Seattle Roundup: NanoString IPOs, Socrata Scores $18M, and More

The second quarter is wrapping up with a less-than-stellar IPO for NanoString Technologies, a major raise by government data company Socrata, a DARPA grant for a UW team making a portable diagnostic device, good news/bad news about traffic congestion, and a first Startup Weekend event in Bellevue, WA.

NanoString Technologies, the Seattle gene expression diagnostics company spun out of the Institute for Systems Biology, had a disappointing debut on the stock market this week, raising $54 million in an offering of 5.4 million shares Wednesday priced at $10 each. That was below the $13 to $15 range the company and its bankers had targeted in an IPO prospectus in May. While the new capital helps replenish the coffers of the 10-year-old company—which reported $11.8 million in the bank at the end of the first quarter—investors bid shares down to $8.06 the first day of trading and they remained in that neighborhood Thursday. NanoString Technologies (NASDAQ: NTSG) sells diagnostic tests, including one that predicts breast cancer recurrence risk by examining a panel of 50 genes, to cancer physicians.

Socrata, which makes software to help governments manage and publicize data, has raised $18 million in a Series B round from new investor OpenView Venture Partners, and existing funders Frazier Technology Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures, which invested $6.5 million in early 2008. The Seattle company, which we profiled earlier this month, says it will use the funding to expand the infrastructure for its cloud-computing based platform; increase sales and marketing, and customer support globally; and for product development and other purposes.

—A Seattle research group has landed $9.6 million from the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to continue work on a disposable diagnostic test for diseases, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, that could be used in the developing world. Similar to a pregnancy test, the paper-based device would take a sample of body fluid and check it for markers of a specific target, such as the DNA or RNA of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The test could be administered in a variety of settings, with results transmitted to physicians via cell phone. the project is a joint effort of University of Washington researchers, led by bioengineering chair Paul Yager, General Electric Global Research, Epoch Biosciences, Path, and Seattle Children’s. The funding follows a $4 million UW grant from DARPA in 2011.

—Americans were stuck in traffic for about 7 percent longer in May than they were a year ago, an indicator of an improving national economy, according to Kirkland, WA, traffic information company INRIX. The big data company, which began publishing the monthly INRIX Gridlock Index in December, says traffic congestion can be a leading indicator of economic health. “Renewed consumer spending, especially on new vehicles, means more shoppers at stores, more cars on the road and more traffic on our streets,” INRIX CEO Bryan Mistele says in a statement. Derived from traffic data for 100 metro areas, the IGI shows that some parts of the country are faring better—or, from the perspective of gridlocked drivers, worse—than others. Congestion increased the most in the Western U.S., while the South saw a relatively small increase in congestion.

—The tech startup energy around here is concentrated in Seattle, while the Eastside is the domain of the BigCos. Whether you believe that or not, organizers of the first Startup Weekend in Bellevue, WA, hope to give Eastside entrepreneurs a boost. The marathon startup-formation event, running Friday through Sunday, is being hosted by online collaboration software maker Smartsheet in its 20th-floor Bellevue headquarters. It looks like there’s still space available.

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