Hello from the Upfront Ventures conference in Los Angeles, where, aside from sushi, all anyone can talk about is politics. A few notes on that:
Startups and their investors are feeling overwhelmed by the pace of the Trump administration’s dramatic changes. Companies are realizing that when a dramatic piece of news hits, they only have a few hours to respond. Not responding is the same as support. Most companies aren’t used to weighing in on daily political news when the stakes are this high, let alone young tech startups.
Just look at the #DeleteUber phenomenon. Like most tech companies, Uber opposes Trump’s immigration order. But its response was clunky and badly timed, and users reacted negatively and strongly. Competitors quickly capitalized on the moment.
Uber has had years to build a well-oiled political machine, with numerous consultants on retainer for precisely these kinds of situations. Of any startup, it has little excuse for messing this up. But this is the new normal: political and PR consultants now need to be on call 24 hours a day. And we’re only 1% into the Trump administration. Are startups ready to ride the roller-coaster of the last 12 days 99 more times?
Two other notes on this topic:
Nabeel Hyatt, a general partner at Spark Capital, said that this is a chance for the tech industry to do an image makeover. “The median narrative around tech six months ago was trending negative, about jobs and so forth,” he said. But innovation powers our economy, and immigrants power much of our innovation. Immigration is a “bottom-line issue.” “You need to [speak out] in a way that your employees are comfortable with, but I think it’s worth being vocal,” he said.
Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, said he sees a shift from people looking to the Federal government to protect their rights to corporations, states, and local governments. “It’s a big shift and it’s causing people to rethink their strategies in fighting for things they believe in and things they value,” he said.
Still winning: A year ago I predicted Facebook’s incredible 12 quarter winning streak would have to end soon. It was a matter gravity. The “big blue app” was running out of Internet-connected humans to acquire as users, ad loads have peaked, and new revenue streams (Oculus headsets, commerce and customer service via Messenger and WhatsApp) are far off and challenging markets.
But Facebook has continued to post blockbuster revenue and profit growth for the last year, most recently in yesterday’s earnings report. Revenue grew 53% over last year, and profit increased as well. Monthly active users even grew 17%.
Facebook’s stock is up around 17% from last year. The company is doing so well that COO Sheryl Sandberg brushed off the $500 million fine that subsidiary Oculus has to pay to competitor ZeniMax as “not material.” Tack it onto the $2 billion (plus $700 million in earn-outs) sale price for Oculus.
In conclusion, I was wrong. Or early, which in investing, is the same as wrong.
Regrets: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo expressed regret that he didn’t push more aggressively to fix the social media startup’s bullying problem. He blamed not having the moral authority of a founder, in part, as the reason for his shortcoming. Meanwhile Jack Dorsey, who does have the moral authority of a founder, has been back for a year and a half now… Read more of Costolo’s comments here.
Bad behavior: The topic of bad behavior and fraud at startups came up, and the investors on the panel said it happens because venture capitalists get FOMO. Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC said that his firm has increased the amount of time it spends on due diligence. The firm has trusted experts that help it suss out whether a company and its founder are legit. “If we have a doubt, we just pass,” he said.
Note: Yesterday’s Term Sheet said no L.A. venture firms invested in Snap or The Honest Company. That’s not entirely true: Pritzker Group Venture Capital invested in The Honest Company.
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE...
• Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s open letter to Donald Trump. Rex Tillerson confirmed.
• Sheryl Sandberg donates $1 million to Planned Parenthood.
• Companies are failing their senior-level women.
• The Fed may have just slammed the brakes on interest rates.
• How alternative faces create alternative history.
• More than half of the Internet’s sales growth now comes from Amazon.
• GoDaddy’s actually-not-sexist Super Bowl ad.
• Pokemon Go’s $1 billion in revenue.
• PointClickCare, a Mississauga, Canada-based provider of cloud-based software for the senior care industry, raised $85 million in funding. Dragoneer Investment Group led the round, and was joined by JMI Equity.
• Aquilon Energy Services, a Lisle, Ill.-based cloud-based platform that enables energy companies to settle financial energy transactions, raised $19 million in Series B funding. Investors include Citi, Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments, Invenergy, and Macquarie Group.
• Scytl, a Barcelona-based provider of electronic voting technology, raised €12 million ($13 million) in funding, according to Tech.eu. Investors include Vulcan Capital, Balderton Capital, Nauta Capital, Spinnaker Invest, Sapphire Ventures, Vy Capital, Industry Ventures, and Adams Street Partners. Read more.
• Reserve, a New York City restaurant technology company, raised $10 million in Series B funding. Expa Capital led the round.
• GAN Integrity, a Brooklyn, New York provider of compliance management software to businesses, raised $9 million in funding. Edison Partners led the round, and was joined by NorthCap, Chicago Ventures, MissionOG, and Cultivation Capital.
• Yomoni, a French fintech startup, raised €5 million ($5.4 million) in funding from Crédit Mutuel Arkéa and Iéna Venture, according to TechCrunch. Read more.
• SIM Partners, a Chicago-based location marketing company, raised $5 million in funding. River Cities Capital Funds led the round, and was joined by Jump Capital.
• Against Gravity, a Seattle-based virtual reality company that develops a social VR app, raised $5 million in seed funding. Investors include Sequoia, First Round, Acequia, Vulcan, Maveron, Anorak, Betaworks, and the Venture Reality Fund.
• Wity, a French platform to help users with public accounting, law, and strategy, raised €4.7 million ($5.1 million) in funding from M Capital Partners, according to Tech.eu. Read more.
• Suplari, a Seattle-based enterprise data company, raised $3.1 million in funding. Madrona Venture Group led the round, with participation from Amplify Partners.
• Text IQ, a San Francisco-based platform that streamlines the document review process for attorneys, raised $3 million in seed funding, according to Forbes. Floodgate led the round, and was joined by angel investors. Read more.
• Xnor.ai, a Seattle-based company bringing AI computational frameworks to mobile devices, raised $2.6 million in funding. Madrona Venture Group led the round, and was joined by Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
• Taxfyle, a Miami-based on-demand tax and accounting marketplace, raised $2 million in seed funding. Investors include Jeff Ransdell Group and Jonas Tempel, of Beatport.
• NUVIZ, Inc., a San Diego, Calif.-based manufacturer of head-up display devices for motorcycle helmets, raised an undisclosed amount in funding from Pierer Industrie AG.
HEALTH + LIFE SCIENCES DEALS
• Vividion Therapeutics, a San Diego, Calif.-based biotech company using proteome-wide ligand and target discovery to develop therapeutics to treat disease, raised $50 million in Series A funding. ARCH Venture Partners and Versant Ventures led the round, with participation from Cardinal Partners.
• ApcinteX Limited, a spin-out of the University of Cambridge developing a new therapy for haemophilia, raised £14 million ($17.6 million) in Series A funding. Medicxi and Touchstone Innovations Group led the round.
• Glide Technologies, a U.K. pharmaceutical development and device company focused on the needle-free administration of solid dose formulations, raised £3.2 million ($4 million) in funding. Investors include Invesco Perpetual, Oxford Technology Venture Capital Trusts, Oxford Capital Partners, and Hygea VCT.
• VisCardia, a Beaverton, Ore.-based medical device developer, raised an undisclosed amount in Series B funding. Kinetic Capital Partners led the round.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Sovos Brands, backed by Advent International, acquired Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Foods, an Austin, Texas-based producer of frozen Italian food. Financial terms were not disclosed.
• Bluff Point Associates has made a two-stage $25 million investment in Netgain, a Lexington, Ky.-based provider of IT-as-a-service to healthcare providers and other highly regulated industries.
• Liberty Hall Capital Partners acquired Quatro Composites, an Orange City, Iowa-based supplier of composite structures, components, and assemblies for the aerospace industry. Terms weren’t disclosed.
• Homewood Holdings, backed by Building Industry Partners, acquired Evergreen Lumber, a Port Orchard, Wash. lumber and building materials company.
• Providence Equity Partners has made a minority investment in EZLinks Golf, a Chicago-based online network for golf reservations and a subsidiary of PGA TOUR. Terms weren’t disclosed.
• Pamlico Capital has recapitalized Winsight, a Chicago-based B2B provider of market intelligence to the retail, restaurant, and noncommercial foodservice industries.
• Comvest Partners acquired Interamerican Medical Center Group, a Florida-based provider of primary care and specialty services to Medicare, Medicaid and commercial members.
• General Electric (NYSE:GE) agreed to sell its 43 percent investment in Hyundai Card Co, a Seoul, South Korea-based credit card company, to Hyundai Commercial, Affinity Equity Partners, GIC, and AlpInvest, according to Reuters. Read more.
• Reckitt Benckiser Group (LSE:RB.) is in discussions with Mead Johnson Nutrition (NYSE:MJN) to acquire the company for $16.7 billion. At $90 per share in cash, the deal would represent a 29.5% premium to Mead Johnson’s closing price. Read more at Fortune.
• Kickstarter has acquired Huzza, a Canadian video streaming startup.
• OpenSky has acquired the assets of Dot & Bo, a San Francisco-based online furniture retailer, for a few hundred thousand dollars, according to a report by Recode. Dot & Bo raised $20 million before shutting down in September. OpenSky, which started as a celebrity-curated shopping site but pivoted to a marketplace for small businesses, raised nearly $50 million in VC funding from investors including Alibaba (NYSE:BABA). Read more.
• Hamilton Lane, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based alternative asset manager, filed to raise up to $200 million in an initial public offering. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol HLNE. J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley serve as bookrunners on the deal.
• Laureate Education's (Nasdaq: LAUR) stock price fell as much as 13.4% in the company’s first day of trading, according to Reuters. The company raised $490 million by selling 35 million shares at $14 per share in its IPO. Read more.
• SK Capital Partners acquired Niacet Corporation, a Niagara Falls, N.Y.-based supplier of chemicals for the food and drug industries. Previous reports valued that deal at more than $350 million. (This item has removed an incorrect mention of AEA Investors.)
• Sterling Partners sold Hoffman Southwest Corporation, a Mission Viejo, Calif.-based provider of inspection, cleaning, and rehabilitation services for pipelines, to ORIX Capital Partners. Financial details were not disclosed.
• Advantage Partners agreed to sell GTA TeleGuam, a provider of telecommunications services in Guam, to the Huntsman Family Investments.
• HCAP Partners sold Vertical Management Systems, a Pasadena, Calif.-based provider of data, financial networking and account aggregation technology for financial institutions, to NewSpring. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• The Riverside Company sold YourMembership, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based member engagement platform for member-based organizations to engage their customer base, to an unknown buyer. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Grab, a Singapore-based ride-sharing service, has created a $100 million fund to invest in Indonesian startups as it gears up to compete with Uber in the country, according to TechCrunch. Read more.
• Akina, a Zurich-based investment firm, raised €410 ($443 million) for Euro Choice VI, which targets the mid and lower end of the European market.
• Lee Equity Partners has made a series of promotions: Geoffrey Lieberthal, Rahul Nand, and Collins Ward are now partners, Eric Hsu is now a vice president, and John Ettinger is now a senior associate.
• Frog Capital has appointed Martin Hauge as chairman. Previously, Hauge was a partner at Creandum.
• Russell J. Genet has joined Longford Capital as a director. Previously Genet was a partner at the law firm Nixon Peabody.
• High Road Capital Partners has promoted Dan Gaspar to partner, Scott Rubino to principal, and Matt Hadley to associate, business development.
• Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors has Leon F. Chen from vice president to managing director.
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