Boston Tech Watch: Neural Galaxy, Link Ventures, & More Epstein Fallout
The funding deals ramped up this week in Boston, and the drip, drip, drip of details about the MIT Media Lab and Jeffrey Epstein continued to form an unwelcome puddle for university administrators. Read on for all the details.
—Joi Ito, the director of MIT Media Lab embattled by his fundraising connections with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, resigned last weekend from his posts at the university. The move stemmed from reporting in The New Yorker that showed his extensive efforts to prevent people from knowing about Epstein’s donations to the lab.
On Thursday, MIT President L. Rafael Reif acknowledged that he had signed a 2012 acknowledgment for a gift Epstein made to support professor Seth Lloyd’s work. Reif also said members of his team had been aware of Epstein’s contributions to the Media Lab between 2013 and 2017 and had spoken with Ito about Epstein’s criminal history.
“They knew in general terms about Epstein’s history—that he had been convicted and had served a sentence and that Joi believed that he had stopped his criminal behavior. They accepted Joi’s assessment of the situation. Of course, they did not know what we all know about Epstein now,” Reif wrote in a letter published on MIT’s website. “Information shared with us last night also indicates that Epstein gifts were discussed at least one of MIT’s regular senior team meetings, and I was present.”
The law firm Goodwin Proctor is still investigating the facts surrounding MIT’s fundraising relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
—Bank technology company Numerated has raised $15 million in Series B funding round led by Patriot Financial Partners. Venrock, FINTOP Capital, and Hyperplane joined in the round. Numerated, based in Boston and spun out of Eastern Bank in 2017, has built a sales platform for banks to use to attract new customers and expand banking relationships with existing clients. The company last year raised $8 million.
—Akeneo, a product management software company based in Boston, has raised $46 million in a round led by Summit Partners. The company, which has 180 employees across six countries, says it will invest the funds in sales and marketing in the US as well as research and development. It plans to hire 100 more employees in the next year.
—Northeastern University professor Steven Lopez is teaming his lab’s quantum computation with Cambridge AI startup Kebotix to develop new materials for cancer treatment. A grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is also boosting the partnership. Kebotix, a Harvard spinout now based at MIT’s VC firm The Engine, closed $5 million in a seed round led by One Way Ventures in November 2018.
—Ecommerce software company Shopify will purchase warehouse robotics startup 6 River Systems in a $450 million deal aimed at improving logistics in its new system of fulfillment centers. Based in Waltham, MA, 6 River Systems makes robotic carts for order fulfillment centers that learn the warehouse layout and product locations to help workers more efficiently pick and sort items for ecommerce deliveries. Companies use the robots at more than 20 facilities in the US, Canada, and Europe, the company says.
—Cambridge, MA-based investor Link Ventures has gathered $100 million in commitments for its second fund. The fund will invest in early-stage consumer internet companies, Link Ventures says. The VC firm has invested in 25 companies so far, including EverQuote (NASDAQ: EVER), Jobcase, Vestmark, Course Advisor, HopJump, Minerva Analytics, and Own Up.
—Sweden-based workforce management software company Quinyx launched into the US with a headquarters in Boston. The company, founded in 2005, makes technology to manage scheduling, employee communication, task management, and payroll. Quinyx earlier this year raised $25 million in a round led by Alfven & Didrikson, Battery Ventures, and Zobito.
—FLIR Systems, which expanded its defense work this year with its acquisition of Endeavor Robotics (once a division within iRobot), won a contract to build ground robots for Norway’s defense ministry and the Oslo Police. The agreement calls for 20 of the unmanned PackBot robots that can assist with bomb disposal, surveillance, and situations involving hostages or hazardous materials. FLIR bought Endeavor, which developed the PackBots, in February for $385 million in cash.
—Neural Galaxy, a brain science company launched by scientists from MIT and Harvard as well as former Yottaa CEO Coach Wei, has raised $6.1 million in angel funding led by FreeS Fund. Bohe Angel Fund, Tsingyuan Ventures, and Ray Stata also joined the round. Wei joins Hesheng Liu from Harvard Medical School and Robert Desimone and Guoping Feng from MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research in the venture. The company is based in Boston and Beijing and is expanding to other sites. Its goal is to develop technology that gives a deep understanding of the mechanisms that cause brain disorders.
—Smart cities technology company CIMCON has raised $33 million in a deal led by Digital Alpha. The agreement for the Burlington, MA-based company includes $23 million in Series C funding and $10 million in revenue sharing.
—Twitter has leased its first Boston office, a spokesman confirmed but declined to share additional information. The move was first reported by the Boston Business Journal, which says Twitter will lease space in Central Plaza near City Hall that’s become home to other tech companies, including Grubhub and Spotify. The social media giant opened an office in Cambridge, MA, back in 2014.
—Mentor Collective, a Boston-based technology company building tools to help higher education mentoring programs, has raised $3 million in funding. Lumina Foundation led the round, and IU Ventures, Strada Education Network, 10x Impact, EduLab Capital Partners, and Emerge Education joined the investment.
—Healthtech startup Backpack Health has raised $8.4 million in funding, according to an SEC filing. The Dover, MA-based company says its software helps people manage health data, care, and communication via an app.
—Needham, MA-based MedMinder Systems has raised $6.5 million, according to regulatory filings. The company was a spinout from MIT Sloan and led to a line of automated pillboxes to help patients remember to take their medications.