On the Bleeding Edge: VCJ’s new reporter, CRV’s Zachary, IVP’s spring party, ‘Silicon Valley’ and more VC talk in three-dot fashion

Great news to share at VCJ. We hired Kaitlyn Landgraf Bartley as a reporter. And her first day is today, May 1. Bartley is a San Francisco resident and a graduate of Yale and Stanford. She has a data-journalism background, so we’re excited to see her take on the challenge of covering venture-related stats. She comes to us from her current gig, reporting on education and local politics for the Half Moon Bay Review. So she should feel right at home when we return to the Ritz-Carlton for our West conference in October.

Kaitlyn asked what books she should read to learn more about the VC beat. I suggested “eBoys.” My colleague Mark Boslet sent her a copy of “Venture Deals” by Foundry Group’s Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. Recommend a book to Kaitlyn or just introduce yourself and touch base with her about venture capital (scoops always welcome). She’s at kbartley@buyoutsinsider.com.

In April I was at CRV’s open house at its Palo Alto locale. It features a much better, more entrepreneur-friendly vibe than their former Menlo Park office. While there, I reconnected with General Partner George Zachary. He’s known for his consumer-facing deals, having backed Yammer, which Microsoft bought for $1.2 billion, and Ev Williams‘ podcasting service Odeo, which morphed into Twitter. Zachary, 52, said he’s feeling great, but prompted by a recent health scare, he has shifted his focus to bioengineering. This explains the firm’s recent investment in Freenome, which in March raised $64 million in Series A funding.

Consumer apps and chatbots are fun and nice. But I asked George why more VCs didn’t invest in life-saving technologies. “Because it takes too long for the companies to mature,” he said. Sad but true. You can read more of his insights about bioengineering in a recent Medium blog post. And you can expect more such deals from CRV soon.

So how best to explain Yik Yak? The company raised about $72 million from Sequoia Capital, DCM Ventures and others. Last week, reports said the payments company Square will scoop up Yik Yak’s engineering team for $3 million. I’ve never been a fan of anonymous apps like Yik Yak and Secret and the cynicism they foster. And I’m not alone. A VC on my social feed last week wrote in regards to Yik Yak’s end: “Frankly, they deserved it, given they were spreading negativity.”

Another VC-backed company feeling the heat is Juicero after Bloomberg reported that its juice packs, which are intended to be used in its $399 juicer, could be squeezed by hand in a glass. No expensive machinery required. I have a lot of respect for the partners at Artis Ventures. Always fun to talk with them. And they had great returns investing in YouTube and Stemcentrx. They also led Juicero’s Series B. I have always thought, however, that the juicer, which initially was priced at $699, was way too expensive for the average consumer.

ICYMI, Ben Einstein, from the hardware-focused venture investor Bolt, disassembled a Juicero press and described it as an “incredibly complicated piece of engineering. Of the hundreds of consumer products I’ve taken apart over the years, this is easily among the top 5% on the complexity scale.” But he also found that “it’s clear that cost savings was not anywhere near a top priority for Juicero when designing this product (or if it was, something went horribly wrong).” Einstein explains what he sees in the Juicero as he peals it apart like a banana. I have several other tech devices I would love to send to Ben to deconstruct.

Speaking of design, many VC firms in recent years have hired in-house designers to help startups in their portfolios. Last week, Foundation Capital General Partner Steve Vassallo unveiled “The Way to Design,” a guide to design in tech. You can read more and download the PDF at https://thewaytodesign.com/

What is it with VCs and food? I admit I’m not a fan of juicing, even though I’m a vegan. And I definitely do not subscribe to the products made by VC-backed Bulletproof Coffee and Soylent. Christina Farr wrote an interesting piece about VCs and the latest food fad of increasing one’s fat intake, including a venture-backed company hoping to reverse type 2 diabetes with “nutritional ketosis.” You can read more on CNBC at http://cnb.cx/2qh2r6C.

I always say that the start of summer, at least as far as VC parties are concerned, kicks off with IVP’s annual spring party, which was held last week at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Thankfully, after months of rain, it truly felt like spring in the city. As for what IVP partygoers had on top of their minds last week: I heard a lot about IPOs and the drop in funding rounds. What did you hear? Email me at agoldfisher@buyoutsinsider.com.

Until a week ago, I was likely one of only a few people in Silicon Valley who had not seen the HBO show “Silicon Valley.” I prefer the dystopian “Mr. Robot.” With its fourth season starting on April 23, I binge-watched the first three seasons of “Silicon Valley.” The comedian/actors are funny to watch, and I recognized locations in scenes, like the Rosewood Sand Hill and Joya Restaurant. But it feels a lot like how Silicon Valley is viewed by those outside this region.

Watching “Silicon Valley,” I can’t help but pick it apart. No, I don’t believe the main investor wouldn’t replace the CEO founder like this in such a young company and then ultimately return that person back to the CEO chair, but it makes for a compelling story. Yes, people really swear a lot. No, not everyone here is on the autism spectrum. Yes, tech company offices are really stocked with a lot of freebies. The show wants to hold a mirror to Silicon Valley, but I can’t decide whether its goal is to highlight the region’s sexist bro-culture and sometimes messed up way of operating startups or simply to perpetuate the stereotypes.

And yes, I watched the show last night and will watch every Sunday.

Photo of VCJ Editor Alastair Goldfisher for VCJ