This new startup wants to be the ‘Netscape for crypto,’ and some investors think it has a shot

Three-month-old Elph wants to make it easier for you to find and use blockchain-based apps. How? Through a portal that’s promising to enable users to click through to see how their crypto holdings are faring, to buy and sell CryptoKitties or to find and use other decentralized apps. Its co-founder and CEO, Ritik Malhotra, says it will eventually be the “Netscape for crypto.” If it sounds outlandish, that’s partly because there are still so few blockchain apps from which to choose. Malhotra and team trust that this will change over time, however, and investors seem to trust them, including Coinbase, The House Fund and numerous individual investors who just provided the company with a little less than a million dollars in pre-seed funding. A large part of the appeal is the founders’ pedigree. Malhotra was a Thiel fellow, for example, stepping away from UC Berkeley in order to make
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TraceLink just landed $60 million more to eliminate counterfeit prescription drugs

Just processed by the SEC on this bright Friday afternoon: TraceLink, a software-as-a-service platform for tracking pharmaceuticals and trying to weed out counterfeit prescription drugs in the process, has raised $60 million in Series D funding. The filing shows that 18 firms participated, including, presumably, Goldman Sachs, whose growth equity arm had led the company’s $51.5 million Series C round roughly 18 months ago. Others of the nine-year-old company’s earlier investors include FirstMark Capital, Volition Capital and F-Prime Capital. As TC’s Jordan Crook 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 aims to protect consumers from exposure to drugs that could be counterfeit, stolen, contaminated or otherwise harmful. At the time of its enactment, it also gave
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Coinbase is acquiring a securities dealer in order to trade your startup tokens

Every day, tech investors and reporters are pitched on new services that intend to generate digital tokens that its creators expect will trade . . . somewhere. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Coinbase, known currently for trading a handful of the largest cryptocurrencies, wants to be that somewhere. To that end, it’s acquiring securities dealer Keystone Capital, a California-based FINRA-registered broker-dealer that, according to the WSJ, can operate as a registered investment and run an alternative trading system. Coinbase said the move sets in on path to “offer future services that include crypto securities trading, margin and over-the-counter trading.” Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Coinbase will need regulatory approval to operate under the Keystone licenses, and its COO Asiff Hirji told the WSJ that it expects to take several months after those approvals are obtained to integrate Keystone’s operations. More than $13 billion has been raised by startups via so-called initial coin offerings
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Norwest just scored an interesting new partner: Google and Facebook alum Priti Youssef Choksi

A lot of people who’ve been working in the venture industry — even for many years — haven’t seen a true down cycle. Somewhat ironically, Priti Youssef Choksi, a newly minted VC, knows very well what one looks like. The newest partner of the multi-stage investment firm Norwest Venture Partners has been working in tech since before the last boom and bust — and she has lessons to share about both good times and bad. It started in her native Mumbai (“Bombay to me!” she says). Choski didn’t tell her parents when, as a teenager, she applied to the University of Pennsylvania to study architecture and business. “I couldn’t study both back home,” she says, somewhat sheepishly from Norwest’s glass-lined new offices in San Francisco’s South Park neighborhood. She didn’t wind up at an architecture firm. Instead as a young graduate, she landed at Broadview Associates, an investment bank
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YC looks to help more of its companies lock down Series A funding

Y Combinator, the popular startup accelerator program, has never been shy about experimenting. Now, in its latest trial, the outfit is launching what it’s calling a Series A program. The idea is to help alums that maybe picked up seed funding after one of YC’s famous Demo Day presentations but that could use some help thinking through how much to raise in Series A funding, and from whom. We talked Friday with the YC partner who is leading the program, Aaron Harris, about how it will work, why YC deems it necessary and what it signals about the 15 companies that will be accepted into each of these batches, where they will meet every other week over a two-month period to discuss (in part) business models, forecasts, pitch decks and how to approach meeting with different types of investors. TC: For readers who don’t know you, how did you wind
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SV Angel says it won’t be raising another fund from outside investors

SV Angel, the seed-stage investment firm, announced today that it’s getting out of the traditional venture business. At least, said the firm, going forward, its founders, meaning famous angel investor Ron Conway and his son Topher, will be investing their own money in startups. In a follow-up email exchange with TechCrunch, Topher Conway explained that several of the firm’s most recent checks, including to the chatbot startup Hugging Face, the hormone-testing company Modern Fertility, and to the electric skateboard company Boosted Boards, came from SV Angel’s existing, outside-investor-backed funds. He added that those existing funds will now no longer make new investments, but that SV Angel will continue to invest in follow-on rounds in its existing portfolio companies. The outfit had closed its last fund with $53 million in late 2016. It will now part ways with partners Brian Pokorny, Kevin Carter and Robert Pollak, who it
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This newly funded startup wants to help women gauge their reproductive health a lot sooner in life

It’s often the case that women don’t think much about their reproductive health until they have to. Sometimes it begins with an aside from a well-meaning gynecologist — or one’s impatient parents. Sometimes, it’s because a couple is ready to try conceiving and it’s proving harder than they imagined it would be. A San Francisco-based startup called Modern Fertility wants to educate women about their reproductive health much earlier in their lives, enabling them to become more “proactive” instead of reactive, says co-founder and CEO Afton Vechery, who worked formerly as a product manager at the genetic testing company 23andMe and, before that, at a healthcare-focused private equity firm in Greenwich, Conn. At both places, she learned a lot about the growing number of companies that are empowering customers with information about their own bodies. She also learned, particularly at 23andMe, about the importance of making that information affordable. Indeed,
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New York VC Steve Schlafman has a new gig with Primary Venture Partners

Steve Schlafman has been an East Coast investor for roughly a decade — scouring deals for the Kraft Group ahead of joining Lerer Hippeau as an early employee, then spending more than four years as a principal with RRE Ventures before announcing on Twitter, to the surprise of some, that he was leaving the New York firm. Many guessed that Schalfman, like a growing number of people right now, was setting off to create his own venture outfit. Today, Schlafman say it was a consideration and that he did a bit of research toward this end, but that as an identical twin, he’s not really programmed to work on his own. Enter Primary Venture Partners, a seed-stage firm in New York that was previously known as High Peaks Venture Partners and has backed numerous high-profile startups —  Jet.com and Coupang among them — even while flying low
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Consumer Reports just reversed its stance on the Tesla Model 3, giving the car its endorsement

It sometimes reads like a terrible love story, the relationship between Consumer Reports and electric car company Tesla . Consumer Reports withholds its affection, Tesla addresses its errant ways, and not long afterward, the two come happily come together until the next car review. We saw this happen in late 2015, when Consumer Reports assigned Tesla’s Model S a “worse-than-average” rating in an annual report about the predicted reliability of new vehicles, knocking down the company’s share price by more than 10 percent in one day.  Later, the car was re-instated by Consumer Reports as a top-rated ultra-luxury sedan after it updated its software to include automatic emergency braking at highway speeds. Something similar happened today. As you may have seen, Consumer Reports last week withheld its recommendation to buy Tesla’s more compact luxury car, the Model 3, after its testers “found flaws—big flaws—such as long stopping distances in
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Former journo Alexia Bonatsos takes the wraps off her new venture fund, Dream Machine

Five years ago, Alexia Bonatsos, née Tsotsis, was co-editor of TechCrunch, a job that made her renowned in startup circles and familiar with a wide number of startups and their founders. What she really longed to do, in fact, was invest in some of them. “I was among the first people to write about Pinterest and Wish — when it was known as ContextLogic — and Uber and Instagram and WhatsApp,” says Bonatsos. “I started to wonder if I was in the right place at the right time — so, luck — or if I’m in the right information flows. I was curious: what if I’d been writing checks?” She talked occasionally with venture firms, but the right job didn’t materialize. So she set to work on creating her own dream job. Her first move was to step down from her post at TechCrunch in 2015 to enter into
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TruStory, a new startup, just raised $3 million to identify ICO scams before they happen

Investing in initial coin offerings, or ICOs, is a minefield. This isn’t just true for people with absolutely no technical background but also for many investors who may be well-versed in tech but still struggle to understand many projects’ white papers. Enter TruStory, a platform for users to research and validate claims that people make online, whether in a blog post, white paper, website or social media post. The young company’s aim is to “bring authenticity back into the digital and decentralized world.” It’s a huge and growing opportunity. Though regulators around the world are cracking down on cryptocurrency fraud, the number of ICOs has skyrocketed and the funds raised through the mechanism are increasing. According to data collected last month by CoinDesk, ICOs raised $6.3 billion in the first three months of 2018; that’s 118 percent more than projects managed to raise by way of ICOs in
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A new eyewear brand is taking on Luxottica with a single wire, some seed funding, and a sustainability story

A U.K.-based startup has come up with a new design for high-end, direct-to-consumer sunglasses that are original, modular, and virtually indestructible. But to get their eyewear in the hands of consumers, they’ll have to compete with some industry giants, including Luxottica Group of Italy, whose brands include Ray-Ban and Oakley among others. Their company, Wires Glasses, isn’t competing on price. At $380 per pair, its sunglasses cost as much as other designer eyewear. If Wires succeeds, it will largely owe instead to its unusual single-wire design, patented invisible hinge, and, perhaps most important, the narrative it tells about design and sustainability. Indeed, in a day and age where new brands are launched every day, storytelling can mean the difference between barely surviving and thriving, something this team seems to understand. A new, albeit undisclosed, amount of seed funding from the early-stage venture firm True Ventures should also help.
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This company wants to put “brains” in electric scooters and bikes to keep riders safer

Superpedestrian, a Cambridge, Ma.-based company, has been known until now for its electric Copenhagen wheel, which a user attaches to his or her bikes and operates through an app. It’s essentially a circular unit that houses a motor, a battery and sensors and is placed in the middle of the rear wheel, measuring how fast and how forcefully someone is riding and adding a little electric oomph when a bike’s pedals are pushed. Riders love the wheel, but now, Superpedestrian is shifting gears. It isn’t abandoning its consumer base. Instead, it’s taking the wraps off an entirely new second business that plans to use the one million kilometers of data it has amassed from Copenhagen customers to improve the offerings of urban mobility companies. More specifically, it wants to sell them hardware and software that will keep their fleets up to snuff. It doesn’t matter if these companies
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For Madrona Venture Group, four IPOs in 20 months and a brand-new fund

Madrona Venture Group typically flies under the radar of Silicon Valley reporters, partly because it’s in Seattle. But the 23-year-old, early-stage venture firm has been having a pretty good run of late — success it just used to close its seventh fund with $300 million, the same amount it raised for its sixth fund in 2015. Among its investors: Bezos Expeditions, Vulcan Capital, and billionaire John Stanton, who is the chairman of the board of Trilogy International Partners (as well as the majority owner of the Major League Baseball team the Seattle Mariners). Madrona’s momentum didn’t build overnight. Four Madrona portfolio companies that have IPO’d over the last 20 months — the cloud software companies Smartsheet, Apptio, the real estate site Redfin, and the RFID chip maker Impinj —  took on average 12 years to get into the hands of public market investors. Madrona, the firm is quick to note,
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This top Silicon Valley venture firm just made a contrarian move with its newest fund

In Silicon Valley, venture firms with a track record of success find themselves awash in money thanks to the growing number of institutions that want to invest more of their capital in tech. In March, an SEC filing showed that General Catalyst had closed a $1.375 billion fund, the biggest vehicle in its 18-year history. Battery Ventures also closed on two funds earlier this year that are the 35-year-old firm’s biggest to date. Sequoia Capital, meanwhile, is reportedly out raising $12 billion across a series of funds, a move that’s unprecedented for the firm — or any U.S.-based venture firm, for that matter. Fifteen-year-old Emergence Capital could easily follow the same path. Emergence funds early stage ventures that are focused on enterprise and SaaS applications, and it does this very well. Its bets include the storage company Box (now public), the social networking company Yammer (sold
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Boston startups may see some fresh checks as Underscore VC closes on its second fund

There’s a whole lot of data and information that’s stored in the cloud, and it’s critical that consumers and enterprises alike be able to trust that this information is safe and accurate. Such is the primary investing thesis of Underscore VC, a three-year-old, Boston-based early-stage firm that is today taking the wraps off a second fund that it just closed with $115 million in capital commitments. Among its investors: Boston Children’s Hospital, the fund of funds Greenspring Associates, and family offices, including that Henry McCance, chairman emeritus of Greylock Partners. If you haven’t heard of Underscore, you probably don’t live in Boston, where the firm sprung up in 2015, created by veterans of the startup scene there. Cofounder Michael Skok spent the previous 12 years with Boston-based firm North Bridge Venture Partners. Cofounder John Pearce is the former CEO of Demandware. Other members of the team include cofounder Richard
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In the next few weeks, you can spend time with any one of these VCs and it will all go to charity

Five years ago, we told you about a venture capital auction, wherein dozens of VCs donated their time toward a greater good — helping fund research at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, one of the world’s largest voluntary health organizations dedicated to funding research and access to treatments for blood cancer patients. The auction was centered around then five-year-old Rhett Krawitt, a pink-cheeked, bright-spirited boy who’d been diagnosed with leukemia is 2010 and “fought a really hard battle,” recalls his father, Carl Krawitt, who works in the Bay Area for Tata, the enterprise information management consultancy. “For three-and-a-half years, he was undergoing chemotherapy, and his doctors would say, ‘Here are the 20 complications you can have, though most kids have three or four.’ But Rhett had all 20 of them. He was between a rock and a hard place. I had to tell my daughter that her little brother was
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Sarah Guo breaks through at Greylock, becoming one of the first female general partners in the firm’s 53-year history

Sarah Guo didn’t necessarily set out to become a venture capitalist. She certainly didn’t imagine she would become one of the first general partners at one of the oldest venture firms in the country. Yet Guo is both of these things today. Indeed, the venture firm Greylock Partners, which Guo joined five years ago as a principal, is announcing her promotion this morning. Greylock, which closed its current, 15th, fund with $1 billion in October 2016, now has 12 general partners altogether. For Guo, the appointment caps a lifetime spent in the world of startups. Before joining Greylock, she worked as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, where she led much of the bank’s coverage of business-to-business tech companies and advised public clients, including Twitter, Netflix, Zynga, and Nvidia. A graduate (for both her undergraduate degree and MBA) of the University of Pennsylvania, Guo also worked previously at Casa Systems
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Beth Seidenberg of Kleiner Perkins is said to be leaving to start her own fund

Beth Seidenberg joined Kleiner Perkins 13 years ago to focus on life sciences for the storied venture firm. Now, according to a Recode report, she’s heading off to start her own life sciences venture fund in L.A. where she lives. We’ve reached out to Kleiner and we’re awaiting more information. But the firm seemed to confirm the move to the outlet, reportedly noting that Seidenberg will continue to be a partner in Kleiner’s existing funds and stating that Kleiner remains committed to life sciences. While the move is interesting from a firm perspective — Kleiner has undergone one transition after another over the last half dozen years, parting ways with at least 10 investors, including Trae Vassallo, Mike Abbott, Chi-Hua Chien, Matt Murphy, and Aileen Lee — it’s perhaps even more interesting as part of an ongoing change to the broader industry. Whereas a decade or so ago,
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Walmart’s deal to buy Flipkart came with an interesting caveat

Retail giant Walmart, which earlier this week announced it paid $16 billion for a 77 percent stake in the Indian e-commerce company, Flipkart Group, could have to take Flipkart public within four years, shows a public filing that was reported on earlier by Reuters. Specifically, the filing states that, “acting together,” holders of 60 percent of the Flipkart shares held by the company’s minority shareholders, may require Flipkart to stage an IPO following the fourth anniversary of the deal’s official close — and at a valuation that’s “no less” than that paid by Walmart under its current agreement, which is $20.8 billion. The caveat is a highly unusual one as far as we can tell — an apparent insurance policy for earlier investors who were concerned about giving away too much upside by selling so many of their shares now to Walmart. Some of the company’s minority shareholders following
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