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A16z is now managing $16.5 billion, after announcing two new funds

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Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) has closed a pair of funds totaling $4.5 billion, the firm confirmed in a blog post this morning. The firm has raised $1.3 billion for an early-stage fund focused on consumer, enterprise, and fintech; and closed a $3.2 billion growth-stage fund for later-stage investments. The firm did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The funds may seem somewhat typical, given the size of new funds that venture firms have been raising in recent years, Still, these are extraordinary amounts given that a16z, with offices in Menlo Park and San Francisco, was founded just 11 years ago.

As extraordinary, they bring the firm’s total assets under management to $16.5 billion.

It was just 20 months ago that a16z closed its most recent pair of funds — a $2 billion late-stage fund, and a $740 million flagship early-stage fund.

It also announced a separate, $515 million crypto-focused fund back in April of this year, its second such vehicle. And, in February, it rolled out its third biotech and healthcare investing fund, which closed with $750 million in capital commitments.

That’s a lot of capital to capture in one year. Then again, its limited partners have had reason to feel cautiously optimistic about its portfolio. In January, for example, the fintech company Plaid, whose Series C round a16z joined in late 2018, was acquired by Visa for a hefty $5.3 billion after raising roughly $310 million altogether.

The Justice Department recently sued to block the deal on antitrust grounds, but even if it’s unwound, industry observers like Plaid’s prospects.

The firm is also an investor in the soon-to-be-publicly traded accommodations marketplace Airbnb, though notably, according to Airbnb’s S-1, a16z does not own enough of the company to be listed on the filing, despite that it led the company’s Series B round in 2011 and despite that general partner Jeff Jordan sits on the company’s board and would need to list any ownership position as a result.

We’ve asked if it sold part of its stake, possibly earlier this year. We’re still awaiting word back.

Another of a16z’s portfolio companies, the pay-as-you-go lending company Affirm, has also filed to go public. Andreessen Horowitz first participated in the company’s Series B round back in 2015. It is also not listed on Affirm’s S-1 filing, meaning it owns less than 5% of the company.

The firm is also an investor in the game company Roblox, whose $150 million Series G round it led earlier this year. Roblox made its S-1 public just earlier this week; a16z is not listed on it.

Its biggest win to date may well be Github, which sold to Microsoft in a $7.5 billion all-stock deal in 2018 and from which a16z reportedly pocketed more than $1 billion. When it invested in the company, it wrote the biggest check it had issued at the time: $100 million. The deal was enough for a16z to win the deal against some tough competition, including Benchmark, whose general partner, Peter Fenton, has said was also trying to woo Github at the time,

On the early-stage side, the firm is often characterized by its flashy deals, including its $100 million valuation of voice-chat app Clubhouse and $75 million valuation of Y Combinator graduate Trove.

 

A16z also recently launched a TxO accelerator, which uses a donor-advised fund to invest in underrepresented founders. Led by a16z partner Nait Jones, TxO has invested $100,000 each in an initial cohort of seven companies in exchange for 7% of ownership stake.

The donor-advised fund launched with $2.2 million in initial commitments, with Ben and Felicia Horowitz announcing that they would match up to $5 million. Any returns from companies in the fund will be repurposed into the investment vehicle. The firm has declined to share the fund’s total size to date.

Currently, a16z employs 185 people, most recently hiring Anthony Albanese, the chief regulatory officer at the New York Stock Exchange, as an operating partner for its cryptocurrency team.

 

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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AutoX becomes China’s first to remove safety drivers from robotaxis

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Residents of Shenzhen will see truly driverless cars on the road starting Thursday. AutoX, a four-year-old startup backed by Alibaba, MediaTek and Shanghai Motors, is deploying a fleet of 25 unmanned vehicles in downtown Shenzhen, marking the first time any autonomous driving car in China tests without safety drivers or remote operators on public roads.

The cars, meant as robotaxis, are not yet open to the public, an AutoX spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The milestone came just five months after AutoX landed a permit from California to start driverless tests, following in the footsteps of Waymo and Nuro.

It also indicates that China wants to bring its smart driving industry on par with the U.S. Cities from Shenzhen to Shanghai are competing to attract autonomous driving upstarts by clearing regulatory hurdles, touting subsidies and putting up 5G infrastructure.

As a result, each city ends up with its own poster child in the space: AutoX and Deeproute.ai in Shenzhen, Pony.ai and WeRide in Guangzhou, Momenta in Suzhou, Baidu’s Apollo fleet in Beijing, to name a few. The autonomous driving companies, in turn, work closely with traditional carmakers to make their vehicles smarter and more suitable for future transportation.

“We have obtained support from the local government. Shenzhen is making a lot of rapid progress on legislation for self-driving cars,” said the AutoX representative.

The decision to remove drivers from the front and operators from a remote center appears a bold move in one of China’s most populated cities. AutoX equips its vehicles with its proprietary vehicle control unit called XCU, which it claims has faster processing speed and more computational capability to handle the complex road scenarios in China’s cities.

“[The XCU] provides multiple layers of redundancy to handle this kind of situation,” said AutoX when asked how its vehicles will respond should the machines ever go rogue.

The company also stressed the experience it learned from “millions of miles” driven in China’s densest city centers through its 100 robotaxis in the past few years. Its rivals are also aggressively accumulating mileage to train their self-driving algorithms while banking sizable investments to fund R&D and pilot tests. AutoX itself, for instance, has raised more than $160 million to date.

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Google faces complaint from NLRB alleging surveillance of employees and other labor violations

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The National Labor Relations Board today issued a complaint against Google after investigating the firing of several employees last November. The complaint alleges Google violated parts of the National Labor Relations Act by surveilling employees, and generally interfered with, restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.

The NLRB also alleges Google discouraged “its employees from forming, joining, assisting a union or engaging in other protected, concerted activities,” the complaint states.

“This complaint makes clear that workers have the right to speak to issues of ethical business and the composition of management,” Laurence Berland, one of the fired Google employees, said in a statement. “This is a significant finding at a time when we’re seeing the power of a handful of tech billionaires consolidate control over our lives and our society. Workers have the right to speak out about and organize, as the NLRB is affirming, but we also know that we should not, and cannot, cleave off ethical concerns about the role management wants to play in that society.”

Ex-Googlers Berland and Kathryn Spiers previously filed a federal complaint with the NLRB arguing Google fired them for organizing, which is a protected activity. They had organized around a variety of topics, including Google’s treatment of its temporary, vendor and contractor workers, Google’s alleged retaliation against employees who organized, the company’s work with Customs and Border Protection and more.

Additionally, in November 2019, Google put Rebecca Rivers and Berland on leave for allegedly violating company policies. At the time, Google said one had searched for and shared confidential documents that were not pertinent to their job, and one had looked at the individual calendars of some staffers. Following a protest in support of the two, Rivers, Berland, Duke and Waldman were fired.

“Google has always worked to support a culture of internal discussion, and we place immense trust in our employees,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Of course employees have protected labor rights that we strongly support, but we have always taken information security very seriously. We’re confident in our decision and legal position. Actions undertaken by the employees at issue were a serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trusted responsibility.”

This comes shortly after the NLRB issued a formal complaint against Google contractor HCL, alleging the company repeatedly violated the rights of unionized workers. Moving forward, Berland and Spiers are hoping the NLRB prosecutes the case against Google and seeks reinstatement and damages for them. But the next step is for the complaint to head to the desk of an administrative judge.

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Neuroglee gets $2.3 million to develop digital therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases

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There are now about 50 million people with dementia globally, a number the World Health Organization expects to triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia and caregivers are often overwhelmed, without enough support.

Neuroglee, a Singapore-based health tech startup, wants to help with a digital therapeutic platform created to treat patients in the early stages of the disease. Founded this year to focus on neurodegenerative diseases, Neuroglee announced today it has raised $2.3 million in pre-seed funding.

The round was led by Eisai Co., one of Japan’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and Kuldeep Singh Rajput, the founder and chief executive officer of predictive healthcare startup Biofourmis.

Neuroglee’s prescription digital therapy software for Alzheimer’s, called NG-001, is its main product. The company plans to start clinical trials next year. NG-001 is meant to complement medication and other treatments, and once it is prescribed by a clinician, patients can access its cognitive exercises and tasks through a tablet.

Neuroglee founder and CEO Aniket Singh Rajput (brother of Kuldeep) told TechCrunch that its first target markets for NG-001 are the United States and Singapore, followed by Japan. NG-001 needs to gain regulatory approval in each country, and it will start by seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance.

Once it launches, clinicians will have two ways to prescribe NG-001, through their healthcare provider platform or an electronic prescription tool. A platform called Neuroglee Connect will give clinicians, caregivers and patients access to support and features for reimbursement and coverage.

The software tracks patients’ progress, such as the speed of their fingers and the time it takes to complete an exercise, and delivers personalized treatment programs. It also has features to address the mental health of patients, including one that shows images that can bring up positive memories, which in turn can help alleviate depression and anxiety when used in tandem with other cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

For caregivers and clinicians, NG-001 helps them track patient progress and their compliance with other treatments, like medications. This means that healthcare providers can work closely with patients even remotely, which is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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