The Third Degree
Earlier today, Lerer Ventures revealed that the early stage investment firm–a powerful, active force in growing New York’s startup ecosystem–has raised its biggest fund yet. While raw SEC filings first indicated that Lerer Ventures was raising $30 million, the deal closed at $36 million. That’s more than $64 million combined in less than two years.
Partners Ken Lerer, Ben Lerer, Eric Hippeau, and Jordan Cooper have backed some of the most high-profile companies from New York’s new class of tech startups, like Warby Parker, MakerBot, OnSwipe, and Birchbox. Lerer Ventures has also had a number of notable exits, like GroupMe (acquired by Skype), Mr. Cooper’s startup HyperPublic (acquired by Groupon), and Venmo (acquired by Braintree). In fact, the Huffington Post mafiosos–Ken Lerer and Mr. Hippeau are both veterans–have been so busy building “the largest infrastructure in New York for entrepreneurs” that they apparently haven’t had time to move Venmo into the “Exits” list on the firm’s website.
Betabeat spoke to Mr. Hippeau this afternoon after his firm’s new fund and why we’re in “the golden age for entrepreneurs in New York.”
The next step in what we assume is Jack Dorsey’s Bruce Lee-inspired plan to take over the world: Square will soon launch in Canada. [TechCrunch]
Speaking of can’t stop won’t stop, Lerer Ventures has closed its third fund, clocking in at $36.15 million. [PandoDaily]
Mathematician Zachary Harris received an unexpected email from a Google recruiter. Wondering whether it might be a spoof, he did a little digging and discovered it was actually pretty easy, cryptographically speaking, to fake an email from a Google corporate address. He promptly faked one from Sergey Brin to Larry Page, thinking the whole thing was a deliberate puzzle. [Wired]
This is what it looks like when something posted on Facebook goes viral. [Fast Company]
With the debut of the Surface–i.e., a hardware device that’s harder to pirate–could Microsoft finally make some headway in China? Maybe, but it’s rare to lose money betting on the ingenuity of IP infringers. [Reuters]
Non Hustlers Need Not Apply Lerer Ventures is looking to hire a new analyst. The job requires one or two years of experience at a venture backed startup or major tech company. You have to also be “a sweet and cool person,” so no mean losers need apply. According to the listing, they’re looking for “A hustler and/or hacker who works smart.” We’re sending this to Cassidy right away.
Playing Hooky Not Cool On Friday, AT&T and NYC Digital will kickoff a hackathon designed to help Mayor Bloomberg’s Truancy Task Force. Designers and coders will be given the challenge to create a mobile app to keep kids in school. The first prize is pretty sweet and includes $2,500 in Gift Cards for the team to split, a $5,000 donation from AT&T to the team’s choice of non-profit organizations, and one year of the ”Small” service from Github for each team member. No word on whether college dropouts are allowed to compete.
Newsweek Daily Beast CEO Stephen Colvin has decamped from his publishing bastion to take a gig as executive-in-residence at Lerer Ventures. As VC titles go it’s one of the less well-defined, but an announcement from the firm offered a little detail, saying that Mr. Colvin will offer “strategic input” to the tech startups in the Lerer Ventures’ stable.
Hey, we can think of one startup in particular that might be able to use Mr. Colvin’s know-how–NowThis News, the viral video network currently being cooked up downtown.
Roughly a year-and-a-half after closing its second $25 million seed stage fund, Lerer Ventures is in the processing of raising money for a third. An SEC filing, first noted by TechCrunch, says the size of the round is $30 million.
Although the Form D indicates that the early-stage venture capital firm has yet to sell, expect the round to close quickly.
Last May, it only took Lerer Ventures “a matter of weeks” to raise that $25 million from individuals and family offices. And that was before the highly-regarded New York City firm–launched by Huffington Post cofounder (and Betaworks and Buzzfeed chairman) Ken Lerer and his son Ben Lerer, cofounder of Thrillist–boasted a handful of exits.
BuzzFeed has purchased Kingfish Labs, a company specializing in Facebook data. This is probably the strategic equivalent of that point in the pandemic movie where the virus mutates, goes airborne, and gets really serious. [Business Insider]
“While it used to be that Apple was the brand which uncomplicated computing, for me, anyway, that’s simply no longer true.” [John Battelle]
Bad news, Android users: More than 50 percent of devices contain “unpatched vulnerabilities.” [BGR]
Maine is home to the first electricity-generating tidal turbine in America. [Portland Press Herald]
This Mennonite community is just about the last bunch of people left in the world who don’t look at a camera and start automatically posing for a Facebook cover photo. [Wired]
Ken Lerer’s answer to the Daily Show–a video startup formerly known as Planet Daily–is stealth mode no more. Today the company announced its proper name–NowThis News–plus the identity of its executive team. The site will launch with a partnership with BuzzFeed in place, positioning the company’s content to go viral like chickenpox in Mrs. Henderson’s kindergarden class. The mission is about what we’d expected: to offer “video news for mobile and social news consumers.” Finally, a real broadcast for those among us who turn YouTube in times of crisis!
However, as lifelong Lois Lane fans, we must register our disappointment that the site is losing its super-heroic code name.
A bit of late-breaking news for your Thursday: All Things D reports that men’s lifestyle brand Thrillist has raised a $13 million Series A, led by Oak Investment Partners.
Joining the funding fun were family outfit Lerer Ventures and Bob Pittman’s Pilot Group. Pilot was the first firm to put money into Thrillist, helping founder Ben Lerer get off the ground back in 2005 with $2 million in seed money. This is the first outside capital they’ve raised since.
A source familiar the deal told Betabeat yesterday that Venmo, a New York City-based mobile app that lets you split bills with friends, is in the process of being acquired by Braintree, a Chicago-based online payments company and PayPal competitor. The New York Times broke the news this afternoon, reporting a $26.2 million acquisition price. On the company blog, Venmo said the deal closed in mid-June and that its payment-sharing service “will remain unaffected” and continue to operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary.
Venmo and Braintree share an investor, Palo Alto powerhouse Accel Partners, which also invested in Facebook.
The two startups do seem to be in the midst of a mutual appreciation society. Last week, Braintree’s community manager Kristi Lynch tweeted, “I know it sounds weird, but the @Venmo app makes me wish I owed more people money.” Two Venmo employees favorited the tweet.
Venmo was founded in Philadelphia in 2009 by two former college roommates, Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismai. The duo eventually moved the company to New York City, where Venmo become one of the early stars in the city’s growing tech orbit, embraced by early adopters for making it easier to split the cost of dinner, drinks, monthly cable bills–or any of the innumerable costs of urban life–over their phones. There were even cutesy, customizable receipts, eagerly tweeted out by the Alley in-crowd.
Local maker-minded startup LittleBits just announced a $3.65 million Series A, led by True Ventures. Also participating were Khosla Ventures, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Lerer Ventures.
Founder (and MIT Media Lab alum, and TED speaker) Ayah Bdeir told Betabeat that the round will help the company to–pardon the expression–kick it up a notch. “The first phase was really sort of a proof of concept,” she said. The response did not disappoint: LittleBits sold better than expected, “so that we actually now know it’s time to press the peddle.”
The company describes itself as “an open source library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnants for prototyping and play.” And what does that mean, precisely? Think wired Erector Sets.