Boston Tech Watch: .406, Circle, Haven, Shift, LinkSquares & More
The Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan-led healthcare moonshot has a name. The venture capital dollars continued to roll in for A.I. startups. The Akamai-Janrain deal was pegged at $125 million. And a local VC firm is reloading for a new fund. Read on for more of this week’s Boston technology and innovation news.
—Shift Technology, a fraud detection technology startup serving the insurance industry, raised $60 million in a new Series C funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Previous investors joining the round include Accel, General Catalyst Partners, and Iris Capital. The Paris- and Boston-based company has more than 200 employees, and about a dozen of them currently work from Shift’s Boston office. The company says it plans to add 20 to 25 more employees in Boston. The new funds bring Shift’s total amount raised to $100 million.
— Akamai paid $125 million in cash to acquire Portland, OR-based identity management startup Janrain in early January, the Cambridge-based Internet content delivery network disclosed in a regulatory filing. Janrain’s technology is expected to be incorporated into Akamai’s Intelligent Edge security platform.
—Boston-based venture capital fund .406 Ventures is looking to raise $250 million for a fourth fund and another $100 million for an opportunities fund, according to SEC filings. (The VC’s Boston-infused name comes from Ted Williams’ batting average during the 1941 baseball season.) .406 Ventures’ website says it has raised $650 million across four funds.
—Student debt employer benefits startup FutureFuel.io has raised a new $11.2 million Series A funding round led by Rethink Impact and joined by Breton Capital, First Data, G9 Ventures, The Impact Engine, Reach Capital, Salesforce Ventures, SixThirty, and Vulcan Capital. The startup has so far raised $15.7 million. The Boston-based company, founded in 2015 by Laurel Taylor, gives employers a platform to make contributions to its employees’ student debt payments. More than 44 million people in the U.S. hold $1.5 trillion in student loans. The weight of those liabilities have sparked interest among employers to contribute a portion of their workers’ monthly payments, facilitated by platforms like FutureFuel and fellow Boston startup Gradifi.
—LinkSquares, developer of an artificial intelligence platform for contract management, has raised $4.8 million in a new funding round led by Hyperplane Venture Capital and MassMutual Ventures. The investment brings the startup’s total funding to $6.9 million. LinkSquares’ platform helps automate the management of the mountains of contracts and agreements many businesses have on file. The startup says its customers include VMware (NYSE: VMW), DraftKings, Kensho, Wish.com, Asurion, and Carbonite (NASDAQ: CARB).
—Cryptocurrency and blockchain startup Circle Internet Financial is reportedly seeking $250 million in new funding through equity and debt financing, according to a report in The Information. Separately, the Boston startup announced this week it got regulatory approval and closed on its deal to buy crowdfunding company SeedInvest. SeedInvest’s platform gives startups the ability to raise money directly from investors who aren’t accredited by securities regulators like the SEC over the Internet rather than being limited to venture firms and institutional capital. Circle founders Sean Neville and Jeremy Allaire said SeedInvest will continue operating as it always has—just with a little more support.
“We believe that the tokenization of financial assets will ultimately unlock capital for growing companies and investment opportunities for people everywhere,” Neville and Allaire wrote in a blog post. “Over time, more functions of private equity will be tokenized — including voting and governance, dividend payouts, and other economic features. Tokenization will also create new opportunities for businesses to build better relationships with their customers by leveraging tokens linked to ecosystem behaviors.”
—The joint healthcare venture of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: [[ticker:BRK.A]]), and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) led by Harvard professor and Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgeon Atul Gawande has a name. The company, which expects at least initially to focus on supporting employees of the three founding enterprises, is called Haven Healthcare.
Haven, with offices in Boston in New York, claims it will be an “advocate for the patient,” “create new solutions and work to change systems, technologies, contracts, policy and whatever else is in the way of better health care.”
In a statement on Haven’s website, Gawande says the company “was formed by the leaders of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase because they have been frustrated by the quality, service, and high costs that their employees and families have experienced in the U.S. health system. They believe that we can do better, and in taking this step to form this new organization, they have committed to being a part of the solution.”
—Speaking at a partner event for Desktop Metal in Burlington, MA, former vice president and current Kleiner Perkins senior partner Al Gore explained his thoughts on what happens if advances in technology lead to a gutting of large swaths of the existing workforce.
“If we do indeed see a large-scale hollowing out of employment in multiple verticals simultaneously then instead of a government guaranteed income, there may instead be a set of new policies to compensate people for doing all the work that desperately needs to be done now, but with new sources of revenue for compensating that work,” he said.
“What kind of political changes will have to emerge?” he said. “Your discussion of a guaranteed income? I don’t know how I feel about that, but I do think that the divide between private and public is likely to shift a bit.”
—The head of IBM (NYSE: IBM) and MIT’s joint artificial intelligence lab gave Xconomy an overview of its first year in Cambridge, working to break down the “fundamental core barriers” holding back the technology. The lab, with $240 million in funding from Big Blue over 10 years, greenlit 49 out of 186 proposals submitted from every corner of MIT.