Friday, June 26, 2009

Oneforty is First Company in TechStars Boston to Get Seed Funding

TechStars' first-ever summer program for entrepreneurs in Boston started on May 26th. Fifteen days later, on June 10th, the first team got funding. That must be some kind of land speed record.

The funded company is Oneforty, founded by Boston Twitter maven Laura 'Pistachio' Fitton. Fitton, who has 35,000 followers on Twitter, is also the author of 'Twitter for Dummies,' just published. (Makes me wonder if someone has already written 'Twitter for Sophisticates.' Is it really that complex?) Fitton also runs Pistachio Consulting, based in Brighton, Ma.

Investors describe the new company's goal as creating an "app store for Twitter," bringing together in one place all the free and paid apps designed to enhance Twitter's value and utility. Fitton herself isn't wild about the phrase "app store for Twitter," instead describing the company as "a Twitter ecosystem play" that intends to "help people make sense of the Twitter ecosystem, and find, rate and share apps." Fitton noted that she'd started talking with potential investors before the TechStars program began.

Several angel investors have put less than $250,000 into the company, I'm told. They include Jeff Bennett of NameMedia (formerly of Lycos) and John Landry of Lead Dog Ventures (formerly of Lotus). Oneforty is still a bit virtual. Fitton is out in San Francisco developing the site with Pivotal Labs. She has two full-time employees starting next week at the TechStars office in Cambridge, and several others working on the project as contractors.

"I invested very much in [Laura], and her network and her enthusiasm, which is really quite contagious," Landry says. "She believes that Twitter is an infrastructure. She's on a mission, and she will figure out how to make this pay off."

Nice start for TechStars Boston, which wraps up in late August.

(In the video below, shot at SXSW in March, Fitton dodges some questions about Oneforty...starting at about the one-minute mark.)

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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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Friday, May 16, 2008

The Thursday Night Party Report

Went out last night to two events: the opening of Prism VentureWorks' new office in Needham, and PopSignal (formerly TechCocktail) on Landsdowne Street. Prism's new space is across the hall from the US offices of Microsoft's FAST search division, and it looks like it was designed by Ari Gold of Entourage -- very sleek, very white, very LA.

I ran into blogger and Celtics fan Michael Feinstein of Sempre Management. John Landry was also there, sheepishly acknowledging that he'd been caught doing the Funky Chicken on the Jumbotron at Wednesday night's Celtics game. I-banker Paul Deninger was there... and just so's you realize how powerful he is, he pulls people aside every five minutes to whisper something in their ear.

Neil Creighton, CEO of Prism portfolio company RatePoint was there, and he explained why consumers might want to post ratings on a vendor's Web site (it gives the vendor a chance to address any complaints .... very different from posting a negative comment on Yelp or Epinions.) There was also a big contingent from LogMeIn, another Prism portfolio company that filed to go public back in January.

Out in the parking lot, Roy Hirshland mentioned that his firm, T3 Advisors, had been involved in Adobe's deal to buy a 108,000 square foot building in Waltham for its East Coast outpost. That suggests a long-term commitment on the part of the San Jose company, which had been leasing in Newton ever since it bought Macromedia (which bought Allaire Corp., oh so long ago).

At Tequila Rain on Landsdowne, I miraculously scored a parking space right out front... inside, I ran into Matt Lauzon of Paragon Lake, a Highland Capital-incubated company (they participated in the summer program last year) that's out raising its first round. Sounds like the money will likely come from a mix of East Coast and West Coast investors. Lauzon,a recent Babson grad, said he'd listed himself in the PowerPoint presentation as "Acting CEO." On the East Coast, he found, that made investors comfortable: we can bring in some adult supervision. But on the West Coast, people said, "Why just acting?"

Aaron White from the animation site was in the back room ... Michael Kreppein and Dave Dupre from Inquisix were there ... as were PR mavens Maura Fitzgerald and Jean Serra from Version 2.0 communications. Eric Hellweg was in attendance with a posse from Harvard Business School Publishing, and he mentioned that his band Andromeda Taxi has some big gigs this summer, opening up for Phil Lesh and the Allman Brothers. On the way out, I ran into a pair of venture capital PR folks, Matthew Burke and Karen Bonmart, both of whom were toting freebie t-shirts from TripAdvisor, which now proclaims itself the biggest Web 2.0 company in the East.

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