Archive for December, 2020

Union Square Ventures and Learn Capital file paperwork indicating new funds

As 2020 comes to a long-awaited end, a series of filings indicate that venture capitalists are ending the year with fresh money. According to SEC paperwork, Learn Capital and USV have filed paperwork that shows the firms have raised new, multimillion-dollar funds. If you’ve been paying attention to news this past year, it’s clear that much of venture capital isn’t just surviving 2020 – it’s flourishing through it. Zoom investing, it seems, is working just fine for cash-rich firms looking to double down on bets in categories from edtech to climate. First up, New York-based USV submitted a pair of filings on late Thursday. The first filing shows that the firm has closed $151 million for USV Climate 2021, which one can assume is focused on climate-tech investments. As my colleague Jonathan Shieber has pointed out, climate tech. The other, more nebulous filing, is the firm’s $22.4 million investment vehicle titled USV Bundled. It’s unclear what this is focused on, but a recent blog post suggests that the firm will continue to double down on its education investments. Speaking of edtech, Learn Capital, an education-focused venture capital fund, filed paperwork indicating that it has closed $132 million in capital. It plans to raise a total of $250 million for this fund, which will be the firm’s fourth investment vehicle to date. The edtech category has obviously been booming with interest, which also fueled Owl Ventures to close $585 million in new capital in September. Finally, I’ll give an honorable mention to Lattice CEO Jack Altman’s New Years Eve filing, which shows that the executive plans to raise $20 million for a new fund. It’s unclear if this filing indicates Apollo’s next step, a venture fund started by the Altman brothers. The trio, beyond Jack, includes Max and Sam, the former president of Y Combinator who currently serves as the CEO of OpenAI. I reached out for comment to all three entities, but (unsurprisingly) haven’t heard back. It’s New Year’s Eve after all. So for now, back to the Champagne. See you all in the New Year.

Bose’s latest sleep-centric earbuds mostly do the trick

It’s been a strange year for sleep. For me, levels have fluctuated between too little and too much, but have – more often than not – tended toward the former. 2020 gave most of us no shortage of excuses for sleep deprivation, from personal stresses to larger societal concerns. And, thankfully, the past few years have seen no shortage of technological solutions to the problem of sleeplessness. Of course, the underpinning issues can be hard to isolate and even harder to treat. There’s no silver bullet. That’s the lesson I keep relearning at this job – no single piece of technology is going to cure all of my ills. (I’m sure it’s nothing that years of extensive and expensive therapy can’t fix.) Sleep headphones are, in and of themselves, not an entirely new phenomenon. Bose got into the space in earnest back in mid-2018, offering one of the more polished (and pricey) approaches to the category. The company went in an entirely different direction than, say, Kokoon, which offers an over-ear solution. The Sleepbuds are – as the name suggests – fully wireless earbuds. This second generation allows Bose to address some of the bigger issues with the original – include some major battery complaints. That was a pretty big strike against a $250 pair of headphones with, quite literally, one job. Bose gets into the business of sleep The battery and connections complaints, I can state, off the bat, seem to have been addressed. The units I’ve been wearing to sleep off and on for a few weeks now haven’t had any major connection issues to speak of (assuming you keep your phone near your bed and all that entails), and the battery generally gets me through a full night bit a bit under 20% remaining. After you wake up, you toss them in the case and let them charge for the next several hours. Image Credits: Bose All told, the build is solid, as you’d expect/hope from the company name and accompanying price point. I really dig the design of these things, overall, from the illuminating metal charging case with its sliding lid to the earbuds themselves. As someone who finds the slightest irritants a major hurdle to falling asleep, I was pleasantly surprised by how unobtrusive the buds are. They slip on comfortably and stay flush with the ear, so nothing gets snagged. The soft and rubbery wings also do a great job keeping them in place. The buds biggest limitation is actually by design. Like the originals, the Sleepbuds II only work with the included app. This is used to pair them, locate them and offers Bose’s library of music. The company generally does a good job curating its own sleep sounds, ranging from nature sounds like rain and wind to self-selected ambient tracks. I got in the habit of listening to the sounds of the ocean while reading Moby Dick each night. A pretty good way to fall asleep, all told. I appreciate the decision […]