Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Kleiner Perkins has joined a $ 24.5 million Series A funding round for Bison Trails, a provider of blockchain protocols, which was led by Blockchain Capital to develop the firm’s infrastructure services.

Other participants included Coinbase Ventures, ConsenSys, A Capital, Collaborative Fund and Sound Ventures as new investors. Galaxy Digital and Initialized, as early backers, joined this latest round after participating in a $ 5.25 million seed round in March.

Bison Trails became one of the 21 founding members for Facebook’s Libra Association in October, boosting its somewhat flagging reputation as a global infrastructure service provider after high profile players like PayPal pulled out.

That makes Bison Trails the only blockchain infrastructure firm in the Libra project.

The New York-based startup helps customers deploy the participation nodes on any blockchain, without having to develop their own supporting technologies such as security, and serves more than 20 protocol projects.

In a statement Kleiner Perkins investing partner Monica Desai said: “Bison Trails realized early that node infrastructure would become a bottleneck to blockchain adoption, which is why they created a decentralized, user-friendly solution.”

“When we started building Bison Trails, we wanted to bring transparency and ease to entrepreneurs bold enough to build in a decentralized ecosystem, investors wise enough to back a nascent market, and enterprises courageous enough to commit to a technological inevitability like blockchain technology and cryptocurrency,” said Joe Lallouz, CEO of Bison Trails. “We have become the easiest way to run infrastructure on multiple blockchains. And have helped the world’s leading protocols, companies and builders launch and manage secure, highly-available, and geographically distributed nodes on blockchain networks.”


TechCrunch

Balderton Capital, one of the so-called “big four” early-stage VC firms in London (the others being Accel, Atomico and Index), has raised a new $ 400 million fund to continue backing European tech startups at Series A.

Dealroom recently released a report that pegged Balderton as the most active Series A investor in Europe (between 2014-2018), and in many ways this new fund is a continuation, and business as usual for the firm. It is also roughly the same size as the VC’s last Series A fund, which it closed in 2017 at $ 375 million.

That’s not to be confused with Balderton’s other recently launched “secondary” fund, which is dedicated to buying equity stakes from early shareholders in European-founded “high-growth, scale-up” technology companies. The move essentially formalised the secondary share dealing that already happens — typically as part of a Series C or other later rounds — which often sees founders take some money off the table so they can improve their own financial situation and won’t be tempted to sell their company too soon, but also gives early investors a way out so they can begin the cycle all over again.

Meanwhile, Balderton says the new Series A fund is being launched against a backdrop of “unprecedented momentum” within the European tech ecosystem. The VC notes that the number of Series A rounds in Europe per year has quadrupled since 2012, with the total amount of VC funding going into European startups hitting record highs last year — from €11.5 billion in 2014 to a chunky €24.6 billion in 2018.

That, together with the sheer number of new funds that have launched over the last 12 months — and three I’m covering this week — leads me to wonder out loud if tech, and Europe in particular, has entered a bubble.

“I don’t think we are,” Balderton Partner Suranga Chandratillake tells me during a call, before acknowledging that it is often hard to know if you are in a bubble if you are actually in one. “If you look at the public markets, the valuations around tech companies, while they are high, I would argue that in many cases they are justifiable when you look at the profitability and the growth rate of those businesses, especially things like enterprise software. But I think it’s harder when you get into businesses where they are more one-off… [where] we don’t necessarily know exactly how to value those long term.”

On Europe specifically, Chandratillake points out that some European tech hubs are more heated than others and that sentiment can vary considerably per geography. “As you get to more and more the local level, of course, you can experience what feel like sort of comparative bubbles. So, you know, maybe London was expensive two years ago, and France is expensive right now at Series A or whatever, but I don’t think those things really matter in the long run, because ultimately they iron out as long as the employee valuations are sensible. And as an investor, you’re paying attention to that stuff when you’re going to make an investment.”

One rumour within London VC is there are firms that have felt pressured to do follow-on investments in portfolio companies they otherwise might not have during cooler times, for fear of signalling to the market not just that a company isn’t doing well but that the VC firm itself isn’t as founder-friendly as competing VCs. How does Balderton think about signaling?

“Signaling is a massive deal [in venture capital],” says Chandratillake. “And actually, this is an area where, you know, we think we have a fairly strong position, because for over 10 years now we have focused almost entirely on Series A… and we are very open about that.”

He says that unlike other Series A VCs that invest at Series B or Series C, too, and also quite often dabble in seed, companies backed by Balderton shouldn’t expect the firm to “lead or be a major part of your Series B.”

“Of course, we’ll help, we’re going to do some of our pro-rata or maybe all of our pro-rata to try and protect some of our ownership, all those sorts of rational things we do. But we’re not raising a fund which allows us to be a big investor in your Series B and your C and your D and so on. I think as long as you’re really open with entrepreneurs about that early, they totally get that and they understand why it works economically for us and why it’s a good thing.

“Then if you do that for a long enough period of time, as we have, and stick to that — so you don’t do weird things like, you know, say that, but then on the other hand with the most interesting company, you try to bully your way into more of a Series B or whatever, then the ecosystem overall starts to realise… then the signal problem goes away.”

With regards to future investments, Chandratillake says Balderton will continue to invest all over Europe across any sector where “information technology” is being leveraged and creating value.

In the fund prior to last, for example, fintech was a major focus, backing companies like Revolut and Nutmeg, but more recently the VC has been investing more in health tech, where computer science is helping life science solve problems faster or cheaper.

“I think that there will be more of that,” says Chandratillake. “There’s a lot more to be done in this health tech space, both at the patient level, but also actually a lot of really interesting things behind the scenes that will help health systems operate more efficiently and use technology in interesting ways. It’s a really interesting area for Europe, because we have, you know, within the continent, a plethora of different health systems — from almost fully private systems through to obviously entirely state single payer systems like the NHS. It’s a great place to experiment with different models. It’s also of course, as a continent, home to some of the most important pharmaceutical companies [in the world].”


TechCrunch

Three-and-a-half years ago, a lawsuit hit the San Mateo, Ca. county courthouse that briefly attracted the attention of the worldwide venture capital community given its salacious nature. The defendant: longtime VC Michael Goguen, who’d spent 20 years with Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park, Ca. The plaintiff: a former intimate who described him through the filing as a “worse predator than the human traffickers.” She said in the filing that she would know, having become a “victim of human trafficking” at age 15 when she was “brought to America in 2001,” then “sold as a dancer to a strip club” in Texas, which is where she says first encountered Goguen.

What she wanted from the lawsuit was money that she said was owed to her by Goguen: $ 40 million over four installments that the lawsuit stated were for “compensation for the sexual abuse and [a sexual] infection she contracted from him.” According to her suit, Goguen agreed to these terms, paying Baptiste a first installment of $ 10 million before refusing to make further payments.

At the time, Goguen called the allegations “horrific” and suggested Baptiste was a spurned lover, saying they’d had a “10+ year romantic relationship that ended badly.” He also filed a cross complaint alleging extortion.

Today, that cross complaint lives on, but Baptiste’s case against Goguen was just dismissed by arbitrator Read Ambler, a retired judge who served 20 years with the Santa Clara County Superior Court and who wrote in a ruling filed yesterday in San Mateo that Baptiste’s failures to undergo medical examinations doomed her case, as did her failure to produce documents necessary in the discovery process.

“The record presented further establishes that Baptiste’s’ failures were willful,” Ambler writes. “Baptiste appears to believe that the information responsive to the discovery at issue is either not relevant, or with respect to the medical examinations, not permitted by law. While Baptiste is free to believe what she wants to believe, the orders are binding on Baptiste, and her failure to comply with the orders is unacceptable.”

Baptiste doesn’t currently have legal representation, though four sets of lawyers have represented her over time.

Patricia Glaser, a high-powered attorney who took on Baptiste’s case originally (and later agreed to represent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein), asked to be relieved from the case five months later, citing “irreconcilable differences.” More recently, an L.A.-based couple that operates the Sherman Law Group in L.A. filed a motion to be relieved as Baptiste’s counsel, citing “irreconcilable differences and a breakdown in communication.”

Goguen’s attorneys say he will continue to pursue his counterclaims against Baptiste and looks forward to “complete vindication.”

Though Ambler never remarked on the merits or Baptiste’s claims, Goguen’s attorney Diane Doolittle further said today in a statement that: “Amber Laurel Baptiste’s sensationalized lawsuit against Silicon Valley venture capitalist Michael Goguen collapsed under the weight of its own falsehood yesterday, when a judge dismissed the case because of Baptiste’s repeated, egregious and willful misconduct. Over the course of this case, Baptiste perjured herself, concealed, destroyed and falsified key evidence, and demonstrated her contempt for the legal system by systematically violating numerous court orders.”

Baptiste could not be reached for comment.

Baptiste’s lawsuit against Goguen prompted Sequoia to part ways with him almost immediately. Later the very day that TechCrunch broke news of the suit in 2016, a Sequoia spokesman told us that while the firm understood “these allegations of serious improprieties” to be “unproven and unrelated to Sequoia” its management committee had nevertheless “decided that Mike’s departure was the appropriate course of action.”

Goguen, who sold an $ 11 million home in Atherton, Ca., in 2017, has spent much of his time in recent years at another home in Whitefish, Montana, where he has seemingly been wooing locals.

An August story about Goguen in The Missoulian about a separate case describes him as “known locally for philanthropic ventures.”

The piece dutifully continues on to note that: “Such donations have funded Montana’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and a Flathead group teaching girls to code. Two Bear Air, [Goguen’s] northwestern Montana search and rescue outfit free to anyone who has needed it, has performed well over 500 missions and 400 rescues, according to executive director and chief pilot Jim Pierce. Goguen has personally completed 30 rescues, the Daily Inter Lake reported in February. The Flathead Beacon reports he was honored with the Great Whitefish Award earlier this year.”


TechCrunch

Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion is teaming up with Kenya’s Wapi Capital to source and fund early-stage African fintech startups.

Headquartered in Shenzhen, Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa that recently confirmed its imminent IPO.

Wapi Capital is the venture fund of Kenyan fintech startup Wapi Pay—a Nairobi based company that facilitates digital payments between African and Asia via mobile money or bank accounts.

Investments for the new partnership will come from Transsion’s Future Hub, an incubator and seed fund for African startups opened by Transsion in 2019.

Starting September 2019, Transsion will work with Wapi Capital to select early-stage African fintech companies for equity-based investments of up to $ 100,000, Transsion Future Hub Senior Investor Laura Li told TechCrunch via email.

Wapi Capital won’t contribute funds to Transsion’s Africa investments, but will help determine the viability and scale of the startups, including due diligence and deal flow, according to Wapi Pay co-founder Eddie Ndichu.

Wapi Pay and Transsion Future Hub will consider ventures from all 54 African countries and interested startups can reach out directly to either organization, Ndichu and Li confirmed.

The Wapi Capital fintech partnership is not Transsion’s sole VC focus in Africa. Though an exact fund size hasn’t been disclosed, the Transsion Future Hub will also make startup investments on the continent in adtech, fintech, e-commerce, logistics, and media and entertainment, according to Li.

Transsion Future Hub’s existing portfolio includes Africa focused browser company Phoenix, content aggregator Scoop, and music service Boomplay.

Wapi Capital adds to the list of African located and run venture funds—which have been growing in recent years—according to a 2018 study by TechCrunch and Crunchbase. Wapi Capital will also start making its own investments and is looking to raise $ 1 million this year and $ 10 million over the next three years, according to Ndichu, who co-founded the fund and Wapi Pay with his twin brother Paul.

Transsion’s commitment to African startup investments comes as the company is on the verge of listing on China’s new Nasdaq-style STAR Market tech exchange. Transsion confirmed to TechCrunch this month the IPO is in process and that it could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $ 426 million).

Transsion sold 124 million phones globally in 2018, per company data. In Africa, Transsion holds 54% of the feature phone market — through its brands Tecno, Infinix and Itel — and in smartphone sales is second to Samsung and before Huawei, according to International Data Corporation stats.

Transsion has R&D centers in Nigeria and Kenya and its sales network in Africa includes retail shops in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Egypt. The company also has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia.

Transsion’s move into venture investing tracks greater influence from China in African tech.

China’s engagement with African startups has been light compared to China’s deal-making on infrastructure and commodities.

Transsion’s Wapi Pay partnership is the second recent event — after Chinese owned Opera’s big venture spending in Nigeria — to reflect greater Chinese influence and investment in the continent’s digital scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


TechCrunch

Another day, another massive data breach.

This time it’s the financial giant and credit card issuer Capital One, which revealed on Monday a credit file breach affecting 100 million Americans and 6 million Canadians. Consumers and small businesses affected are those who obtained one of the company’s credit cards dating back to 2005.

That includes names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, self-reported income and more credit card application data — including over 140,000 Social Security numbers in the U.S., and more than a million in Canada.

The FBI already has a suspect in custody. Seattle resident and software developer Paige A. Thompson, 33, was arrested and detained pending trial. She’s been accused of stealing data by breaching a web application firewall, which was supposed to protect it.

Sound familiar? It should. Just last week, credit rating giant Equifax settled for more than $ 575 million over a date breach it had — and hid from the public for several months — two years prior.

Why should we be surprised? Equifax faced zero fallout until its eventual fine. All talk, much bluster, but otherwise little action.

Equifax’s chief executive Richard Smith “retired” before he was fired, allowing him to keep his substantial pension packet. Lawmakers grilled the company but nothing happened. An investigation launched by the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the governmental body responsible for protecting consumers from fraud, declined to pursue the company. The FTC took its sweet time to issue its fine — which amounted to about 20% of the company’s annual revenue for 2018. For one of the most damaging breaches to the U.S. population since the breach of classified vetting files at the Office of Personnel Management in 2015, Equifax got off lightly.

Legislatively, nothing has changed. Equifax remains as much of a “victim” in the eyes of the law as it was before — technically, but much to the ire of the millions affected who were forced to freeze their credit as a result.

Mark Warner, a Democratic senator serving Virginia, along with his colleague since turned presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, was tough on the company, calling for it to do more to protect consumer data. With his colleagues, he called on the credit agencies to face penalties to the top brass and extortionate fines to hold the companies accountable — and to send a message to others that they can’t play fast and loose with our data again.

But Congress didn’t bite. Warner told TechCrunch at the time that there was “a failure of the company, but also of lawmakers” for not taking action.

Lo and behold, it happened again. Without a congressional intervention, Capital One is likely to face largely the same rigmarole as Equifax did.

Blame the lawmakers all you want. They had their part to play in this. But fool us twice, shame on the credit companies for not properly taking action in the first place.

The Equifax incident should have sparked a fire under the credit giants. The breach was the canary in the coal mine. We watched and waited to see what would happen as the canary’s lifeless body emerged — but, much to the American public’s chagrin, no action came of it. The companies continued on with the mentality that “it could happen to us, but probably won’t.” It was always going to happen again unless there was something to force the companies to act.

Companies continue to vacuum up our data — knowingly and otherwise — and don’t do enough to protect it. As much as we can have laws to protect consumers from this happening again, these breaches will continue so long as the companies continue to collect our data and not take their data security responsibilities seriously.

We had an opportunity to stop these kinds of breaches from happening again, yet in the two years passed we’ve barely grappled with the basic concepts of internet security. All we have to show for it is a meager fine.

Thompson faces five years in prison and a fine of up to $ 250,000.

Everyone else faces just another major intrusion into their personal lives. Not at the hands of the hacker per se, but the companies that collect our data — with our consent and often without — and take far too many liberties with it.


TechCrunch

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