Friday, August 1, 2014

Report: Beats' Ian Rogers To Head Up iTunes Radio

Friday, August 1, 2014

Ian Rogers, the CEO of Beats Music, is set to head up iTunes Radio, according to a report from the WSJ Friday afternoon. The WSJ, citing "people familiar with the matter" said that Rogers will run both Beats Music and iTunes Radio, now that the acquisition is complete. Rogers is no stranger to runnning the music service of a large, public company: he was previously General Manager of Yahoo! Music, before a number of positions across the Los Angeles music startup scene.

 
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Staff Ranker: Helping Hospitality Businesses Better Manage Workers

Friday, August 1, 2014

If you run a distributed, restaurant or hospitality business, how do you manage your business? It turns out, it's not so easy. However, Redondo Beach-based StaffRanker (www.staffranker.com) has rolled out a system to help those companies better manage what is a notoriously difficult segment of the labor market, which has a lot of turnover and which just doesn't match existing, corporate performance management systems. We spoke with George Collado, CEO and founder of the company, to hear about how his own battles trying to manage a number of restaurants was the genesis of the company's product.

What does StaffRanker do?

George Collado: It's employee management software. We use a SaaS model, and we work with hospitality companies, such as hotels, restaurants, food service, and we help track employee performance in real time. It's kind of a challenge in those businesses, so that they don't even do it. It's too cumbersome, and most of the products are 360 reviews, corporate management type products, which are too expensive. We've designed a system where we track your employees in real time. What happens is multiple managers give feedback on an employee, it creates a stock chart for the employee, and they can see exactly where they are at, at any time. In an industry which has a turnover ratio of about nine months, most companies do these one year reviews which don't make any sense. So now, they can see exactly where people are at any time....

 
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Belkin Rolls Out A Smartphone Connected Crock Pot For The Modern Age

Friday, August 1, 2014

Remember the Crock-Pot, that staple of busy mothers (and garage sales) everywhere? The age-old cooking device has gotten a modern makeover, thanks to Playa Vista-based electronics and accessories manufacturer Belkin. According to Belkin and Crock-Pot, they have just rolled out a brand new, smartphone enabled Crock-Pot, which allows consumers to adjust, manage, and monitor their slow cooker using a smartphone or tablet. The new, smartphone-controlled slow cooker lets users change the cooking time, adjust the temperature, and shut off the crock pot if they want. Belkin said the product is the first from a collaboration with Jarden Consumer Solutions, the company which owns the Crock-Pot brand. The new six quarter cooker costs $129.99. The new Crock-Pot is quite an upgrade on what has--until recently--been one of the least high tech devices in any home, consisting of just a ceramic container with a heating element. Jarden also owns Mr. Coffee, Oster, Coleman, Yankee Candle, and many other brands.

 
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Cold Genesys Gets $13.57M For Bladder Cancer Treatment

Friday, August 1, 2014

Newport Beach-based Cold Genesys, a biopharmaceuticals company which is developing treatment for bladder cancer, said this week that it has raised $13.57M in a Series A funding. The funding came from Ally Bridge Group. According to the company, it is developing oncolytic immunotherapies for cancer, and is in the midst of Phase II/III trials for treating high-risk carcinoma in situ non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC). David Nokodem, Ph.D. of Ally Bridge joins the company's board; Arthur Kuan, a founding member of Ally Bridge, becomes VP of Research and Clinical Project Management at Cold Genesys.

 
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NantHealth Teams To Create Gene Sequencing Health Network

Friday, August 1, 2014

Culver City-based NantHealth, the healthcare technology company created by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, said Thursday afternoon that it has teamed up with The Chan Soon-Shiong Insitute of Molecular Medicine, and Providence Health and Services, to create a clinical, genomic network for whole genomic sequencing. According to NantHealth, the network will help provide whole genome sequencing for cancer patients, and is expected to serve 22,000 cancer patients across five western states. The three said the network involves Illumina HiSeq x Ten gene sequencing systems, coupled with NantHealth's own "transcriptomic analytic super computer" which it says can be used to analyze that genetic data. NantHealth's Soon-Shiong said the use of the super-computer is intended to help with clinical decision support to create more targeted, effective, and efficient treatments for patients.

 
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CONEXIS Acquired By WageWorks

Friday, August 1, 2014

CONEXIS a provider of employee benefits administration and human resources services, has been acquired by WageWorks, a provider of services for employers, including managing pre-tax health accounts, commuter benefits, and more. Financial terms of the all cash deal were not announced. CONEXIS has significant operation sin Orange, California. WageWorks said that CONEXIS will continue to operate out of those offices, as well as Irving, Texas. CONEXIS was formerly owned by The Word & Brown Companies. WageWorks said the buy will add $23.0 million to $25.0 million in revenue for the remainder of 2014.

 
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Key Information Systems Announces Key Cloud

Key Information Systems, a leading IT systems integrator and Premier
IBM Business Partner based in Agoura Hills, CA, announced the
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

ScoreBig Links With Hilton

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Los Angeles-based discounted sports and event ticket company ScoreBig said Thursday that it has linked up with hotel loyalty program Hilton HHonors, where members of that program will receive savings on their ticket purchases, and also earn points for spending through ScoreBig. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. ScoreBig said the move--its first, hotel loyalty program partnership--will give Hilton HHonors members savings on tickets to live events from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and college sports; music; theater programs; and other attractions. ScoreBig also has a deal with United Airlines' MileagePlus loyalty program.

 
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Hulu Updates Android App, Offers Up Free Content

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Los Angeles-based streaming television provider Hulu said this morning that it has updated its Android app, and will offer up a selection of free content on the app. The move--the first to offer free content on its mobile apps--gives access to both current and past episodes of television shows, which Hulu said would mostly mirror the Hulu.com, ad-supported site. The move is significant in that Hulu had previously required a subscription to Hulu Plus for any mobile device access via its apps. Hulu said the new app will "give users a taste" of its library--and that users can also upgrade to Hulu Plus with a "one-click" upgrade.

 
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Vakast Nabs $1.3M In Seed For Vacation Rental Search Marketplace

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Newport Beach-based Vakast, a startup aiming at the online peer-to-peer marketplace for vacation rentals, has raised $1.3M in a seed funding round, the company announced this morning. Vakast said the funding came from Chinh Chu (senior managing director, Blackstone Group) and Ken Pansuria (founder, Fine Hospitality Group), as well as Nicky Nguyen (NJ Enterprises). The company said it is offering up an online travel agency specifically focused on vacation rentals. The company said it is looking to provide an "Expedia-like" experience to access vacation rental listings across sites such as HomeAway, Wimdu, Villas of Distinction and HouseTrip. Vakast is led by Huan Truong.

 
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Privlo Gets $350M In Debt For Technology Driven Mortgage Loans

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Los Angeles-based Privlo, a technology driven startup offering up mortgage loans to consumers, said this week that it has raised $350M in a debt financing round, along with $3.8M in equity. The equity funding came from Spark Capital and QED Investors; source of the debt funding was not announced. Privlo provides private origination of residential mortgages, focused on borrowers who do not conform to traditional, government-backed loans, all run via its online platform. The company is led by Michael Slavin. The company is in the midst of moving from Culver City to Pasadena.

 
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Swagbucks Buys Sodahead

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Los Angeles-based prodege, the parent company of Swagbucks, said this morning that it has acquired Sodahead, the online polling and discussion platform founded by Jason Feffer. Financial terms of the buy were not disclosed. According to Prodege, it will acquire all of SodaHead's assets and staff from its Encino headquarters, and will move them to Swagbucks offices in El Segundo. Prodege is venture backed by Technology Crossover Ventures. Sodahead was venture backed by Mission Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures, and the Tech Coast Angels. SodaHead originally got its start as an online, consumer website providing a place to share opinions and polls, but later shifted to focus instead on offering up polling widgets being used on sites owned by media outlets like ESPN, FOX News, ABC News, Good Morning America, and others.

 
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Report: Apple Cutting Beats Staff

Thursday, July 31, 2014

It looks like Apple Computer is in the midst of pruning away staff over at Santa Monica-based Beats, two months after it acquired both Beats Electronics and Beats Music for $3 billion. According to a report from Mac industry publication 9to4mac, Apple executives are in Santa Monica, sorting out which Beats employees will or will not be working for Apple. Apparently, Apple is moving many employees to Cupertino, although it will continue to operate out of Beats' Santa Monica offices.

 
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Insights: Amidst Change is a Constant: Life is Still Two-Way

Thursday, July 31, 2014

For today's Insights and Opinions section, we share an essay from Sally Falkow, founder and president of Meritus Media, a digital public relations and social media agency based in the Los Angeles-area.





Social media. Wherever you go, you see and hear about it.


But it was not that way 20 years ago. In fact, 20 years ago, it did not even exist. If you were transported back two decades to 1994 and described today’s world to a group of people, they would have said that you were crazy.


Who could have imagined a technology available on various platforms that enables people to engage online with others about products, services, programs, and issues of mutual interest and concern? (More...)



Read the rest of Sally's article, Social Media: Amidst Change is a Constant: Life is Still Two-Way.


Have something useful or insightful to share to Southern California's technology and startup community? Let us know!

 
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Invoca Trumpets Sales Figures

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Santa Barbara-based call marketing automation software developer Invoca, which is led by Jason Spievak, said yesterday that its systems have converted $2.5 billion in sales for its customers since the company was founded. Invoca said that $1.7 billion of those sales came in the last 12 months. Invoca did not say what that translates to in terms of the company's revenues, however, said it has seed revenue growth of more than 1200 percent over the past three years. Invoca's systems are used for inbound, call marketing automation, click-to-call, and other efforts. Invoca said it now has more than 100 employees.

 
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BlackLine Reports 60 Percent Rise In Revenues

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Los Angeles-based financial software developer BlackLine Systems, which develops financial close automation software, reported yesterday that its revenues were up nearly 60 percent in the second quarter of 2014, compared to the prior year. The company--whose software is used by companies to speed up preparation of their quarterly reports--did not report any actual revenue numbers. BlackLine said it signed up such new clients as the Boston Globe, JetBlue, Keurig Green Mountain, Thales Australia, and many others. BlackLine says it now has more than 880 clients around the world. The company is led by Therese Tucker.

 
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Portfolium Raises $900,000 In Seed Funding

Thursday, July 31, 2014

San Diego-based Portfolium, a startup developing an online platform to share a students' academic portfolio, has raised $900,000 in a seed funding, according to startup incubator EvoNexus. The funding came from the Tech Coast Angels, Taner Halicioglu of Keshif Ventures, and others. Portfolium is based in EvoNexus, which said this newest funding brings the total raised by its startups to $573M. Portfolium was also part of EvoStart, the early stage accelerator run by EvoNexus.

 
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Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP Expands Santa Monica Office

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cie Games Acquired By Glu Mobile For $100M

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Long Beach-based Cie Games, the maker of the social and mobile game Car Town and Racing Rivals, has been acquired by Glu Mobile, the two said Wednesday afternoon, in a deal worth $100M. Glu Mobile said it would pay $30M in cash and $70M in stock for Cie Games, whose games are popular on both iOS and Android. Cie Games released Racing Rivals back in August of last year. Glu Cames said the move will bring both a high quality studio talent and a profitable operating business to the company.

 
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3D Robotics Buys Sifteo

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

3D Robotics, the developer of personal drone and unmanned aerial vehicles headed by former Wired editor Chris Anderson, has acquired Sifteo, a developer of embedded computing products. Financial terms of the buy were not disclosed. Sifteo had initially been aiming its technology at the toy market, and was based on research out of MIT. Sifteo was venture backed by True Ventures and Foundry Group; 3D Robotics is venture backed by Mayfield. 3D Robotics has its engineering facilities in San Diego.

 
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Report: Snapchat In Funding Talks With Alibaba

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Venice-based Snapchat is reportedly in talks with Alibaba for more funding, in a deal which values Snapchat at $10 billion. The report, from Bloomberg, did not say how much Snapchat is looking to raise from Alibaba. Bloomberg cited "people with knowledge of the situation." Neither of the companies have commented on the rumors.

 
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SoCal BitCoin Angel Brock Pierce Leads Investment In ZipZap

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Brock Pierce, the Southern California angel investor who is one of the most active proponents and investors in Bitcoin and its startups, has made another investment in the space, leading an AngelList syndicate funding of ZipZap. ZipZap operates an online, global transaction network focused on letting consumers buy, sell, and use digital currency like Bitcoin. ZipZap said it raised $1.1M in the funding, bringing its total funding to $2.7M. The funding included Pierce's AngelList syndicate, 500 Startups, and Blumberg Capital. Pierce is a prolific investor in the digital currency area, and also has invested or is a founder of such companies as Openbucks, GoCoin, ChangeCoin, Bitco, Expresscoin, and other companies.

 
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Karlin, A-Grade Get Exit At Gyft

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Two, Southern California venture capital investors---A-Grade Investments, the investment company run by Ashton Kutcher, and Karlin Ventures, which is managed by TX Zhou--have scored what looks like a nice exit over at Gyft, a mobile gift card service. Credit card processing giant First Data said this morning that it has acquired Gyft, to help bolster its mobile wallet and gift card efforts. Financial details of the buy were not disclosed. Gyft's shareholders also included Social+Capital Partnership, Haas Portman and David O. Sacks. First Data said the buy will allow its current customers to access a new and growing distribution channel. Gyft was based in San Francisco. A-Grade Investments, Karlin Ventures, and Gyft's other investors invested $5M in a Series A back in September, less than a year ago.

 
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Beyond Meat Gets Series D

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

El Segundo-based Beyond Meat, a developer of plant-based, meat alternatives that look like chicken, beef strips, and ground beef, has raised a Series D funding round, according to the company. The funding came from DNS Capital (family office of Gigi Pritzker Pucker and Michael Pucker), WIT Investment (Taiwan's Tsai family office), S2G Ventures, as well as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, The Obvious Corporation (Evan Williams and Biz Stone), Bill Gates, Morgan Creek Capital and Seth Goldman (founder of Honest Tea). The company said the funds will go towards both marketing and manufacturing efforts.

 
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AmazonFresh Expands To San Diego

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

AmazonFresh, the online grocery and product delivery service run by e-commerce giant Amazon.com, expanded into San Diego yesterday, as the company starts to expand operations nationwide. The service--which has been available in Los Angeles since last year, and also operates in Seattle and San Francisco--offers up same day deliveries of everything from grocery products to consumer electronics and books.

 
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XIFIN Acquired By GTCR

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

San Diego-based XIFIN, a developer of cloud-based software for the healthcare diagnostics market, has been acquired by private equity investor GTCR. Financial terms of the buy were not disclosed. GTCR said that founder and CEO Lale White will continue to lead the company. XIFIN supplies its software in the molecular diagnostics, pain management/toxicology, anatomic pathology, radiology, hospital outreach, medical device and clinical laboratory markets. GTCR said the investment came from its $3.85 billion GTCR Fund XI, with additional funding provided by GE Capital and CapitalSource. GTCR was advised by Kirkland & Ellis LLP in the deal. XIFIN's backers include Boulder Ventures, Enterprise Partners, and Windward Ventures.

 
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Qualcomm Buys EmpoweredU For Mobile Learning Technology

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

San Diego-based Qualcomm is expanding its efforts in the education sector today, saying that it has acquired EmpoweredU, a developer of mobile learning technology for the K-20 market. Financial terms of the buy were not disclosed. EmpoweredU was headed by Steve Poizner, who has been very active in California's Charter School movement. Qualcomm said the move would help it accelerate mobile innovation and help provide 24/7 access in education with its mobile tools. EmpoweredU's flagship customer has been UCLA, letting around 1,000 UCLA faculty and students access course materials on their mobile phones and tablets.

 
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O Labs Launched To Incubate, Accelerate Enterprise Software In LA

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

O-Labs, new Los Angeles-based accelerator/incuabtor has launched today, create as joint venture of Originate, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP and ICM Partners. According to the three, they have created O Labs as an independent company specifically to create, grow, and operate portfolio companies focused on helping large and growing enterprises. The company said it will launch three to five companies per year, and leverage the legal expertise and business consulting from Manatt, Phelps & Philips, and the marketing, sales, and branding experts at ICM. The new company is led by Matthew Pierce, and will be managed by an "investment committee" from the respective companies. O Labs said its first portfolio company is Versus, which is developing a platform for legal, real-money video game tournaments. The company's investment committee includes Manatt's Hale Boggs, Keyvan Peymani of ICM, and Jeff Scheinrock of Originate. Sarah Chambless of Manatt is an advisor.

 
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Epic Sciences Raises $30M For Cancer Diagnostics

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

San Diego-based Epic Sciences, a biotech startup focusing on diagnostics for treatment and management of cancer, has raised $30M in a Series C funding. The funding came from RusnanoMedInvest (RMI) and Arcus Ventures, plus Domain Associates, Roche Venture Fund, and Pfizer Venture Investments, as well as angels. According to the company, the financing will go towards commercialization efforts. The company said its technology focuses on tracking the proteomic and genomic changes that occur over time during the treatment of a patient's cancer, from a minimally invasive liquid biopsy.

 
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j2 Global Buys Contactology

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Los Angeles-based j2 Global said this morning that it has acquired Contactology, a provider of email marketing services. Financial terms of the buy were not disclosed. j2 Global said the move would help expand its business cloud services division. Contactology was based in Durham, North Carolina. j2 Global said the financial impact is not expected to be material to the company. j2 Global--which owns a vast number of business cloud-based services in the area of Internet fax, virtual phone, email, email marketing, online backup, and more--said it would "tuck in" the new acquisition into its existing portfolio, by migrating Contactology customer's to its existing Campaigner platform and service. j2 Global, in addition to its cloud businesses, also owns Ziff Davis, PCMag.com, IGN.com, and other online publications.

 
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Pfenex Closes IPO

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

San Diego-based biotechnology company Pfenex said Tuesday that it has closed its initial public offering, where the company sold 8,333,333 shares of its stock at $6.00 per share. The company is now trading on the NYSE as PFNX. Pfenex closed down at $5.62 on Tuesday. The IPO was run by William Blair & Company, L.L.C. and JMP Securities LLC, along with Mizuho Securities USA Inc. Pfenex is a spinout of Dow Chemical, and is aiming its lead product at potential treatment of patients with retinal diseases.

 
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ViaSat Buys Gray Labs

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Carlsbad-based satellite and wireless networking developer ViaSat said earlier this week that it has acquired the assets of Gray Labs, a developer of high rate modem products and custom spacecraft technologies for earth observation. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Gray Labs was based in Duluth Georgia. According to ViaSat, it will continue to support Gray Labs products and customers from Georgia. ViaSat said the move would help it expand its high-speed satellite data communication technology.

 
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McKean Defense In San Diego Expansion

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

McKean Defense Group, a Philadelphia-based provider of services to the Navy, said it is expanding its facilities in San Diego. According to McKean, it is expanding its San Diego operations and relocating to a larger facility in the city. Number of new job positions at the location were not announced. The company said the new facility is colocated with Cabrillo Technologies, which is a McKean subsidiary.

 
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Key Information Systems Announces Key Cloud

Key Information Systems, a leading IT systems integrator and Premier
IBM Business Partner based in Agoura Hills, CA, announced the
availability of Key Cloud for users of cloud computing services.

Key's new cloud services are offered in conjunction with colocation,
managed services and Internet connectivity offerings.

To learn more about the Key Cloud, visit the Key Info website or
contact Pete Elliot at Key Information Systems, Inc., 30077 Agoura
Court, First Floor, Agoura Hills, CA 91301, USA, email
pelliot@keyinfo.com or call 1.818.737.2804.

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Fetch Recruiting, Inc.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Amgen To Cut Nearly 3,000

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thousand Oaks-based biotechnology giant Amgen said Tuesday that it plans to cut 2,400 to 2,900 staff, including at its headquarters location, and will also close facilities in both Washington and Colorado. According to Amgen, the move is part of a restructuring plan to improve its cost structure. As part of the move, Amgen said it will also consolidate staff into less buildings in the Thousand Oaks area. Amgen said the moves would result in an approximately 23 percent reduction in its facilities footprint. Amgen expects to reduce operating expenses by approximately $700M in 2016. Amgen did not say how many of its staff in Thousand Oaks would be cut.

 
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Fisker Automotive Bankruptcy Plan Okayed

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Costa Mesa-based company once known as Fisker Automotive--now known as FA Liquidating Corp. and FAH Liquidating Corp.--has received court approval of its Chapter 11 plan. According to the companies, the company received approval from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware on Monday to sell itself to Chinese company Wanxiang Group Corp., for $149.2M. Fisker had filed for bankruptcy protection back in November of 2013. Fisker had raised more than $1.4 billion in the process of developing its electric vehicles.

 
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Kixer Raises $1M In Seed Funding To Connect App Makers, Publishers

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Los Angeles-based Kixer, which was founded by Keith Bonnici, Jake Moilanen, and Omar Nicola, has raised $1M in a seed funding, for the company's native advertising platform. Kixer develops a native advertising platform which helps mobile app developers reach users via online publishers. B The funding came from TenOne Ten Ventures, Lowercase Capital, as well as angels, including Clark Landry and other local investors. Bonnici was previously SVP Operations at Scopely. According to Boonici, the company is helping app developers find new customers, and helping traditional, online publishers better monetize their mobile visitors.

 
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PaxVax Finds $62M For Vaccine Efforts

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

PaxVax, a biopharmaceuticals company developing vaccines for infectious disease, has raised $62M in a funding round. The funding included $50M in secured debt from Pharmakon Advisors, and $12M in a Series B extension round. The company is backed by Ignition Ventures, Ignition Growth Capital and the Blue Haven Initiative. According to PaxVax, the new equity funding brings its total to $80M in equity raised by the company. The new funding goes towards the acquisition of an FDA-approved oral typhoid vaccine, plus further clinical development efforts. PaxVax has its research, development, and manufacturing facilities in San Diego, although it is based in Redwood City.

 
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