Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another $10 Mil for Visible Measures, Boston-based Video Measurement Firm

I've been talking for the last few weeks with various folks about how *quiet* the first quarter has seemed, in terms of new VC financings and follow-on rounds. It'll be interesting to see what the MoneyTree numbers look like for this quarter.

Bucking the trend today is Visible Measures, which just raised a $10 million up round from Northgate Capital, Mohr Davidow, and General Catalyst. This is the company's third round, bringing the total raised to $29 million. Visible Measures focuses on measuring online video viewership.

CEO Brian Shin writes via e-mail:

    ...We actually didn’t need money really, but we decided that if there was interest from an outside investor to “price” the round, then we could do it now (as long as it didn’t take too much time) and we’d be better positioned to grow in a downturn.

    We’ve always felt that it was important for us to raise money before needing it, and that seems to hold true especially in a tough environment like this.

    ...Our thoughts go out to entrepreneurs and startups all over the world who are struggling now. We consider ourselves blessed to be in this position, and we take this opportunity very seriously.

I just added Brian's blog to the list at the right.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One Arrives, One Leaves at General Catalyst

The *huge* news for General Catalyst this week is that Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is gonna do a stint at the Cambridge firm as an entrepreneur-in-residence.

But what hasn't been reported yet is that technologist-in-residence Charles Teague has just left the firm.

Teague is part of the Allaire Brothers mafia, having gone to college with Jeremy and J.J., and also worked at both Allaire Corp. and Onfolio, J.J.'s start-up that was snapped up by Microsoft. (Jeremy had served as a technologist-in-residence at GC before Teague, later going on to launch Brightcove.)

Teague won't talk about what he's up to post-GC, but I have a feeling it's iPhone-related. "I'm currently heads down on a project and I'm not quite ready to talk about it," he writes via e-mail. (General Catalyst also hasn't answered my inquiries about whether they're going to fund Teague's new venture.)

What's interesting about Teague is that, while still at GC, he and some friends created a free iPhone app for managing weight loss called Lose It. It's now the most popular app in the "Health and Fitness" category of the iPhone Store.

Not bad for a little side project...

Teague's blog, which has been very focused of late on iPhone apps, is here. So far as I know, he has never mentioned his involvement with Lose It or FitNow, Inc., the parent company set up to sell the app.

(In the photo, Teague is in the center, sandwiched between J.J. Allaire on the left and Sim Simeonov on the right.)

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Clouds Coalesce in Boston

Today's Globe column is about the cloud computing scene in Boston, including CloudSwitch, and a new investment General Catalyst is making in Good Data.

An opening quote from EMC exec Chuck Hollis:

    "Cloud computing will change how we do IT, end-to-end, over the next five years," says Chuck Hollis, vice president of global marketing at EMC, the Hopkinton-based storage firm. "It's like in the early 20th century, if you were a manufacturer, you had to build your own power plant. But eventually, you had the option to buy your electricity from the grid, and let someone else worry about how it was generated. Corporate data centers are going to have that kind of choice, too."

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

General Catalyst Invests in the Cloud

The ink is almost dry on General Catalyst's latest investment: what they're calling a "seed preferred" round of several million dollars for Good Data, a SaaS/cloud computing-oriented company focused on business intelligence and analytics. Larry Bohn is the GC partner on the deal, and angel investor John Landry is also putting in some dough.

Good Data founder and CEO Roman Stanek earlier started NetBeans (acquired by Sun) and Systinet (acquired by Mercury Interactive and HP.) The company's engineering will take place in Prague, but the business HQ will be in San Francisco.

Around the time that Good collected $2 million last year (in an earlier seed round), the company was described as being based in Cambridge (they had space at the Cambridge Innovation Center), but alas... Good Data marketing veep Sam Boonin told me that "our business model is primarily going to be working together with other SaaS companies, so we wanted to be in the Bay area." (Systinet, an earlier Stanek start-up, had a presence in Cambridge.)

Good Data was founded in mid-2007, but they acquired another Czech company that provided the core analytics engine they're using. They're building atop Amazon's EC2 cloud infrastructure. "We've got about 500 people in our [free] beta program right now," says Boonin. A commercial version should be available around May.

With regard to investing related to cloud computing, Bohn said from Prague, "You try to be early, bet on the right people, and try to get a head start." He said he'd been seeing lots of potential investments in the cloud space, but most were apps that "may not be defensible enough."

This is the second cloud-connected deal I've seen in 2009 from Boston venture capitalists. The first was CloudSwitch, which involved Atlas Venture and Matrix Partners.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Boston VCs Hope for Sunnier Days Ahead

From Sunday's Globe: 'Releasing Capital for Rays of Energy.' It deals with two of the newest-vintage photovoltaic start-ups in the Boston area, 1366 Technologies and Wakonda Technologies.

    To date, 1366, which traces its roots to MIT research, has raised $12 million from Polaris and North Bridge Venture Partners, another Waltham venture capital firm. Wakonda, which spun out from the Rochester Institute of Technology, has raised $9.5 million, much of it from Massachusetts-based venture firms Polaris, General Catalyst, and Advanced Technology Ventures. The two companies are located a few miles from one another, off Route 128 in Boston's northern suburbs.

    Polaris's involvement with two start-ups working on new approaches to wringing electricity from the sun is a little out of the ordinary but not unique; General Catalyst has funded two solar companies, and Advanced Technology Ventures has funded three. Over the past four years a roaring torrent of cash has been funneled into companies developing photovoltaic materials. According to Cambridge-based Greentech Media, a research firm, roughly $4.5 billion has been invested in about 150 solar start-ups in that time frame.

In the video, MIT prof. and 1366 co-founder Ely Sachs gives you a PV primer.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Panel from MIT VC Conference: Media/Tech/Entertainment

Moderated a panel earlier today on media, technology, and entertainment at the 11th annual MIT Venture Capital Conference. My panelists included:

    Jeremy Allaire
    CEO, Brightcove

    John Lanza
    IP Practice Group Leader, Choate Hall & Stewart, LLP

    Lucy McQuilken
    Investment Director, Intel Capital

    Neil Sequeira
    General Partner, General Catalyst

We talked about Facebook, Twitter, set-top boxes, Internet video, the Kindle, Blu-ray, iTunes, copyright, piracy, videogames, and the music industry.

The MP3 is about 50 minutes long. Some of the questions during the Q&A are on the quiet. The file is here.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

MIT VC Conference: December 6th

The MIT Venture Capital club just opened up registration for the 11th annual MIT Venture Capital Conference. It happens on December 6th, and while registration costs $245 for early birds, there's also an entrepreneur showcase in the evening that's free for anyone to attend.

I'll be there, moderating the closing session with Harmonix Music Systems co-founder Eran Egozy. And I'm going to try to arrive early to see Dan Primack's opening session with Paul Maeder and David Fialkow, from Highland Capital Partners and General Catalyst.

More on the event:

    ...Every year, the conference brings together over 400 venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders to discuss current opportunities and challenges in Venture Capital investing.

    This year, the conference theme is Reinventing Venture Capital. A Keynote Panel of founding partners from leading venture capital firms will open the conference with a discussion of evolving strategies of the venture capital community and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the dynamically changing industrial, financial, and economic conditions around the world.

    Dr. Jamshed J. Irani, Director of Tata Sons, one of India’s oldest, largest, and most respected business conglomerates, will deliver lunch keynote address. The conference will close with a fireside chat with Eran Egozy, CTO and Co-Founder of Harmonix, a MIT Media Lab startup which created Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Mascoma: Lone Massachusetts Company in First Quarter's Top Ten Venture Deals

The PriceWaterhouseCoopers/NVCA MoneyTree Report covering Q1 activity just came out.

Part of the news is that there was a worrisome drop in the amount of capital poured into New England companies during the first quarter.

But the other interesting tidbit comes from the list of the top ten money-raisers in the quarter: companies like Slide (developer of Facebook apps), Asthmatx (medical devices for asthma sufferers), and Infinia Corp. (Stirling engines and generators), each of which raised $50 million.

Company #10 on the list is a mysterious Brighton, MA biotech company that raised $44.99 million from firms like Atlas Venture, General Catalyst, Kleiner Perkins, and Khosla Ventures. It's the only Massachusetts company to make the list.

Though the MoneyTree survey labels the company and its business as "undisclosed," all signs point to Mascoma Corp., a company turning cellulosic materials (plant-based schtuff like wood, straw, and switchgrass) into biofuels. (This was earlier reported as a $50 million combo of equity and debt, but there's no press release on Mascoma's site.)

Interestingly, the #1 money-raiser in the quarter was another cellulosic ethanol company, Colorado-based Range Fuels, which took in an eye-popping $130 million. Range and Mascoma have one investor in common: Vinod Khosla's Khosla Ventures.

(Both Range and Mascoma are classified by MoneyTree as "biotech" firms, but it seems to me they'd fit better in the "industrial/energy" category, though they do rely on living organisms and biotech processes to make their fuel.)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Audio: TIE's VC Outlook Panel from Jan. 31st

TIE's annual "VC Outlook" dinner was packed to the rafters late last month.... Mike Gaiss from Highland Capital was kind enough to post an audio recording of the discussion.

I moderated, and my panelists included Paul Maeder from Highland; Ajay Agarwal from Bain Capital Ventures; Hemant Taneja from General Catalyst Partners; and Bob Hower from ATV.

We started by talking about the climate for VC investing (2007 was the best year since 2001 for VC firms raising money, and start-ups raking in investments)... the economic outlook... some new areas the panelists are learning about (and perhaps investing in)... some businesses they feel are over-hyped and over-invested (mobile advertising was mentioned)... the globalization of VC... and the impact that sovereign wealth funds may have on tech companies and VC firms.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Same Story, Ten Years Later?

Some historical parallelism struck me this morning as I was thinking about yesterday's acquisition of Maven Networks by Yahoo, for $160 million.

Almost ten years ago, Maven founder and CEO Hilmi Ozguc sold an earlier company, Narrative Communications, to @home Corp. Narrative harnessed new technologies, like animated and interactive banners, to make ads more compelling; Maven focuses on delivering video, and integrating advertising into it.

The purchase price of Narrative was $89 million (in stock).

Around that time, the Web portal Excite was in play, and the two suitors were Yahoo and @home. (Running Excite at the time was George Bell, now a partner with General Catalyst, the Cambridge venture capital firm that originally backed Maven.) @home, which had just bought Narrative, prevailed, and the merger took place in early 1999. It's now widely considered one of the worst combinations of the dot-com era. The newly-renamed Excite@Home saw its stock plummet, and declared bankruptcy in October 2001.

Kind of interesting, don't you think, that the latest acquirer of a Hilmi Ozguc start-up, Yahoo, is also in the thick of some merger discussions of it's own...

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Will Yahoo buy Maven?

(This is in danger of turning into the all-General-Catalyst-all-the-time blog...)

But the buzz yesterday was that Yahoo was on the verge of a deal to buy Cambridge's Maven Networks for about $150 million.

Wonder how that deal will be affected by Microsoft's unsolicited offer to buy Yahoo for $44 billion?

I suspect if the ink isn't yet dry on the Maven acquisition, CEO Hilmi Ozguc and his investors (which include GC, Prism VentureWorks, and Accel) may be biting their nails for a little while...

(A few months back, I wrote about the rivalry between Maven and Brightcove, Cambridge's two video delivery start-ups.)

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Just one more video investment for General Catalyst

I was pretty sure I heard, at a recent panel I moderated, Larry Bohn of General Catalyst Partners say that the firm was done making investments in online video.

Well, maybe just one more... they've now put money into, a Santa Monica based instructional video site. (Videos explain how to tie a Windsor knot, and also how to tie flies.)

Here's the NY Times story announcing the site's launch; it says that Cambridge-based GC is the primary backer, but doesn't disclose how much the firm put in. General Catalyst doesn't yet list WonderHowTo on its portfolio page.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Catching up: Sunday's column, Tuesday's panel, Tonight's talk

- Last Sunday, I wrote about Cinital, a start-up that moved from Cambridge to Hollywood to try to improve the way TV shows and movies use "green screen" technology. From that piece:

    Ordinarily, it's hard to tell what live actors will look like once these digital backgrounds are laid in; that work, called "compositing," is usually done afterward by visual effects specialists. But the concept behind Mack's company is to mix the actors and the backgrounds in real time, so the director can see what the final shot will look like by glancing at a high-definition monitor - and reduce or eliminate the costs of all that laborious, after-the-fact compositing.

    Mack's Cinital system could be used on as many as 20 TV productions and a handful of feature films this year, says Sam Nicholson, chief executive of Stargate Digital, a South Pasadena, Calif., visual-effects firm that bought the first system. One of the first projects to which Cinital contributed is NBC's new made-for-TV movie "Knight Rider," which airs next month.

Here's the video:

- Tuesday we had a discussion about venture capital in 2007 and 2008 at the Vilna Shul on Beacon Hill, organized by Doug Levin (who writes about it on his blog.) While no one was optimistic about where the economy is going this year, all three felt confident that going long -- investing in start-ups over five or six or seven years -- is still a good strategy. Larry Bohn said that his firm has placed some big bets in video, and doesn't see General Catalyst doing much more in that space, but he did predict the end of Microsoft's domination of the software world (Bill Gates retires, and everything goes to hell.) Jonathan Seelig from Globespan seemed very interested in how all of the "data utility" services we get at home, like voice, Internet, and TV, will be bundled and managed and marketed going forward. I think one of our audience members recorded the event, and I'll link to it once it's up. (Update: Chris Herot has some notes.)

- Tonight I'm giving a talk about the past, present, and future of the innovation economy here in New England -- and some of the challenges we should all be working on. While it's sponsored by the HBS Association of Boston, you don't have to be an HBS alum to go. (Just register as "Other Alum Guest.")

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

n2N Commerce no more

TechCrunch reports on the first start-up death of 2008 (or the last of 2007, perhaps), involving Cambridge-based n2N Commerce.

The company officially launched last January with a $30 million round of funding from Limited Brands and General Catalyst. Joel Cutler and Larry Bohn were the GC board members. Ruben Pinchanski, one of Boston's pioneers of Web development and e-commerce, was the CEO.

One entrepreneur who heard news of the company's troubles tells me that n2N laid off about 70 people before Christmas.

Update: I'm told that the decision to shut-down n2N wasn't made by the full board, but by Limited Brands, which unfortunately was the company's lead investor and primary customer. I suspect we'll see some legal action, since it doesn't sound like GC is too happy about putting money into a start-up that was given just one year to prove its model. GC had two board seats, as did Limited Brands. Pinchanski was the fifth board member.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

And the final number is...

Just to update an earlier post: General Catalyst's fifth fund has topped out at $714 million. That's up there with some of the biggest funds raised this year, like Battery Ventures' $750 million fund (#8 for the Waltham collosus.)

Other VCs in Boston regard General Catalyst as a marketing machine, pulling in money from limited partners at an incredible pace. The exits, though, have been scarce thus far: GC's biggest hit has been M-Qube, a wireless marketing company in Watertown, MA. That was a 6x return for investors when it was acquired last year by Verisign for $250 million.

(Mass High Tech had this fun story earlier in the year, about M-Qube execs going off to start new companies, like Mobicious and Matchmine.)

Lately, GC has been betting big on video: its portfolio includes Maven Networks, Brightcove, Visible Measures, Everyzing, ViTrue, and ScanScout.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday's Globe column: Brightcove and Maven, duking it out

Today's Globe column is about the competition -- and many connections -- between Brightcove and Maven Networks, two Cambridge companies angling to become the dominant tool for media companies that publish video on the Net. (Their offices are a stone's throw from one another in Kendall Square.) From the column:

    The story of Maven Networks and Brightcove, two companies that have helped shape the way media firms distribute video online, is one of unbridled competitiveness: two entrepreneurs who were once on the same team now duking it out.

    Brightcove, by virtue of having raised $82 million in funding, is one of the highest-profile tech start-ups in Boston (Maven has banked $27 million). The big question is which one will wind up with the sweetest finish - either an acquisition by a big player like Microsoft or Google, or a public offering.

I actually had included Adobe in that list, as a potential acquirer, but it got snipped during editing. (Macromedia, now part of Adobe, acquired the first company that Brightcove founder Jeremy Allaire started, Allaire Corp.)

A few other interesting notes on possible exits: when Comcast bought thePlatform last year, they paid between $100 and $125 million, according to several sources. So that's the one valuation we know about in the enterprise video-publishing space. On the consumer side, we know about YouTube ($1.65 billion), and Sony's acquisition of Grouper ($65 million). (We sort of know about Vimeo, a video publishing site started as part of CollegeHumor, which Barry Diller's IAC acquired last year for a reported $20 million.)

YouTube received a grand total of $11.5 million in venture funding before it was acquired by Google. It starts to make it look as though Brightcove's backers ($82 million) may find it tough to make a 3x, 4x, 5x return. But we'll see. One intriguing possibility would be combining the two companies, since Accel Partners and General Catalyst are investors in both. Of course, they'd then confront Sophie's Choice, since I'm sure that Maven CEO Hilmi Ozguc and Allaire would never work together.

John Simon, the General Catalyst partner who sits on the board of Maven (his firm is also an investor in Brightcove), wouldn't talk to me by phone. But he sort of answered a couple questions via e-mail. I asked what he thought the benefit was of being an investor in both companies. He wrote that the "two companies ... show every sign of delighting customers, employees, and stakeholders and being very significant venture capital winners at this point," adding, "[T]hese are two companies we can really be proud of."

Here's this week's video.... an interview with Jeremy Allaire, published using (what else) Brightcove.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Still no official word...

...but the blog Northeast Venture Capital Funding is reporting that General Catalyst's fifth fund with top out at $600 million, with $200 million of that dedicated to later-stage investments.

(I'd posted on this earlier.)

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Friday, September 14, 2007

How big will GC's fifth fund be?

Several Boston VCs tell me that General Catalyst's fifth fund is close to closing, and everyone I've spoken with expects it to be quite a bit bigger than the fourth fund, a $400 million war chest announced in January 2006.

One Boston VC says he's heard word from limited partners of a $450 million fund with a $250 million side fund. Another tells me he expects the total will be bigger -- in the $700 to $800 million range. A third says that one aspect of GC's story -- the founders have known each other since high school -- is reassuring to LPs, who want to be sure that a fund's partners will be able to work together smoothly over its ten-year life-span.

General Catalyst co-founder David Fialkow had no comment when I asked him about the new fund earlier today.

The firm dates back only to 2000; among Boston VC partnerships, it's among the most heavily-focused on video and the Net, with investments in Brightcove, Maven Networks, ViTrue, ScanScout, Visible Measures,, and Eons.

Update: An entrepreneur source e-mails to say "it's definitely north of $700." (One of his prior companies was backed by GC.)

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

As the Times notes the 'graying of the Web,' Jeff Taylor's cuts staff

This NY Times piece today observes that several sites are angling to be "Facebook with wrinkles," targeting older Internet users. The first example they mention is Charlestown-based Eons, started by founder Jeff Taylor. From the piece:

    The advertisers on Eons include Humana health care insurance, Fidelity Investments and the pharmacy chain CVS. Lee Goss, president and chief operating officer of Eons Inc., which received backing from the venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and General Catalyst, said that the sites aimed at an older audience may not grow as quickly as MySpace, but could have longevity.

    “Our audience, while it is harder to attract, is more durable and sticky over time,” he said.

Good timing for some good publicity for Eons. Mass High Tech reported yesterday that Eons has laid off 35 percent of its staff in a restructuring. The operative quote from Rodney Brown's piece: "The cost structure was just too expensive for where we are in doing business," according to Taylor.

Eons has raised $32 million thus far, some of it from General Catalyst in Cambridge and Charles River Ventures in Waltham.

Taylor, 46, told the Herald that his start-up still has $15 million in the bank. The Globe notes that this is the second cutback this year. And Xconomy has some inside details from an Eons employee.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Why OnForce is Moving to Boston

I ran into someone yesterday who mentioned that OnForce, a NYC start-up backed by General Catalyst, is in the process of moving from New York to Boston.

OnForce is basically an online marketplace for short-term technical gigs, like installing a bunch of new desktops, diagnosing printer problems, or setting up videoconferencing systems. The company's CEO, Peter Cannone, e-mailed me today, and the first thing I asked was, what's behind your decision to move to Boston?

Here's what he said:

    As we continue to build out the Company the biggest and most important short term need we have is highly skilled developers/engineers as well as product design and development folks. It was very difficult to find these folks in New York City. When we assessed a new location for our Company we thought Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas or Boston, MA. Boston MA was the clear choice for us. We have already hired some very talented folks up in Boston including a CTO and a Director of Product Development. Many of these folks are working in temporary space in Cambridge. As a validation of the decision one of my Board Members Marty Abbott previous CTO of EBAY who is very knowledgeable about locations of marketplace companies like OnForce was very supportive of the Boston move. Having [General Catalyst] close by also makes available additional resources which we can take advantage of. They are great VC firm. We will be opening the office in Lexington MA in early October and hopefully transitioning most of our employees from NYC by year end.

There you have it.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Solid lists of mobile and video start-ups around Boston

David Laubner runs the great local tech site 93 South. Two cool new postings there:

1. A list of video-related start-ups in the Boston area, including Brightcove, PermissionTV, Avid, and ExtendMedia. (David used to work at Gotuit, one of the video companies on this list.)

2. A list of mobile-oriented start-ups in the Boston area, which includes Enpocket, MobileLime, JumpTap, Skyhook Wireless, and the super-stealthy LocoMobile, funded by General Catalyst.

I think gaming is another area where there'slots of activity. Your next list, perhaps, David?

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Enertech Salon in Back Bay, Hosted by Bob Metcalfe and Polaris

Just back from the Enertech Salon, held at Bob Metcalfe's spiffy Back Bay brownstone and dedicated to bringing together VCs, researchers, and entrepreneurs working on new energy-related technologies. (Rode my bike there and back, since Metcalfe had asked invitees to "lower their carbon footprint by walking or taking the T.")

Some quick impressions:

- The greentech or cleantech economy in Boston seems to have two hubs. The better-established one is the MIT Energy Club. Their Energy Conference in March attracted some pretty stellar folks: GE chief exec Jeff Immelt, VC Vinod Khosla, and author/consultant Daniel Yergin, for instance. The second hub, growing quickly thanks to funding from several local venture firms like Polaris and General Catalyst, is the New England Energy Innovation Collaborative, headed by recovering tech exec Nick D'Arbeloff. Of course there are several other associations and state-sanctioned councils -- and this Mass High Tech piece explores some of the overlap.

- EnerNoc CEO Tim Healy was present for the start of the evening, but had to leave early to fly to New York. Tomorrow, he is going to press the button to officially open trading on the Nasdaq exchange. (The company went public in May.)

- Greentech Media, founded this January, is a cool new micro-media company in Cambridge that I hadn't heard about before. One of their co-founders was present.

- Boston Power founder Christina Lampe-Onnerud seems to be powered by a mysterious energy source.

- I hadn't met David Danielson before, a PhD candidate at MIT who plans to move over to General Catalyst in the fall, where he'll work alongside Hemant Taneja, that firm's energy-oriented partner. Just before informing me of that impending career move, Danielson said he worries that we're experiencing a greentech "bump" or "bubble" that isn't sustainable. But why not take advantage of it while it lasts?

- Oddly, having just posted about Marin Soljacic's work at MIT, I bumped into him on my way out. He said that he's currently exploring the potential of getting venture funding for WiTricity. I think it could be the most interesting energy-related start-up from MIT since A123 Systems...but the technology may still be too embryonic for VCs to feel comfortable with. (A123's battery work was quite nascent when it left the MIT nest, as was another MIT hatchling, Greenfuel, where Metcalfe is currently serving as interim CEO, raising funding to keep the company alive until it can prove its technology works at scale.)

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