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Month: July 2015

Bill Maris On Hiring Women, Rising Valuations, And Google Ventures’ Biggest Misses To Date

At Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference earlier today, Fortune’s Dan Primack hosted a panel of investors who were asked to share their thoughts on the current – and future – state of the venture market. The VCs covered a lot of ground. We happened to focus on in on what Bill Maris of Google Ventures had to say. Some notes from the discussion: Maris on whether Google plans to kill its own portfolio company, Uber, with its own self-driving app: “Companies more often die of suicide than homicide,” he joked. “We have a big bet there, so we’re hugely optimistic about [Uber’s] future. Personally, I wouldn’t want to compete with [CEO] Travis [Kalanick]. On whether Google Ventures is hiring more women given the attention shone in recent years on the industry’s dearth of female investors: Maris suggested it isn’t, but he said that Google Ventures is interested in investing $5 million and $10 million in venture funds that are themselves diverse or that are targeting companies started by women and/or minorities. (Maris wouldn’t name this program.) He also said that the company is trying to place interns from more diverse backgrounds at its portfolio companies to “give people exposure to the startup world that might not have it” otherwise. On whether rising valuations are impacting the way that Google Ventures approaches investments: Not really, said Maris. Google has “made a number of agriculture...

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Harmonix Shows Off Freestyle Guitar Solos For Rock Band 4

Rock Band developers Harmonix stopped by New York City last week to preview the latest installment, Rock Band 4. In the video above, Harmonix PR Lead Nick Chester shows off the big gameplay addition, freestyle guitar solos. As the name suggests, the solos allow players to be more flexible in their playing — rather than hitting the exact right note at the exact right time, you can just follow some general guidelines. During the freestyle sections, you’re still scored, but you can’t fail. I tried the freestyle feature out for myself, and even though I had no idea what I was doing, it sounded halfway decent (I think). Still, it’s probably for the best that Chester was the only one whose playing was captured on-camera. Rock Band 4 is scheduled for release in October on PlayStation 4 and XBox One. It was first announced in March, with new songs revealed yesterday. Article source:...

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Fantasy Sports Company FanDuel Raises $275M Series E, Confirms $1B Valuation

Scotland’s FanDuel has come a long way since it spun out from news startup HubDub back in 2010. The fantasy sports operator is announcing that it has raised a whopping $275 million Series A, bringing total capital raised to $363 million and valuing the company at “over $1 billion”. In other words, chalk this up as another U.K.-based ‘unicorn’. The round, which FanDuel claims was oversubscribed, was led by KKR, alongside Google Capital, Time Warner Investments, and Turner Sports. In addition, various NFL and NBA team owners also participated, along with previous investors, including Shamrock Capital, NBC Sports Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Bullpen Capital, Pentech Ventures and Piton Capital. FanDuel says the new capital will be used to boost its customer acquisition efforts across the U.S. and Canada — the two markets that the company exclusively targets, offering a multitude of one-day game options for NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and college football and basketball, which is some feat for a startup originating out of Scottish city Edinburgh. (Although, to be fair, Scotland, including its capital city, is home to a plethora of games companies, including Rockstar North, makers of Grand Theft Auto.) In addition, FanDuel says it will invest in the acceleration of new products, features and “growth initiatives”. It also plans to continue to build out its “industry-leading” management team, perhaps on the road to a future IPO now that...

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Most UK Apple Pay Retailers Cap At £20, But Pret And Bill’s Show Transactions Can Be Limitless

Apple Pay officially arrived in the UK earlier today, and with it, we’re now getting more details on how the mobile payment service will work. Most of the 250,000 physical locations that will accept Apple’s contactless payment service will work with a £20 cap on transactions as some had been reporting prior to the launch, but it turns out this is not the full story. At least two businesses, eatery chains Pret a Manger and Bill’s, are accepting limitless transactions. Yes, this means that at lunch today you can go and buy your wild crayfish rocket sandwich, cauliflower/sweet potato quinoa hot pot, roasted beet and feta salad, two packets of popcorn, hot soup, coffee, mineral water, carrot cake and yogurt all in a single Apple Pay transaction. (Provided of course you are set up to use Apple Pay, and are using iOS 8.3 on an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus; or an Apple Watch paired with iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, or iPhone 6 Plus, loaded with a supporting card from a participating bank. Also, no guarantee provided that you will be awake through the afternoon hours after that motherlode of a meal.) We now accept Apple Pay (and compliments, of course) #ApplePay — Pret (@Pret) July 14, 2015 More generally, UK banks and businesses have been working around a £20 ($31) limit on contactless transactions to minimise fraud...

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Victor Raises $5M To Bring Easy Booking And Price Transparency To Private Jets

The dream of private jets becoming more accessible to the rest of us (well, ok, SOME of the rest of us) has long been the goal of startups in the space which have tried to gnaw away at the old-fashioned business models. BlackJet has famously tried to become an almost Uber-like, on demand service. And there are others such as Netjets. Now a new-ish entrant thinks it has come up with a very persuasive model, and has raised cash to go for broke with the idea. Victor — the on-demand private jet charter technology platform which is just over 3 years old — has secured $5M in funding from investors. This second round joins a previously announced $8M round, taking the company to a total of $13M invested from its own clientele. The funds will be used to acquire more customers and build out the tech platform, which, by its nature, is quite complex. It also announced an intention to raise institutional funding later this year. In addition, Victor has acquired YoungJets, the Santa Barbara-based private jet charter services provider often used by rock bands on tour, as well as corporate and private equity clientele. YoungJets founder and CEO David Young will now become Victor’s senior vice president of the U.S. market. But it’s Victor’s business model which is making heads turn in the private jet world. Victor has...

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