Seattle Roundup: Cray, Blue Box, BigDoor, Late ’14 Deals, & More

Happy 2015! There’s lots to catch up on in Northwest tech news after a long holiday break, including the prospect of better U.S. weather forecasts powered by Cray supercomputers. Also, funding news for Blue Box, Glassdoor, Front Desk, TINYpulse, Elemental Technologies, and the sale of BigDoor Media. Read on for details.

—Seattle supercomputer maker Cray (NASDAQ: CRAY) has made hay selling powerful machines to the weather services of governments around the world, putting them further ahead of the U.S. on the computer-intensive task of modeling the atmosphere and forecasting the weather, much to the chagrin of beloved local meteorology professor Cliff Mass, among others. No longer. This week we learned that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is upgrading its supercomputing capacity 10 fold by the fall. The workhorses are a pair of new Cray supercomputers provided to NOAA by IBM at a cost of $44.5 million. As Mass explains, this increased computing capacity unlocks things like higher-resolution forecasts and ensemble forecasting. “Properly used, this new computer power can revolutionize and greatly improve the skill of U.S. numerical weather prediction, with huge positive impacts for the country,” Mass writes. But would the computers have predicted this week’s stink fog?

Blue Box, a private cloud provider in Seattle, closed its Series B financing, bringing in $14 million. The company announced a previous close of the round at $10 million last October from an unnamed strategic investor, which led the round, as well as Voyager Capital, Founder Collective, and Blue Box executives. This second close includes another strategic investor, described by Blue Box as “one of the nation’s premier integrated telecommunications providers,” which is also planning to deliver Blue Box services to its own customers. Blue Box previously raised $3.5 million in a Series A round in late 2012.

BigDoor Media, a Seattle company that helps publishers, retailers, telecomms, and others engage and retain their audiences with loyalty programs, was sold last month to an unnamed private investment firm. That’s according to co-founder and erstwhile CEO Keith Smith, who disclosed the news in a blog post this week. Co-founder Jeff Malek is taking over as CEO. Also, the company has “embraced a new operating plan that required us to make some reductions to our expenses, so we regrettably said goodbye to a few amazing members of our team, but the bulk of the BigDoor team is still here and still doing unbelievably great work,” writes Smith. Since its founding in 2009, the company raised more than $10 million from investors, including Founders’ Co-op and Foundry Group.

—In other door news, Glassdoor raised $70 million from Google Capital and existing investor Tiger Global, which led the round, joined by Battery Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures. It brings funding for the company, which provides anonymous reviews of companies, salary information, and, more recently, job search and recruiting tools, to $160 million. The Seattle connection? It was co-founded by Seattle tech mogul Rich Barton, Glassdoor’s chairman, along with Robert Hohman, its CEO, and Tim Beese, all former Expedia executives.

And a few deals to note from late 2014:

Front Desk, which makes a suite of mobile-first, cloud software to manage service-oriented small businesses and franchises, announced $4 million in new capital from existing investors FLOODGATE, Version One Ventures, Second Avenue Partners, and the aforementioned Barton. Joining this extended Series A financing round are CEO Jon Zimmerman—who penned this 2015 prediction about small- and midsize-businesses’ adoption of data collection and analysis in the Xconomist Forum—and Sam Osman and Rick Berry, co-founders of Demandforce, acquired by Intuit in 2012. Osman joins Front Desk’s board. Funding for the Seattle company now stands at $11.2 million.

TINYpulse, which helps companies monitor and improve employee engagement, raised $3.5 million from lead investor Baseline Ventures, as well as strategic investors that include Harrison Metal. The Seattle company, founded in 2012 by David Niu, had been self-funded to this point. More than 500 organizations, including Deloitte, HubSpot, and Converse, are using the software, which provides a means for anonymous feedback and recognition for coworkers.

—In Portland, OR, Elemental Technologies, which provides software for video delivery, raised $14.5 million in a Series D financing round. Leading the round is Telstra, the Australian telecomm, with participation from European entertainment company Sky, and prior backers General Catalyst Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, and Seattle-based Voyager Capital. The funding will help Elemental expand to support “the whole of the [Internet Protocol] video delivery chain,” it says. Elemental raised $13 million in a 2012 Series C round.

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