A newly funded startup, Internal, says it wants to help companies better manage their internal consoles

Uber and Facebook and countless other companies that know an awful lot about their customers have found themselves in hot water for providing broad internal access to sensitive customer information.

Now, a startup says its “out-of-the-box tools” can help protect customers’ privacy while also saving companies from themselves. How? With a software-as-a-service product that promises to help employees access the app data they need — and only the app data they need. Among the features the company, Internal, is offering, are search and filtering, auto-generated tasks and team queues, granular permissioning on every field, audit logs on every record and redacted fields for sensitive information.

Whether the startup can win the trust of enterprises is the biggest question for the company, which was created by Arisa Amano and Bob Remeika, founders who last year launched the blockchain technology company Harbor. The two also worked together previously at two other companies: Zenefits and Yammer.

All of these endeavors have another person in common, and that’s David Sacks, whose venture firm, Craft Ventures, has just led a $5 million round in Internal. Sacks also invested last year in Harbor; he was an early investor in Zenefits and took over during troubled times as its CEO for less than a year; he also founded Yammer, which sold to Microsoft for $1.2 billion in cash in 2012.

All of the aforementioned have been focused, too, on making it easier for companies to get their work done, and Amano and Remeika have built the internal console at all three companies. It’s how they arrived at their “aha” moment last year, says Amano. “So many companies build their consoles [which allow users advanced use of the computer system they’re attached to] in a half-hearted way; we realized there was an opportunity to build this as a service.”

“Companies never dedicate enough engineers to [their internal consoles], so they’re often half broken and hard to use and they do a terrible job of limiting access to sensitive customer data,” adds Remeika. “We eliminate the need to build these tools altogether, and it takes just minutes to get set up.”

Internal Screens 1

Starting today, companies can decide for themselves whether they think Internal can help their employees interact with their customer app data in a more secure and compliant way. The eight-person company has just made the product available for a free trial.

Naturally, Amano and Remeika are full of assurances why companies can trust them. “We don’t store data,” says Amano. “That resides on the [customer’s] servers. It stays in their database.” Internal’s technology instead “understands the structure of the data and will read that structure,” offers Remeika, who says not to mistake Internal for an analytics tool. “Analytics tools commonly provide a high-level overview; Internal is giving users granular access to customer data and letting you debug problems.”

As for competitors, the two say their most formidable opponent right now is developers who throw up a data model viewer that has complete access to everything in a database, which may be sloppy but happens routinely.

Internal isn’t disclosing its pricing publicly just yet, but it says its initial target is non-technical users, on operations and customer support teams, for example.

As for Harbor (we couldn’t help but wonder why they’re already starting a new company), they say it’s in good hands with CEO Josh Stein, who was previously general counsel and chief compliance officer at Zenefits (he was its first lawyer) and who joined Harbor in February of last year as its president. Stein was later named CEO.

In addition to Craft Ventures, Internal’s new seed round comes from Pathfinder, which is Founders Fund’s early-stage investment vehicle, and other, unnamed angel investors.

Uncork Capital cracks open two new funds

Uncork Capital, the now 15-year-old, early-stage venture firm formerly known as SoftTech VC, has closed up two new pools of committed capital totaling $200 million: $100 million for its sixth early-stage fund, and $100 million for an “opportunity” fund so it can stuff a little more capital into those of its portfolio companies that start to break away from the pack.

The firm had closed its first opportunity fund with $50 million in mid 2016. It closed its fifth early-stage fund at the same time with $100 million.

We talked on Friday with Uncork founder Jeff Clavier about the firm, which is currently writing first checks that range from $750,000 to $2 million. He told us that as with Uncork’s most recent set of funds, the idea is to invest in roughly 35 companies across three years, taking 10 percent ownership on average, and up to 12 percent of a portfolio company when it is the lead investor.

Clavier also said that while fully half of the fund will go into startups that sell cloud software to businesses, Uncork plans to invest roughly 10 percent of the fund in consumer marketplaces; roughly 10 percent in hardware; roughly 20 percent in so-called frontier tech — whether it be augmented reality or virtual reality or space of robotics or blockchain-related deals; and roughly 10 percent in bioinformatics and synthetic biology.

That last area of interest is brand new to Uncork, so we asked if the firm — which counts Stephanie Palmeri and Andy McLoughlin as partners — was perhaps planning to hire a biotech investor. Clavier said that isn’t, that instead it will rely on external resources to help with due diligence and to learn along the way. “In the same way that I looked at 30 investments in space tech and invested in Loft Orbital [a company that’s assembling a constellation to carry payloads for customers who don’t want to operate their own satellites], my expectation is that I’ll look at a bunch of [synthetic bio] deals and we’ll end up with one or two,” he said.

Uncork has enjoyed a steady stream of exits in recent years, including, mostly newly, the sale of ad tech company Vungle for a reported $750 million last month to the private equity firm Blackstone. [Clavier declined to confirm or correct its sale price.]

Uncork is also an early investor in the food delivery company Postmates, which is reportedly on track to go public this year. And Uncork was an early backer in the email service startup SendGrid, which sold to the publicly traded communications platform Twilio earlier this last year for $3 billion in stock.

Some of the firm’s other high-profile bets include Fitbit, which went public in 2015; Brightroll, which was acquired by Yahoo in 2015; and Eventbrite, which went public last fall (though its shares almost immediately fell below their IPO price and have remained below it).

As for its first opportunity fund, the startup that has received the biggest check from Uncork — $5 million — is the fashion resale marketplace Poshmark, which is also reportedly eyeing an IPO in 2019.

L.A.-based Upfront Ventures has two new general partners, bringing its GP count to eight

Upfront Ventures, the 23-year-old, L.A.-based venture capital firm, is gearing up for far more deal-making.

In addition to filing paperwork with the SEC this summer to raise its third growth-stage investment fund (it is also investing a $400 million early-stage fund and probably announcing another soon), the firm just added two new general partners to its line-up of investors.

One of them, Michael Carney, joined Upfront as a principal in 2015, after working as an editor at the news site Pandodaily, and, before that, working as an investor and analyst at a boutique merchant bank called Worldvest.

The firm’s second new general partner is Aditi Maliwal, who has also circled in and out of investing before, including stints as an associate with Crosslink Capital and, more recently, spending several years with Google, where Maliwal worked in corporate development before becoming a project manager.

We talked with both this week to congratulate them, as well as to learn more about where they’ll be shopping — and from where.

For her part, Maliwal, who begins work at Upfront next month, says the idea is for her to eventually open a San Francisco office, though for now, she’ll be operating from the Bay Area out of a space that’s yet to be determined and spending every Monday or every other Monday down in L.A. with the rest of the team.

She got to know Upfront through another general partner, Kara Nortman, who joined Upfront in 2014 and “we’d continue to see each other at events. I also have family ties in L.A. so would see her there.” Maliwal says she also says she would observe on her trips that the “ecosystem in L.A. has really grown from 2014 to where it is today. I think the Bay Area continues to see how important it is, too.”

As for becoming an investor again, Maliwal says she was always interested in becoming a VC, thanks in part to a class taught at Stanford by renowned venture capitalist Heidi Roizen VC that inspired her. She says spending time with founders in her husband’s business school class at Stanford this past year whet her appetite anew. “There are four or five companies I’m close to and they’re good friends and when I was up at 11 pm working on a company idea with one of them earlier this year, I just realized that this is what gives me a lot of energy and this is a space I want to [get involved in again].”

What she’ll be focusing on, she says it will mostly likely be business to business to consumer models, as well as SaaS applications, fintech, and, when the opportunity arises, consumer products. More broadly speaking, says Maliwal, she hopes to serve as a bridge for Bay Area startups looking for a foothold in the L.A. market and vice versa.

Meanwhile, Carney is, and will remain, more focused on later-stage bets that Upfront funded early on and whose success the firm wants to ensure (to the extent that any firm can). Understandably, he sounds excited — still — about the work.

“In 2012, [when I was at Pandodaily] L.A. was crossing and inflection point, with a number of second- and third-time founders coming out of later-stage marquee companies. When I joined Upfront, it felt similar. It was an incredible platform, it was a year or two after the firm was rebranded [from GRP Ventures] and Kara had been there less than a year and [fellow general partner] Greg [Bettinelli] had been there maybe two years. The team was kind of maturing and I feel lucky to join when I did.”

Carney suggests the opportunities have only grown stronger, in his view of the later-stage world. “We’re definitely seeing [greater bifurcation] between the haves and have nots, with company that can break out as clear leaders tending to have access to larger amounts of capital than in past years. For the best of the best, the conditions remain as favorable as possible, while it’s gotten harder for companies to raise capital that fail to hit those growth rates, even in good times.”

Being able to recruit employees from roles at top companies in the Bay Area is just one reason solid L.A. companies have attained more momentum. “I think that owes to the maturation of the L.A. ecosystem. I think people are drawn to L.A. because Silicon Valley, for all its incredible success in the tech sector, is an industry town and L.A. has a more diverse economy and ecosystem. But also, five years ago, people would ask themselves, ‘If this new role [in L.A.] doesn’t work out, what do I do next?’ And I think the answer to that question is much clearer and more positive today.”

According to Upfront, 40 percent of its initial checks are written to companies based in L.A., though it has bets in other parts of the U.S. and world. Some of the best-known deals in its current portfolio include the scooter company Bird, the sneaker marketplace GOAT, and the online resale store ThredUp. Upfront was also an investor in Ring, the smart doorbell company acquired early last year by Amazon for $1 billion.

In addition to Maliwal, Carney, Nortman and Bettinelli, the firm is managed by general partners Kobie Fuller, Kevin Zhang, Mark Suster and founder Yves Sisteron.

Cloudflare has a third cofounder, Lee Holloway, who’s credited with making the company what is today

Not every cofounder is acknowledged at the companies that they help to launch. Sometimes, they quit or they’re elbowed out. Often, they’re conveniently written out the company’s history.

In the case of Cloudflare, a third cofounder who began the company with CEO Matthew Prince and COO Michele Zatlyn is little known outside the company for a very different reason. As Cloudflare states in an S-1 filing IPO filing that it made public today, “Tragically, Lee stepped down from Cloudflare in 2015, suffering the debilitating effects of Frontotemporal Dementia, a rare neurological disease.”

Frontotemporal dementia impacts between 50,000 and 60,000 Americans, according to a rough estimate cited by the Alzheimer’s Association, and it tends to impact younger people, beginning at age 45.

Though the cause isn’t known, a person’s risk for developing frontotemporal dementia — wherein the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain shrink — is higher if there’s a family history of dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Cloudflare did not respond today to questions about Holloway, but Prince and Zatlyn, in a section of the filing addressed to potential shareholders, credit Holloway as the “genius who architected our platform and recruited and led our early technical team.” In fact, they write, when picking a code name for the company’s IPO, they chose “Project Holloway” to honor his contribution because the “technical decisions Lee made, and the engineering team he built, are fundamental to the business we have become.”

Holloway’s beneficiaries will be rewarded for that work. According to the S-1, trusts affiliated with him own 18% of the company’s Series A shares (or common shares) and 3.2% of the company’s total outstanding shares. Prince meanwhile owns 20.2% of the company’s class B shares and 16.6% of all outstanding shares, and Zatlyn has 6.8% of the company’s class B shares and 5.6% of the overall shares outstanding.

If Cloudflare goes public at the $3.2 billion valuation it was last assigned by its private investors, Holloway’s family and other trust recipients could see upwards of $100 million.

That’s none too shabby for a computer geek who attended Monte Vista High School in Danville, before working as an engineer at the bubble-era home improvement site HomeWarehouse.com, whose assets were sold in 2000 to Wal-mart.com. Though an apparent fire sale, then-CEO Jeanne Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle of the company, “We are very impressed with the commerce platform developed by the Homewarehouse.com team.”

Holloway later headed to UC Santa Cruz, where he studied computer science and was introduced through a professor to Prince, with whom he built Unspam Technologies, an anti-spam startup where Holloway says on LinkedIn that he was chief software architect, and where Prince continues to serve as chairman. They two also co-created Project Honey Pot, an open source community that still tracks online fraud and abuse.

Zatlyn would enter the picture soon after. According to Cloudflare, in 2009, Prince had taken a sabbatical from work to get his MBA from Harvard Business School and it was when he began telling Zatlyn, a classmate, about Project Honey Pot and its community of users, she helped him recognize a related opportunity in not just tracking internet threats but also stopping them. While they worked on the business plan as part of their studies, Holloway built the first working prototype.

By 2010, they were pitching investors at a TechCrunch Disrupt as one of the event’s “battlefield” participants.

Holloway wasn’t on stage for that demonstration. He might have preferred to operate in the background given the nature of his work. Indeed, in the first of just three tweets he has ever published, he wrote simply, “Pondering the nature of web exploits.”

Pictured above: Cloudflare cofounders Zatlyn, Holloway, and Prince.

Would you rent out your living room for a few hours? This startup is counting on it

Recharge, a startup that tried convincing hotels to let its customers rent their rooms by the hour and even minute, has revamped and rebranded. Now Globe, the company is hoping to convince guests to sign up for short stays instead in people’s homes so that they can kick back between other commitments, and, if the host allows it, to shower and nap.

It’s at once crazy sounding and intriguing, which is perhaps why the popular accelerator program Y Combinator accepted the company into its most recent class of companies. (It shows off its newest batch of startups next week.) YC was famously early to spy the opportunity that Airbnb could chase, after all. The question is whether Globe, which likens itself to an Airbnb for day breaks, will have anywhere near the same appeal.

Its proposition is certainly similar. Home owner or renter wrings out some extra income by renting out all or part of their home, except that unlike with Airbnb, where the minimum stay is at least one night, with Globe, a host rents out his or her space for smaller increments of time.

In a world where the economic divide continues to grow between the haves and have-nots, it’s easy to see the logic in maximizing an underutilized asset — even one’s living room — in order to live more comfortably. It’s especially easy to see the logic in prohibitively expensive cities like San Francisco and New York.

At the same time, letting in a stranger — even a “businessperson” — for a shorter period of time is not going to be a no-brainer for many people who might otherwise rent their home while away for a weekend. And on the other side of the marketplace, getting enough hosts with nice enough places to become hosts is a high hurdle for Globe to surmount. After all, if someone is looking for an alternative to Starbucks for a few hours, and that individual has to take some form of transportation to get to a host’s couch that may or may not be as nice as pictured, that individual may well go the coffee shop route instead. (The company is also up against startups like Breather that offer hourly or daily “space as a service.”)

Founder Manny Bamfo appreciates the challenge, he says. In fact, after running Recharge for a couple of years, he’s gotten well-acquainted with adversity.

Though he says that Recharge wound up seeing $4 million in revenue from its hotel partners, renting rooms to Recharge customers “wasn’t their number one priority, and that made it hard to provide a consistent experience for our customers.” Bamfo suggests their “unionized cleaning labor” wasn’t excited at the prospect of cleaning rooms more frequently than once daily, either, which is partly why Recharge decided to relaunch as a home-sharing service instead.

It’s not just a branding exercise. Along with the new name, Globe is starting from scratch with a new cap table, though Bamfo says Globe opened up a small round for previous investors that was “oversubscribed instantly.” Recharge had raised $10 million from investors. One of these backers was Binary Capital, which has since evolved into little more than a tangle of lawsuits. Another backer was the real estate-focused firm Fifth Wall Ventures, which maintains a small stake in the new company, says Bamfo.

In the meantime, Globe is looking to “do a proper seed round at [YC’s] Demo Day.” It’s also busy spreading the word in an effort to build up its burgeoning new marketplace of homes and apartments for rent, and advertising a rate of $50 per hour to people who host their entire home by the hour and $25 per hour to those who share less room. (Globe keeps 20% of the fee.)

Last but not least, Globe is also promising $1 million in general liability insurance and, for now, guests who have been verified and vetted by Bamfo himself.

It’s not a scalable solution, he acknowledges, but at the moment, he says, it’s all about building the right community, and he sounds optimistic — of course — about its odds.

“People view it like selling a lamp on Craigslist. ‘If it’s not much work, and it’s another form of income, I’ll do it.’ ” There are a “lot of people with great jobs living in cities that are very expensive — people who are cops, who are teachers, who aren’t quite making six figures, and any extra income is a godsend.”

Asked then why Airbnb isn’t already chasing the same opportunity, Bamfo says it’s basic time management, and also a different market opportunity. “For any company to do this well, it has to be their number one priority.” Besides, he adds, Airbnb is “a travel company. We’re localized, with the ability to charge on a minute-by-minute basis. It’s a huge engineering undertaking and, for now, it’s part of our moat, too.”

A.Capital Partners, founded by Ronny Conway, targets $140 million for its third fund

Silicon Valley investor Ronny Conway is raising his third early-stage venture fund, shows a new SEC filing that states the fund’s target is $140 million and that the first sale has yet to occur.

The now six-year-old firm, A.Capital, focuses on both consumer and enterprise tech, and has offices in Menlo Park and San Francisco.

Among the many brand-name companies in its portfolio are Coinbase, Airbnb, Pinterest, and Reddit. (You can find its other investments here.)

Conway led the seed-stage program of Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) for roughly four years in its earliest days and left in 2013 to raise his debut fund, which closed with $51 million in capital commitments. He also raised two, smaller parallel funds at the time.

According to SEC filings, he sought out $140 million for his second fund, though he never announced its close.

A.Capital is today run by Conway, along with General Partner Ramu Arunachalam (also formerly of a16z) and Kartik Talwar, who worked previously with Conway’s brother, Topher, and his famed father, Ron, at their separate venture firm, SV Angel.

Conway maintains a far lower profile than his father in particular, who throughout his venture career has nurtured relationships not only with founders but with tech reporters and local politicians.

Though now ancient history in Silicon Valley years, Ronny Conway was credited with introducing Andreessen Horowitz to Instagram during its earliest days.

Conway, a former Googler, met Instagram cofounder Kevin System in the several years when he, too, worked for the search giant, beginning in 2006. It turned out to be a highly worthwhile introduction, though it could have been even lucrative for a16z.

Though the firm made a seed-stage bet on the what was then a far simpler mobile photo-sharing app, a16z never followed up with another check because of investment in another photo-sharing startup that would eventually flounder (PicPlz).

It was a sensitive issue at the time for a16z, with some noting its missed opportunity. In fact, Ben Horowitz later felt compelled to write in a blog post that Andreessen Horowitz made $78 million from its $250,000 seed investment in Instagram when Facebook acquired it $1 billion in 2012.

This startup is helping food app delivery workers start their own damn delivery companies

Following many months of pressure, DoorDash, one of the most frequently used food delivery apps in the U.S., said late last month that it was finally changing its tipping policy to pass along to workers 100% of tips, rather than employ some of that money toward defraying its own costs.

The move was a step in the right direction, but as a New York Times piece recently underscored, there are many remaining challenges for food delivery couriers, including not knowing where a delivery is going until a worker picks it up (Uber Eats), having just seconds to decide whether or not to accept an order (Postmates) and not being guaranteed a minimum wage (Deliveroo) — not to mention the threat of delivery robots taking their jobs.

It’s a big enough problem that a young, nine-person startup called Dumpling has decided to tackle it directly. Its big idea: turn today’s delivery workers into “solopreneurs” who build their own book of clients and keep much more of the money.

It newly has $3 million in backing from two venture firms that know the gig economy well, too: Floodgate, an early investor in Lyft (firm co-founder Ann Miura-Ko is on Lyft’s board), and Fuel Capital, where TaskRabbit founder Leah Busque is now a general partner.

We talked with Dumpling’s co-founders and co-CEOs earlier this week to learn more about the company and how viable it might be. Nate D’Anna spent eight years as a director of corporate development at Cisco; Joel Shapiro spent more than 13 years with National Instruments, where he held a variety of roles, including as a marketing director focused on emerging markets.

National Instruments, based in Austin, is also where Shapiro and D’Anna first met back in 2002. Our chat, edited lightly for length, follows:

TC: You started working together out of college. What prompted you to come together to start Dumpling?

JS: We’d stayed good friends as we’d done different things with our careers, but we were both seeing rising inequality happening at companies and within their workforces, and we were both interested in using our [respective] background and experiences to try and make a difference.

ND: When we were first started, Dumpling wasn’t a platform for people to start their own business. It was a place for people to voice opinions — kind of like a Glassdoor for workers with hourly jobs, including in retail. What jumped out at us was how many gig workers began using the platform to talk about the horrible ways they were being treated, not having a traditional boss and not being protected by traditional policies.

TC: At what point did you think you were onto a separate opportunity?

ND: We knew that a mission-driven company that’s trying to do good by people who’ve been exploited by Silicon Valley companies has to be profitable. I was an investor at Cisco, and I was very clear that the money side has to work. So we started talking with gig workers and we asked, ‘Why are you working for a terrible company where you’re getting injured, where you’re getting penalized for not taking the next job?’ And the response was ‘money.’ It was, ‘I need to be able to buy these groceries and I don’t want to put them on my own credit card.’ That was an epiphany for us. If the biggest pain point to running these businesses is working capital and we can solve that — if business owners will pay for access to capital and for tools that help them run their business — that clicked for us.

TC: A big part of your premise is that while gig economy companies have anonymized people as best they can, there’s a meaningful segment of services where a stranger or a robot isn’t going to work.

JS: Shoppers for gig companies often hear, ‘When you [specifically] come, it makes my day,’ so our philosophy was to build a platform that supports the person. When you run a business and build a clientele that you get to know, you’re incentivized for that [client] to have a good experience. So we wondered, how do we provide tools for someone who has done personal shopping and who not only needs funds to shop but also help with marketing and a website and training so they can promote their services?

ND: We also realized that to help business owners succeed that we needed to lower the transaction cost for them to find customers, so we created a marketplace where shoppers can look at reviews, understand different shoppers’ knowledge regarding when it comes to various specialties and stores, then help match them.

TC: How many shoppers are now running their own businesses on Dumpling and what do they get from you exactly?

JS: More than 500 across the country are operating in 37 states.  And we want to give them everything they need. A big part of that is capital, so we give [them] a credit card, then it’s effectively the operational support, including order management, customer relationship functionality, customer communication, a storefront, an app that they can use to run their business from their phone. . .

TC: What about insurance, tax help, that sort of stuff?

ND: A lot of VCs pushed us in that direction. The good news is a lot of companies are coming up to provide those ancillary services, and we’ll eventually partner with them if you want to export your data to Intuit or someone else. Right now, we’re really focused on [shoppers’] core business, helping then to operate it, to find customers, that’s our sweet spot for the immediate future.

TC: What are you charging? Who are you charging?

JS: A subscription model is an obvious way for us to go at some point, but right now, because we’re in the transaction flow, we’re taking a percentage of each transaction. The [solopreneuer] pays us $5 per transaction as a platform fee; the shopper pays us 5% atop the delivery fee set by the [person who is delivering their goods]. So if someone spends $100 on groceries, that customer pays us $5, and the shopper pays us $5 and the shopper gets that delivery fee, plus his or her tip.

The vast amount goes to the shopper, unlike with today’s model [wherein the vast majority goes to delivery companies]. Our average shopper is bringing home $32 in earnings per order, roughly three times as much as when they work for other grocery delivery apps. I think that’s partly because we communicate to [shoppers] that they are supporting local businesses and local entrepreneurs and they are receiving an average tip of 17% on their orders. But also, when you know your shopper and that person gets to know your preferences, you’re much more comfortable ordering non-perishables, like produce picked the way you like. That leads to huge order sizes, which is another reason that average earnings are higher.

TC: You’re fronting the cost for groceries. Is that money coming from your venture funding? Do you have a debt facility?

ND: We don’t. The money moves so fast. The shoppers are using the card to shop, then getting the money back again, so the cycle time is quick. It’s two days, not six months.

TC: How does this whole thing scale? Are you collecting data that you hope will inform future products?

ND: We definitely want to use tech to empower [shoppers] instead of control them. But [our CTO and third co-founder Tom Schoellhammer] came from Google doing search there, and eventually we [expect to] recommend similar stores, or [extend into] beauty or pet other local services. Grocery delivery is one obvious place where the market is broken, but where you want a trusted person involved, and you’re in the flow when people are looking for something [the opportunity opens up]. Shoppers’ knowledge of their local operation zone can be leveraged much more.

BlockFi, which lends money to cryptocurrency holders, just raised $18.3 million led by Valar Ventures

Last year, we told you about a New York-based startup that had begun lending cold hard cash to cryptocurrency holders who don’t want to offload their holdings but also don’t necessarily want so much of their assets tied up in cryptocurrencies.

Today, that two-year-old company, BlockFi, is announcing $18.3 million in Series A funding led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, with participation from Winklevoss Capital, Morgan Creek Digital, Akuna Capital, and earlier backers Galaxy Digital Ventures and ConsenSys Ventures.

Apparently, BlockFi is gaining some traction.

Last year, after raising $1.5 million in seed funding from ConsenSys Ventures, SoFi and Kenetic Capital, it secured $50 million led by Galaxy Digital Ventures (the digital currency and blockchain tech firm founded by famed investor Mike Novogratz) that is used to loan out cash to customers who use their bitcoin and ethereum holdings as collateral.

The minimum deposit required: $20,000 worth of cryptocurrency.

According to founder Zac Prince, who talked with Bloomberg about BlockFi’s newest round, enough people are now using those loans that BlockFi has seen its monthly revenue grow more than 10 times since January.

No doubt the uptick in loans correlates with the rebound in Bitcoin’s value, which was priced as low as $3,400 earlier this year but is now valued at roughly $11,400.

Prince also told the outlet that he expects annual revenue to hit eight figures by the end of this year. In startup land, that means it’s time to roll out new money-making services. BlockFi already introduced a savings account product earlier this year that it says enables investors to earn interest on their assets. They are not backed by the FDIC, though the company says it “operates with a focus on compliance with US laws and regulations.” And while it won’t say exactly what’s coming up next, it says more products are being added to its existing platform in a statement about the new round.

Prince previously spent roughly five years in consumer lending and began investing his own money in crypto in early 2016.

He told us last year that his “lightbulb moment” for the company came as he was in the process of getting a loan for an investment property. Instead of using a traditional bank, he decided to list his crypto holdings to see what would happen, and the response was overwhelming. “I realized that there was no debt or credit outside of [person-to-person] margin lending on a few exchanges, and I had the feeling that this was a big opportunity that I was well-suited to go after.”

Other companies providing crypto-backed loans that are issued in fiat currencies include CoinLoan, SALT Lending, Nexo.io, and Celsius Network, among others.

The SEC wants disgraced VC Mike Rothenberg to cough up more than $30 million

Nearly three years ago, TechCrunch reported on suspected fraud committed by Mike Rothenberg, a self-described “millennial venture capitalist” who’d made a name for himself not only by eponymously branding his venture firm but for spending lavishly to woo startup founders, including on Napa Valley wine tours, at luxury boxes at Golden State Warriors games and most famously, hosting an annual “founder field day” at the San Francisco Giants’s baseball stadium that later inspired a scene in the HBO show “Silicon Valley.”

The Securities & Exchange Commission had initially reached out to Rothenberg in June of 2016 and by last August, Rothenberg had been formally charged for misappropriating up to $7 million on his investors’ capital. He settled with the agency without making an admission of guilt, and, as part of the settlement, he stepped down from what was left of the firm and agreed to be barred from the brokerage and investment advisory business with a right to reapply after five years.

Now, comes the money part. Following a forensic audit conducted in partnership with the accounting firm Deloitte, the SEC is seeking $18.8 million in disgorgement penalties from Rothenberg, and an additional $9 million civil penalty. The SEC is also asking that Rothenberg be forced to pay pre-judgment interest of $3,663,323.47

How it arrived at that math: according to a new lawsuit filed on Wednesday, the SEC argues that Rothenberg raised a net amount of approximately $45.9 million across six venture funds from at least 200 investors, yet that he took “fees” on their capital that far exceeded what his firm was entitled to during the life of those funds, covering up these “misdeeds” by “modifying accounting entries to make his misappropriation look like investments, entering into undisclosed transactions to paper over diverted money, and shuffling investments from one [f]und to another to conceal prior diversions.”

Ultimately, it says, Deloitte’s examination demonstrated that Rothenberg misappropriated $18.8 million that rightfully belong to Rothenberg Ventures, $3.8 million of which was transferred to Rothenberg personally; $8.8 million of which was used to fund other entities under his control (including a car racing team and a virtual reality studio); and $5.7 of which was used to pay the firm’s expenses “over and above” the management and administrative fees it was entitled to per its management agreements.

We reached out to Rothenberg this morning. He has not yet responded to our request to discuss the development.

It sounds from the filing like he doesn’t have wiggle room to fight it, in any case. According to the SEC’s suit, the “Rothenberg Judgment” agreed upon last summer left monetary relief to be decided by a court’s judgment, one that “provides that Rothenberg accepts the facts alleged in the complaint as true, and does not contest his liability for the violations alleged, for the purposes of this motion and at any hearing on this motion.”

In the meantime, the lawsuit contains interesting nuggets, including an alleged maneuver in which Rothenberg raised $1.3 million to invest in the game engine company Unity but never actually bought shares in the company, instead diverting the capital to other entities. (He eventually paid back $1 million to one investor who repeatedly asked for the money back, but not the other $300,000.)

Rothenberg also sold a stake in the stock-trading firm Robinhood for $5.4 million, says the SEC, but rather than funnel any proceeds to investors, he again directed the money elsewhere, including, apparently, to pay for a luxury suite during Golden State Warriors games for which he shelled out $136,000.

In a move that one Rothenberg investor finds particularly galling, the SEC claims that Rothenberg then turned around and rented that box through an online marketplace that enables people to buy and sell suites at various sports and entertainment venues, receiving at least $56,000 from the practice.

Ostensibly to keep up appearances, Rothenberg also gave $30,000 to the Stanford University Athletics Department (he attended Stanford as an undergrad) and spent thousands of dollars on ballet tickets last year and early this year, says the SEC’s filing.

Regardless of what happens next, one small victor in the SEC’s detailed findings is Silicon Valley Bank, a sprawling enterprise that has aggressively courted the tech industry since its 1983 founding. Last year, at the same time that Rothenberg was agreeing to be barred from the industry, he made a continued show of his innocence by filing suit against SVB to “vindicate the interests of its funds and investors,” the firm said in a statement at the time.

The implication was that SVB was at fault for some of Rothenberg’s woes because it had not properly wired money to the correct accounts, but the SEC says that SVB was defrauded, providing Rothenberg a $4 million line of credit after being presented with fabricated documents.

A loser — other than Rothenberg and the many people who now feel cheated by him — is Harvard Business School. The reason: it used Rothenberg Ventures as a case study for students after Rothenberg graduated from the program. As we’ve reported previously, that case study — funded by HBS before any hint of trouble at the firm had surfaced  — was co-authored by two professors who had a “significant financial interest in Rothenberg Ventures,” as stated prominently in a curriculum footnote.

Presumably, those ties gave confidence to at least some of the investors in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who later provided Rothenberg with money to invest on their behalf.

You can read the SEC’s 20-page motion for disgorgement and penalties below, along with the 48-page report assembled by Deloitte’s forensic accounting partner Gerry Fujimoto.

SEC vs. Mike Rothenberg by TechCrunch on Scribd

Forensic report re Mike Rothenberg/Rothenberg Ventures by TechCrunch on Scribd

Additional reporting by TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez.

Above: Rothenberg Ventures during better days.

Lux Capital just closed on a whopping $1 billion in capital, doubling the amount of money it manages

When founders think about the venture firms most likely to invest in space or robotics or other bleeding edge technologies, a handful of firms tend to jump immediately to mind.

One of these is Lux Capital, a venture capital firm that has offices in New York and Menlo Park, Ca., and whose bets include Zoox, the robotics company that’s trying to pioneer autonomous mobility as-a-service; Bright Machines, a manufacturing startup that aims to eliminate manual labor from manufacturing electronic devices; and AirMap, an airspace intelligence platform for drones.

While one might argue whether Lux has bolder ambitions than its venture competitors, its consistent messaging — it says it invests at the “outermost edges of what is possible” — has enabled it to carve space for itself in an increasingly crowded market of investors.

It also just helped the firm secure $1.1 billion in capital commitments across two funds, including a $500 million early-stage fund and a separate $550 million opportunity fund that it will use to support its breakout investments.

Fortune reported on the two funds earlier today.

Even during a time when billion-dollar funds have become routine, the amount of money is notable. Lux last had closed its previous, early-stage fund with $400 million in 2017, a fund that had brought its total assets under management to $1.1 billion. That was across its then 17-year history.

The firm, now 19 years old, just doubled that amount.

No doubt the sale of the surgical robotics company Auris Health helped toward that end. Lux was part of the company’s $34.4 million Series A round in 2014 (and part of subsequent rounds); presumably, it saw a nice return when Auris was acquired for $3.4 billion in cash to healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson in February.

Other deals, like Desktop Metal, a four-year-old that designs and markets metal 3D printing systems, have meanwhile seen their valuations soar, even if they haven’t sold or gone public.

As part of the new fund, Lux has brought aboard Deena Shakir as a partner. Shakir was formerly an investor with Alphabet’s venture arm, GV.

Earlier this year, another of Lux’s partners, Renata Quintini, transitioned to a role as venture partner as she raises a venture fund with fellow venture capitalist Roseanne Wincek, long of IVP.