Photo courtesy of TheUglySweaterShop

Above: Photo courtesy of TheUglySweaterShop

Image Credit: TheUglySweaterShop

Tonight is the VentureBeat holiday party in San Francisco. Granted, it is not an ugly sweater party, but as those are my favorite type of holiday parties, I have decided to go ahead and don an ugly sweater for the occasion. This has very little to do with funding, beyond the fact that it is my next stop after publishing this evening. And I wanted an excuse to post the above picture.

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Former CEO of Vibram USA starts his own minimalist footwear brand

Tony Post, the former president and CEO of Vibram, has left to start his own company. This new endeavor is called Topo Athletic and backed by $5 million from Norwest Venture Partners. Topo will also manufacture minimalist footwear, although it will target runners and functional fitness trainers (like Cross-Fit). Like Vibrams, the shoes work with your body’s biomechanics to “amplify” rather than “modify” the way you train. Topo’s will debut its first products in January. Read more on VentureBeat.

Costanoa Venture Capital lifts the veil off its $100M cloud and ‘big data’ fund

Storied investor Greg Sands (previously of Sutter Hill Ventures) has struck out on his own and successfully raised a first fund for his Silicon Valley-based venture firm Costanoa Venture Capital. The $100 million fund will be dedicated to early-stage startups; each will receive an investment of $500,000 to $3 million. Specifically, the firm will invest in cloud-based applications and infrastructure, social and mobile opportunities in the enterprise, and “big data” technologies that can aggregate and curate vast volumes of a company’s data. Costanoa has made 10 investments to date: DatalogixDemandBaseGuardian AnalyticsInflectionIntacctiSocketLex MachinaLinkSmartReturn Path, and Risk I/O. Read more on VentureBeat.

Photo service SnapChat may be raising $8M from Instagram backer

SnapChat could be raising a fresh round of funding from one of the same investors that helped Instagram get started, reports Gigaom. The popular social photo sharing service for iOS and Android enables people to share a photo with another person or group of people who can only be viewed for a very short time (a few seconds). The person you send that photo responds with one of their own, which is also only available for a few seconds — hence the name “SnapChat.” The report indicates that SnapChat is seeking $8 million, at a $50 million valuation. The money is said to be coming from Benchmark Capital’s Matt Cohler, who also previously backed Instagram. We’re reaching out to Benchmark and SnapChat for a comment about the funding. And as always, we’ll updated this post with any new information. Read more on VentureBeat.

Trustpilot flies into € 10 million 

Trustpilot is a forum where customers can post reviews of their online shopping experiences. Users can share their information on site design, customer support, delivery, reliability, discount options, inventory and more. Trustpilot was founded in 2007 in Denmark and has since added 6 million reviews covering more than 100,000 merchants. It is active in 18 countries, primarily in Europe, and this investment will fuel US and global expansion. The round was led by Index Ventures, with participation from existing investors SEED Capital Denmark and Northzone.

Green Plug plugs into a fresh jolt of funding

Greenplug, a company that makes programmable power controllers, has closed its third round of funding. Green Plug enables manufactures of consumer electronics to transition from traditional analog-controlled power adapters to digitally controlled systems. This technology optimizes electrical power charing to make it more environmentally friendly. According to a statement, “price sensitivity” is a barrier to the adoption of this technology, and this investment will help advance the “state of the art and the state of the market.” Imagination Technologies Group led the round, and Herald Ventures and Killik & Co participated. The amount was not disclosed. Green Plug participated in DEMO 2008 and raised its Series B in 2010. Read more on VentureBeat.

Easy, breezy, Plizy 

Plizy has raised $4 million for its “media center in the cloud.” It aggregates videos, movies, and shows from around the web for users’ viewing and sharing pleasure. The company claims to have more than 100 million videos in its database. When users click on a video, they are redirected to the original source. However, on Plizy, they can discover new content, rate the videos, and get recommendations based on their friends and interests. The 2.0 version launched in November along with an iPad app. With this $4 million from Atlas Ventures, Plizy will continue to add users and aggregate content from other providers, and build out it platform to Androird and iOS. Read more on VentureBeat.

Video network Koozoo puts a friendlier, crowd-sourced spin on Big Brother

Koozoo is a platform that crowd-sources live video from public places to create a continuously broadcasting network. Members of the community can post and watch user-generated video feeds from places ranging from cafes to world landmarks. The platform is currently in closed beta testing in San Francisco and plans to launch in early 2013. It raised a $2.5 million seed round led by New Enterprise Associates and Tugboat Ventures, as well as angel investors, to prepare the platform for mainstream adoption. Read more on VentureBeat.

VMware competitor CloudVelocity gets $5M to migrate apps to public clouds  

Silicon Valley-based CloudVelocity has emerged from stealth mode with $5 million in investment, and a technology that aims to remove the barriers of adoption to public clouds. The company makes it easier for enterprise customers to migrate business applications that are stored on-premise to any public cloud whether it’s Rackspace, Windows Azure or Amazon Web Services. The core innovation is that companies can essentially rent infrastructure from a public cloud, but make it look like their own data center. CloudVelocity also offers cloud cloning. This round was led by Mayfield Fund. Read more on VentureBeat.

Jibe raises $8.3M to build rich, real-time communications for games and apps

Jibe Mobile has built a network to address the lag in transferring data from one smartphone to another and deliver rich communications (such as video chat), real-time games, and other innovations on mobile devices. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is announcing today that it has raised $8.3 million from Vodafone Ventures, the U.S. investment arm of Vodafone Group, as well as Tokyo-based game creator MTI. The investment will help the company create its open technology platform that marries advanced telecommunications with smartphones and tablets. Read more on VentureBeat.

Life in the fast lane

Russian venture capital firm Fastlane Ventures struck a deal with Kenges Rakishev, a well-known businessman and investor from Kazakhstan, to add $13 million into its fund. Fastlane Ventures invests in promising internet companies in the Russian market. Since its founding in 2010, it has raised about $100 million. Rakishev will join Fastlane’s board along with other strategic investment partners VTB Capital, Direct Group, and Fastlane has about 20 companies in its portfolio, two which have been acquired. Read the press release. 

Russian payments startup gets payday of its own

Square’s Russian compatriot Life-Pay secured $2.6 million from Life.Sreda, according to the tech blog Life-Pay is developing a smartphone-based bank card payment system and plans to launch its first product in Russia at the end of the month. The investing group is the venture arm of Russian financial conglomerate Life, which is comprised of eight banks. Life established a $10 million fund a few months ago and Life-Pay is its third investment.

Voxeet adds the iPhone to its arsenal of ways to make conference calls less frustrating

Voxeet’s conferencing service aims to change that, as VentureBeat previously explained during the startup’s debut at the 2012 spring DEMO event, (where it was later named DEMO God winner). Voxeet offers crystal-clear voice conversations that you can manage and translate using a visual interface on Windows PCs, Android devices, and, as of today, iPhones. Founded in 2009, the San Francisco-based startup has previously received $300,000 worth of incubation from Innovantic and about $235,000 in loans/grants from French governmental entities. Voxeet was also recently awarded $600,000 in IP communication services from iNetwork after winning the Voice App Igniter Challenge. Read more on VentureBeat.

Canopy Labs gets $1.5M in overheard 

Y Combinator startup Canopy Labs closed $1.5 million in fundings for its self-serve customer modeling platform. This means that the technology helps mid-sized businesses build predictive customer models by importing and analyzing data regarding customer interactions. The findings can be used to prioritize sales leads and identify high-value customers. This seed round was led by BDC Venture Capital IT Fund with participation from Valar Ventures and angels. Canopy has not yet released its tools, although the Toronto-based company is working with major brands like the Toronto Argoauts and the Canadian Opera Company to test out the product. This financing will help bring the platform to launch.

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