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Written by Connie Loizos

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, which is 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.” Adds Remeika, “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. We eliminate the need to build these tools altogether, and 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 duo 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.