Boston Tech Watch: ICO Crackdown, “Shark Tank” Startups & More

[Updated 1/19/18, 2:47 pm. See below.] This week in Boston tech, we’re tracking legal action against a so-called “initial coin offering,” hiring sprees, a pair of acquisitions, several venture funding rounds, and more. Read on for details.

—Massachusetts securities regulators are wading into the murky waters of cryptocurrencies and “initial coin offerings.” The office of Secretary of State William Galvin filed administrative charges against Caviar and its partner, Kirill Bensonoff, alleging that the company’s ICO is an illegal sale of unregistered securities. Caviar has raised more than $3.1 million through the sale of digital tokens that enable purchasers to participate in an investment fund that gives them exposure to cryptocurrencies and real estate projects.

In statements provided to the Boston Globe and Boston Business Journal, Bensonoff reportedly said he hopes the company can work with the state to address its concerns, and that he doesn’t believe the company has “misled or harmed anyone.” Read the state’s full complaint here.

—The city of Boston approved Optimus Ride, a local autonomous vehicle technology startup, to begin transporting people in its driverless vehicles in part of Boston’s Seaport neighborhood, the Boston Herald reported. It’s the second local company to receive such an approval; NuTonomy is the other. [This paragraph added.—Eds.]

—Newton, MA-based Centerity Systems said it received a $10 million investment from Merlin International, a cybersecurity firm located in Vienna, VA. Centerity’s software helps businesses analyze the performance of their IT and connected device systems. The two companies said they plan to collaborate on developing products, and Centerity will leverage Merlin’s more established sales and distribution channels.

—Connected2Fiber announced an $8 million investment from Ascent Venture Partners, Nauta Capital, NXT Ventures, and Osage Venture Partners. The Milford, MA-based startup sells data analytics and visualization software aimed at helping broadband network operators boost their sales and marketing efforts.

—Boston-based healthcare technology startup Medumo raised $2 million in seed funding from Cherrystone Angel Group, Launchpad Venture Group, and Sky Ventures Group, BostInno reported. Medumo is currently participating in the [email protected] digital health startup accelerator program in Boston.

—Alice’s Table, a Boston-based startup that went through the Techstars Boston accelerator program last year, accepted a $250,000 investment from Mark Cuban and Sara Blakely on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” in exchange for a 10 percent stake and the option to purchase another 10 percent stake in the next funding round, according to BostInno. Local startups have been cleaning up lately on “Shark Tank”—DetraPel raised $200,000 on the show earlier this month.

—The venture capital arm of JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU) revealed that it invested an undisclosed amount in ClimaCell, the Boston-based weather technology startup that raised a $15 million Series A funding round in November. [This paragraph added.—Eds.]

—Boston-based Flywire expanded its online payments products with the purchase of OnPlan Holdings, the parent company of OnPlanU, which provides billing and payments software for colleges and universities, and OnPlan Health, a Web portal for healthcare payments. The deal price wasn’t disclosed. OnPlan’s 20-plus employees, located in offices in the Chicago area, will join Flywire, a spokeswoman said.

—Press Ganey, a Wakefield, MA-based healthcare technology and services company, said it acquired Durham, NC-based patient survey software startup Bivarus. No financial terms were disclosed.

—A pair of companies announced hiring sprees: BitSight Technologies plans to grow from 278 global employees to 410 this year, a spokeswoman said, after its cybersecurity ratings business reportedly saw strong growth in 2017. And Accenture (NYSE: ACN) intends to hire 400 people in Boston after moving into a new “innovation”-focused office in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood. It’s the latest local move for the Ireland-based professional services and consulting giant, which acquired Cambridge, MA-based Intrepid Pursuits last year.

—Boston-based VentureApp announced it changed its name to HqO and shifted its product from a messaging platform for professionals to a mobile app for tenants of commercial office buildings. Last year, the company raised a $4 million funding round led by Accomplice.

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