Evernote just slashed 54 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce

It’s no secret that Evernote, the productivity app that lets people take notes and organize other files from their working and non-work life, has been trying to regain its former footing as one of the most popular apps in the U.S., and that doing so has been an ongoing struggle. Just two weeks ago, we reported that Evernote had lost several of its most senior executives, including its CTO Anirban Kundu, CFO Vincent Toolan, CPO Erik Wrobel and head of HR Michelle Wagner. Now, Chris O’Neill — who took over as CEO of Evernote in 2015 after running the business operations at the Google X research unit — is sharing more demoralizing news with employees. To wit, he’s firing dozens of them. At an an all-hands meeting earlier today, he told gathered staffers that Evernote has no choice but to lay off 54 people —  roughly 15
Continue reading "Evernote just slashed 54 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce"

Amplify Partners locks in $200 million to transform technical founders into people who can actually lead a startup

Sunil Dhaliwal has had a solid run in his 20 years so far as a VC. Just two years out of Georgetown, Dhaliwal landed at Battery Ventures, a highly regarded venture firm. Fifteen years later, in 2012, he struck out on his own, creating Amplify Partners. It wasn’t so easy at first. His first fund required 18 months of on-again, off-again fundraising before closing with $49.1 million in capital commitments. But things have picked up substantially since. In fact, today, Amplify, once a micro fund, is taking the wraps off a third fund that it just closed with $200 million. Some early bets made this newest fund much easier to raise than even its second fund, which closed with $125 million in 2015. In addition to Dhaliwal’s personal track record, which includes leading deals at Battery like Netezza, acquired by IBM, and CipherTrust, acquired by Secure Computing
Continue reading "Amplify Partners locks in $200 million to transform technical founders into people who can actually lead a startup"

Peter Thiel’s argument that Silicon Valley has been ‘brainwashed’ by higher education is tired

Billionaire VC Peter Thiel has largely flown under the radar since raising his hand to support Donald Trump’s presidential bid, then working with Trump’s administration to fill some of its many vacant positions. The association made him deeply unpopular in Silicon Valley, though he says says people have not shown a “great deal of hostility to me personally . . . it manifests itself in all sorts of other ways.” Perhaps ahead of the midterm elections, perhaps because he has more recently moved to L.A., or perhaps because he’s simply feeling more talkative, Thiel is starting to open up again about his often contrarian views to particular outlets. Earlier this year, he sat down with Fox Business to discuss his continuing support of Trump. Thiel talked again last week with commentator and comedian Dave Rubin, whose YouTube show, Rubin says, is focused on free speech. (The interview format is
Continue reading "Peter Thiel’s argument that Silicon Valley has been ‘brainwashed’ by higher education is tired"

A Tesla investor says he was recently questioned by US regulators about that infamous ‘funding secured’ tweet

Last week, onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt, regulator Jina Choi, who heads the SEC’s wide-reaching San Francisco unit, declined to confirm or deny that the SEC is investigating Tesla CEO Elon Musk for possible fraud. Said Choi, “I can’t tell you about any particular investigation in our office. And I can’t confirm or deny the existence of investigations that are in our office. I can say that we are very diligent about covering the issuers in our region and some of the more high-profile issuers in our region. We try to stay on top of that, but that’s about all I can say.” Now, investor James Anderson of the global asset manager Baillie Gifford tells Reuters that, as a shareholder, he was recently questioned by U.S. securities regulators about Musk’s famous — and possibly fateful — early August tweet that he was thinking of taking Tesla private and that
Continue reading "A Tesla investor says he was recently questioned by US regulators about that infamous ‘funding secured’ tweet"

Rothy’s, whose ballet flats for women are already everywhere, just launched a sneaker, too

If you are a woman who has used the internet to buy something, particularly if you are a woman who has used the internet to buy something in the Bay Area, there’s a very high likelihood you have seen ads for Rothy’s everywhere you go on social media, particularly Facebook. In fact, they’ve likely been following you for years. The reason: spending big on Facebook and, to a slightly lesser extent, Instagram, has paid off hugely for the three-year-old, San Francisco-based company, which makes shoes out of recycled materials. Its signature product is its ballet shoe for women, which comes in two silhouettes — a rounded and a pointed-toe version — and 21 patterns. But like most e-commerce brands, Rothy’s hasn’t been content to stop with one apparently winning product. Instead, earlier this year, the company introduced a women’s loafer, followed by a line of shoes for girls ages five
Continue reading "Rothy’s, whose ballet flats for women are already everywhere, just launched a sneaker, too"

WeWork makes its third-biggest acquisition to date, shelling out $100 million for a software startup called Teem

WeWork, the eight-year-old, 800-pound gorilla in the co-working space, hasn’t been known for being terribly acquisitive, despite the billions of dollars it has raised and its valuation, which one of its biggest investors, SoftBank, apparently believes to be approaching $35 billion. To wit, it made just one small acquisition in 2015 (Case), and one other in 2016 (Welkio). Yet the company is clearly beefing up its efforts to, well, beef up. Last year, it acquired five companies, including Meetup, a site for organizing group trips and events for which WeWork paid a reported $200 million. It meanwhile acquired three companies earlier this year, including the Chinese co-working startup Naked Hub, for which it paid $400 million. Now, WeWork is announcing its fourth acquisition of 2018 — and its third-biggest purchase to date — with Teem, a maker of office management software for which a source says WeWork
Continue reading "WeWork makes its third-biggest acquisition to date, shelling out $100 million for a software startup called Teem"

The ambitious real estate ‘unicorn’ Opendoor just made its first acquisition, snapping up Open Listings

Opendoor, a four year-old, San Francisco-based company, has from the outset intended to make it possible to buy and sell residential real estate with a few key strokes. It seemingly gets closer to that audacious vision by the day. The company closed on $325 million in new funding in June in a round that brought its total equity funding to $645 million to date — and its valuation to more than $2 billion. The company has also raised $1.75 million in debt, and two sources tell us more funding from SoftBank is imminent. Opendoor’s cofounder and CEO, Eric Wu, who previously cofounded two other companies, won’t answer questions about SoftBank when asked. But there’s no question the company is one of the most capital-intensive startups on the scene currently. Opendoor bids on homes sight unseen, agrees to buy them, then — contingent on an inspection to verify the
Continue reading "The ambitious real estate ‘unicorn’ Opendoor just made its first acquisition, snapping up Open Listings"

At Sounding Board, an executive coaching startup, the coaches get coaching, too

Everyone could use an executive coach — even executive coaches. Such is the thinking of Christine Tao and Lori Mazan, cofounders of Sounding Board, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based marketplace focused on leadership coaching that has so far raised $1 million in seed funding led by Bloomberg Beta, with participation from Precursor Ventures and numerous angel investors. Some of these investors are people who Tao had met while an SVP at the mobile advertising startup TapJoy. TapJoy is also where Tao met Mazan, who has been helping companies develop their talent for more than 20 years. “Lori started out coaching our CEO,  then coached me when I got promoted into the executive management team,” says Tao. In fact, Mazan is continuing to coach some of the roughly 30 executive coaches who work with Sounding Board as contractors, and she isn’t alone, says Tao, noting that many of the startup’s senior
Continue reading "At Sounding Board, an executive coaching startup, the coaches get coaching, too"

The SEC has never been busier investigating both private and public companies in the Bay Area, suggests agency head

Yesterday at TechCrunch Disrupt, Jina Choi, the longtime head of the SEC’s San Francisco unit, declined to confirm that her agency is investigating Tesla CEO Elon Musk for his now infamous tweet about securing funding for a take-private maneuver. Choi did pull back the curtain substantially with regard to how the agency — which has never worked harder as it relates to private company investigations — operates. The uptick in activity is no surprise. As companies linger as private entities for longer periods of time — often raising hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars along the way — the SEC has found itself spending more time understanding who the players are, as well as watching them more closely. In fact, while Cho’s 130-person unit covers much more than the Bay Area — its reach extends to Portland, Seattle, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska  — it could easily pour all
Continue reading "The SEC has never been busier investigating both private and public companies in the Bay Area, suggests agency head"

Bay Area VCs agree that Silicon Valley may be losing its gravitational pull after all

Earlier today, we took the stage at TechCrunch’s Disrupt event with top VCs Megan Quinn of Spark Capital, Sarah Tavel of Benchmark Capital, and Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures to explore some of the trends rippling through the startup investing ecosystem. Think megafunds, SoftBank’s $93 billion Vision Fund — even whether Silicon Valley is losing some of its gravitational pull, as suggested in a recent Economist piece that’s been making the rounds. On the last front, and a little to our surprise, the VCs seemed to agree that a shift is afoot, if we aren’t already past a tipping point. Lee said she hadn’t read the story, but that for her part, “Probably, for all of us, around boardrooms, [we’re] talking about that hiring challenges in the Bay Area. And when companies get to a certain size, it often comes up that they’re thinking about moving or opening up a second
Continue reading "Bay Area VCs agree that Silicon Valley may be losing its gravitational pull after all"

23andMe underscores that privacy-loving customers need to opt out of its data deal with GlaxoSmithKline

23andMe, the genetics testing company, is in a state of constant evolution, as you’d expect any 12-year-old company would be. But that also means that customers need to be aware of how the company is using data that users may have earlier consented to give without anticipating its newer initiatives. One new tie-up was a particular point of interest here at TechCrunch’s massive Disrupt show, taking place this week in San Francisco. Specifically, CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki was asked a series of questions about 23andMe’s pact with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which announced in July that it acquired a $300 million stake in 23andMe in order to more efficiently develop drugs. As part of the four-year-deal, GSK gains exclusive rights to mine 23andMe’s customer data to more quickly and efficiently develop drug targets. Said Wojcicki of the partnership: “If we start with genetics, will we have a higher success
Continue reading "23andMe underscores that privacy-loving customers need to opt out of its data deal with GlaxoSmithKline"

JD.com’s CEO was arrested, then released, by Minneapolis police this weekend on suspicion of alleged sexual misconduct

JD.com’s billionaire CEO Richard Liu was arrested by Minneapolis police late Friday night on suspicion of alleged sexual misconduct. He was released yesterday afternoon around 4 p.m. Today, JD.com, one of China’s largest online retailers, issued the following statement: “During a business trip to the United States, Mr. Liu was questioned by police in Minnesota in relation to an unsubstantiated accusation. The local police quickly determined there was no substance to the claim against Mr. Liu, and he was subsequently able to resume his business activities as originally planned.” John Elder, public information officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, tells us the investigation remains active but he wasn’t able to share many further details, telling us he isn’t aware of when Liu arrived into the Minneapolis metropolitan area and that he isn’t authorized to say when the complaint against Liu was received. As for why Liu was
Continue reading "JD.com’s CEO was arrested, then released, by Minneapolis police this weekend on suspicion of alleged sexual misconduct"

Paul Graham on why he doesn’t like seeing college-age and younger founders

Yesterday, as part of some of its newest programming for startup founders, the startup incubator Y Combinator posted a new interview with its widely revered founder Paul Graham. The apparent idea was for Graham to share some deep thoughts about startups with fellow founder and current YC partner Geoff Ralston, though the two spend much of the (entertaining) interview discussing Graham’s formative career and his cofounders in his early startup Viaweb, and no wonder; one of them is famous hacker Robert Morris, who became the first person convicted under the then-new Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Much of the advice that Graham did eventually dispense to founders in the audience was interesting to us, however. Graham talked, for example, about his views on competition, which can essentially be boiled down to the idea that companies fail owing to poor execution, not because of me-too startups. In fact, said Graham, though companies
Continue reading "Paul Graham on why he doesn’t like seeing college-age and younger founders"

Tesla’s drama, China-based companies are listing in the U.S., and SurveyMonkey is (finally) going public

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week, we were a man down, with the excellent Alex Wilhelm of Crunchbase News on a vacation that someone seems to have sanctioned, though it was not us, as we don’t believe in vacations. (Wilhelm, get back here.) We did, happily, have the very knowledgeable Kirsten Korosec of TechCrunch join us on the line; we were also joined by this week’s personable in-studio guest: Lauren Kolodny, a partner at the San Francisco-based, early-stage venture firm Aspect Ventures. It was the perfect mix to talk about car makers and more car makers, including Tesla and CEO Elon Musk’s seemingly ill-planned plans to take the publicly traded company private, then vacillating a bit before changing his mind again, much to the chagrin of his board, the company’s shareholders, and poor
Continue reading "Tesla’s drama, China-based companies are listing in the U.S., and SurveyMonkey is (finally) going public"

Andreessen Horowitz is announcing its third new general partner in just three months: Angela Strange

Angela Strange, who joined the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz nearly four years ago and has been quietly working alongside general partner Alex Rampell on a wide variety of fintech deals, has herself been promoted to general partner. The promotion is interesting on a few levels, starting with what may be the most obvious development to outsiders: Strange is now the third person who has been named general partner at the nine-year-old outfit over the last three months. Notably, she is the third woman to be named general partner since the firm announced its first female general partner in June. Andreessen Horowitz now has 13 general partners altogether. For those wanting to see more diversity at the country’s top venture firms, the firm’s moves are a welcome development. They are also a little surprising, particularly considering how delicate venture partnerships tend to be, and the typical pace of announcing general partners, which
Continue reading "Andreessen Horowitz is announcing its third new general partner in just three months: Angela Strange"

New Knowledge just raised $11 million more to flag and fight social media disinformation meant to bring down companies

Back in January, we told you about a young, Austin, Tex.-based startup that fights online disinformation for corporate customers. Turns out we weren’t alone in finding it interesting. The now four-year-old, 40-person outfit, New Knowledge, just sealed up $11 million in new funding led by the cross-border venture firm GGV Capital, with participation from Lux Capital. GGV had also participated in the company’s $1.9 million seed round. We talked yesterday with co-founder and CEO Jonathon Morgan and the company’s director of research, Renee DiResta, to learn more about its work, which appears to be going well. (They say revenue has grown 1,000 percent over last year.) Our conversation, edited for length, follows. TC: A lot of people associate coordinated manipulation by bad actors online with trying to disrupt elections here in the U.S. or with pro-government agendas elsewhere, but you’re working with companies that are also
Continue reading "New Knowledge just raised $11 million more to flag and fight social media disinformation meant to bring down companies"

Eventbrite just made some pricing changes as it moves toward an IPO

Reaching event organizers to help them sell tickets isn’t cheap. Eventbrite — the 12-year-old, San Francisco-based ticketing company that announced plans last week to go public and sell $200 million worth of shares on the NYSE — has been losing money since 2016, posting losses of $40.4 million in 2016, $38.5 million for 2017 and $15.6 million so far this year. Now the company is trying to make up for some of those losses by announcing a new pricing scheme. Today, it sent customers a note explaining that for those using its “Essentials” package (unlike its “Professional” package, whose bells and whistles include customer support, customer questions for attendees and more), reduced prices are coming for many of its customers. Specifically, payment processing fees are dropping from 3 percent to 2.5 percent. Fees for ticket are falling from .99 cents to .70 cents. The moves don’t
Continue reading "Eventbrite just made some pricing changes as it moves toward an IPO"

This New York venture firm just closed on $520 million from 250(!) people, including former Schwab and Facebook execs

Lead Edge Capital, a New York-based venture firm, has been around since 2009, and it has been quietly growing like kudzu since. After closing its very first fund with $52 million back in 2011, it has been roughly doubling the size of its funds ever since, closing on $138 million in 2013 and $290 million in 2016 and today, announcing a fourth, $520 million fund. Altogether, including some special purpose vehicles it has assembled, the firm is now managing roughly $1.5 billion in assets. How did the team, led by founder Mitchell Green, pull it off? Green’s background may have helped. The Williams College grad says he went to work for UBS as a banking analyst in its M&A group out of college, then it was on to Bessemer Venture Partners as an analyst, then Wharton, where he not only earned his MBA but began working at a
Continue reading "This New York venture firm just closed on $520 million from 250(!) people, including former Schwab and Facebook execs"

Upgrade, the newest lending startup of Lending Club founder Renaud Laplanche, has raised $62 million in Series C funding

Upgrade, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based consumer lending venture founded by Renaud Laplanche, has raised $62 million in Series C funding led by CreditEase Fintech Investment Fund. The company’s earlier investors also joined the round, including Apoletto, FirstMark Capital, NOAH, Ribbit, Sands Capital, Silicon Valley Bank, Union Square Ventures and Vy Capital. The money brings the total capital that Upgrade has raised to date to $142 million. It’s easy to appreciate investors’ interest in the company, which already employs 300 people. Since its founding, it says, it has amassed more than 100,000 customers and issued more than $1 billion loans. The average loan size is roughly $10,000. The company is gaining traction without giving away the store, too. Though the interest rate that it charges compares favorably to average credit card rates of about 18 percent for consumers with good credit, Upgrade still gets away with an APR in the low
Continue reading "Upgrade, the newest lending startup of Lending Club founder Renaud Laplanche, has raised $62 million in Series C funding"

TraceLink, which helps pharma companies trace drugs through the supply chain, just raised $93 million

TraceLink, a nine-year-old, software-as-a-service platform for tracking pharmaceuticals and trying to weed out counterfeit prescription drugs in the process, has raised $93 million in Series D funding. Most of the money — $60 million — was used to buy primary shares, with another $33 million used to buy up the shares of previous shareholders. Georgian Partners led the round round, with participation from Vulcan Capital and Willett Advisors, along with all of the company’s earlier investors. These include Goldman Sachs, whose growth equity arm had led the company’s $51.5 million Series C round last year, as well as FirstMark Capital, Volition Capital and F-Prime Capital. As TC had reported at the time of that last round, TraceLink helps pharma companies comply with country-specific track-and-trace requirements through their supply chain, which has grown increasingly important following the passage of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act in 2013. The consumer-protection measure
Continue reading "TraceLink, which helps pharma companies trace drugs through the supply chain, just raised $93 million"