It's All About the Bitcoins

Union Square Ventures, Other Investors Pump $5M Into Bitcoin Startup Coinbase

Money of the future. (Photo: Flickr/Zach Copley)

Fred Wilson has just broken his two-year, no-investment streak. The Wall Street Journal reports Union Square Ventures is leading a $5 million round in Y Combinator-backed Coinbase, which allows you to buy, store and pay with Bitcoin. Also participating: Ribbit Capital, SV Angel and Funders Club.

These being the self-styled gentleman scholars of USV, there’s some philosophizing to justify the investment. Read More

Fresh Capital

Foursquare Dodges a Potential Down Round, Grabs $41M In Loans and Convertible Debt

Foursquare's Dennis Crowley. (Photo: Sound Ctrl)

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about Foursquare, the New York-based check-in and recommendations app that was the breakout darling of SXSW 2009.

Former Square COO Keith Rabois recently engaged in a very public dustup with Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley on Twitter, tweeting that only a “Hail Mary Bebo-style acquisition will bail you out.” In January, data and research company PrivCo predicted that the startup will fail by the end of the year, eventually surrendering to an acquisition price of no more than $50 million (though the analysis didn’t account for mobile traffic). In November of last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that investors were “cooling” on Foursquare. “The company claims more than 25 million registered users, but only about 8 million of them use the app at least once a month,” it wrote. Read More

Linkages

Booting Up: Doing Deals at the End of the World

end of the world

JPMorgan Chase agreed to acquire the online coupon site Bloomspot for $35 million. Good to seek synergies in case the world doesn’t end. [Bloomberg]

Another precautionary measure: Seven months after raising $6.5 million in a funding round led by Union Square Ventures, Behance has been acquired by Adobe Systems. Behance said that it would remain in New York in a blog post discussing the deal. [Behance]

Zynga confirmed that it’s shutting down its Japanese operation at the end of next month. If we get there. [TechCrunch]

Three Google executives were cleared by an Italian appeals court, which reversed a lower court’s findings that the execs violated a child’s privacy by failing to remove a bullying video. [Reuters]

NASA is going to keep blogging that the world isn’t really ending until the sidewalk opens up and swallows its communication team whole. [NASA]

Hires and Fires

Union Square Ventures Hires Two New Bright Young Minds As Analysts

USV new hires

Union Square Ventures just capped a nine-month search for fresh blood, announcing not one, but two new investment analysts this afternoon. New York City’s best known venture capital firm welcomed Alexander Pease and Brian Watson, bringing its total investment team up to nine staffers, including its newest partner Andy Weissman, who was poached from Betaworks back in October.

In an introductory post, Christina Cacioppo called the young men “extremely-qualified candidates,” which is why USV opted to hire both. Read More

Fresh Capital

Codecademy Programs Its Way to a $10M Series B

(Photo: www.successstories.co.in/)

Some may tsk-tsk the “learn to code” meme, but that hasn’t deterred New York-based Codecademy from sticking to its vision of teaching all of us to code. Today, cofounder Zach Sims announced on the company blog that the startup has raised $10M in series B funding from VC firms Kleiner Perkins, Index Ventures and Union Square Ventures, as well as angel investors Yuri Milner and Richard Branson. Read More

Book 'Em

Digital Publishing Startup Wattpad Raises $17.3M Series B For Social Reading

Old school, meet new school. (flickr.com/friarsbalsam)

Just last week, the publishing industry got the Wall Street Journal treatment for having sidestepped the disruptive effects of digital privacy. But everyone gathered on the far west side for Book Expo America might want to hold off on the high fives, because the Internet isn’t done taking aim at their business. And one Union Square Ventures-backed, Toronto-based upstart, Wattpad, just raised a $17.3 million Series B.

USV joined this latest round, which was led by Khosla Ventures. Other participants include Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang and Toronto’s Golden Venture Partners. The company will use the money for hiring, new features, and community growth.

Wattpad is both publishing platform and social network. It’s a kissing cousin to Amazon’s self-publishing platform, but the concept will feel most familiar to anyone who spent time on early platforms like fanfiction.net–complete with concerns about copyright, by the way, though the company has introduced piracy-fighting features. The modern twist: Over 70 percent of the site’s traffic comes from mobile devices.

Founder Allen Lau insisted to Betabeat that Wattpad doesn’t have any real competitors, and contrasted the company’s model with the traditional publishing process and with more accessible paths like Amazon’s self-publishing platform. “On Wattpad, people [publish] chapter-by-chapter, so for example a lot of people will upload chapter one, then instantly he or she will get feedback,” he said. Then they can upload each successive installment as its written. “It’s a very different interaction environment.” Read More

Welcome to New Fit City

Naveen Selvadurai’s Next Project Explores the Quantified Self

Not pictured: Fitbit and Withings scale. (via @Naveen)

Don’t call it a startup–at least not yet–but Foursquare cofounder Naveen Selvadurai dropped some hints about an upcoming personal project at an event at Union Square Monday evening, as Erick Schonfeld revealed on Twitter.

The de-Crunched tech blogger was at the VC firm for an event about “Networked Health,” and Mr. Selvadurai’s proposition, taken straight from the Quantified Self rule book, sounded like it fit right in: Read More