Boston Tech Watch: Boston Dynamics, WeWork, Optimus Ride & Hydrow

Here’s a roundup of the week’s Boston technology news, featuring robots, trade war accounting, self-driving cars, acquisitions, co-working deals, and more.

—SoftBank disclosed in financial filings the $37 million in debt financing it provided to robotics startup Boston Dynamics late last year was converted to equity last month. Softbank bought Waltham, MA-based Boston Dynamics from Alphabet in 2017 for an undisclosed sum. The robotics company, popularly known for its videos of walking and running machines, was acquired by Google in 2013

— WeWork, which operates an international chain of coworking spaces, announced its largest Boston project yet with the lease of 11 floors of the State Street Financial Center, also known by its address One Lincoln, in downtown Boston, according to a press release. The planned space in the One Lincoln building will have 4,000 desks—more square footage in one building than the company has opened in its first three years operating in Boston, WeWork said. The company currently runs nine locations in Boston and Cambridge with nearly 9,000 members that rent office space. WeWork expects the space to open in the third quarter of 2019.

Dave McLaughlin, WeWork’s northeast manager, said in prepared remarks, “Together with our other locations downtown, we’re really building a WeWork campus in the heart of Boston.”

—Black Duck Software CEO Lou Shipley has joined General Catalyst Partners as an executive-in-residence to help guide the venture fund’s work with B2B tech companies. Shipley, also a lecturer at MIT and Harvard, previously led Reflectent (acquired by Citrix in 2006) and Turbonomic, formerly known as VMTurbo. Black Duck was acquired by Synopsis in November 2017 for about $565 million in cash.

—Competitive business intelligence startup Crayon raised a $6 million Series A funding round led by New York-based Bedrock Capital. The Boston-based company, which recorded 300 percent revenue growth in 2018, said it plans to use the proceeds to double its employee count. Crayon said its software gives companies a picture of its competitors to increase sales rates and saves them money on market intelligence. Other investors joining the round include San Francisco-based Baseline Ventures, Cambridge, MA-based Converge, New York-based Box Group and various angel investors.

—Centage, a cloud-based budgeting software company headquartered in Natick, MA, said it raised a $8.5 million Series C funding round led by San Diego-based growth equity firm TVC Capital. Centage said its SaaS financial planning tools can help customers save on IT, overhead, and infrastructure costs. A number of institutional investors and investors from prior fundings joined this round, the company said. TVC Capital and Northgate Capital participated in the company’s Series A funding round.

—Optimus Ride, a Boston-based self-driving vehicle technology company, inked a partnership with a mixed-use development in Reston, VA, to have its autonomous vehicles operate within the housing, retail, office development starting in June 2019. The on-demand vehicles will ferry workers and residents between office buildings and to parking lots at the Halley Rise site. In November 2017, Optimus Ride raised $18 million in a round led by Greycroft Partners, with participation from Emerson Collective, Fraser McCombs Capital, and MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito.

—Billing itself as the Peloton for rowing, Boston-based Hydrow has received a $20 million investment led by consumer-focused private equity firm L Catterton, according to a press release. The company’s Peloton-like exercise rower and video screen make give users the ability to live-stream classes or call up on-demand classes as well as outdoor rowing footage in Miami, the Charles River, or the Hudson River. Hydrow said it has already received pre-orders for 1,500 rowers and expects to ship products nationwide this spring.

—Travel and hospitality startup club Voyager HQ is teaming up with JetBlue Technology Ventures to launch a Boston travel startup event series that kicks off with a pitch competition on April 17. The series will include monthly discussions and mentorship meetings, and several pitch nights featuring travel tech entrepreneurs.

—Manchester, NH-based Minim, a wifi security and management software developer, acquired a North Dakota company that makes similar tools for routers specifically for wireless internet service providers.

—Business contact software company ZoomInfo is being acquired by Vancouver, WA-based marketing technology firm DiscoverOrg in a deal that aims combine the pair’s business and personnel intelligence into a single dataset to power enterprise marketing tools. A source close to the deal said DiscoverOrg shelled out more than $500 million for ZoomInfo.

—Notarize, the Boston-based online notary startup, has hired Elizabeth Graham, a former Wayfair and HubSpot executive, to be its new chief operating officer. Graham said her focus will be on refining the company’s Web app that connects users with notaries based in Virginia, Texas, or Nevada, and helping position the platform as an attractive tool for companies that rely on notary services.

—IRobot, the Bedford, MA-based robot vacuum developer, said it paid $8 million in higher tariffs to bring its Chinese-made robots to U.S. markets as a result of the White House’s newly installed trade policies. The company announced it would be moving some production to a manufacturer outside of China for the first time since 2002. The 10 percent tariff on the smart home robots came as President Trump issued 10 percent import duties on $200 billion of Chinese made goods back in September.

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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