Remember the infamous letter that was delivered to ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on June 20, 2017? That letter, which was was written on behalf of Benchmark, First Round Capital, Menlo Ventures, Lowercase Capital, and Fidelity Investments, would ultimately force Kalanick out.
The memo was unsealed as part of a lawsuit between Uber and Waymo over alleged trade secrets. Although the companies settled more than a year ago, a judge ruled that some of the evidence should be revealed to the public.
Bloomberg published a full reproduction of the letter. The investors explain that Uber’s recent scandals have put the business at risk. They go on:
Among the enormously troubling developments that have recently come to light are the issues of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation that prompted the Holder Report, as well as publicly reported allegations about the behavior of Uber’s senior executives in connection with the India rape incident and other matters. The ongoing Waymo trade secret litigation and Greyball investigation are also extremely serious and unresolved.
The incidents that the letter alludes to include ‘Greyball,’ a secret software tool that helped Uber drivers avoid local law enforcement in cities where the company routinely battled regulators. Uber also allegedly obtained & mishandled the medical records of a woman in India who was raped by an Uber driver.
Now, the company vows to set new standards for data privacy and security. Ruby Zefo, Uber’s first chief privacy officer, joined the ride hailing company nearly six months ago to focus on those efforts. She is trying to make the company’s data privacy practices more rigorous, implement new safety features for passengers, and create new security standards that guide the development of all new products.
“We made our mistake; we admitted it; we paid our price,” Zefo tells Fortune. “Now it’s time to change the narrative.”
While it sounds like Zefo has good intentions, the genie's out of the bottle. Uber is one of several tech giants who have compromised user data in a way that the public has found unforgivable. At one point, the company tried to hide a massive data breach that affected some 57 million passengers and drivers.
Zefo's hardest job won’t be to implement new safety features for passengers; it’ll be to regain the trust of the passengers Uber lost.
THE PRICE OF WELLNESS: The personal care sector is somehow still attracting big dollars. Billie, the shaving startup geared toward women, raised $25 million in a Series A round led by Goldman Sachs’ Private Capital Investing Group. Silverton Partners, Female Founders Fund, and Lakehouse Ventures also participated in the round.
Meanwhile, Hims, a men’s wellness company that sells hair-loss products and erectile dysfunction medication, is finalizing a $100 million funding round at a whopping $1 billion valuation.
This question posed in a Bloomberg article caught my eye: “As a business proposition, Hims seems fine as far as it goes. But potential investors should ask themselves, is this the stuff of which unicorns are made?”
It’s a fair question. We’ve all seen the sad, limp cactus subway ads that Hims used to market its erectile dysfunction products, but at the end of the day, it’s offering largely commoditized products (generic versions of Viagra & Propecia) that could be cheaper elsewhere.
As Bloomberg notes, the company is also facing fierce competition from all sides. Rivals Ro, Keeps, and Lemonaid Health are all vying for the same type of customer. And it keeps branching out into other already crowded sectors such as non-prescription products like supplements and skin care.
Billie is also one in a relatively noisy world of startups catering to your shaving needs — Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club, and Bevel.
So it sounds like with the ever-so-competitive sector of personal care and wellness, it will largely come down to brand. I often think of what Forerunner Ventures Kristen Green (who is an investor in Hims) told me last year:
“Product is really ubiquitous. The nuances of product are often in the eyes of the beholder — we can debate whether you like an Apple phone or a Google phone better. There will be people on either side. So you don’t even have a chance if you can’t deliver an incredible product. But that’s not the win — that’s just table stakes … The thing to compete on, at the end of the day, is delivering a great experience.”
UNICORN STATUS: My colleague Jonathan Vanian reports today that data technology startup Collibra has raised $100 million in funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion. CapitalG, an investment arm of Google parent Alphabet, led the round, and was joined by investors including ICONIQ Capital, Index Ventures, Dawn Capital, and Battery Ventures. With the fresh capital, the company plans to use the money to buy smaller players that fit with its product strategy. Read more.
• Acorns, an app that invests users' spare change in exchange-traded funds, raised $105 million in Series E funding at a $860 million valuation. Investors include NBCUniversal, Comcast Ventures and private equity firms DST and MSD Capital, TPG's The Rise Fund, BlackRock and Bain Capital Ventures.
• Sandbox VR, a Los Angeles-based virtual reality company, raised $68 million in Series A funding. Andrew Chen from Andreessen Horowitz led the round, and was joined by investors including Mike Maples of Floodgate, Stanford University, TriplePoint Capital, CRCM and Alibaba.
• Yellow Door Energy, a UAE-based leading solar developer, raised $65 million in Series A funding. Investors include International Finance Corporation, Mitsui & Co., Ltd, Equinor Energy Ventures, Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation, and Adenium Energy Capital.
• Contentsquare, a New York and London-based fully-automated SaaS digital experience insights platform, raised $60 million in Series C funding. Eurazeo led the round.
• Gladly, a developer of cloud based software for the contact center market serving B2C brands, raised $50 million in funding. Investors include Future Fund, Glynn Capital, Greylock Partners, GGV Capital, and New Enterprise Associates.
• Intelity, an Orlando, Fla.-based provider of an enterprise guest engagement and staff management platform for the travel industry, raised $44 million in funding. The investor was LLR Partners.
• Petal, a New York-based credit card company for people who do not have traditional credit history, raised $30 million in Series B funding. Valar Ventures led the round.
• Featurespace, a U.K. and Atlanta-based provider of adaptive behavioral analytics for fraud detection and risk management, raised $32.3 million in funding. Insight Venture Partners and MissionOG co-led the round.
• Knotch, a New York City-based digital content intelligence platform, raised $20 million in Series B funding. New Enterprise Associates led the round.
• Kite, a San Francisco-based company that suggests code snippets for Python developers in real time, raised $17 million in Series A funding. Trinity Ventures led the round.
• Cinnamon AI, a Tokyo and Vietnam-based provider of artificial intelligence solutions, raised $15 million in Series B funding. Investors include FinTech Business Innovation LP and SBI Venture Investment Revitalization Tax System LP.
• Timescale, a New York-based operator of an open-source time-series SQL database, raised $15 million in Series A1 funding. Icon Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Benchmark, NEA, and Two Sigma Ventures.
• Sendle, an Australia-based parcel delivery service, raised $14.3 million in Series B funding. Federation Asset Management led the round, and was joined by investors including Full Circle Venture Capital, Rampersand and Giant Leap.
• Salt Security, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based API protection company, raised $10 million in funding. Investors include S Capital, Kevin Mahaffey, and Marius Nacht.
• Phynd Technologies, Inc, a provider information management platform, raised more than $8 million in Series B funding. Investors include MemorialCare Innovation Fund, Rex Ventures, Orlando Healthcare Ventures and Dallas Venture Partners.
• Carbon Relay, an AI company that helps target energy inefficiency in data centers, raised, $6 million in Series A funding. Investors include Foxconn Technology Group.
• Fertility Focus, a fertility monitoring technology company, has secured $2.7 million in Series A funding. Foresight Group and Coutts Investment Club led the round.
• Renewal Mill, a food ingredients company, raised $2.5 million in seed funding. HG Ventures led the round.
• Cargo Chief, a Millbrae, Calif.-based shipping company, raised more than $2.5 million in funding. BootstrapLabs led the round.
• Zan Compute, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based smart facility management AI platform company, raised $1 million in seed funding. Daycon and Impala Ventures led the round.
HEALTH AND LIFE SCIENCES DEALS
• Lyndra Therapeutics Inc, a drug development company, raised $55 million in funding. Polaris Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including HOPU Investments, Gilead Sciences, Invus, Orient Life and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
• Day Zero Diagnostics Inc, a Boston-based infectious disease diagnostic company, raised $8.6 million in Series A funding. Triventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Sands Capital Ventures and Golden Seeds.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• EnCap Flatrock Midstream invested $300 million in Clear Creek Midstream, a Houston-based energy company focused on the development of midstream infrastructure for oil and gas producers.
• Investcorp acquired Health Plus Management LLC, a Long Island, N.Y.-based provider of business management and operations services for independent physician practices. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
• Talara Capital Management LLC invested $75 million in Crescent Pass Energy, a Spring, Texas-based company focused on development opportunities in East Texas and Northern Louisiana.
• Edison Partners made a $7 million growth investment in Bipsync, a New York-based research management platform provider for investment management firms.
• Century Park Capital Partners recapitalized MCCi LLC, a Tallahassee, Fla.-based software and IT services firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
• ProPharma Group, a portfolio company of Linden Capital Partners, acquired The Weinberg Group Inc, a Washington D.C.-based provider of regulatory and compliance services to the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
• Unilever acquired The Laundress, a New York-based line of detergent and cleaning products. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Thoma Bravo, a Chicago-based private equity firm, raised $12.6 billion for its latest flagship fund.
• Whitecap Venture Partners, a Canada-based venure capital firm, raised CAD $110 million ($83 million) for Whitecap IV.