Roundup: Inrix, EnerG2, Front Desk, Gates Patent, Boeing Engineers

It’s already been a busy week, with four major venture financing rounds for Pacific Northwest companies. Meanwhile, Inrix, the traffic information company, appears to be in the midst of a large financing itself. We’re also following interesting partnerships for EnerG2 and Front Desk; a patent filing from a group of inventors including Bill Gates that appears designed to thwart Google Glass peepers; and the low morale among local Boeing engineers. Read on for details:

—Traffic information company Inrix has raised $10 million of what appears to be a $25 million funding round. The Kirkland, WA-based company isn’t saying much—“We’re not ready to announce anything yet,” a spokesman says—but an SEC filing from last month gives a bit of detail, listing one investor for the sum raised thus far. The company last raised a $37 million Series D funding round in summer 2011 led by Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers at a valuation reported at that time to be nearly $500 million. Counting this partially closed round, the company has raised about $78 million since spinning out of Microsoft in 2004. Other investors include August Capital, Venrock, and Bain Capital Ventures.

EnerG2, the Seattle energy storage materials maker, has landed an important partnership with Oregon utility NW Natural in its bid to push into the market for natural gas storage tanks for vehicles. The companies are working on a research and development project on adbsorbed natural gas, an alternative storage method to compressed natural gas (CNG). Filling a natural gas storage tank with the high-surface-area activated carbon that EnerG2 manufactures allows more gas to be stored in the same tank at lower pressures—as much as 20 percent more, the companies say. This has implications for cost, tank shape, and safety. “Our carbon adsorbent material for natural gas enables tremendous design efficiency and no wasted space, because a low-pressure tank can be shaped more like a traditional gasoline tank to fit in a space onboard a vehicle that’s about half the size of a high-pressure cylinder,” says EnerG2 co-founder and chief technology officer Aaron Feaver in a statement. The partnership includes bench and road tests of the technology to be performed this quarter.

Fresh off of its $4 million funding round, Front Desk, the Seattle startup making mobile-focused business tools for yoga studios, doctors offices, and similar service-oriented small businesses, has won a big customer. School of Rock, the chain of music schools, will use Front Desk for its scheduling, billing, marketing, documents management, and payment processing needs at all of its 130 locations by 2015, the companies say. School of Rock CEO Chris Catalano invested in Front Desk’s latest funding round.

—Bill Gates is part of the group of inventors listed on a patent for technology that could be used as a defense against Google Glass and other devices with the ability to record video. Todd Bishop at GeekWire spotted the patent filing, which he notes “appears to be the result of one of the high-level invention brainstorming sessions conducted by Intellectual Ventures’ Nathan Myhrvold, the former Microsoft chief technology officer.” The technology described in the patent would identify intruding cameras that might be viewing a user’s screen and then hide information on the screen, and alert the user of the intrusion.

—The news that Boeing plans to transfer 1,000 research engineering jobs out of Washington is, not surprisingly, having a negative impact on morale among the company’s ranks. The Seattle Times reviewed internal employee feedback gathered since the Boeing Research & Technology reorganization plan was announced in December and reports that managers “warn that Boeing could lose top talent as both veteran and early-career engineers, some with security clearances for defense work, scramble to hunt for jobs elsewhere.” The story, by veteran Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates, sheds light on the impact this move could have on a core part of the region’s technology talent pool. One possible reading is that Northwest companies with openings for engineers may have a good shot at recruiting some talented individuals with no interest in moving with their Boeing job to Huntsville, AL, St. Louis, MO, or North Charleston, SC.

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