Term Sheet — Friday, October 6

October 6, 2017, 1:51 PM UTC


Happy Friday, Term Sheet readers.

Aaron Schildkrout, Uber’s head of driver product, came to the office a few weeks ago for a Q&A. It was right after Dara Khosrowshahi had been appointed CEO, and we had a pretty frank conversation about a company trying to undo months of damage from PR missteps including a video of its former chief, Travis Kalanick, berating a driver (he later apologized) and a passenger boycott promoted on social media.

In an effort to woo drivers, Uber launched an initiative called, 180 Days of Change — a campaign that aims to make “meaningful changes and improvements” to the driving experience. The most notable change came when Uber released its in-app tipping option in July after resisting it for a number of years. Other changes include a shorter cancellation window, driver injury protection insurance, and increasing driver’s takehome pay for UberPool trips.

Previously, Schildkrout founded a dating app, meditated “full time” for two years, and taught at a charter school. Now he spends his time addressing driver complaints around earnings, stress, support, and communications.

Below are the highlights of our conversation:

FORTUNE: Uber is left picking up the pieces after a tumultuous 10 months. In June, you launched 180 Days of Change. What was the genesis of this campaign?

SCHILDKROUT: Around the turn of the year, we talked to thousands of drivers in various forms — one on one, in groups, through surveys — to get a deeper understanding of how we were doing. What we found was, frankly, we weren’t doing that well. There was a deep need for change. Based on that research, we kicked off 180 Days of Change.

Can you give me an example of the type of feedback you received?

SCHILDKROUT: When we talked to drivers, we found again and again some very clear themes. Drivers didn’t feel like we were listening enough. Drivers didn’t feel like the support was there. Drivers weren’t satisfied with a number of key aspects to their earnings. There were parts of our platform where we offered flexibility, but we weren’t fully delivering on that promise.

In your time at Uber, what is one product initiative that you worked on that didn't pan out as planned?

SCHILDKROUT: UberPool has always been in some ways an emblem of what ridesharing is all about. Using every single available seat in every car in order to reduce congestion, reduce the prices of moving around a city, really make transportation in a city as smooth as possible.

But when you ask drivers about UberPool, you get a very consistent extremely negative response, and there are reasons for that. We really hadn’t invested in the driver side of the Pool experience. Passengers love the low price, they love the efficiency, but for drivers, it’s actually a lot of work and often quite stressful. So we’ve got some interesting ideas of how we can fix that and improve in that area.

Uber operated without a CEO for several months. What was the staff’s reaction when it was announced that Khosrowshahi was selected for the role?

SCHILDKROUT: Some things I’ve noticed early on is that this is a person who seems to be truly about team. This is a person who knows how to compete, how to run a business, and how to think about the future. That ambition and that sense of wanting to build something great is exciting and very much in line with Uber’s DNA. I think after he joined there was pretty universal excitement and a strong hope of where we’re headed as a company.

Read the full Q&A here.


Apple gave Uber access to a feature that could allow it to record your screen (by Natasha Bach)

The startup that make cyclists feel like superheroes (by Geoffrey Smith)

Steven Mnuchin's flights may have cost $800,000. But they’re legal (by David Meyer)

How Tim Cook is remembering Steve Jobs on the anniversary of his death (by Don Reisinger)


Jessica Alba’s Honest company slashes its valuation. Chief of staff John Kelly’s personal cell phone was compromised. Treasury to release roadmap for new market rules. Netflix raises prices. Sprint and T-Mobile are ironing out final deal details.


Secret Escapes, a London-based luxury hotel flash deals site, raised $111 million in Series D equity and debt funding. Temasek led the round, and was joined by investors including Indinvest Partners.

Stellar Labs, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based private aviation tech company, raised $26.3 million in Series A funding. Investors include Global Jet Capital, Columbia Equity Partners, and Expa.

QuanticMind, a Redwood City, Calif.-based data platform for intelligent marketing, raised $20 million in Series B funding. Foundation Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Safeguard Scientifics and Cervin Ventures.

UrbanSitter, a San Francisco-based an online operator of a childcare marketplace, raised $17 million in Series C funding. Advance Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Canaan Partners, Aspect Ventures, DBL Investors, Shatter Fund, First Round Capital, Menlo Ventures and Rustic Canyon Partners.

Gobble, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based 15-minute meal kit delivery service, raised $15 million in Series B funding from Khosla Ventures, according to TechCrunch. Read more.

Vestagen Protective Technologies Inc, an Orlando, Fla.-based maker of advanced performance textile products and technologies, raised $9.5 million in funding. Investors include Advent Life Sciences, HealthQuest Capital, Greenline Ventures, Northwell Ventures and Mercy Health of Cincinnati.

Cardiologs Technologies, a Paris-based developer of an artificial intelligence platform that helps manage cardiac patients, raised $6.4 million in Series A funding. Investors include Idinvest, ISAI, Kurma Partners, Partech Ventures and Bpifrance.

FlyHomes, a Seattle-based real estate and technology company, raised $2 million in Series A funding. Mark Vadon led the investment round, and was joined by investors including Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Al Goldstein.

Gavl, a Australia-based live auctions company, raised $1.8 million in Series A funding from Harris Capital.

NearGroup, a San Francisco-based chatbot that connects people based on proximity, personality and creative content, raised $1.6 million (£1.2m) in seed funding, according to TechCrunch. OpenOcean led the round, and was joined by investors including Neotribe and BoostVC. Read more.


Palleon Pharmaceuticals, a Waltham, Mass.-based developer of glycoimmune checkpoint inhibitors that treat cancer, raised $47.6 million in Series A funding. Investors include SR One, Pfizer Ventures, Vertex Ventures HC, Takeda Ventures and AbbVie Ventures.

Visterra Inc, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech company, raised $46.7 million in Series C funding. Investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MRL Ventures Fund, Vertex Venture Holdings Ltd., Polaris Partners, Flagship Pioneering, Omega Funds, Cycad Group and Alexandria Venture Investments.

Bioarray Genetics, a Farmington, Conn.-based personalized medicine startup, raised $4 million in Series B funding. Investors include Quark Venture and GF Securities.


Enhanced Healthcare Partners made an investment of an undisclosed amount in SCA Pharmaceuticals, a Little Rock, Ark.-based company which specializing in preparing sterile pharmaceuticals for hospitals, pharmacies and healthcare facilities. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Sovos, a portfolio company of HgCapital and Vista Equity Partners, acquired FiscalReps, a U.K.-based provider of insurance premium tax compliance solutions. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Marlin Equity Partners acquired AppRiver, a Gulf Breeze, Fla.-based provider of cloud-based cybersecurity and productivity software and services. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.


Summit Materials made a $3.8 billion offer for rival Ash Grove Cement (OTCPK:ASHG), according to Reuters. Ash Grove said it had received a new bid from an unnamed party which valued the business at $3.7-$3.8 billion. Read more.


Switch Inc, a Las Vegas, Nev.-based data center provider raised $531 million in an offering of 31.3 million shares at $17, above its previously stated range of  $14 to $16 a piece. The company reported revenue of $318.4 million and income of $31.4 million in 2016. Goldman Sachs J.P. Morgan, BMO Capital Markets, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Jefferies, BTIG, Raymond James, Stifel, and William Blair are underwriters in the deal. Switch plans to list on the NYSE as “SWCH.”

MongoDB, a New York-based cloud company, plans to raise about $152 million in an IPO of 8 million shares priced between $18 to $20. In 2016, the company posted revenue of $101.4 million and loss of $86.7 million. The company, which is valued at about $1.6 billion, is backed by investors including Sequoia Capital(16.9% pre-offering), Flybridge Capital(11.6%), Union Square Ventures(9.7%) and NEA(7.2%). MongoDB serves clients including Adobe, eBay, and Citigroup. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Allen & Company, Stifel, Canaccord Genuity, and JMP Securities are named underwriters in the deal. The company plans to list on the Nasdaq as “MDB.”

Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, a biotech developing obesity treatments, raised $120 million in an offering of 7 million shares priced at $17, above its previously stated range of between $14 to $16 a piece. Rhythm posted loss of $29.1 million in 2016, and has yet to post a revenue. New Enterprise Associates (20.77% pre-offering), Third Rock Ventures(18.9%), MPM BioVentures (12.36%), OrbiMed Private Investments(12.13%), and Pfizer(6.6%) back the company. Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Cowen are underwriters in the deal. Rhythm plans to list on the Nasdaq as “RYTM.”


Boeing agreed to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences Corp, a Manassas, Va.-based developer of advanced aerospace platforms. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Aurora had raised approximately $15 million in venture funding from investors including Enlightenment Capital, Westbury Partners, and Cowen Group.

Navient acquired Earnest, a San Francisco-based lender that uses data science to re-build financial services, for $155 million in cash, according to The Wall Street Journal. Earnest had raised approximately $320 in cash and debt from investors including Accomplice, Andreessen Horowitz, Atlas Ventures, Battery Ventures, and FJ Labs. Read more.

Clearview Capital sold its majority interest in St. Croix Hospice, an Oakdale, Minn.-based hospice programs provider, to an affiliate of The Vistria Group. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.


Greenbriar Equity Group, a Rye, N.Y.-based private equity firm, is seeking to raise $1 billion for its fourth fund, according to an SEC filing.


Catherine Ulrich joined FirstMark Capital as a partner.

Gryphon Investors named Wes W. Lucas as a partner. Previously, Lucas was at SIRVA.

Bow River Capital Partners hired Drew Lacey as a senior associate and Robert Fortier and Clay Fox as associates.

Tribeca Venture Partners hired Anna Whiteman as a senior associate and Nitya Rajendran as an associate.


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Polina Marinova produces Term Sheet, and Lucinda Shen compiles the IPO news. Send deal announcements to Polina here and IPO news to Lucinda here.

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