Steve Jurvetson appears to be starting his own venture capital firm

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Jurvetson is listed as the founder of a soon-to-launch fund called Future Ventures, according to the firm’s website.

Steve Jurvetson, the prominent venture capitalist who left DFJ in a messy split late last year, appears to be starting his own firm, Recode has learned.

Jurvetson is listed as the founder of a soon-to-launch fund called Future Ventures, according to the firm’s website.

“At Future Ventures, we support passionate founders who are forging the future. For the past 23 years, we have backed the visionaries who push the boundaries of possibility and explore the frontier of the unknown,” the website says. “We focus on disruptive technology such as commercial space exploration, deep learning, quantum computing, robotics, AI, blockchain, and sustainable transportation, synthetic biology and clean meat.”

The website refers to the firm’s “founders” as a plural, implying that other investors may be joining Jurvetson at the outpost. The firm has yet to file any paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Future Ventures website Steve Jurvetson bio page.
Screenshot from the firm’s website.

A Jurvetson spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Thursday. The website is registered in the name of Jurvetson’s former executive assistant and was updated in late March.

Jurvetson’s apparent reemergence onto the venture capital scene is not surprising — he is responsible for two of DFJ’s massive successes, SpaceX and Tesla — and that means he is likely to find a friendly base of investors, perhaps among several prior DFJ limited partners. His departure came amid internal tension at DFJ after the firm caught him lying about what it considered serious allegations, a source familiar with the situation said at the time.

“I am excited to move on and get back to my professional passion, helping great entrepreneurs forge the future,” Jurvetson said in a Facebook post in November shortly after leaving DFJ.

But it is still a quick rebound. Mike Cagney, the former CEO of SoFi, is also back with a new startup, as Recode first reported, after his company battled allegations of sexual harassment. Travis Kalanick, too, has restarted his life after being forced to leave his job.

Jurvetson, for his part, was accused by women of having several extra-marital affairs that, in the eyes of some, crossed into the professional world. No one has publicly emerged to allege him of sexual harassment. He has denied any misconduct.

Since his departure in November, Jurvetson has kept a low profile, though he has been making several speaking appearances on familiar topics, according to his social media pages.

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Mayor of London launches project to make capital epicentre of AI

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Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has commissioned AI research and thought leadership organisation CognitionX to develop “a strong evidence base” to support a new London policy on artificial intelligence.

The aim is to raise the profile of AI in the city, focusing on its economic and social benefits.

The report will identify the actions that the Mayor can take to maximise the positive impact of AI on London’s economy, said a joint announcement from the Mayor and CognitionX today.

The company will evaluate opportunities for stimulating adoption and deployment of AI technologies, attracting entrepreneurs and businesses to London – and, importantly, retaining them – as well as removing barriers to uptake and supporting growth.

The news comes in the wake of a number of reports that reveal the UK to be lagging behind its major competitors in the adoption of new technologies, including AI, robotics, and Internet of Things programmes.

Read more: Dell: UK lagging well behind Europe on IoT, AI, digital

Read more: South Korea most automated nation on earth, says report. The UK? Going nowhere

New initiatives

In February, the British government opened a new Office for AI, in line with its plan to put AI, robotics, and autonomous systems at the heart of the new Industrial Strategy.

However, earlier this month, the UK job market was also revealed to be overly focused on sales and marketing in digital technologies, with too few opportunities for qualified research, development, and engineering professionals.

That report found that London is overwhelmingly the centre of Industry 4.0 developments. Now the Mayor is encouraging the AI companies in the capital to participate in the London study. 

Sadiq Khan, said: “This report will help to uncover the opportunities to unlock innovation and investment in London, in order to maximise the economic impact of AI on the city. It will also identify the challenges we face in positioning the capital as the best place to start, grow, or relocate an AI business.

“Artificial Intelligence has the potential to transform almost every industry across the capital. London is in a strong position in the data economy and is already home to innovative, fast-growing companies like DeepMind, CityMapper, and Satalia.

“Not to mention the kind of work being done to improve public services, such as the data-driven approach to understanding rent arrears emerging through Hackney Council’s partnership with Pivigo.

“London has a tremendous opportunity to build a world-class AI hub, which serves a range of industries – from healthcare to finance to law – and which also helps build the AI-driven economy of the future in a way that works for all Londoners.”

How to get involved

Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder of CognitionX, said: “For companies leveraging AI, now is the time to shine. We’re calling on firms of all sizes to tell us about the AI solutions they have been developing or using. It’s as simple as entering your details here http://www.cognitionx.com/gla and we’ll be in touch.

“By sharing information about the AI deployments you have made, you’ll be added to the report which will be presented on a global scale at CogX – The Festival of All Things AI on the 11 and 12 June.

“The information gathered will be presented on CognitionX’s platform and on the Mayor’s www.techmap.london portal, as well as downloadable as a raw file for others to use. I have no doubt that together we will continue to make London a great place for AI innovation.”

Charlie Muirhead, founder and CEO, CognitionX added: “We all need to understand what AI is, what is isn’t, and how we can benefit.

“At CognitionX we are on a mission to democratise access to information on AI, and this report is an important part of CognitionX’s commitment to being the most trusted source of advice on all things AI.

“All successful organisations will need to take advantage of artificial intelligence, but it is a complex, fragmented, and ever-changing domain, and we want to help ensure a responsible transition to an AI-driven society.”

Internet of Business says

With central government’s welcome focus on AI, digital technologies, and robotics, along with the new office for AI, and the new Sector Deals on AI and other technologies, this latest move in the capital itself reveals that the UK is finally putting its house in order.

We welcome Sadiq Khan’s ambitious initiative for London.

However, a major challenge remains outstanding. London and the South are already the epicentre of the UK’s technology sector, thanks to innovations such as Tech City / Silicon Roundabout, and the presence of large consultancies, systems integrators, and vendors, both in the capital and to the west in the Heathrow corridor.

The urgent need is to spread the benefits out across the whole of the UK, so that all organisations and communities can benefit from a boom market. Let’s hope that other cities and local authorities follow Khan’s lead.

 

The post Mayor of London launches project to make capital epicentre of AI appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Here’s how 20 different venture capital firms are policing sexual harassment

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Dave McClure, who resigned from 500 Startups after allegations of sexual misconduct. 500 is one of the VC firms releasing its sexual harassment policies.

A breakdown of what some VC firms are sharing in new disclosures.

Venture capital firms have spent the last year grappling with whether they were equipped to handle sexual harassment complaints against their employees or their portfolio companies.

While some firms had internal codes of conduct. many did not have policies that similarly applied to the entrepreneurs they fund.

So that’s why it was newsworthy this week when about 20 firms this week publicly shared their sexual harassment policies, with about 20 more promising (we’ll see!) to share theirs upon request. There’s a wide range of detail in these so-called external policies collected by MovingForward, a new advocacy effort to push VC firms to be more transparent about how they police bad behavior.

Some of the already-posted policies are as short as one paragraph. Others are almost 10 pages long.

There are a few consistent themes:

  1. Firms almost all promise to be willing to terminate employees who violate the policy. That, of course, has not historically always happened.
  2. Firms are trying to get more serious about how sexual harassment is defined. Several even go so far as to list specific examples of actions that would qualify as a violation of their policies.
  3. Firms now consider entrepreneurs — who do not work for the venture capital firms — as parties to these agreements. Misconduct toward an entrepreneur is no different than misconduct toward a fellow partner.

Here’s a handy look at some of what stood out. We focused on the firms that actually posted what they considered their full, formal, lawyered policies, as opposed to an abbreviated version of it or a blog post that generally described their thinking on the issue.

  • 500 Startups: It’s notable that 500 is one of the first to publicly post their policy. Reminder: The leader of 500, Dave McClure, allegedly sexually assaulted the co-founder of the MovingForward initative, Cheryl Yeoh.
  • Andreessen Horowitz: “Andreessen Horowitz may take disciplinary action against an employee who exhibits poor judgment or engages in inappropriate behavior, even if it falls short of being severe or pervasive.”
  • Bowery Capital: Unusually, it highlights that the firm’s limited partners even are expected to follow the policy.
  • DFJ: The policy at DFJ is especially under the microscope given some of the actions allegedly taken by Steve Jurvetson, the firm’s founder. Jurvetson was ousted from the firm even though he has not been publicly accused of sexual harassment.
  • First Round Capital.
  • Flybridge Capital: Just two sentences.
  • Foundry Group: Probably the most detailed policy at eight-pages, Foundry — which invests in some other VC funds — promises to “conduct due diligence regarding past incidents of sexual harassment involving founders or GPs.” They also try to ask for prospective GPs they would fund to affirm in a side-letter that they’ve never been accused of harassment.
  • Homebrew: Homebrew posted the document it is asking its employees to sign and date, including a good amount of detail on its complaint procedure.
  • Kapor Capital: In addition to its policy, Kapor is sharing an “addendum” with four imagined situations that can be used for training purposes.
  • Norwest Venture Partners: Norwest emphasizes that they have a full-time exec who focuses on HR — not every firm has someone in-house to handle HR issues, a point of criticism for some advocates.
  • Refractor Capital: A very concise definition of sexual harassment: “Sexual harassment occurs when submission to or rejection of unwelcome sexual conduct is used as a basis for an employment or other business decision.”
  • Revolution.
  • Scale Venture Partners.
  • Spark Capital: Spark, interestingly, says that romantic relationships within a single chain-of-command — a gray area in Silicon Valley — “are not permitted.” Relationships outside it — think two people who do not report to one another — are OK.
  • Techstars: Techstars shared their Code of Conduct, which doesn’t have much specifically on harassment beyond promising to “ban or fire mentors, investors, employees, contractors” who harass others.
  • True Ventures.
  • Undiscovered Ventures: Two sentences also.
  • Union Square Ventures: USV says their policy applies even to non-USV employees on occasion: “If harassment occurs on the job or at a work-related event such as at conference or off-site meeting and by someone not employed by USV, the procedures in the policy should be followed as if the harasser were an employee of the USV.”
  • Zetta Ventures: Like Techstars, Zetta posted their Code of Conduct, which doesn’t have much guidance on harassment issues specifically.

Find something else in these documents that are interesting? Email me at teddy.schleifer@recode.net


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Smart thermostat Ecobee banks $61M Series C growth capital

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Home automation company Ecobee and the maker of Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostat raised a $ 61M Series C round led by Energy Impact Partners. Other investors include Amazon Alexa Fund, Relay Ventures, and Thomvest. Ecobee so far has $ 112M in equity funding since it launched in 2007.

ecobee4

Amazon Alexa Fund, a $ 200M venture fund to fuel voice technology innovation is the repeat investor in Ecobee. The fund also participated in Ecobee’s Series B round of $ 35M in Aug 2016.

Ecobee4, company’s fourth generation smart thermostat features voice-activated control through the Amazon Alexa and comes with room sensors to help manage hot or cold spots.

Adjust temperature and comfort settings easily from the ecobee mobile app on your Android and iOS devices.

A recent study by NPD group states that Ecobee has captured one-third of the smart thermostat market, reports Stephen Lacey of Greentech Media. This tells about the company’s ability to raise multi-million rounds of investment.

However, the investments also reflect the feud between Google and Amazon as the former owns Nest, maker of thermostats, indoor and outdoor security cameras, smoke and carbon monoxide alarm, security system, video doorbell and more.

A third and more established competitor is Honeywell, a $ 100B global conglomerate with business interests in aerospace, building materials, engineering services, and home and building technologies. The competition is expected to intensify as Statista Research predicts 33M U.S homes will have a smart thermostat by 2020, compared to 12M in 2017.

It might be that the competition for ‘smart home’ space is more between Google, Amazon, and Honeywell rather than Nest and Ecobee. Amazon recently acquired smart video doorbell company Ring for $ 1B. Nonetheless, Ecobee’s voice-enabled feature integration with Amazon Alexa may provide superior user experience to customers as more and more people adopt voice computing.


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Capital One’s virtual credit cards could help you avoid fraud

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Capital One is no stranger to trying new things — especially when it comes to technology. Its Eno texting chatbot, for example, is a quick and conversational way for its customers to check their balances and perform simple tasks, like checking on re…
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Geolocation tracking startup Hoopo raises $1.5M seed capital

Hoopo, an Isreal-based geolocation startup announced $ 1.5 million seed funding led by a group of investors including Israeli angel investor Zohar Gilon and Ben Marcus CEO AirMap, and Mobileye, an Israeli technology company that develops vision-based advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).

Hoopo logo

The startup also announced the official launch of the company, with the goal of creating precision geolocation solutions for low-power wide area networks (LPWA). It will exhibit the solution at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Hoopo, founded in 2016 will use the funding to grow the business and improve precision for the low-power Internet of Things (IoT) tracking. Hoopo’s geolocation based solution tracks assets in large areas without having to recharge batteries and provide a platform for management and real-time notifications. The customers can receive on-demand geolocation, establish geofences and receive movement alerts of their assets.

As smart city and industrial IoT use cases gain a wide acceptance, the need to have LPWA (low power wide area) connectivity has increased. Hoopo’s solution serves the need for its asset tracking device. “Hoopo is addressing a real business need of companies around the world: cost-effective, yet precise, tracking of their valuable assets with the longevity of battery life up to 10 years in the field,” said Ittay Hayut, CEO of Hoopo.

The patent-pending solution of Hoopo consists of low-cost LPWA gateways and devices, and a cloud-based platform for management of devices and real-time notifications. Interestingly, one of the use cases Hoopo lists on its website is “free-gazing cattle”, a solution which provides geolocation technologies for smart-agriculture.

Orolia, another IoT startup utilizing the LPWA technology to monitor fishing boats makes distress sensors, hence providing fishing boats a much needed search and rescue distress device.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

The venture capital firm Lightspeed is trying to hold its portfolio companies accountable by asking them to sign a new diversity letter

The firm behind companies like HQ Trivia doesn’t have a perfect record on diversity issues. Does their new policy have enough teeth?

There have been internal investigations, Medium mea culpas and Decency Pledges — all part of how Silicon Valley venture capital firms have reckoned with a year of invigorated conversation about sexual harassment and diversity.

Now, here’s a new attempt to fix the problem: The side letter.

Lightspeed Venture Partners is asking its portfolio company CEOs to sign a letter affirming their commitment to consider women and other underrepresented groups for senior jobs and new spots on their board of directors.

The venture firm behind hits like Snap is requesting that its companies voluntarily sign the document at around the same time that Lightspeed wires money to their bank account, part of an attempt by Lightspeed to hold their own CEOs accountable.

It is a tactic that brings to mind the famous “Rooney Rule” that started in the NFL but has since spread to other industries, which required that teams interview at least one person of color for head coaching and other senior jobs. The thinking here is that merely interviewing a female candidate makes companies more likely to hire them — though this particular policy does indeed lack some of the teeth that is seen in the NFL, which has fined teams that disobey it.

“The question we’ve asked ourselves is how can we do something more than write blog posts about it and wring our hands,” Jeremy Liew, a managing partner at Lightspeed, said in an interview.

The one-page letter on Lightspeed letterhead asks its company CEOs to sign their name, acknowledging and affirming that the firm expects that “at least one candidate from an underrepresented background be considered for every open leadership and independent Board member position in the company,” according to the letter shared with Recode. Lightspeed is also asking that the company set goals and hire more women and other underrepresented employees than the industry average.

Lightspeed says 17 of its existing company CEOs have already signed the side letter — including CEOs from well-known companies like The Honest Company, Affirm and HQ Trivia, the white-hot quiz show app that had some difficulty raising money after investors unearthed questionable behavior toward women by one of its co-founders, Colin Kroll. Lightspeed is the main financial backer of HQ, and it is notable that Kroll, also the co-founder of Vine, is in the first batch of signatories of the letter.

Lightspeed is asking each of its new portfolio companies to sign the side letter — but it is not mandatory. Some portfolio companies also said weeks elapsed in between signing the term sheet and the actual letter. There are still more than 300 portfolio companies that not have yet signed it, though Lightspeed is approaching each CEO and asking them to do so.

Nothing about the letter is binding or punative. Lightspeed acknowledges that the document has no enforcement mechanism and effectively relies on company CEOs to honor their commitment. Furthermore, Liew said he and his partners have not yet decided whether a CEO’s reluctance to sign the side letter would mean that they would back away from a new deal entirely.

“Most entrepreneurs think of themselves as men and women of their word,” said Liew, who said that Lightspeed would be willing to have “reminder conversations” with CEOs who seem to be wavering on the understandings that they affirmed in the letter.

If the firm instituted something stricter — requiring the selection of women for certain roles, for instance, or vowing that CEOs would see personal consequences if they reneged on the agreement — Liew said they would be letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

“If we did that with a prospective entrepreneur, it wouldn’t get signed at all,” he said. “We’re thought partners. We’re not their mom or dad. We’re not the police.”

Lightspeed’s own record on these issues is not perfect. The firm said last year that it “should have done more” after reports emerged that Justin Caldbeck, a former venture capitalist at Lightspeed, was accused of making unwanted advances toward women both when he worked at the firm and after his departure.

This side letter does not directly deal with harassment.

Some Lightspeed-backed CEOs who signed the document told Recode that they saw the document as a minor ask, and not one that required much deliberation. That raises the possibility that the letter could merely formalize what founders already intend to do, and not change behavior.

Max Levchin, the founder of the highly valued Affirm, which has been in Lightspeed’s portfolio for four years, said in an interview that it was a “no-brainer” to sign the sheet. Levchin said his company already had internal guidelines that asked for women and other underrepresented people to be considered for senior-level positions, so the Lightspeed instructions wouldn’t materially change how the company operates. He does like that leaders are being asked to commit, though.

Affirm is also planning to add up to four independent directors to its board later this year, Levchin said, and the recruiting firm that Affirm has hired to find candidates, Russell Reynolds, already had presented him with a majority-female list of candidates for him to choose from.

The guidelines on those interviewed for board positions only applies to independent directors — Lightspeed will not, for instance, be trying to influence who other venture firms name to their board seats.

Newer portfolio companies are being asked to sign the document as they prepare to accept funding (though, since it is not always being signed simultaneously with the term sheet, the funding is not contingent).

Sophia Amoruso, whose women-focused media company Girlboss announced it received $ 3.1 million in a seed round led by Lightspeed in December, said that the document “doesn’t impact my thinking” because she already planned to have a heavily female leadership team.

“It wasn’t a big conversation,” she said of Lightspeed’s ask, a couple of months after signing the term sheet, to also sign the side letter. “The agreement is not something that’s going to govern how I behave. My ethics will govern how I behave.”

Here’s the full text of the letter — this one sent to Levchin, for instance:

Max,

We are delighted to partner with Affirm to build a world-class company.

As you know, numerous groups that would contribute significantly to the success of a business have historically been underrepresented in technology companies, including women, disabled individuals, military veterans, and individuals from a number of underrepresented ethnic groups, including those that identify as African-American, Hispanic or Native American.

Lightspeed believes that the most successful companies benefit from employees, executives and Board members with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This diversity brings with it a broader set of viewpoints and ideas and a more informed decision-making capability, leading in our experience to the creation of stronger businesses.

In furtherance of our partnership, Lightspeed welcomes your commitment to build teams at every level of your organization that reflect the full diversity of all of the stakeholders in your business. Lightspeed requests that at least one candidate from an underrepresented background be considered for every open leadership and independent Board member position in the company. Lightspeed encourages the company to set specific goals regarding overall hiring rates of women and other underrepresented groups that are published internally and to which the company holds itself accountable. These goals should exceed the relevant industry average in a meaningful way, and progress against these goals should be actively measured.

Lightspeed looks forward to working with you on a regular basis regarding the company’s efforts in achieving a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Sincerely,

By: _________________________________________________________________________________

Jeremy Liew

ACKNOWLEDGED AND AFFIRMED:

Affirm

By: _________________________________________________________________________________


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Fish-farm monitoring startup Aquabyte raises $3.5M Seed capital

Aquabyte, a fish-farm monitoring startup developing a smart camera system and web dashboard raised $ 3.5M seed funding. The round was co-led by NEA and Costanoa Ventures. Princeton University and the US and Norwegian investors also participated in the round.

Aquabyte is developing a smart camera system and web dashboard.

The startup, founded by Amit Mukherjee in 2017 and headquartered in San Francisco will use the proceeds to build a team of developers and to refine its machine learning software.

Aquabyte’s solution consists of a smart camera system and web dashboard that utilizes computer vision technology. The camera is installed on a fish farmer’s net pen, and real-time farm metrics can be accessed via the web dashboard. Underwater 3D cameras and gauge parameters of temperature and oxygen help track the critical data. Typical metrics that Aquabyte’s cameras and machine learning algorithms will track include lice count, biomass estimation, appetite detection, and feed calculations.

‘The development of computer vision over the past couple years along with the advent of deep learning has opened up dramatic opportunities to build new vision-related products that can solve very practical, real-world problems,’
said Bryton Shang, founder, and CEO of Aquabyte.

Global fish trade was expected to hit an all-time high, and expected to rise more than $ 150bn last year, according to The Financial Times. One of the major costs incurred in fish farming is that of the feed, hence the company aims to control the feed cost using machine learning algorithms. If successful, it will help farmers to save up to 20-30% of the feed cost. The company is set to expand operations to Norway as the fish farming market is bigger in the Nordic countries as compared to the United States.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things