer-award-winning author Samantha Power, detailing her journey from a child in Ireland, to an immigrant growing up in the US, through her Ivy League undergrad and legal education, all the way through her careers in journalism and public advocacy and her time working as a senior advisor to President Barack Obama. Even from a purely narrative perspective, Power’s lengthy journey, which brought her across the globe through warzones and revolutions long before her career in politics, is incredibly compelling on its own.

But Ambassador Power’s reflection offers even more value as she recounts how she overcame personal, professional and internal struggles as she traversed different geographies, environments and stages of her career and life.

Additionally, Power’s writing also offers up valuable lessons for those in the startup world. Power’s move from an external public advocate to a government policymaker, in a roundabout way (or at least in the eyes of startup nerds like us), provides a unique look into the transition, differences and challenges one may come across when moving from an externally focused role to an operational one.

Price: $18 on Amazon 

Jennifer Fonstad, Owl Capital

The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government by Fergus M. Bordewich

Simon & Schuster / 416 pages / February 2017

As I read about impeachment proceedings, presidential elections, and racial tensions in today’s political climate, it begged the question – how did we get here?

While not knowing exactly what I was undertaking, I recently read the book, “The First Congress.” The book was a remarkable story about how both ordinary and extraordinary people took the ‘startup’ that was the United States in 1789 and launched us on a remarkable ride.

The book takes us through the critical decisions made by the country’s very first Congress, 1789-1791. This includes establishing the Supreme Court, passing the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution (later called the Bill of Rights), establishing the country’s first revenue ‘stream,’ and picking the location of the nation’s capital (putting our country’s hero – George Washington, in a different light).

It’s hard to fathom our nation as a startup. The country was fresh off of its failure as a Confederation of States, deeply in debt, with no source of revenue yet established. Two of the states had not yet ‘signed on’ to the whole enterprise. And while the Constitution put forth certain operating principles, it fell to this group of men (yes, all men and all white) to put many of the mechanisms in place that still guide and define us today. As one always trying to do what I do better and learn from the past, this was a terrific lesson in both getting this startup off the ground as well as the intended and unintended consequences of those decisions.

Summary: Writer and historian Fergus Bordewich’s “The First Congress” puts us in the room for the First Congress in our country’s history, which saw the admission of several states into the union, the passing of the Bill of Rights and several other of the biggest decisions that shaped the United States.

The book details how the founding fathers debated the United States’ structural and operational systems including the American legal system and national banking system. Additionally, “The First Congress” highlights an interesting yet often overlooked period of US history, where the country was essentially functioning like a startup, grinding and building from scratch, having to create mission statements, organizational hierarchies, operational systems, or otherwise for the very first time.

Price: $12 on Amazon

 


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Where top VCs are investing in digital health

23:31 | 16 December

The world of healthcare has notoriously been described as “broken” — plagued with high-friction workflows, sky-high costs and convoluted business models.

Over the past several years, a long list of innovative startups and salivating venture investors have pinned their focus on repairing the healthcare industry, but its digital transformation still appears to be in the very early innings. After a record-setting 2018, however, digital health investing continued to reach meteoric heights in 2019.

Mammoth pools of capital have flooded into various sub-verticals and business models, backing collections of new B2B and B2C companies focused on optimizing healthcare workflows, improving healthcare access and offering lower-cost distribution models. Over the past two years, digital health startups have raised well over $10 billion in funding across nearly 1,000 deals, according to data from Pitchbook and Crunchbase.

As we close out another strong year for innovation and venture investing in the sector, we asked nine leading VCs who work at firms spanning early to growth stages to share what’s exciting them most and where they see opportunity in the sector:

Participants discuss trends in digital therapeutics, telehealth, mental health and the latest in biotech and medical devices, while also diving into startups improving medical practitioner efficiency, evaluating the evolving regulatory environment and debating valuations and offering a ‘temp check’ on the market for digital health startups leveraging ML.

Annie Case, Kleiner Perkins

Although Kleiner Perkins has a long history of investing in iconic health companies, we believe it is still the early innings of digital health as a category today.

When I evaluate new opportunities in the space, I often start by thinking through how the company will move the needle on cost, quality, and access to care — the “iron triangle” of health care systems. Conventional wisdom has been that it’s impossible to improve all three dimensions simultaneously, but we are seeing companies leverage technology to shift this paradigm in meaningful ways.

It’s no longer just a promise. For example, Viz.ai is using artificial intelligence to detect and alert stroke teams to suspected large vessel occlusion strokes, enabling patients to get treatment faster. Their workflows improve access to life-saving care, deliver higher quality through reduced time to treatment (every minute counts as ‘time is brain’ in stroke care), and dramatically reduce the costs associated with long-term disability.

We are also seeing companies provide this type of tech-enabled care outside of the hospital setting. Modern Health is a mental health benefits platform that employers are making available to their employees. The platform triages individual employees to the right level of care, providing clinical care to those with diagnosable depression or anxiety, and making self-guided or preventative care available to everyone else. Their solution improves quality and access by offering mental health services to every employee and reduces the cost associated with untreated mental illness, lost productivity, or employee churn.

Heading into 2020, we’re eager to back digital health companies in new areas that leverage technology to impact cost, quality, and access. A few spaces that I’m excited about are behavioral health (mental health, substance abuse, addiction, etc), care navigation, digital therapeutics, and new models integrating telehealth, remote care and AI to better leverage medical professionals’ time.

Zavain Dar and Adam Goulburn, Lux Capital

Below are some thoughts and coming predictions on health tech broadly:

  1. Digital therapeutics continue to pick up steam — on the back of Pear and Akili, more companies push to FDA and enter the market. In addition, broader consumer platforms like Calm and Headspace look to broaden their offerings by investigating clinical approvals.
  2. At least one major pharma looks to expand its consumer surface area by acquiring one of the new digital, consumer-facing generics platform (ex Hims, Ro, NuRx).
  3. Venture funding for biotech continues to boom with at least three Series A’s of $100M or more in size.
  4. Drug discovery for neurodegeneration sees a renaissance. High-profile failings of Biogen and the beta-amyloid hypothesis sees a shift of innovation to early-stage biotech and venture creation.
  5. Big pharma has its DeepMind moment acquiring at least one machine-learning (AI) enabled drug discovery company.
  6. Clinical trial tech investments heat up; new companies and technologies emerge to make trials patients first and systems get smarter at finding the right patients at their point of care; large incumbents like IQVIA, LabCorp and PPD get acquisitive.
  7. At least three traditional Sand Hill Road tech venture firms open life science practices or raise dedicated funds.
  8. Machine learning targets chemistry driven by large advancements in transformer (NLP) models; has the time for computational chemistry finally come?
  9. HCIT sees a renaissance driven by increased CIO responsibility towards data interoperability. Companies either working on federated ML to allow systems to speak to each other or lightweight edge applications enabling rapid clinical deployment will see quick uptake and traction, until now impossible in HC.

Kristin Baker Spohn, Charles River Ventures (CRV)

In the last 10 years, digital health has exploded. Over $16B has been invested in the sector by VCs and we’ve seen IPOs from Livongo, Progyny and Health Catalyst, just in the last year alone. That said, there’s still a lot that mystifies people about the sector — there are spots that are overheated and models that will struggle to deliver venture scale outcomes. I’ve seen digital health evolve first hand as both an operator and investor, and I’m more excited than ever about the future of the space.

A few areas and trends that I’ve been following recently include:

 


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Figma’s Community lets designers share and remix live files

18:00 | 22 October

As designers grow both in sheer numbers and within the hierarchy of organizations, design tool makers are adapting to their evolving needs in different ways. Figma, the web-based collaborative design tool, is taking a note from the engineering revolution of the early aughts.

“What if there were a GitHub for designers?” mused Dylan Field, early on in the lifecycle of Figma as a company. Today, that vision is brought to life with the launch of Figma Community. (Figma Community is launching in a closed beta for now.)

In a crowded space, with competitors like Adobe, InVision, Sketch and more, Figma differentiates itself on its web-based multiplayer approach. Figma is a design tool that works like Google Docs, with multiple designers in the same file, working alongside one another without disrupting each other.

But that’s just the base level of the overall collaboration that Figma believes designers crave. Field told us that he sees a clear desire from designers to not only share their work, whether it’s on a portfolio webpage or on social media, as well as a desire to learn from the work of other designers.

And yet, when a creative shares a design on social media, it’s just a static image. Other designers can’t see how it went from a blank page to an interesting design, and are left to merely appreciate it without learning anything new.

With Figma Community, designers and even organizations can share live design files that others can inspect, remix and learn from.

Individual designers can set up their own public-facing profile page to show off their designs, as well as intra-organization profile pages so other team members within their organization can learn from each other. On the other hand, organizations can publicly share their design systems and philosophy on their own page.

For example, the city of Chicago has set up a profile on Figma Community for other designers to follow the city’s design system in their own materials.

As far as remixing design files goes, Figma is using a CC4 license, which allows for a remix but forces attribution. That said, Field says the company is using this closed beta period to learn more about what the community wants around different license types.

Community is free and is not meant to drive revenue for the company, but rather offer further value to designers using the platform.

“It’s early,” said Dylan Field. “This is just the scaffolding of what’s to come. It’s the start of a lot of work that we’re going to be doing in the area of collaboration and community.”

Figma has raised a total of $83 million from investors like Index, Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins and Grelock, according to Crunchbase.

 


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First mover advantage: Does it matter in startup fundraising?

20:00 | 3 October
Russ Heddleston Contributor
Russ is the cofounder and CEO of DocSend. He was previously a product manager at Facebook, where he arrived via the acquisition of his startup Pursuit.com, and has held roles at Dropbox, Greystripe, and Trulia. Follow him here: @rheddleston and @docsend

We know the world of startup funding is competitive. In fact, I’m speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt on this very topic alongside pre-seed investor Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures, early-stage investor Annie Kadavy of Redpoint Ventures. I’ve also written extensively for TechCrunch and ExtraCrunch about how founders can optimize their pitch decks to make the most of the 3 minutes and 44 seconds the average VC will spend looking at their deck. We’ve also analyzed the best time of year founders can fundraise to get the most attention from potential investors.

But what can VCs do to make sure they’re getting the biggest piece of the most promising looking companies? We dug into how founders choose their lead investor to gain some insight into how a VC can become more competitive in a rapidly growing market.

Before we dig into the numbers

The data included in this research came from companies that explicitly opted in to participate by responding to an automated email sent to them. We are incredibly appreciative to these founders for making this research possible. You can read more about our startup opt-in process and other aspects of our methodology here.

In this article, I’ll talk about how founders choose their VCs, both in oversubscribed rounds and non-oversubscribed rounds, and how investors can use that information to beat out their competitors.

For VCs, competition is getting harder

Getting a startup funded is a massive hurdle. The good news is there’s actually far more money available now than just a few years ago. In fact, in the first half of 2019 there was $20.6 billion in new capital introduced into the startup market.

Larger funds typically known for investing in later stages have introduced seed funds so they can invest with promising businesses earlier.  Kleiner Perkins announced a $600 million early-stage fund in January, GGV raised a second $460 million “Discovery Fund” last year, even Sequoia Capital operates a scout program with a $180 million fund.

This means smaller funds or those who only invest in earlier rounds might get overlooked when founders are looking for investors.

Investor meetings are a two-way street

In addition to having to compete for the best deals, VCs don’t get it right every time. For every Uber, there are hundreds of Juiceros. The reason they only spend a few minutes looking at a pitch deck is because they’re constantly looking at pitches in hopes they’ll come across another unicorn.

But while it seems like the investors are holding all the cards, if founders optimize their pitch deck and book their meetings in a short window, they can actually create a sense of urgency for the VCs. We’ve seen this recently with the amount of founders reporting oversubscribed rounds.

When looking at how founders chose their lead investors, we discovered that there was a massive difference between those that raised oversubscribed rounds and those that didn’t.

Being the first to move means a lot, until it doesn’t

What was the number one factor in founders deciding on who to choose as their lead investor? We found that nearly 48% of founders chose their lead investor because they were the first one to make the offer.

Anecdotally this makes sense. When DocSend was raising we received a lot of “maybes” during our first few meetings. However, once we had a term sheet most of those “maybes” flipped to a firm “yes.” In fact, many investors that had originally promised a $25k or $50k investment if we found other backers were suddenly asking for $300k or $500k.

We had so many investors interested that our round was oversubscribed and we had to make some choices about who we wanted as an investor. That could have been avoided if any of those VCs had simply acted first.

But when you look at the data a different way, we found that moving first was significantly more important in oversubscribed rounds than those that weren’t. And the more oversubscribed they were, the more valuable moving first becomes.

For founders whose rounds were more than 20 percent oversubscribed, 60 percent of them chose their VC because they came in first with a term sheet. But that dropped to 50 percent for founders that were only slightly oversubscribed and all the way to 38 percent for those founders that weren’t oversubscribed at all.

While we would have thought name-brand VCs might move first, and that top tier interest may cause an oversubscribed round, we found that not to be the case. In both oversubscribed and non-oversubscribed rounds 28 percent of founders reported that a name brand factored into their decision. And for those who chose a name brand investor, only 33 percent of those founders reported that their lead VC moved first. 

The more oversubscribed a round is, the more likely it is that some VCs aren’t going to make the cut. To avoid being the firm that didn’t get the deal it’s best to move quickly when you see a company you like.

A fast round isn’t always an oversubscribed one

Another surprising thing that came up in our research was the amount of time founders spent raising and how that affected their decision making. While we assumed oversubscribed rounds happened significantly faster than the average of 11-15 weeks, we found that oversubscribed rounds only came in slightly under, at 8.6 weeks. However, there was a lot of variability in that number.

We saw some oversubscribed rounds close in as little as 3 weeks and some take as long as 20. So there’s no way to tell whether a round will be oversubscribed based on the time spent fundraising. This means that even if you meet a founder who’s been raising for 10 weeks, it’s still smart to move quickly if you want to be the lead investor.

We would have also thought longer rounds would have benefited the first term sheet more, but there was virtually no difference in the impact of the first acting VC when looking at time. When looking at founders that spent less than 12 weeks raising and those that spent more than 12 weeks, there was virtually no difference in the percent that chose their lead investor based on the first term sheet (at 47 percent and 48 percent respectively).

Terms only matter in oversubscribed rounds

When choosing your lead investor, you would think the terms would be a significant reason to choose one VC over another. But we found that it was barely a factor for most people. In fact, only 4 percent of founders who weren’t oversubscribed cited terms as a major factor.

They instead focused on VCs that had experience in their industry (at 42 percent). But for oversubscribed rounds the percentage of founders who chose their lead investor based on terms shot up to 38. Meaning when the round gets competitive, so do the terms. But they still gave an edge to that first term sheet they received.

Interestingly, a potential deciding factor in oversubscribed rounds could be how well the VC and the founder get along. In those rounds that were significantly oversubscribed, over 46% of respondents said how well they got along with their VC was a factor in choosing them to be the lead. Compare that to only 19% of founders in non-oversubscribed rounds who cited rapport as a key factor in choosing a lead investor.

For many smaller firms getting edged out by bigger players boasting multi-stage funds, it may be as simple as being decisive and personable when it comes to landing the most competitive investments.


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Terminal raises $17M led by 8VC to source and build remote teams of engineers

18:49 | 26 September

As LinkedIn announces the next stage of its own ambitions in the world of recruitment by bringing in more big data insights, another one of the startups indirectly chipping away at its position among knowledge workers by providing a way of hiring and building entire teams in remote locations is announcing another round of funding.

Terminal, a San Francisco-based startup and platform that lets companies build out remote engineering teams in international locations, and then helping with the wider practicalities that include finding workspace and sorting out benefits, is today announcing that it has raised $17 million in funding. Terminal’s hubs are currently in Guadalajara, Mexico and Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and Kitchener-Waterloo in Canada, and the company is going to use some of the funding to expand to 10 other cities globally over the next two years.

The round is being led by 8VC — the venture firm founded by Joe Lonsdale, who also happens to be a co-founder of Terminal (seems like co-founding while also funding is a pattern for Lonsdale, a prolific investor who also famous for being a co-founder of Palantir Technologies).

Others participating include Atomic (where two co-founders, Jack Abraham and Dylan Serota, also co-founders), Cathay Innovation, Cherubic Ventures (where another co-founder, Andrew Dudum, is a partner that also double times also at Atomic), Craft Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and other unnamed investors.

Despite four of the five co-founders (the last is Luke Finney, who seems to be full-time just on Terminal) being from the VC world, the startup has raised relatively little funding since being founded two years ago: prior to this it had only disclosed one raise, totalling $10 million, according to PitchBook data.

LinkedIn has carved out a big swathe of the online recruitment market specifically in the area of knowledge workers, who also use the platform to provide public profiles of themselves, to brush up their skills, and to network with other folk in their various industries. That business has racked up 4 million hires this year already, CEO Jeff Weiner noted earlier today at a company event.

But within that, there are a lot of more specific use cases where the LinkedIn model is not a perfect fit, and that’s opened the door for a lot of other kinds of businesses to establish themselves and thrive.

Terminal is an example of one of these. Its particular pain point has to do with the dearth of engineers in major tech centers, and beyond, with typically five job openings for every one engineer in the U.S. alone.

While the technology world has coalesced around several key geographical areas — Silicon Valley at the epicentre and several major metropolitan areas like New York, London, Berlin and so on complementing that — the fact remains that the demand for engineers in those places, where the companies are based, still outstrips supply. On top of that, the biggest cities are overcrowded and expensive, and that turns off many people from wanting to live in them.

Terminal’s solution is to source suitable engineers in other locales and use its platform to help a company build a team from them. This is not just about building a team ‘in the cloud’ — although the idea is that, yes, the cloud is basically what makes all of this possible — but also covering office space, payroll and other HR specifics and more.

“Terminal is taking aim at the biggest problem holding back innovation: access to top technical talent.” said Joe Lonsdale, partner at 8VC, in a statement. “The best engineers are no longer concentrated in the Bay Area. They exist all over the world. Terminal helps startups access these engineers. Many of our fast-growing companies at 8VC rely on Terminal to help them scale.” Customers currently include Bungalow, Chime, Dialpad, Earnin, Gusto, Hims/Hers, and KeepTruckin.

Other startups have emerged to redress the imbalance of talent in specific locations while also helping to support new ecosystems to emerge: Andala is taking a somewhat similar approach, but it focuses on emerging markets to source talent, and engineers on its platform tend to work as contractors, not full-time employees.

While Andala is tapping into a big swing in the direction of contact-based talent sourcing, it’s interesting to see Terminal taking the bet on the fact that it can successfully create teams remotely that might just remain for the long term.

“We’re providing life-changing opportunities for engineers,” said Terminal CEO, Clay Kellogg, in a statement. “Developers and programmers love building their careers in an engineer-centric community working on world-changing products. We’re offering them a vibrant community with all of the HR resources, benefits and perks that they can get if they worked in Silicon Valley — without having to leave their hometown. This funding means we can provide exciting growth opportunities to even more engineers around the world.”

The push to more flexible working environments — including allowing people to work from home, as well as work more flexible hours — has really disrupted the traditional idea of 9-5 and everyone working together in a big (or small) building in order to get things done. At best, the consequences of that have sometimes led to more productivity and employee satisfaction, but challenges also remain. Terminal’s aim at building whole full-time teams in remote locations is interesting in that it will once again put a new spin on the idea of workplace culture, but for many businesses, especially startups, it’s a leap that is worth taking.

“KeepTruckin has built a modern technology platform to usher the fragmented trucking industry into the digital age, and our engineers have been at the center of creating a customer-centric experience since day one,” said Shoaib Makani, CEO and co-founder, KeepTruckin, in a statement. “As a fast-growing company, being able to attract and retain top tech talent is critical to our success. Terminal has been a key partner in helping us build our engineering team in Vancouver and tapping into Terminal’s extensive network has reduced the time it takes to scale our team.”

 


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