RigUp’s Oil-Well Service Gets $15 Million Despite Oil Price Dip

During the short existence of startup RigUp Inc., the oil and gas industry it serves turned on its head.

When the startup started testing its online marketplace for oil-rig projects in 2014 the price for a barrel of crude hovered around $100, oil rigs were multiplying around the country and exploration companies were making profits. Since then, the price per barrel sank to around $40 and the number of oil rigs dropped some 75%, to the lowest level since at least 1949, according to data from WTRG Economics.

And yet Austin, Texas-based RigUp managed to raise a $15 million Series A round, building on top of the $3 million seed round it closed in the summer of 2014. The new round came mostly from existing investors, Founders Fund, Box Group, and Great Oaks. New backers include FreeS VC, Moore Capital and GE Ventures, part of General Electric

“The industry Continue reading “RigUp’s Oil-Well Service Gets $15 Million Despite Oil Price Dip”

RigUp’s Oil-Well Service Gets $15 Million Despite Oil Price Dip

[wsj-responsive-image P=”http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-NO460_RigUp_P_20160414220948.jpg” J=”http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-NO460_RigUp_J_20160414220948.jpg” M=”http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-NO460_RigUp_M_20160414220948.jpg” caption=”RigUp co-founder and CEO Xuan Yong” credit=”RigUp” placement=”Inline” suppressEnlarge=”false” ]

During the short existence of startup RigUp Inc., the oil and gas industry it serves turned on its head.

When the startup started testing its online marketplace for oil-rig projects in 2014 the price for a barrel of crude hovered around $100, oil rigs were multiplying around the country and exploration companies were making profits. Since then, the price per barrel sank to around $40 and the number of oil rigs dropped some 75%, to the lowest level since at least 1949, according to data from WTRG Economics.

And yet Austin, Texas-based RigUp managed to raise a $15 million Series A round, building on top of the $3 million seed round it closed in the summer of 2014. The new round came mostly from existing investors, Continue reading “RigUp’s Oil-Well Service Gets $15 Million Despite Oil Price Dip”

PillPack To Be Terminated From Express Scripts Pharmacy Network

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Pharmacy startup PillPack Inc. has a tough pill to swallow: it is about to lose about a third of its customers, as a competitor is shutting it out of its pharmacy network.

Express Scripts Holding, a company that manages pharmacy benefits for tens of millions of Americans on behalf of health insurers, expects to terminate PillPack from the Express Scripts network as of the end of April, the companies said. As a result Express Scripts’ customers will no longer be able to fill their prescriptions with PillPack at low, in-network prices.

“I think for us, it’s a short-term growth hit,” said TJ Parker, co-founder and chief executive of the startup. The move will affect about a third of PillPack’s customers, or Continue reading “PillPack To Be Terminated From Express Scripts Pharmacy Network”

Max Levchin’s Affirm Raises $100 Million

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Max Levchin’s financial technology startup Affirm Inc. has raised a $100 million Series D round, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The funding was led by Founders Fund, according to the person.

The company’s valuation is now close to $800 million, according to the research firm PitchBook Data Inc, citing a Delaware filing on the round.

A spokeswoman for Affirm declined to comment on whether there has been a funding round. “There is no filing, and we have no comment,” she said.

The company’s investors to date have included Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Spark Capital. It raised $275 million in debt and equity last year, with investment bank Jefferies as part of the investor pool.

Affirm, started Continue reading “Max Levchin’s Affirm Raises $100 Million”

X.ai Takes $23 Million for AI-Driven Scheduling Assitant

Virtual agents and chat bots may be the next thing in software, but getting an artificial intelligence product into the market can be an expensive and technically challenging undertaking.

After two years of development by dozens of data scientists and software engineers, New York startup X.ai Inc. says that 100% of the responses of its scheduling assistant are machine-generated. Humans are still teaching the algorithms to understand what users are asking, said Dennis Mortensen, the startup’s co-founder and chief executive.

The goal is to get X.ai’s assistant, named Amy or Andrew, to run entirely on its own. Then the company could aim for big clients such as banks.

To get there, the pre-revenue startup has raised a $23 million Series B round, Mr. Mortensen told VentureWire. Two Sigma Ventures, the venture arm of hedge fund Two Sigma Investments, which uses data science approaches in investing, led the round.

Continue reading “X.ai Takes $23 Million for AI-Driven Scheduling Assitant”

Red Swan Ventures Takes a Break, Reconsiders Future

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Red Swan Ventures, a seed-stage venture firm born out of Bonobos Inc. founder and Chief Executive Andy Dunn’s angel investing interests, has put new deal-making on hold.

“Right now we are kind of on pause,” Mr. Dunn said.

The New York firm was an early investor in Warby Parker, or JAND Inc., Birchbox Inc., Grovo Inc. and Coinbase Inc. It has been a prominent early-stage investor in the New York startup scene but has backed many Silicon Valley startups.

Co-founded by Mr. Dunn and David Eisenberg in 2011, Red Swan finished making new investments out of its $10 million third fund, which it had started in the fourth quarter of Continue reading “Red Swan Ventures Takes a Break, Reconsiders Future”

Play-Based Education Network Tinkergarten Gets Support from Omidyar

Tinkergarten facilitates outdoor classes that it says get young children to learn through play.
Tinkergarten

Forget flashcards, tutoring and academic preschool, say the founders of Tinkergarten Inc.
The startup facilitates a network of instructors who use its outdoor play-based curriculum to lead classes for young children in parks. Activities include making petal potions, building with a bundle of sticks and creating paint out of berries and earth.

The company, not a typical pure-software venture-capital deal, just raised $1.6 million in a seed round led by Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm from Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay Inc., VentureWire has learned.

Tinkergarten was started with a class in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., four years ago by married couple Meghan Fitzgerald, a former public school principal, and Brian Fitzgerald, a technologist formerly with Knewton, Audible and Yahoo Inc. A year ago Tinkergarten had four teachers, all Continue reading “Play-Based Education Network Tinkergarten Gets Support from Omidyar”

StreetShares Nabs Series A for Small-Business Loans

Mark Rockefeller, CEO and co-founder of StreetShares
StreetShares

When Mark Rockefeller, co-founder and chief executive of online lender StreetShares Inc., was in the military, he said he noticed that payday lenders would often set up operations in strip malls right outside the gates of military bases in the U.S.

“They were there to prey on young troops who didn’t know any better,” said Mr. Rockefeller.

A few years after returning from serving in Iraq, Mr. Rockefeller created StreetShares along with Michael Konson, previously an executive with Capital One , to offer loans to small businesses, most of which are run by veterans. It offers loans and lines of credit of $2,000 to $100,000 for up to three years.

The startup was one of the few online lenders that managed to raise venture capital funding this year, at a time when venture investor sentiment toward the sector cooled sharply.

Reston, Continue reading “StreetShares Nabs Series A for Small-Business Loans”

Wunder Capital Soaks Up $3.6M to Crack Solar Finance for Businesses

Wunder Capital CEO Bryan Birsic
Wunder Capital

Homeowners now have plenty of options for getting solar power for no upfront cost. They can get solar loans, lease solar systems, or get solar on their roofs in exchange for agreeing to buy power over many years.

Yet several attempts to introduce similar financing methods for businesses haven’t gotten far. Another startup Solar Mosaic Inc., decided to switch to residential after working on commercial financing. SolarCity Corp., and Sunrun Inc., focus largely on residential solar finance.

That means businesses have to buy solar systems out right, an expensive proposition. As a result, solar adoption has grown rapidly among residential customers, as well as in utility-scale projects. But commercial is advancing slowly.

“It’s a weird dark space in the middle of this rapidly growing industry,” said Bryan Birsic, chief executive and co-founder of Wunder Capital, a Boulder, Colo.-based Continue reading “Wunder Capital Soaks Up $3.6M to Crack Solar Finance for Businesses”

Jewelry Subscription Box Startup Rocksbox Dons $8.7 Million

 

Meaghan Rose, chief executive and co-founder of Rocksbox.
Rocksbox

Rocksbox Inc ., which sends monthly subscription boxes of jewelry to consumers, raised $8.7 million in Series A funds, VentureWire has learned.

New York-based KEC Ventures co-led the round, investing more than it ever has in an early-stage deal, according to Jeff Parkinson, a general partner at the firm. Matrix Partners , a firm that led the seed round $1.5 million for Rocksbox in 2014, was the other co-lead. Both KEC and Matrix are also investors in JustFab, a large, closely held subscription fashion company. New investor SignalFire joined returning backers AOL Inc .’s BBG Ventures and Mucker Capital in the Rocksbox deal.

Meaghan Rose, the company’s chief executive, started Rocksbox in 2012, with Maia Bittner joining later as a co-founder.

“Women love wearing something new. As long as we keep sending jewelry she loves, it’s a Continue reading “Jewelry Subscription Box Startup Rocksbox Dons $8.7 Million”

Startup Screen Sets Out to Limit Children’s Screen Time

Parents who want to set limits on screen time may soon find a new product to help them.

Teenagers, for example, spend on average six hours and 40 minutes in front of screens per day, according to a 2015 survey by Common Sense Media. Some parents feel that is too much.

New York startup Screen has developed a piece of hardware, coupled with a mobile application, that would allow parents to manage the use of all devices, including phones, whether they run on iOS or Android operating systems, as well as computers, television sets and game consoles. Devices could be controlled when they are in or outside the house.

The startup, incorporated as LimitScreen Inc., raised $1.9 million in a seed equity round led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures last year, Tali Orad, the company’s founder and chief executive, told VentureWire. Other investors include Advancit Capital, Novel TMT Ventures, Continue reading “Startup Screen Sets Out to Limit Children’s Screen Time”

Civic Secures Seed Funding for Identity Protection

Civic founder Vinny Lingham
Civic

Vinny Lingham , co-founder of gift card management company Gyft, has a next act.

He has started Civic to offer identity protection services to consumers for free, a move that comes after Gyft sold to First Data Corp for more than $50 million in 2014.

Civic will use the bitcoin blockchain technology to secure some of the consumer data, said Mr. Lingham, who worked with bitcoin at Gyft. Numerous large financial institutions are exploring the use of the distributed database for purposes other than currency.

Mr. Lingham stepped down from his post as senior vice president of product development in November, he said, to launch Civic.

The company plans to go a step further than other identity protection services, such as those available from LifeLock Inc . and Experian. The startup plans to allow consumers to approve the opening of a new credit card, bank Continue reading “Civic Secures Seed Funding for Identity Protection”

Seed-Funded KidPass Launches Children’s Activity Subscription Service

KidPass founders, from left, Chhay Chhun, Aaron Kaufman and Solomon Liou.
KidPass

KidPass Inc., a startup founded by three New York technology executives, is beginning to sell $49 monthly subscriptions that give families access to many children’s activities, such as sports and music classes, indoor play spaces and museums.

“We want KidPass to be the starting point for parents whenever they are looking for any kind of activity for their children,” said Solomon Liou, co-founder and chief executive of the startup. The startup is launching in New York with about a hundred businesses now, including Gymboree, KidVille, Chelsea Piers and several YMCAs.

The company, backed by, among others, Kevin Ryan, co-founder of MongoDB and Gilt Groupe, is experimenting with a business model that is becoming more popular but has plenty of unresolved issues.

Several startups are offering consumers a flat-fee monthly pass to a mix of venues. Continue reading “Seed-Funded KidPass Launches Children’s Activity Subscription Service”

Startup Procore’s Valuation Nears That of Public Competitor Textura

A recent $50 million investment in Procore Technologies Inc. puts the provider of cloud software for the construction industry nearly on par valuation-wise with publicly traded competitor <a href=”http://www.Oracle Corp. and other well-funded startups, including PlanGrid Inc., which recently raised a $40 million Series B round, and Fieldwire Inc. Mr. Courtemanche said Procore stands out by offering a variety of useful tools to the industry in a single platform and by charging per project, rather than per user.

Write to Yuliya Chernova at yuliya.chernova@wsj.com. Follow her on Twitter at@ychernova

Female Founders Fund Eyes Second Fund to Boost N.Y. Startups

Female Founders Fund founder Anu Duggal.
Female Founders Fund

About two years ago, Anu Duggal launched her seed investment firm, Female Founders Fund, to tap into what looked like an emerging trend in New York: The maturing crop of startups in the city began spawning new companies, in a virtuous cycle reminiscent of Silicon Valley. Many of the new founders were women.

Female Founders Fund, or F Cubed, backed several of these entrepreneurs with its first $5.8 million fund. Now the firm is setting out to raise its second fund, of about $30 million to $40 million, in January, according to a person familiar with the situation.

F Cubed is one of a few venture firms founded by women. Overall, the proportion of women partners at venture firms declined to 6% in 2014 from 10% in 1999, according to Diana Report, written by professors at Babson College Continue reading “Female Founders Fund Eyes Second Fund to Boost N.Y. Startups”

Google Ventures Dials Down Seed Deals, Urges Mature Startups to Go Public

Bill Maris, president and chief executive of Google Ventures
Google Ventures

Google Ventures has reduced its involvement in seed-stage startups, said Bill Maris, president and chief executive of the venture firm that draws capital from Alphabet Inc., and has about $2.4 billion under management.

“We moved away from seed-stage investing,” Mr. Maris said. “I think there’s less opportunity here,” Mr. Maris said. He added that this part of the venture market is overheated.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Ventures did fewer deals in the $100,000 to $300,000 range in 2015, he said, without discussing the exact number of deals. Partners at the firm are still free to invest in seed deals, he said, but there was a “joint group decision” to de-emphasize this activity.

Earlier this year Kevin Rose, founder of Digg and other startups, who had focused on early-stage and seed investing at Google Ventures, stepped down Continue reading “Google Ventures Dials Down Seed Deals, Urges Mature Startups to Go Public”

Lawrence Lenihan Leaves FirstMark Capital for Fashion Venture

Lawrence Lenihan, co-founder of Resonance Companies
Lawrence Lenihan

Lawrence Lenihan, co-founder of FirstMark Capital, has left the venture capital firm to launch his own business that will help create and operate fashion startups, he told The Wall Street Journal.

“I don’t want to refer to myself as a venture capitalist any more,” said Mr. Lenihan, who has been in the venture business since 1996, when he founded FirstMark’s predecessor, Pequot Ventures.

He said that his new firm Resonance Companies, which he launched in July together with angel investor and fashion industry entrepreneur Joseph Ferrara, will provide not just capital in exchange for equity in fashion startups, but will also specialize in providing operational help. “We are owning facilities, we are owning machines. We are an operating company. It doesn’t look anything like venture capital.” Resonance is based in New York.

As part of FirstMark, Mr. Lenihan invested in Continue reading “Lawrence Lenihan Leaves FirstMark Capital for Fashion Venture”

Startups May Find it Harder to Sell Shares in Mega Secondary Deals

 Ipsy is among startups that have allowed shareholders to sell some of their holdings to new investors in secondary transactions, according to people familiar with the matter. Such deals have become a way for founders, employees, and early investors to cash out.   Pictured above:  Ipsy co-founder Michelle Phan.
Ipsy

In recent months, shareholders in startups including Credit Karma Inc. and Ipsy Inc. were able to sell some of their holdings to new investors for tens of millions of dollars, people familiar with the deals said.

Such secondary transactions became a popular way to allow founders, employees, and early investors to cash out on some of their illiquid holdings of company stock as well as relieve the pressure on startups to go public.

Shareholders in San Francisco-based Credit Karma, for example, sold more than $100 million in a secondary transaction to the same investors that bought $175 million in the company’s Continue reading “Startups May Find it Harder to Sell Shares in Mega Secondary Deals”

Kleiner Perkins Makes First Bitcoin-Related Deal With Align Commerce

Marwan Forzley, founder and CEO of Align Commerce
Align Commerce

Align Commerce Corp.’s use of bitcoin is invisible and almost irrelevant to its business customers. And that’s how the startup wants to keep it.

The San Francisco company, which is announcing today that it has raised a $12.5 million Series A round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is one of an emerging class of bitcoin-based companies that rely on the digital currency behind the scenes. It’s being used as a tool to provide an improved financial service–in Align’s case that’s cross-border payments for small businesses.

That’s different from the earlier crop of startups that attracted venture capital, such as Coinbase Inc., and BitPay Inc., many of which have been trying to enable consumers to buy bitcoin, store it in digital wallets, trade it on currency exchanges, and use it to make payments and Continue reading “Kleiner Perkins Makes First Bitcoin-Related Deal With Align Commerce”

Consumer Lender Earnest Raises $75M Series B, $200M for Loans

Earnest CEO and co-founder Louis Beryl
Earnest

After two of its competitors announced financing rounds in the past two months, now comes the turn of online consumer lender Earnest Inc.

The San Francisco company pulled in a $75 million Series B round of funding led by Battery Ventures that included participation from Adams Street Partners and earlier backer Maveron. Under the deal, Battery General Partner Roger Lee joined Earnest’s board of directors.

Earnest also secured $200 million in commitments from New York Life and others in a warehouse financing facility that will be used to finance loans.

The startup is chasing the same borrowers as do other well-capitalized private competitors, including Common Bond Inc., which raised a $35 million venture round in September, and Social Finance Inc., which pulled in a massive $1 billion from SoftBank Group Corp.

As coffers of online lenders get larger, so does the Continue reading “Consumer Lender Earnest Raises $75M Series B, $200M for Loans”