Northwestern Mutual gets in on fintech VC
The company has launched Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, a $50MM fund that will invest between $500,000 to $3,000,000 in each fintech startup. Rebecca Porter, VP of Corporate Strategy at Northwestern Mutual, will be the chairwoman of the investment committee. Northwestern has some experience in this area, after acquiring LearnVest and investing in Betterment in the past.

Marketplace Lending unicorn raises more funding
Small business p2p lender Funding Circle has raised an additional $100MM from previous investors in a Series F round, allegedly as an up round after its $1+ billion valuation from back in 2015. This is an encouraging sign for others in the industry as marketplace lending hit a rough spot in 2016. Funding Circle lent £400 million in 4Q 2016, up 90% year over year.

Zillow 2.0
Despite the vast amount of wealth and widespread ownership of the residential housing market, it still remains very difficult to get accurate data on individual home prices. HouseCanary, which has raised $33 million from the likes of Eric Schmidt and Kobe Bryant, is trying to change that – in effect, become a better Zillow. While much of this is structural problem – most houses are not interchangeable or immediately fungible – there could be great value in automating the data collection and valuation reports, or giving lenders additional insights and API connectivity for better analytics and risk ratings.

Conversational AI gets another boost
Kasisto, a NY-based platform for conversational AI, has raised over $9MM in a Series A round led by the fine folks at Propel Venture Partners. The field continues to grow as payments and financial interactions continue to migrate to chat and messaging platforms. Mastercard, who uses Kasisto for their conversational commerce offering, also participated in the round.

20th Anniversary of PwC MoneyTree
While not fintech-specific, the PwC MoneyTree report provides a great overview of the state of the VC market, including geographies, sectors and active funds. Of interest, General Catalyst was one of the most active investors in Q4, taking a stake in both Stripe and Lemonade, among others. This also marks the first time PwC has partnered with CB Insights for this report, replacing Thompson Reuters.