FDA Approves First Blood Test For Concussions, Fitbit Buys Twine Health, Vix Fix, Maniacal Mind of an Entrepreneur Feb. 28th

Good Thursday Morning,

Daylight – Tough morning around here with what the country went through yesterday afternoon.  The numbers are mind-numbing: More than 430 children and staff have been shot in 273 school attacks since the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Three of the 10 deadliest mass shooting traumas in modern US history were in the last five months.

Speaking of trauma, the FDA yesterday approved the first blood test to detect concussions in people. The test is called Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator and works by measuring the levels levels of protein, known as UCH-L1 that are released from the brain into the blood upon injury. Banyan Biometrics in San Diego makes the test device and also has a hand-held one in the works. The company convinced the Pentagon to finance the 2,000-person clinical study as FDA approval could help measure and immediately treat combat-related concussions and brain damage. Could we give the test to anyone who buys an AR-15?

M&A – Fitbit is buying Twine Health, a startup that helps people manage chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Holding will buy an about 40 percent stake in GNC Holdings for $300 million.

Lithium Werks B.V. acquired the assets of Valence Technologies, a manufacturer and seller of energy systems utilizing its phosphate-based lithium-ion technology.

Economics – Total U.S. household debt hit an all-time high of $13.15 trillion at the end of 2017. That’s up $193 billion from the previous quarter. Mortgage debt is at $8.88 trillion, up $139 billion

The VIX fix – Finra, Wall Street’s self-regulatory agency, is looking into that someone swayed the Volatility Index through bets on S&P 500 options.

Western Union is joining MoneyGram in testing Ripple. Just a fraction of Americans have reported virtual currency transactions to the IRS.  If you start, keep an eye and bet on Ripple.

Live Rounds – Will Uber be profitable before it goes public? Don’t count on it.  It’s still losing a ton of money – $1.1 billion in the 4Q, Dara Khosrowshahi’s first as CEO. But that’s down 25 percent from a year ago. One reason is that Khosrowshahi is clamping down on costs as the company heads toward an IPO as soon as next year.

Uber spent 7.5 percent less on sales and marketing between the 3 and 4Qs of last year. The cost of its operations and customer support fell by one percent during that time as the company was able to handle more customer issues without needing more support staff.

Hedge Funds – By the way, an Uber driver convinced the hedge fund manager Paul Britton that the “Goldilocks” bet on market calm in the Volatility  Index was poised to unravel.

Buzzard’s Roost – All day long yesterday took live email reprimands for not mentioning Shaun White’s sexual harassment allegations leveled against him in 2016. Here it is – Initially dismissing the claims as “gossip,” White later said: “I regret my behavior of many years ago and am sorry that I made anyone – particularly someone I considered a friend – uncomfortable.” It involved his rock band called Bad Things and a fellow band member. On the other hand, the morning report editor and I debated whether we should republish a quoted vulgar word written on a whiteboard. In the name of literary expression, we decided to publish the exact word and braced for pushback. However, only two mild responses arose, but were ambushed on the Shaun White omission of addressing the allegations. Go figure.

Hot – SkyBridge Capital, Anthony Scaramucci’s company, expects regulators to tell it by the end of the month whether they’ll block its sale to the HNA Group.

Culture – Number of 12-17-year-olds using Facebook fell 9.9 percent in 2017. Light problem since they own Instagram.

Style – 5Pointz was a warehouse complex in Long Island City, Queens, that was transformed by graffiti into a cultural landmark. Of course, that graffiti was painted over by the warehouses’ owner in 2013 – part of an effort to build luxury residences on the location. On Monday, though, a federal judge awarded $6.75 million in damages to 21 artists whose work was wiped out.

Investment Banking – Marlin Equity Partners completed the acquisition of Inkling Systems, an enterprise software platform for field workforce operations management.

IPO – iQiyi, a video streaming service, is planning a U.S. IPO.

Venture Capital – Bird, a dockless electric scooter company, raised $15 million.

Duetto, a developer of a revenue strategy platform for the  hospitality industry, raised $80 million.

Varsity Tutors, a St. Louis, Mo.-based provider of academic tutoring services, raised $50 million.

InfluxData, a provider of open source platforms to manage time-series data at scale, raised $35 million.

HackerRank, a platform that helps companies evaluate technical talent based on skills, raised $30 million.

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Venture Capital – Payfone, a digital identity authentication network, raised $23 million.

Unacast, a contextual location data platform, raised $17.5 million.

NGD Systems, a provider of storage devices, raised $12.4 million.

Jobcase, a social platform for the future of work, raised $11.5 million in funding.

Kuali, a SaaS software company focused on serving higher education, raised $10 million.

Overtime, a developer of an application that allows users to create and edit sports video highlights, raised a $9.5 million.

inVia Robotics, a provider of robotics warehouse automation solutions for e-commerce fulfillment centers, raised $9 million.

Stealth Security, a cybersecurity startup, raised $8 million.

Losant, an enterprise Internet of Things platform, raised $5.2 million.

SEEVA, a company designing visibility systems for mobility, raised $2 million.

Tachyum, a cloud chip startup, raised funding of an undisclosed amount.

Private Equity – TractManager acquired Equipment Management & Technology Solutions, a manager of capital equipment and service contract negotiations for hospitals and health systems.

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice agreed to acquire a 60 percent stake in American Greetings, a maker and distributor of greeting cards.

Spectrum Plastics Group acquired Apex Resource Technologies, a provider of specialty plastics for the medical device industry.

Accel-KKR made a majority equity investment in FastSpring, a subscription-based platform for powering digital commerce.

And that’s what’s ahead, Cliff