Boston Tech Watch: Algorand, Owl Labs, Cyber Madness & Zapata
This week a blockchain startup opened its system to the public; a quantum computing company raised big bucks; and Raytheon’s cybersecurity business set up shop in Boston. Read on for more.
—Blockchain technology startup Algorand has opened a test network to the public for businesses and developers to tinker with and give feedback. The company is backed with $66 million in capital and was founded by Silvio Micali, winner of the Turing Award—the so-called Nobel Prize for computing. Algorand CEO Steve Kokinos says the launch of the TestNet is a milestone to develop its blockchain transaction system that it has said will resolve some of the problems that digital currencies like Bitcoin face.
—Video conferencing company Owl Labs took in a $15 million Series B investment led by Spark Capital and joined by previous investors Matrix Partners and Playground Global. Owl Labs sells a $799 video conference camera called the Meeting Owl that runs on Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and other software platforms. The cash, which brings Owl Labs’ total raised to $22.3 million, will be used to add more employees, speed up product manufacturing to meet demand, and expand internationally.
—Quantum computing software startup Zapata Computing raised a $21 million Series A round led by Comcast Ventures and climate change-focused Prelude Ventures. New and previous investors also putting cash in the round include Pitango Ventures, BASF Venture Capital, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Pillar VC, and The Engine. Zapata spun out of Harvard University in 2017 and closed a $5.4 million seed round last April. It’s collaborating with IBM’s quantum computing Q Network and designing its software to work on quantum computing hardware developed by Google, IBM, Rigetti, Honeywell, IonQ, and others.
—Forcepoint, the cybersecurity company owned by defense contractor Raytheon (NYSE: RTN), says it invested “eight figures” to open a 53,000 square-foot technology center in Boston’s Seaport. It’s the company’s first greater Boston location. A portion of the center will focus on developing cybersecurity tools based on behavioral analytics. It will also have a briefing center for Forcepoint to market its products to business executives.
—Babson College awarded $300,000 in cash and prizes to startups through its Entrepreneurial Thought & Action Challenge. Yad, a social enterprise startup for people with disabilities, won the undergraduate competition. Taylor Custom Rings, which designs jewelry with mine-free diamonds and recycled materials won the graduate-level competition. The college also issues alumni, social impact, and high-impact female founder awards.
—Startup accelerator Techstars Boston says it has graduated 155 companies in the decade since its launch in 2009. In that time, the accelerator program says it has helped those companies obtain more than $1 billion in funding. Techstars adds that its companies have created nearly 3,000 jobs in greater Boston.
—AI-for-disease-diagnosis startup PathAI closed a $60 million Series B round led by New York-based growth equity investor General Atlantic to improve its “pathology research platform” and fuel development into “new tools and medical devices.” Boston venture capital firm General Catalyst, which led PathAI’s $11 million Series A in November 2017, also joined in the round with other previous investors, including Refactor Capital, Eight Partners, Pillar, Danhua Capital, and KdT Ventures.
—Lastly, here’s a roundup of what happened at Xconomy’s Cyber Madness on April 8. Talks at the event ranged from hackers and nation-states to corporate espionage, supply chain security, AI-powered cyber tools, and risks with the Internet of Things.