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SparkLabs Global Ventures’ Technology

and Internet Market Bi-Monthly Review
January 4th, 2016

Bi-monthly Highlights

Global Trends

Majority Of Mobile Apps In China Don’t Retain Users For More Than A Week
China may be the world’s largest app market when it comes to downloads, but new data indicates that those
download numbers aren’t translating into loyal users who return to apps on regular basis. According to a report
from eMarketer, citing data from Alibaba-owned analytics platform Umeng, the majority of mobile applications
launched in China struggle to retain users. In fact, most apps don’t engage users for more than a week, the
research indicates. The Umeng report, which was based on data from the apps tracked on its platform –  the
firm tracks 780 million smart devices in China, it says –  found that no category of mobile application has
retained even a quarter of its users after the first week. The best-performing apps get close to that number,
however. Educational and learning apps retain 23.6 percent of their users over the first week, and finance and
wealth management apps do roughly as well, with a 23.5 percent retention rate. Health apps, navigation/GPS
apps, and lifestyle are next in line, retaining at least one in five users one week after they launch.

Email personalization is the antidote to declining click rates, and the key to high returns
Email is still the leader in marketing return on investment, and the preferred channel for customers, too. But
not everything in the world of email marketing is looking up, according to a new study authored by VB Insight’s
Andrew Jones. The report shows that email is seeing a decline in click rates, largely because people have less
time and less patience. Irrelevant content is being punished in the most terminal way —  via the dreaded
unsubscribe link. The increase in relevance gained from email personalization reduces the rate of
unsubscribes. In a survey of 257 email marketers, a large majority reported an increase in open rates and
click-through rates (CTR) by employing email personalization of some kind. And those tactics included the
most basic types of personalization. Experian Marketing Services has found that subscribers who receive its
personalized content have not only higher opens and CTR, but a 6x increase in transactions.

Facebook Messenger and Snapchat declined in popularity among college kids this year
Though Facebook and Instagram still reign supreme among apps, it looks like Messenger is losing steam with
younger users. A new poll from WayUp queried 1,000 college students around the country about their favorite
apps and found some fairly expected results. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat remain students’  go-to
entertainment apps. According to this study, the majority of apps that students use revolve around social
media. Among smaller brands, students cited Pinterest and Spotify as must-haves. While a number of apps
saw a drop-off in mentions at the beginning of the school year, two apps have continued to maintain student
interest. Two photo-sharing apps, VSCO Cam and Instagram, grew consistently over the year. What was
surprising about the study was the top three apps in decline. WayUp found that Facebook Messenger,
Snapchat, and Venmo were mentioned less and less frequently over the course of the year. WayUp says it’s
possible that students were initially intrigued by the novelty of Messenger after its split from Facebook, but that
its charm could be wearing off, since it hasn’t introduced new features in a while. Its recent partnership with
Uber could possibly reverse that trend.
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Silicon Valley, Chicago, London Tel Aviv, Singapore, and Seoul.

SparkLabs Global Ventures’ Technology
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January 4th, 2016

Asia Pacific

UploadVR raises US$1.25M in funding from China’s Shanda Group
A year ago, UploadVR was formed as one of many meetups for developers interested in virtual reality. The
company has raised US$1.25 million in seed funding from China’s Shanda Group. After Facebook bought
Oculus VR for US$2 billion in the spring of 2014, the rage around VR grew. Taylor Freeman and Will Mason
started their meetup to build a community around virtual reality enthusiasts in Silicon Valley. The company
also started its own web site for VR news, and that is what drew the attention of investors. Shanda Group is a
private investment firm owned by Tianqiao Chen, a game industry veteran. It has invested in other VR and
augmented reality (AR) startups, including Solfar Studios, an Icelandic VR game developer. Shanda Group
has US$5 billion in assets under management, and it is focused on the virtual future. “With the investment,
UploadVR will retain full control over the content on the site and will continue to operate with a high standard
for editorial ethics,”  Mason wrote.

Ambi Climate is gunning for US$2 million to become the ‘Nest of Asia’
In mid-November of last year, Hong Kong-based startup Ambi Climate raised US$115,000 on Kickstarter (off a
goal of US$25,000), to build a “smart add-on for your air conditioner,”  complete with an iOS and Android app
that acts as a monitoring and control hub. The US$179 Ambi Climate unit is a small, plastic, white rectangular
device that doesn’t feel especially premium, but is good enough for a first generation product. While not
currently incubated at any accelerator, founder Julian Lee said the team enjoys a “good relationship”  with Hong
Kong-based hardware accelerator Brinc, whose PMQ (Central) location is just up the road from Ambi Climate’s
office in Sheung Wan. Going into 2016, Ambi Climate is looking to raise US$2 million.

Team behind Chinaccelerator launches mobile-only accelerator in Taiwan aimed at ‘next four billion’
SOSV, the venture capital firm behind Chinaccelerator, announced Mox, a new accelerator program based in
Taipei and designed for startups aiming to develop a presence in South and Southeast Asia, South America,
Africa, and Eastern Europe. The accelerator is targeting the “next four billion”  –  that is, the current portion of
the world’s population who are still largely offline. Startups accepted to the program are required to have
mobile-only businesses. All companies admitted to Mox will receive an initial US$500,000 in free advertising
promotion, and will have access to monetization methods in target countries. In exchange, Mox’s standard
requirement will be 6 percent of common stock in each startup. The eight-week accelerator will begin its first
batch on January 4, with its first planned demo day on March 3. The inaugural program will launch with eight

Freemium is not the only way: VMFive gets US$6m series A to turn ads into playable demos
The angle taken by VMFive is to create a system whereby app developers can offer people a way to try out an
app or game without having to download anything. Essentially, it’s an ad that you can play. “The playable ad is
the future of mobile ads,”  says Jessie Wu, director of marketing at VMFive. The Taiwan-based startup last
week revealed a series A funding round worth US$6 million. The investment comes from CDIB Partners,
Trend Micro, GMobi, and Cherubic Ventures. For now, VMFive, boosted by its series A funding, is looking to
expand to new markets. “AdPlay is targeting markets with a mature mobile gaming and advertising industry,
and good wireless internet infrastructure as well,”  says Jessie, explaining why VMFive is now focusing on
Japan and South Korea. “Both of the countries ranks top five on Google Play’s game revenues list.”  China is

Alibaba to pump US$1.25 billion in Chinese online food delivery service
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has agreed to invest US$1.25 billion in Chinese online food delivery service
The agreement, reportedly inked on 17 December, will see Alibaba become the majority stakeholder with 27.7
per cent of shares. It is expected to be competed after the Spring Festival in China in February 2016. This
latest round of funding comes after, which roughly translates as “Hungry now?”, raised US$630 million
in August this year. Its valuation is estimated at US$4.5 billion now. With Tencent Holdings also an investor, now has two members of the pyramid of power collectively known as “BAT”, which also includes Baidu
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SparkLabs Global Ventures’ Technology
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January 4th, 2016
and Alibaba, backing it. The trio have been actively making power plays in the China’s internet business
landscape this year.


Korea’s Yello Mobile Raises US$47M More at A US$4B Valuation Led by Formation 8
Korea’s Yello Mobile has made a name for itself raising US$100 million and using it to hoover up more than 80
startups to build its mobile apps business, which now serves 18 million users. Now, Yello Mobile is raising
again: it has racked up another US$47.2 million in financing, led by existing investor Formation 8. The funding
comes as convertible debt at a US$4 billion valuation. To date, the company has raised just under US$210
million. “We are proud of the progress we have made establishing Yello Mobile as the clear mobile leader
across the SMATO verticals,” said Lee Sang-hyuk, founder and CEO of Yello Mobile. (‘SMATO’ is a reference
to ‘Shopping, Media, AdTech, Travel, and Offline-to-online’) “Our two leading apps, Coocha and Pikicast,
continue to see strong user growth and increasing monetization, and we look forward to using this new capital
to drive continued growth in those.” The valuation makes Yello one of Korea’s most valuable startups — but not
the most valuable of all. That title remains with Coupang, the US$5 billion e-commerce marketplace backed by
the likes of SoftBank and Sequoia.

Goldman Sachs invests US$33M in real estate app operator
Goldman Sachs said that a consortium of investors led by the U.S. investment bank will invest 38 billion won
(US$33 million) in local real estate app operator Zigbang, seeking to expand its presence in the fast-growing ecommerce business. Zigbang is Goldman Sachs' second investment in a Korean online service provider. In
November 2014, the bank led a 40 billion won (US$34 million) investment in Woowa Brothers, operator of food
delivery service app Baedal Minjok. Zigbang welcomed the investment, saying the company will use it for the
development and expansion of its nationwide services. Launched in January 2012, the company connects real
estate agents and renters in the country through its mobile app. As of October, the app has accumulated more
than 10 million downloads, posting over 2.5 million rental unit listings.

Buzzvil Attracts US$11.05M Investment in Series B
Buzzvil, a Korean smartphone lock screen advertising platform company, announced that it has attracted
investment worth 13 billion won (US$11.05 million). The investment was jointly made by five investment
companies, including LB Investment, KTB Network and POSCO Capital. Also, it is the first investment two
years after the company received 4 billion won (US$3.4 million) from Softbank Ventures in December 2013.
With the latest investment, Buzzvil plans to horizontally expand its lock screen platform business, which has hit
its stride. After launching its first lock screen advertising app service, HoneyScreen, in January 2013, the
company currently has 6 million users in Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Later, Buzzvil released the Buzzscreen
SDK, which activates the lock screen function in existing apps with simple insertion in May, starting the lock
screen platform business in earnest.


Japanese megapublisher Colopl announces US$50M fund for virtual reality gaming
While traditional gaming powers in Japan are nearly all focused on mobile, one of the country’s biggest
publishers is looking toward a virtual future. Colopl, which produces dozens of hit mobile games for iOS and
Android, announced that it is starting a US$50 million fund that it will use to help upstart developers working in
virtual reality. The publisher made the announcement on its Japanese website, where it explains that it is
searching for partnerships with VR studios. The company also said that it will use its expertise to guide studios
that it invests in. Tech advisor Digi-Capital has previously predicted that the VR and augmented reality
markets will potentially generate as much as US$150 billion in revenue by 2020, and Colopl specifically cited
that report as one of the reasons it is chasing after this exciting technology.

Fresvii raises US$4M for AppSteroid social network with mobile voice chat
Fresvii has raised US$4 million from Japan’s Nissay Capital to expand AppSteroid, its mobile gaming social
networking service. The funding shows the huge demand for bring social to mobile games, which have
become a US$30 billion industry worldwide. Fresvii’s cloud-based AppSteroid platform is integrated in the Q
SparkLabs Global Ventures ( is a global seed-stage fund with partners in
Silicon Valley, Chicago, London Tel Aviv, Singapore, and Seoul.

SparkLabs Global Ventures’ Technology
and Internet Market Bi-Monthly Review
January 4th, 2016
Universe game, which has been a big success in Japan was hugely successful in Japan and just launched in
the U.S. last week. Q Universe is now the the No. 2 puzzle game in the Google Play store. Fresvii’s clients
include Japanese game developer Liica, which has integrated AppSteroid into Q Universe. In Japan, that title
was downloaded 8 million times in six months. Fresvii said it will use the money to expand its team of
engineers, paying off convertible debt, and designing new tools to supplement its existing suite of social

Whomor, Japan’s Crowdsourced Comic Studio, Raises US$1.6M from Digital Garage
Tokyo-based Whomor, the Japanese company offering a crowdsourcing platform focused on illustrations and
3D computer graphics, unveiled that it has fundraised 200 million yen (about US$1.6 million) from DG
Incubation and DK Gate. DG Incubation is the investment arm of Japanese internet giant Digital Garage while
DK Gate is a joint venture company of Digital Garage and Kodansha, a Japanese leading publishing company.
In addition to receiving outsourced comic productions, they have been developing original comic series based
on their intellectual property as well as monetizing new comic media. In partnership with Kodansha Advanced
Media, DK Gate is dealing with digital distribution and global expansion of Japanese books and comic
publications. Through the partnership with DK Gate upon latest funding, Whomor is expected to accelerate the
global expansion efforts of their original content.  

Japan’s Dentsu Ventures invests in health tracking lab-in-a-box developer Cue
Dentsu Ventures, the corporate venture capital of Japanese ad agency Dentsu, announced that it has invested
an undisclosed sum in San Diego-based Cue, the startup developing a health tracking device under the same
name. Financial details have not been disclosed. For Dentsu Ventures, this is the fifth investment in a startup
followed by Jibo (communication robot), Agolo (curated content generation), Nextbit (cloud-based
smartphone), Sensai (big data analysis), and others. Cue has developed a health tracking platform consisting
of a lab-in-a-box device, five kinds of cartridges, and sampling sticks. Cue fundraised US$1 million in a seed
round, followed by securing US$7.5 million in a series A round led by by Sherpa Ventures with participation
from life science-focused fund Immortalana. Immortalna also invested in Cue in an angel funding round.

Yahoo Japan Bids to Buy Travel Booking Site Ikyu for Around US$830M
Yahoo Japan, the joint venture between SoftBank and Yahoo, has launched a bid to buy Ikyu, a popular online
travel and restaurant reservation platform in Japan, for around US$830 million. Yahoo Japan is offering to pay
3,433 JPY (US$28.36) per share for Ikyu, which is listed on the Japanese stock exchange. That represents a
42 percent premium on Ikyu’s most recent share price, and it means Yahoo Japan could pay just over 100
billion JPY for the transaction. (That adjusts to around US$829 million based on current exchange rates.) Ikyu
was founded in 1998 and it began offering online bookings for hotels and Japanese-style ‘Ryokan’  inns two
years later. It branched out into restaurant bookings in 2006 and, today, it claims 4.13 million customers and
also has a ‘no frills’  hotel offering for business users, spa bookings, and an overseas hotel booking platform.


PepperTap closes Series B funding round with US$40 million
PepperTap said it received US$4 million from InnoVen Capital as part of a series B funding round which it now
closed after raising US$40 million (Rs 265 crore). The Gurgaon-based on-demand hyperlocal grocery delivery
firm had earlier received US$36 million in this round from investors including SnapDeal, Sequoia India, SAIF
Partners, Ru-Net, Beenext and JAFCO Asia. With this, PepperTap has so far raised about US$51.2 million.
Peppertap said it has taken over Bengaluru-based hyperlocal grocery delivery startup Jiffstore for an
undisclosed amount. Jiffstore's team will join PepperTap's Gurgaon and Bengaluru offices. PepperTap has
also entered into marketing tie-ups with other startups to collaborate on cross-marketing activities to offer
attractive gifts for the users.

Amazon Leads US$23M Investment in India-Based Home Services Startup Housejoy
Amazon has led a US$23 million investment in India-based Housejoy, a startup that —  as the name not-sosubtly suggests —  is much like Homejoy, the home services on-demand company that closed its doors this
summer. The U.S. e-commerce giant was joined in the Series A round by existing investor Matrix Partners,
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and new backers Vertex Ventures, Qualcomm and Ru-Net Technology Partners. Unlike U.S.-based Homejoy
—  which had raised nearly US$40 million and was the most visible player in an emerging category —  
Housejoy offers more than just home cleaning services. It caters to plumbing, electrical/appliance repairs,
beauty, fitness, laundry and pest control and more. The startup is less than a year old, it previously raised
US$4 million, and is currently available in 11 cities across India. With this new funding, CEO Saran Chatterjee
said that it plans to expand to cover 25 cities by the end of next year. Beyond its expansion, Housejoy plans to
use the money to ramp its quality assurance protocols which evaluate and assess the ‘service providers’  who
work for the company.

Rivigo, An Indian Logistics Startup That Uses Tech to Ensure Driver Safety, Raises US$30M Series B
Rivigo, an Indian startup that wants to build a more reliable and safer logistics network, has raised a US$30
million Series B led by SAIF Partners. The funding, which includes equity and debt financing, will go toward
improving Rivigo’s proprietary hardware platform, which it uses to reduce driver fatigue, find the best traffic
routes, and monitor the performance of its trucks. Launched in 2014, Rivigo (which was previously called
TrucksFirst) claims that it can lower transit times for deliveries by 50 to 70 percent. Founder Deepak Garg said
that the company’s goal is to make sure that long-haul road shipping is just as quickly and reliably as
shipments by plane. Companies like Rivigo are staking their prospects on the growth of India’s manufacturing,
e-commerce, and retail industries, which expected to boost India’s logistics market at a compounded annual
growth rate of 12.17 percent to US$302 billion by 2020, according to Research and Markets.

India’s Shuttl Raises US$20M to Accelerate Its Smart Shuttle Bus Service
India’s transportation app future isn’t just about Uber and billion-dollar homegrown rival Ola. That’s because
Shuttl, an eight-month-old startup that provides air-conditioned minibuses, just raised US$20 million from
Lightspeed, Sequoia and Uber-investor Times Internet to develop its technology and expand its service.
Founded by IIT Delhi alumni Amit Singh & IIT Kanpur alum Deepanshu Malviya, the service lets commuters
find a route, buy their ticket and take a bus via its iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps. Shuttl is currently
active in Delhi, where it offers 50 routes and 500 buses, and handles 15,000 rides per day across the
metropolitan area. The company said its prices range from around 20-100 INR, or roughly US$0.30 to
US$1.50. To date, it says it has completed 800,000 customer rides.


Ecommerce aggregator iPrice gets US$1.2M funding boost to focus on mobile
Malaysia-based iPrice, which aggregates a multitude of ecommerce sites in Southeast Asia into a single
shopping destination, announced it raised US$1.2 million in seed funding – its second round. Existing investor
Asia Venture Group led the investment, while 500 Startups, IMJ Investment Partners, Venturra Capital, F2
Capital, and Startstrike Ventures participated. This new amount brings iPrice’s total funding to US$1.75
million to date. “Internet consumption in Asia is heavily driven by mobile platforms, and our traffic data firmly
backs this up. Apportioning part of this funding to enrich the mobile viewing experience is, in our opinion, the
most logical way to grow,” says co-founder and CEO David Chmelař. Besides enhancing the mobile
experience, iPrice is also tapping media publishers around the region to extend its coupon and deal offerings.

Health and wellness startup PurelyB closes US$500k seed round led by 500 Startups
PurelyB, an all-women Malaysia-based startup that announced a US$500,000 seed round (roughly RM 2.1
million), seeks to make a difference in this area. Available in English and Chinese, PurelyB claims it’s building
Asia’s first health and wellness content integrated marketplace. The platform is holistic in the sense that it
covers all aspects of wellness (nutrition, fitness, psychology, relationships) and provides consumers the
convenience of a list of places to buy healthy goods and services. By 2016, these products and services will
be available for purchase from merchants directly on PurelyB’s site. With the US$500,000 funding from
Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups, Brunsfield Ventures, and an angel investor, PurelyB will further develop its
technology, solidify its presence in its home market and in Singapore, and expand to new markets in the
Asia-Pacific region. Asia-Pacific is the market showing the biggest growth in the global health and wellness
industry, with expected retail sales of over US$200 billion in 2015 alone, according to the company.

SparkLabs Global Ventures ( is a global seed-stage fund with partners in
Silicon Valley, Chicago, London Tel Aviv, Singapore, and Seoul.

SparkLabs Global Ventures’ Technology
and Internet Market Bi-Monthly Review
January 4th, 2016

Asian Netflix Clone iFlix Is Raising US$150M to Expand to Africa, Middle East And Europe
iFlix, one of video streaming services sprouted up in Southeast Asia, which is available in Malaysia,
Philippines and Thailand, is currently talking to investors with a view to raising up to US$150 million in fresh
funding to fuel a major global expansion. A pitch deck to investors dated November 2015 states that iFlix —
which is co-founded by Malaysia-based group Catcha Group and raised US$30 million in April — is “looking
to expand actively into other ASEAN markets as well as specific high-potential areas outside of ASEAN”.
More specifically, the company plans to spend the money expanding its presence in Southeast Asia and
moving into new markets in the wider Asian continent, the Middle East, Africa, and CIS (Eastern Europe).
Further, iFlix claims it is in “ongoing distribution agreement dialogue” with operators across Asia, the Middle
East, and Africa. The company has used telecom partnerships to gain reach in its existing markets, to date,
so that would represent a continuation of that strategy.


This Singapore startup tracks biz news in Asia and it just got funded
As Southeast Asia emerges as a leading financial hub, the need for digging out business news from the region
has shot up. For over a year now, Singapore-based digital platform DealStreetAsia has been doing exactly
that. And here comes a sure sign that it’s headed in the right direction. DealStreetAsia, which covers financial
and economic news on Southeast Asia, has bagged seed funding of an undisclosed amount from Vijay
Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of Paytm, and Singapore Angel Network (SGAN). Hindustan Times Media
Group, which publishes business daily Mint in India and MintAsia in Singapore also took part in the round. The
investment comes ahead of a larger series A round of venture funding which DealStreetAsia plans to close in
the first quarter of 2016. The funds will be used to strengthen its India and ASEAN teams, expand operations
to Hong Kong and China, and work toward the launching the company’s deal analytics and data platform.

Social payments startup Kashmi is ready to launch with new seed funding
Peer-to-peer (P2P) payments startup Kashmi has secured S$700,000 (US$497,000) in seed funding. The
startup allows users to send and receive money regardless of which bank they’re using, and to split payments
between groups. They can top up their mobile e-wallet using credit and debit cards or even wire transfer, and
can sign up to the app with just a name and a phone number or email address. The funding was led by Akbar
Group Sri Lanka and VAMM Ventures, a Dubai-based venture capital firm that invests in early and seed stage
companies. It was joined by a number of angel investors and corporates from Singapore, Sri Lanka, and
Thailand. Kashmi will use the funds to continue working on its product, expand its reach in Southeast Asia,
and beef up its sales and marketing resources in order to grow faster. Meanwhile, the startup enters a busy
space, particularly in Singapore where both startups and larger companies are looking into P2P payments.

Singapore’s Perx raises series A to become more than just a loyalty app
Singapore’s Perx is morphing. The startup says it will expand from being just a mobile loyalty app to a platform
that manages brands’  customer engagement –  from user experience to customer data and marketing
analytics. Fueling this new vision is a “single-digit million dollar”  series A funding it raised from Golden Gate
Ventures and other investors, including Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, Perx CEO Anna Gong, and its
CTO Rob Roach. Anna and Rob, now heading the revamped Perx (the original co-founders Andrew Roth and
Jon Sugihara left the firm), believe the move makes sense. The Perx team didn’t give details, but Anna and
Rob say that the startup will be able to help businesses “make informed and impactful decisions, accelerate
time to market, and remove hassles in creating or managing acquisition and engagement priorities.”  Other
benefits include the ability to test various marketing campaigns, real-time breadth and depth of customer
feedback, and segmentation of customers based on spending and location patterns, as well as browsing

Migme Raises Fresh Capital, Acquires Indonesia’s Hipwee and Shopdeca
Since listing on the ASX in 2014, social entertainment platform Migme has been on an acquisition spree. It
earlier bought LoveByte, a chat app for couples, and invested in games developer MatchMe. It also snapped
up AlivenotDead, an online community for celebrities to connect with fans, and ecommerce platform Sold. It
announced two more acquisitions, this time Indonesian social news site Hipwee and Indonesian fashion estore
SparkLabs Global Ventures ( is a global seed-stage fund with partners in
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SparkLabs Global Ventures’ Technology
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January 4th, 2016
Shopdeca. Migme says the new investments will grow its foothold in Indonesia, one of its “key target markets.”
CEO Steven Goh said the deals amounted to a total of A$3 million (over US$2 million) in cash and equity, and
were partly funded by proceeds of a A$3.5 million (US$2.5m) convertible note placement to new investors, led
by Lucerne Investment Partners. Apart from Indonesia, the company is looking at other priority markets,
namely India and the Philippines.

United States

ProSky Gets a US$2.3 Million Seed for Its Hiring Tech
Hiring processes can be a pain for both the recruiter and the applicant. Dozens of people apply for one
position, and resumes do not necessarily reflect the applicants’  skill sets. San Francisco startup ProSky found
an opportunity in this flaw and stepped in to design a hiring solution in which companies can train, test-drive,
and hire new talent. The model offers applicants two paths. They can either go through training sessions to
acquire or enhance the skills required by the employer, then take on a three-week project for the company,
and then move on to the hiring process; or they can skip the training. ProSky announced that it raised a
US$2.3 million seed round led by Lightbank to further develop its product and invest in marketing. Kapor
Capital, University Ventures, 500 Startups, and Learn Capital also participated in the round.

Verlocal Raises US$2.65M to Teach You to Cook Ramen and Dance like Beyonce
Verlocal, a marketplace for classes and tours, raised a US$2.65 million seed round from VenturesLab, Seven
Seas Partners, Amidzad Partners, and Big Basin Capital. Verlocal is like an Airbnb for experiences, where
locals can host lessons for other locals and travelers, such as this DIY Ugly Sweater Workshop (other classes
include “Don’t Worry, Be Yonce“). With this new fund, Verlocal aims “to become the largest marketplace for
experiences in the world,”  challenging the similarly-branded Airbnb, plenty of related sites, plus niche
marketplaces like the fitness-focused ClassPass. With two lead investors operating in Asia —  VenturesLab and
Seven Seas Partners —  Verlocal plans to expand to “China, Korea, and Japan …  within six months.”  But as of
today, the one-year-old company operates in New York, San Francisco, and seven other U.S. cities.

Slack Hits 2M Daily Active Users, Launches Third-party App Directory, US$80M Developer Fund
Slack has made its next move in building out its platform. At a major press event in San Francisco, the
company announced that it has launched a third-party App Directory aimed at being the de facto source for
certified integrations. In an effort to foster its growing ecosystem, Slack has also established an US$80 million
developer fund, backed by Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield &
Byers, Spark Capital, and Social Capital. The goal is to help find the next Slack-first app. Slack and the venture
capital firms will provide the money, and funded startups will become part of Slack’s distribution network.
These announcements come as Slack reveals that it now has 2 million daily active users, a 16 percent jump
from October, when the service had 1.7 million users. It also now has 570,000 paid seats, up from 470,000 two
months ago.

Google Launches a 6-month Accelerator to Help Startups Build Mobile Products
Google has joined the ranks of Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and Techstars in launching an accelerator. The
program is built on the company’s Launchpad initiative and is a long-term engagement with select startups
from around the world to give them the best resources, access to great mentors, and help accelerating their
product. Called the Launchpad accelerator, the program will be available to startups in India, Brazil, and
Indonesia, three countries which Google’s Roy Glasberg told VentureBeat could represent the next billion
dollar markets. The team has already selected its first batch of startups to participate in the program. Google is
targeting two things with this endeavor: helping startups build products on its platform and become successful
doing it and ensuing that every startup has access to the best resources that the ecosystem can provide.
Startups participating in the accelerator will receive US$250,000 worth of assistance, including US$50,000 in
seed funding with zero equity taken, credits to use Google products, physical space in their country to work,
access to a two-week boot camp in Mountain View, California, and six months of mentorship in the program
before they graduate.
SparkLabs Global Ventures ( is a global seed-stage fund with partners in
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SparkLabs Global Ventures’ Technology
and Internet Market Bi-Monthly Review
January 4th, 2016

Datavail Adds Tyler Newton and Susan Bihler to its Board Along With Raising US$47m Funding Led by
Catalyst Investors
Growth equity firm Catalyst Investors led the recent US$47 million majority investment in Datavail. Tahosa
Capital and Lumerity Capital Partners participated in the round, as did existing investors Boulder Ventures,
Meritage Funds and MC Investment Fund. Catalyst Partner Tyler Newton and Principal Susan Bihler joined
the company’s Board of Directors along with Tahosa Capital’s Derek Pilling. Datavail provides outsourced
database administration services for enterprise and mid-market clients that rely on 24/7 monitoring and
response for mission critical databases. The Company provides managed services, project consulting
services, staff augmentation and operational support for Oracle, Oracle Applications, SQL Server, DB2,
MySQL, MongoDB and SharePoint. “Having more than quadrupled our size in the last four years, Datavail is
poised to seize opportunities in the growing database administration and even broader data-driven services
markets,”  said Mark Perlstein, President and CEO of Datavail.

Drone Maker Lily Announces a Product Delay and New Funding
Last month, a British start-up that raised US$3.4 million on Kickstarter to build Zano, a handheld drone,
collapsed after shipping only about 600 of the about 15,000 drones ordered. The start-up, Torquing Group,
blamed a variety of unforeseen technical problems for the calamity. Now another young start-up, Lily, is
running into a problem of its own. The company says it will delay delivery of its drone, which people have paid
US$499 to US$799 to preorder. In announcing the delay on Thursday, Lily, a San Francisco start-up, tried to
reassure customers by revealing a significant round of funding from a group of private investors. The company
said it had raised US$15 million in a funding round led by Spark Capital, a venture capital firm that invested in
Twitter and other start-ups. SV Angel, the Stanford-StartX Fund, the musician Steve Aoki and the former San
Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana also invested in Lily.  

Gusto Raises US$50M At A US$1B Valuation To Take On Zenefits
Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll) has raised US$50 million at a US$1 billion pre-money valuation, CEO Joshua
Reeves said. That’s only natural for the startup, which is increasingly competing with the well-funded —  and
cash burning —  Zenefits. Originally focused on payroll services, the company recently expanded into HR and
benefits tools, an area where Zenefits is quickly growing after raising US$500 million at a US$4.5 billion
valuation. Getting a war chest will be important for the startup, which while competing can capitalize on some
issues Zenefits is having with its burn rate and growth. Gusto raised US$60 million in April this year at a
US$560 million post-money valuation with its eyes on continuing to expand, which includes growing its
headcount. Investors in the round included Google Capital, General Catalyst, Obvious Ventures and other
existing investors. The company is processing several billion dollars in annual payroll, Reeves said.

Google X Alum Flux Factory Raises US$29M Series B
One of Google X’s former moonshots is raising cash as it looks to disrupt the architecture design space with
its specialized collaborative data exchange service. Flux Factory, Inc. announced US$29 million in Series B
funding co-led by Temasek and Surbana Jurong Private Limited. Far East Ventures, DFJ, South Park
Ventures, Borealis Ventures, and Obvious Ventures also participated in the round. The company has raised
US$8 million to date from investors like Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. The company’s first
project is aimed at assisting architects and building professionals to save precious time when swapping files
and making changes. The cloud-based collaboration service allows contractors, engineers and architects to
add helpful plugins into their existing work flows and saves them crucial time in simplifying file transfer, data
conversion, and data-merge. Flux is currently compatible with programs like Grasshopper, Excel, and Dynamo
and is looking to add support in early 2016 for popular tools like Revit, AutoCAD, 3ds Max and SketchUp.

NetApp Acquires Flash Storage Vendor SolidFire for US$870M
Publicly traded storage hardware company NetApp announced that it has acquired SolidFire, a startup that
made a name for itself selling fast all-flash storage hardware, for US$870 million in cash. This is a big deal in
the storage market, where heavyweight EMC has gradually embraced flash, partly through the acquisitions of
XtremIO and stealthy DSSD. Cisco bought all-flash storage maker Whiptail in 2013. NetApp announced its
first all-flash storage hardware product back in 2013, but the company has not been known primarily for flash
storage. SolidFire, meanwhile, has won business from several service providers, including 1&1, Colt,
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Datapipe, and SunGard. Some companies have resisted adopting all-flash arrays because of their price
relative to more traditional gear packed with hard disk drives, and the rise of hybrid storage supports the
notion of having both flash and disk on hand for different use cases as the price of flash per gigabyte gets
closer to disk. However, this acquisition suggests that the days of flash in the data center are closer than ever.

Nutanix Files to Go Public With US$200 Million IPO
Nutanix, a company selling data center hardware that combine elements of servers and storage arrays, filed a
form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, officially kicking off the process of going public.
The company says it aims to sell a maximum of US$200 million in shares in the initial public offering. Shares
of its stock will trade on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol NTNX. Goldman Sachs, Morgan
Stanley, JP Morgan, and Credit Suisse are the lead underwriters of the deal. Nutanix has long been expected
to go public, and now the wheels are officially in motion. It’s not clear when the IPO will be, but given the late
date of the year, the company may have been hustling to file before the 2015 IPO window closed. Based in
San Jose, California, and established in 2009, Nutanix registered a net loss of US$126 million on US$241
million in revenue for the fiscal year that ended on July 31. Investors include Blumberg Capital, Khosla
Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Riverwood Capital Partners, and Fidelity.

Speech Recognition Startup Semantic Machines Raises US$12.3 Million
Semantic Machines, a startup with speech recognition technology and talent from Apple and Google,
disclosed that it has raised US$12.3 million in new funding. Investors from Bain Capital Ventures and General
Catalyst Partners are listed in the filing the startup submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission. Last year, Semantic Machines named Larry Gillick as its chief technology officer. Gillick was
previously chief speech scientist for Siri at Apple. Now Semantic Machines is looking to go further than Siri
and other personal digital assistants currently on the market. “Semantic Machines is developing technology
that goes beyond understanding commands, to understanding conversations,”  the startup says on its website.
“Our Conversational AI represents a powerful new paradigm, enabling computers to communicate,
collaborate, understand our goals, and accomplish tasks.”  The startup is building tools that third-party
developers will be able to use.

Salesforce buys quote-to-cash company SteelBrick for US$360 million
Salesforce has acquired SteelBrick, a company with software for helping sales reps figure out the right price
quotes to give customers, for a total of US$360 million. The US$360 million figure, with US$300 million in net
of cash acquired, involves a deduction resulting from money Salesforce Ventures has previously invested.
SteelBrick’s quote-to-cash software is part of the more general configure-price-quote market. The software
integrates natively with Salesforce. In addition to figuring out the right prices for products, SteelBrick’s tools
can take care of orders, contracts, billing, and payments. SteelBrick announced an US$18 million funding
round earlier this year. Investors include Institutional Venture Partners, Emergence Capital, and Shasta
Ventures. As of February, SteelBrick had 350 customers.

Palantir Has Raised US$880 Million At A US$20 Billion Valuation
Palantir, the data analytics platform used by government agencies and law enforcement pocketed US$880
million in new funding, according to a filing from the Securities and Exchange Commission. This latest round of
funding is part of an earlier US$679.8 million raised so far, according to an updated version of the SEC filing.
Palantir began raising the round in July, according to the filing. The startup has now raised US$2.32 billion in
total. Palantir also now has a valuation of US$20.33 billion, up from US$15 billion in 2014. The new valuation
makes it the fourth most highly valued tech startup, just under Airbnb, Xiaomi and Uber. Morgan Stanley and S
F Sentry Securities Inc. are listed on the filing as brokers in the deal.

RNTS Media Buys Mobile Ad Network Heyzap for US$45M
Heyzap, a provider of mobile advertising for app developers, has been acquired by RNTS Media in a move
intended to beef up its own offering in the space. In total the deal is for US$45 million. Based in San
Francisco, Calif., this Y Combinator alum specializes in not only helping developers make money off of their
app but also getting them discovered, similar to the likes of AppLovin and others. Its magic is in the use of
machine-learning algorithms which recommends mobile ads based on social platform data. In 2014, the
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company claimed that more than 5,000 games and apps use its service and that it had a revenue run rate of
more than US$13 million. The grab by RNTS Media is an effort to capitalize on mobile advertising mediation, a
way by which developers can display ads from multiple networks in a transparent way. By doing so, ads can
be optimized to show the most appropriate one to the right person.

OrbiMed Launches New, Nearly US$1 Billion Biomed Venture Fund
OrbiMed, a global biomedical venture capital firm headquartered in New York, announced it had raised
US$950 million from limited partners for its sixth fund. They tout several prominent institutions as investors as
well as sovereign wealth funds and major endowments. The new fund tops the previous one’s tally of US$735
million and will offer big sums between US$10 million and US$75 million. Previous funds include US$300
million launched in 2003, US$530 million in 2007 and US$550 million in 2010, according to Bison. Bison lists
previous investors as CalSTRS, Oregon PERF, San Francisco City & County ERS, and Texas County &
District RS. While a press release says the focus will be on North American and European companies, the firm
has offices in China, India, and a medtech hub in Israel. The same statement indicated that they seem to plan
to hit every major vertical in the industry: biopharmaceuticals, healthtech, medical devices, and diagnostics


Technology Will Save Us raises US$1.8 Million to Help Kids Build Their Own Gadgets
A U.K. startup that creates DIY gadget-building kits for kids has closed a £1.2 million (US$1.8 million) seed
round led by SaatchInvest, with participation from European seed-stage VC fund Backed, along with a handful
of other individual investors. Founded out of London in 2012, Technology Will Save Us is one of a number of
companies across the country offering starter kits designed to tempt youngsters into technology —  there’s
Kano, which invites kids to build their own micro-computers, and Raspberry Pi, which offers something similar.
This announcement follows the previous £750,000 (US$1.1 million) in angel and grant funding the company
received from Google, Nesta, SaatchInvest, and some angels. The fresh cash influx will be used to expand the
company’s DIY product range and build more retailer partnerships.

Songkick Raises US$10 Million to Help Thwart Scalpers and Sell Concert Tickets Direct to Fans
Songkick, the company behind the eponymous cross-platform app that lets you track when and where all your
favorite bands are playing live, has raised an additional US$10 million in funding from Access Industries.
Founded in 2007, Songkick had previously raised US$32.6 million from a range of notable investors, including
Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital, Index Ventures, and Access Industries. The London-based startup has built a
solid reputation in the live music sphere over the past eight years for the way it helps users discover live gigs
based on the music they listen to. It scans a user’s music collection —  locally stored or cloud-based —  and
matches it with Songkick’s inventory of live shows. Users then receive alerts whenever an artist in their
collection is scheduled to play nearby.

Customer-analytics Startup CustomerGauge Closes US$2.5 Million Series A
CustomerGauge, a Dutch startup which has developed customer-success software for businesses, has
announced that they have closed a Series A round worth US$2.5 million with Dutch investor Newion
Investments leading the round. The startup, which counts “hundreds”  of businesses, including H&R Block,
Canon, BMW, Philips, and others as clients, says that it intends to put this new funding towards building out its
engineering, sales, and marketing team, as well as supporting its expansion into the American market. As the
name of the startup indicates, CustomerGauge focuses on helping businesses to gauge the satisfaction of
their customers with a platform that allows them to send out personalized surveys and to then have the data
made available to all employees. And then, CustomerGauge can also analyze the health of various accounts,
based upon feedback, and determine which ones are struggling and which have potential.

Webrazzi Ventures Launched to Fund Early Stage Startups in Turkey

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Webrazzi, Turkey’s leading tech blog, announced that it has launched Webrazzi Ventures to help early stage
startups get off the ground in Turkey. Webrazzi Ventures will provide funding to local startups by giving priority
to those targeting global audience. The fund also aims to foster collaboration in Turkish startup ecosystem by
welcoming young entrepreneurs who are willing to make their business ideas come to life. Emphasizing the
collaborative structure of Webrazzi Ventures, Arda Kutsal, the founder and CEO of Webrazzi, said in a blog
post that Webrazzi Ventures will be open to any individual or- institution who wants to bring new partnership
ideas to the industry. The early announcement will be followed very soon by specific details about the initial
funds, deal sizes and the number of startups to be supported, Kutsal said.


Cloud-cost Monitoring Startup Cloudyn Raises US$11M
Cloudyn, a startup with a cloud service that shows how much money you’re spending on cloud infrastructure,
is announcing that it has taken on an US$11 million round of funding. In addition to offering granular
information on how much your infrastructure deployment costs on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure,
and Google Compute Engine, Cloudyn makes recommendations for optimization, sends alerts as utilization
and cost approach specified thresholds, and estimates the cost of switching to different clouds. The startup
competes with Cloudability and Cloud Cruiser, among other vendors. The startup was established in 2011 and
is based in Rosh Ha’Ayin, Israel. To date, Cloudyn has raised US$15 million, including the US$4 million round
announced in September 2014. Carmel Ventures led the new round. Titanium Investments and RDSeed also

3D-imaging Sensor Developer Vayyar Raises US$22 Million
Vayyar, a 3D-imaging sensor developer that says it can make “it possible to see through objects,”  took in a
US$22 million investment led by Walden Riverwood. Battery Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Israel
Cleantech Ventures also participated in the round, which brings Vayyar’s total funding to US$34 million. The
startup developed a sensor that can scan through materials and liquids to create a 3D image. Vayyar said that
its technology can help the smart home industry by tracking a person’s location and vital signs; however, it
also has the potential to help fight cancer by detecting abnormal masses and tissues.

Ecommerce Advertising Tool Mabaya Scores US$2.25 Million Seed Round
Companies pay supermarkets to showcase their products right at eye level; Mabaya wants to help online
retailers to do the same. The Tel Aviv startup announced that it closed a US$2.25 seed round to help “support
the high demand”  for its product. Israel’s Lool Ventures led the investment, and a handful of undisclosed angel
investors also participated. The technology browses online stores to find similar products and brands by
“profiling user behavior, and profiling products to offer better and relevant prices,” said Mabaya’s CEO, Avi
Rabinovich. Mabaya has retail companies like Shop Direct and South America’s largest ecommerce site,
Mercado Libre, in its portfolio. The company’s website also points to Samsung and Microsoft as clients.

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