Mark Cuban, Jaguar, Zuckerberg Firm & Others Back Boston Startups

[Updated 1/12/18, 10:29 am. See below.] The new year has ushered in a flurry of venture funding deals in the Boston area, including investments from Jaguar Land Rover, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and a company founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. Read on for details.

—Boston-based edtech startup Ellevation, which makes software that helps people learn English, said it raised more than $10 million in a Series B funding round led by Reach Capital. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Omidyar Network, and other previous backers also contributed to the round, according to a press release. A recent SEC filing shows Ellevation raised $13.9 million, including nearly $1.1 million from the conversion of convertible debt notes.

—BondLink, a Boston-based maker of software for the municipal bond market, said it pulled in $10 million in a funding round led by Franklin Templeton Investments.

Talla, a Boston-area startup developing a business chatbot platform that runs on blockchain technology, raised $4 million through a mechanism called a “Simple Agreement for Future Tokens” (SAFT), CEO Rob May said in an e-mail. SAFTs are like futures contracts for the digital tokens that will be used to pay for services on Talla’s planned “BotChain” network, May said; those contracts will convert into tokens when the network launches. According to May, SAFTs are considered a security, but he said they don’t count as equity or debt. [This paragraph added.—Eds.]

—Election technology startup Voatz revealed that its recent seed funding round was led by Medici Ventures, with contributions from Urban Innovation Fund, Oakhouse Partners, and individual investors. A document filed with the SEC in early January showed that Voatz recently raised almost $2.6 million from investors; the company’s press release announcing the deal said it nabbed over $2.2 million.

—Fritz, a new Boston startup developing “edge computing” tools for mobile developers, closed a $2 million seed funding round led by Eniac Ventures, according to a press release e-mailed to Xconomy. Uncork Capital and Hack VC also chipped in. Fritz’s founders are Jana vets Jameson Toole and Dan Abdinoor. The company says its tech enables an app’s machine learning algorithms to operate on smartphones, closer to where data are generated—instead of that computing taking place on remote, cloud-connected servers.

CoachUp raised nearly $1.5 million from investors, per an SEC filing. CEO John Kelley told BostInno that the investment was led by founder Jordan Fliegel, and it’s aimed at helping the company achieve “sustained” profitability in 2018. CoachUp reportedly laid off some staff last year to help it become profitable.

—Sheprd, a Newton, MA-based startup that runs an app-enabled private service for transporting children to school and other activities, said it raised $1 million from Jaguar Land Rover’s venture capital arm, InMotion Ventures. Sheprd will also receive a fleet of Land Rover SUVs through the partnership.

DetraPel, a startup founded by Babson College student David Zamarin, appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and accepted a $200,000 investment from Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner, in exchange for giving up a 25 percent stake. The startup sells liquid repellant products for leather, floors, vehicle exteriors, and other surfaces.

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