Boston Tech Watch: IBM, DataXu, Accion, Yottaa, CoachUp & More

[Updated 10/19/18, 5:08 pm. See below.] Rumors of a Boston adtech sale, a top-level departure at IBM’s Watson Health business, more cash to boost A.I. startups, and Boeing backing a space propulsion company dominate the Boston-area’s tech headlines from the week. Read on for more.

—Boston firm DataXu is working with a New York investment bank on a potential sale, targeting a $300 million valuation, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the move. The ad software company has raised around $87.5 million from investors since its founding in 2009, the Journal reported. Both DataXu and the bank, GCA Advisors, declined comment to the Journal on the rumored sale.

The company’s optimization software helps advertising managers juggle multiple ad exchanges. Its early investors include European TV giant Sky, Flybridge Capital Partners, Blue Ivy Ventures, Menlo Ventures, and Thomvest Ventures.

—The leader of IBM’s Cambridge, MA-based health technology division, Watson Health, has stepped aside, according to a company spokesman. The departure, first reported by STAT News, comes amid sales declines from Big Blue’s “cognitive” software business, which includes Watson Health. Deborah DiSanzo, the former Philips Healthcare CEO who took over Watson Health in September 2015, is moving to the strategy team for IBM Cognitive Solutions, and John Kelly, the senior vice president for Cognitive Solutions and IBM Research, will take over Watson Health, the spokesman said. [Updated with IBM comment.—Eds.]

—Boston family investment office Innospark Ventures wants to put $100 million behind A.I. startups focused on education, cybersecurity, life sciences, and business services, the Boston Business Journal reported. Founder and managing partner Venkat Srinivasan told the publication that the new A.I.-focused fund could exceed the $100 million target if the right opportunity arises. The rush around the future of artificial intelligence was put on display this week when MIT announced a potentially $1 billion initiative to create a new computing college to house A.I. research and attract tomorrow’s talent for the sector.

—Accion Systems, a Boston space propulsion firm, took in a combined $3 million from Boeing’s HorizonX venture arm and San Francisco’s GETTYLAB. Accion, founded in 2014 by two MIT engineers, is creating “postage stamp-size” thrusters for satellites to roam space. It has landed U.S. Defense Department grants for the past three years, and in the next couple months, two satellites will launch Accion’s propulsion system into space for the first time, a company spokesman said.

—Bar-software developer BevSpot raised $5.4 million, according to a document filed with securities regulators Tuesday. BevSpot’s cloud-based bar and restaurant management system in 2016 garnered $11 million in a Series B venture funding round led by Bain Capital Ventures. Including earlier funding rounds, the company has raised north of $22 million since its 2014 founding.

—Cloud e-commerce firm Yottaa reported it pulled in $11 million in new funding to expand its sales efforts and operations as it aims to double its revenue over the next 18 months, the company said. London venture group DN Capital led the funding round. The Waltham, MA-company helps retailers slash their websites’ load times and make them more resilient. The company in 2016 raked in $13 million in venture funding from Stata Venture Partners and earlier backer General Catalyst Partners. Yottaa says its platform is used on more than 1,000 e-commerce sites, including Asics, Carter’s, The Container Store, Hallmark, eBags, Jockey, JoAnn Fabrics, Rockport, and Samsonite.

CoachUp, a Newton, MA-startup that matches athletes with personal coaches for individual or group instruction, acquired Athletes of Valor to support military servicemen and women as they transition from active duty to civilian life. The companies say together they will give veterans the ability to compete on collegiate teams and apply their leadership and athletic skills as coaches on the CoachUp platform. Athletes of Valor CEO Alex Stone connected in 2016 with CoachUp founder Jordan Fliegel, who became one of the startup’s early investors.

Brian Dowling is a Senior Editor at Xconomy, based in Boston. You can reach him at bdowling [at] xconomy.com. Follow @be_d

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