Boston Tech Watch: MIT Epstein, Notarize Cash, New Carbonite Execs

For a week shortened by the Labor Day holiday heralding the coming end of summer, the past few days yielded their fair share of Boston-area technology business news. Read on for a roundup of the news.

—MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte reportedly argued it was right to take money from disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein over the years. Negroponte also said he would do it all again if he had the chance, according to the MIT Technology Review’s account of an internal meeting called to address the university’s connections to Epstein.

“If you wind back the clock,” he added, “I would still say, ‘Take it.’”

Two weeks ago, MIT President L. Rafael Reif released the university’s accounting of its relationship with Epstein: Over two decades, it accepted $800,000 in donations from foundations controlled by Epstein. All the funds went to the Media Lab or to physicist Seth Lloyd, an MIT faculty member. Reif said accepting the funds was a “mistake of judgment.”

Two researchers have left the Media Lab as a result of revelations that the center’s director Joi Ito had deep financial connections to Epstein.

—Notarize, a mobile notarization software company, has nearly doubled its $20 million Series B funding round from May 2018 with $17 million more from strategic investors, according to SEC filings and a company spokesman.

—A month and a half after the abrupt departure of its chief executive, Mohamad Ali, Carbonite (NASDAQ:CARB) has refreshed most of its C-suite, mostly with executives from Webroot, the endpoint protection company it bought last year. Former Webroot CFO John Post is now Carbonite’s chief operating officer. Former Webroot product strategy lead Chad Bacher is now Carbonite’s chief product officer. Former Webroot CTO Hal Lonas is now Carbonite’s chief technology officer. Scott Semel is the company’s new interim general counsel. Semel was most recently acting general counsel and chief people officer for New York-based Information Builders. All report to interim CEO Steve Munford.

—IRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT) has created a chief product officer position and hired former HP (NYSE: HPQ) exec Keith Hartsfield to fill the role. Most recently, Hartsfield was vice president of HP’s workstation computer division, and he had also led HP’s mobility products division. He will report to iRobot CEO Colin Angle and oversee the robotics company’s digital and physical products and steer its strategy for new products.

—Cogito, an emotional intelligence analytics technology company based in Boston, has raised $20 million in a new equity round from investors including New York Life Ventures, the venture arm of Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), and a Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) growth equity fund. The cash will go toward developing a broader emotional intelligence offering and expanding into new industry segments, the company says. Cogito has raised nearly $100 million to date.

—Boston website software company Acquia has acquired UK-based Cohesion Web Technologies, maker of enterprise-grade, low-code website builder tools. The companies did not announce the purchase price. In May, Acquia bought Medford, MA-based Mautic, which makes marketing automation software. Acquia, which in May had 800 employees worldwide, says the addition of Cohesion will help users make sites on the open-source Drupal content management system more quickly.

—Boston-headquartered Iora Health, a company infusing digital health technologies into its primary care, has expanded into North Carolina with five new practices designed to serve patients on Medicare. Iora now has practices in eight states: Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Georgia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, and North Carolina.

—Robotic furniture startup Ori Living has raised a $20 million Series B led by Sidewalk Labs, Ingka Group and Geolo Capital. Previous investor Khosla Ventures also joined the deal, designed to fuel a move by Ori to partner with architects and builders to design urban housing that’s “flexible, intelligent, sustainable, and affordable.” The company also announced Edwin Hendriksen as its new president. Hendriksen most recently was global head of mixed-use real estate at WeWork’s parent company. In June, Ori announced a collaboration with IKEA on a line of furniture for small living spaces.

—Marketing technology startup Drift has acquired Giant Otter, a company built on technology from MIT to help AI systems understand human language and behavior. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Giant Otter was founded by MIT Media Lab AI researcher Jeff Orkin, who is joining Drift to form a new artificial intelligence research arm.

—Boston-based network routing company Volta Networks has raised $5 million, according to an SEC filing. The company, which has a development office in Barcelona, has raised about $9 million since its founding in 2015.

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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