Boston Tech Watch: Hydrow, Sea Machines, Toast, Pillar & More

[Updated, 9:05 am. See below] Another $100 million for early stage investing in Boston. Check-out machines are becoming clock-in machines. A hundred-plus startups join MassChallenge’s latest cohort in Boston. Read on for more of this week’s Boston tech news.

—Rowing machine startup Hydrow added $7 million to the $20 million it raised in its Series A funding round in February. The new capital comes from Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ Rx3 Ventures, The Raptor Group, The Yard Ventures, and Wheelhouse Partners, the company says. Hydrow—likened to the stationary bike and treadmill startup Peloton—also says it is launching nationwide shipping for its $2,199 indoor rowing machine.

—Sea Machines, a Boston startup developing autonomous control and perception systems for the maritime industry, is partnering with Hike Metals, a boat manufacturer in Ontario, Canada, to integrate its systems into search-and-rescue vessels. Sea Machines says its systems will enable the boats to complete autonomous search-and-rescue missions, plan waypoints for missions, collaborate with other vessels, remotely control the vessels, and avoid obstacles. The first phase of the collaboration will be tested aboard a 27-foot Hike Metal boat this summer on Lake Erie. Sea Machines raised a $10 million Series A funding round in December, led by Accomplice and Eniac Ventures.

—Boston-based marketing and advertising technology company Brand Networks has acquired Clickable and formed a new technology holding company called Azalea Commerce. The new company is backed by private equity firm AEA Investors as well as $40 million from an unnamed “strategic partner.” Azalea is setting an ambitious goal of helping retailers compete with closed ad ecosystems that Google, Facebook and Amazon have built up to dominate online advertising.

—Restaurant management startup Toast is moving from point-of-sale tech to back-office management with the rollout of a new payroll and human resources system. The Boston-based company says the system streamlines the process of on-boarding new employees–a common task in an industry that sees high rates of staff turnover. The HR system also allows workers to clock in using the point-of-sale portal devices. In April, Toast raised $250 million in a round led by TCV and Tiger Global Management.

—Startup accelerator MassChallenge announced its Boston cohort of companies for 2019. The group of more than 100 startups are mostly from the healthcare and life sciences sector (33 percent); followed closely by high tech (32 percent); general, retail, or consumer goods (20 percent); social impact (10 percent); and cleantech and energy (5 percent). Forty-nine percent of the companies have a female founder and 20 percent have a founder of color, MassChallenge says.

—Early-stage investor Glasswing Ventures has added Meredith McPherron as a venture partner. McPherron comes to Glasswing from the firm’s Entrepreneurs Lead-in Council, where she helped its portfolio companies with their go-to-market strategies. She has worked for Direct Hit Technologies, an early Google competitor, General Mills, and Guinness Import, and advised TripAdvisor,, and Catalyst Online. She also directed the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. In March, the firm added former Nuance Communications technology chief Vlad Sejnoha as a venture partner. Glasswing—founded by Rudina Seseri, Sarah Fay, and Rick Grinnell—launched last year with a $112 million fund.

—Carbon Black CEO Patrick Morley sat down with Xconomy to review how the cybersecurity company, which raised $152 million in a May 2018 IPO, has fared in its first year as a publicly traded company.

—Venture capital firm Pillar has raised its second fund, raking in $100 million to plow back into Boston-area startups. Partner Sarah Hodges says this time around, investors had a clearer sense that Boston tech companies were “worth investing in.” The fund was backed by some notable Boston tech CEOs, as was its first fund. The new names this time around include: Gail Goodman of Constant Contact; Jeremy Allaire of Circle; Reshma Shetty of Ginkgo Bioworks; Yvonne Hao of PillPack; and Rushika Fernandopulle of Iora Health.

—TechU Ventures has raised its first dedicated VC fund at just over $10 million. The New York-based firm, originally known as TechU Angels, invests in “deeptech entrepreneurs across the globe” and is led by Natanel Barookhian, an MIT Sloan School grad. TechU’s portfolio includes Bevi, LedgerX, Accion Systems, and Ayar Labs. [Updated to include this item—Eds.]

—Twenty-two Massachusetts companies made a list of best workplaces issued this week by Inc. magazine. They are: Acceleration Partners, Acorio, ALKU, AppNeta, Aqueduct Technologies, Buildium, Curate Partners, ezCater, InkHouse, Klaviyo, Labur,, MaidPro Franchise, Newpro, Radius Financial, Reveneer, Salsify, The Predictive Index, Treeline, Tripleseat, Turbonomic, and Zogics.

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