Boston Tech Watch: MIT Solves, AltioStar Raises & Enel Scouts

[Updated 5/9/19, 11:00 am. See below.] The week in Boston tech news saw the launch of a philanthropic venture fund at MIT, some large fundraising rounds, an open source acquisition, and more.

—MIT is raising a philanthropic venture fund to support social impact tech startups taking on some of the world’s biggest problems. The donor-advised fund operates by investing tax-deductible contributions from donors into companies with promising social impact. Returns from those investments are reinvested into the next round of startups, which will be selected by MIT Solve, a university unit that hunts for entrepreneurial teams tackling global problems and matches them with funding sources. Flagship Pioneering founder and chief executive Noubar Afeyan is seeding the new Solve Innovation Fund with a $3 million donation. MIT Solve says the fund will be led by MIT Solve Principal Casey van der Stricht, and will aim to raise $30 million from donors.

—The city council of Somerville, MA, has advanced a proposed ban on the city government’s use of facial recognition, making it the first East Coast community to bar the technology’s use, according to ACLU Massachusetts. City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen introduced the anti-facial recognition measure, which stops the city and its officials from “obtaining, retaining, accessing, or using” a facial recognition system, as well as any information obtained from such a system. The passage of the measure Thursday night sends it to the another legislative committee of the council.

“Facial Recognition software is functionally equivalent to requiring every citizen or visitor in Somerville to carry and display a identification card in all public places,” Ewen-Campen wrote in a online petition. “This surveillance technology therefore represents a mass violation of privacy that is fundamentally opposed to Somerville values.”

ACLU Massachusetts says the surveillance tech is “unregulated, unreliable, and in its most dangerous forms, poses a profound threat to racial and gender justice, personal privacy, political and religious expression, and freedom of association.”[Added.]

—Tewksbury, MA-based 5G-ready networking software maker Altiostar has raised $114 million in a Series C round from investors Rakuten, Qualcomm Ventures, and Tech Mahindra. The money will be used to expand the market reach of Altiostar’s 4G and 5G software for telecom providers. Altiostar’s software lets telecom companies control their networks using software instead of with costly hardware that needs to be replaced as communications standards are updated.

—Cloud file storage company Nasuni has opened a third US office in Marlborough, MA, as it also expands its engineering staff there and in its headquarters in Boston’s Seaport district. Last fall, Nasuni opened an office in Durham, NC. The company lists about 30 open positions at those locations, or in Chicago or San Francisco, for roles in engineering, information security, marketing, professional services, and sales. Nasuni says its subscription revenue grew 52 percent in 2018. In February, Nasuni raised $25 million in venture funding from the venture arm of Australian telecom Telstra to beef up its marketing and sales machine.

—Italian power utility Enel has opened an innovation center at Somerville, MA-based greentech incubator Greentown Labs. The Boston-area footprint will help Enel scout for startups, partner with some of those ventures, and even test products at Enel’s plants and facilities. Companies at the incubator stand to benefit from Enel’s network of industrial partners and venture capital connections. Eight other corporations have a foothold in the greentech incubator. Greentown is Enel’s second innovation hub in the US, behind San Francisco, and its 10th globally, with three others in Italy and additional locations in Spain, Russia, Chile, Brazil, and Israel.

—Waltham, MA-based cybersecurity company Dover Microsystems has raised another $5.7 million, according to an SEC filing. The company’s security chip is hardwired into processors to monitor their activity and protect them against attacks. In February 2018, Dover Microsystems, a spinout of Draper Laboratory, raised $6 million in seed funding led by Hyperplane Venture Capital, alongside contributions from Draper, Qualcomm Ventures, and the Hub Angels Investment Group.

—Boston-based open source website software company Acquia is buying marketing automation startup Mautic. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Acquia, based in Boston, develops open source tools to manage websites built using the open source content management system Drupal. Mautic, in Medford, MA, is an open source software firm that helps companies launch and manage marketing campaigns across the wide and growing field of platforms, from social media networks to email and websites.

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