Boston Tech Watch: Student Loans, Google in Kendall Square & More

General Electric may have backed off its plans for Boston, but at least it’s not leaving town. A student loan startup in Boston eyes help from Capitol Hill. Deals, fundings, and founders moving on. The week in Boston tech is here:

—A bill introduced this week in Congress could provide a boost to local student debt startup Gradifi, which helps employers contribute to its workers’ college loans. The bill, put before the Senate this week and introduced in the House earlier this month, allows employers to make up to $5,250 in annual tax-deductible payments to employees’ student loans. Gradifi CEO David Chang calls the legislation “game-changing” and says it addresses the “missing incentive preventing many companies from offering” it. Student loan debt held by American households more than tripled from $340 billion in 2001 to $1.3 trillion in 2016.

—Google is expanding in Kendall Square as part of a $13 billion national plan for 2019 to boost data centers and offices in 14 states, the company announced this week. The search and ad giant has signed a long term lease for 362,000 square feet of a ground-up redevelopment on Main Street in Cambridge, MA, to replace the existing four-story building with a 16-story office tower.

Brian Cusack, Google’s lead for the Kendall Square site, said in an e-mailed statement: “Google opened its first office in Cambridge back in 2003 and fifteen years later, we’ve grown to over 1,500 employees, working on major projects like Search, Android, Cloud, YouTube, Google Play, Research, Ads and more. This new space will provide room for future growth and further cements our commitment to the Cambridge community.”

—Tank Utility, maker of a remote fuel monitoring system for propane and heating oil tanks, has raised $6 million in venture funding through a new round led by San Francisco-based Bullpen Capital. The Boston-based startup says its monitoring system is currently deployed for 750 suppliers across 50 states to give fuel providers a digital look into the tanks of customers and cut overall logistics costs. The company says its earlier seed investors Energy Foundry, Blue Fog Capital, and Generac also joined in the round with new investors Serra Ventures and Array Ventures.

—Wireless headphones for senior communities startup Eversound has raised a new $5 million Series A funding round led by former Lifeline Systems CEO Ron Feinstein. Shelter Group, Red Bear Angels, and 10X Ventures joined the round. The company aims to end social isolation caused by hearing loss and targets use in areas where hearing aids fall short.

—Boston-based cloud video company Brightcove (NASDAQ: BCOV) bought Ooyala’s online video platform business and its underlying intellectual property for $15 million in cash and company stock, according to a press release and company spokeswoman. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2019. Ooyala, formerly a subsidiary of Australian telecommunications firm Telestra until the company’s management bought it in October, is headquartered in San Jose, CA.

—A.I.-powered contract management startup Evisort has raised a $4.5 million seed funding round led by Village Global and Amity Ventures and joined by Accenture, Ropes & Gray, SAP, and Walt Disney. The company, founded by Harvard Law and MIT researchers, has offices in Boston and Silicon Valley. The startup’s goal is to automate the expensive and time-intensive task of managing contract documents.

—ThriveHive founders Max Faingezicht and Adam Blake left the Boston-area marketing tech startup this week. The two founded the company in 2011 with Bryan Pedlar and Nic Mendoza; it was acquired in 2016 by Quincy, MA-based Propel Marketing, which rebranded as ThriveHive in 2017. Faingezicht was ThriveHive’s chief technology officer and Blake its chief marketing officer.

“Building ThriveHive has been truly rewarding and the lessons from that journey will be the foundation upon which I build my next venture; always focused on people and looking to have a positive impact in the world,” Faingezicht writes in a Linkedin post.

—Wireless power transfer startup WiTricity acquired a technology platform and intellectual property from Qualcomm to further its goal of wireless charging for electric vehicles. Qualcomm will become a minority shareholder as part of the transaction. No other terms of the deal were disclosed.

—Arlington Capital Partners sold Endeavor Robotics to Oregon-based FLIR systems for $385 million. The Chelmsford, MA-based military and security robotics company was spun off from iRobot to Arlington in 2016 in a $45 million deal. FLIR is investing heavily in unmanned systems, having purchased aerial drone and software companies in recent months.

—DataRobot’s machine-learning powered Grammy Awards prediction for Song of the Year was spot on. The algorithm, fed by Spotify data from this year’s nominees as well as past winners and nominees, showed a 20.38 percent change that This is America, by Childish Gambino would win the golden gramophone. It did.

—Also, GE backed off its plans to build a 12-story office building for its new global headquarters in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood. Instead, the financially challenged industrial conglomerate will sell the land it bought and permitted to develop the building, return $87 million it took for the state to buy the land and renovate two nearby buildings, and slim its ambitions.

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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