Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On Deck for Wednesday: LogMeIn IPO

The Globe has this story about the pending IPO of Woburn-based LogMeIn, a company that makes remote access software for PCs (and also sells a popular iPhone app.) This would be the third venture-backed firm to go out in 2009, following OpenTable and SolarWinds.

Big winners if the company succeeds in raising $100m+ from the public market? Prism VentureWorks and Polaris Venture Partners, two Boston-area VC firms that have been out in the market trying to raise their next funds. Woody Benson represents Prism on the LogMeIn board, and Dave Barrett represents Polaris. And of course, many LogMeIn employees will do well, including CEO Michael Simon.

I mentioned LogMeIn in a Globe column last month about iPhone apps.

Seeking Alpha has this piece analyzing the offering.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sayonara, SiCortex

I was sad to see the news this week that Maynard-based SiCortex is shutting down and selling of its assets after investors decided to turn off the tap. The ambitious maker of high-performance computers had raised $42 million, and CEO Chris Stone told me they'd shipped 60 of the machines in 2008 when we spoke late that year. (More coverage from Xconomy, GigaOm, and HPCwire.)

Some famous last words from my December 2008 chat with Stone:

    "Do I worry about raising money in this environment? Sure," Stone says. "But we're generating revenue, and the customers want to buy more."

The shut-down is bad news for local VC firms Flagship Ventures, Prism VentureWorks, and Polaris Venture Partners. (Bob Metcalfe was the Polaris partner who served on SiCortex's board; another of his portfolio companies, Greenfuel, also shut down in May.)

Ex-employee Jeff Darcy has an analysis of what went wrong on his blog:

    The only failure that mattered was not technical, nor in any area of customer-oriented execution: it was purely a matter of finance and timing. There is every reason to believe that our next system based on our next chip was going to be awesome, pushing our flagship system well into the Top 500 even before we talk about linking them together, and development was well along. Unfortunately, such development is not cheap and that put us in a high-burn-rate phase right when the economy turned sour and capital became very scarce. That’s like a “perfect storm” combination of circumstances. Maybe there are some things we could have done differently, but “coulda woulda shoulda” is a dangerous game. For example, some might say we should have cut costs sooner, even if it meant delaying the arrival of that next system, and tried to “weather the storm” until a better funding environment came around. Maybe. Or maybe, under other equally-likely conditions, that would have led to a far more ignominious failure as our competitors took the same extra time to adopt our approaches and use superior resources to leave us behind technologically. No thanks. I’m not in any mood to second-guess the people who made those decisions. I’d rather believe, and I think I’m justified in believing, that we played a good game and can walk off the field with our heads held high even though the score wasn’t in our favor.

Here's some video I shot at SiCortex's HQ in December 2008:

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prism: One More Local VC Firm Hits Fundraising Brick Wall

Dan Primack at PEHub reported yesterday that Prism VentureWorks of Needham has put fundraising for its sixth fund on hold. Primack wrote:

    “We plan to spend the next year focusing on our portfolio companies, and evolving the firm,” says Woody Benson, a general partner with Prism since 2004. “I don’t know exactly what that evolution will mean for us, but the venture world is obviously beginning to change, in terms of things like new models.”

    Benson added that the aforementioned “evolution” is not expected to include layoffs of investment staff.

Benson joined what used to be Prism Venture Partners in 2004. The company was still led by co-founder Bob Fleming in 2005, when it raised its fifth fund ($250 million.) Fleming is still listed on the Prism Web site, but he effectively left in 2006 along with Duane Mason, another founder of the firm. Benson then took the reins, and started focusing more on what he dubbed "digital living" investments.

There have been a few successes in Fund V, PEInsider observed last year, including selling "Softricity to Microsoft in 2006 for an undisclosed amount and video-hosting company Maven Networks to Yahoo this year for $160 million - both of which yielded more than three times its investments."

If Prism isn't eventually able to raise a sixth fund, the Boston VC scene gets a little bit smaller.

All eyes right now are on Highland Capital and Polaris Ventures' fund-raising efforts...Primack at PEHub reported last month that Highland is trying to raise a smaller $400 million fund; the firm's last fund, raised in 2006, was $800 million.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, April 3, 2009

Simeonov Peels Off from Polaris

Just a couple weeks after technologist-in-residence Charles Teague left General Catalyst to chase some entrepreneurial opportunities, Sim Simeonov, the technology partner at Polaris Venture Partners in Waltham, is doing the same. He'll continue to hold the title of "technology advisor" for the firm, but won't be in the office day-to-day.

(Interestingly, Teague and Simeonov worked together at Allaire Corp., back in the Web 1.0 days, but Simeonov says they're not collaborating right now.)

I'd been hearing that change was in the air for several months. Back in February, Simeonov confirmed what was happening in an e-mail, noting that he'd helped start four companies at Polaris (Archivas, 8th Ring, Veracode, and Plinky), but wanted to consistently receive equity in the companies he helped launch. (California-based Plinky, the newest start-up, is the only company where Simeonov has a stake. He serves as interim CTO there.)

Polaris' Web site hasn't yet been updated to reflect the change.

Simeonov's blog is here.

He's organizing an event later this month on cloud computing for the MIT Enterprise Forum. (And in the interest of disclosure, Simeonov is also on the board of advisors for the Nantucket Conference...along with me.)

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Assessing the M&A Environment in 2009

Today's Globe column is headlined 'Fire sale for struggling start-ups.' It got cut rather drastically for space reasons... so I'm publishing the "director's cut" here, along with this week's video: a chat with i-banker Paul Deninger.

Fire sale for struggling start-ups

Last summer, in the clubby, wood-paneled confines of the Oak Bar at the Copley Plaza Hotel, Chris Cabrera and Mike Torto got together for drinks.

It wasn’t the first time the two chief executives had met – Cabrera’s San Jose company, Xactly Corp., competed directly with Torto’s Lowell-based business, Centive Inc. – but it was the first time they seriously discussed combining the two companies. “We realized that the only deals we were losing were to them, and vice versa,” says Cabrera. Both companies sell Internet-based software for managing the way salespeople are paid. “There seemed like a lot of synergy to bring the two companies together.”

Synergy, perhaps. But when Xactly’s acquisition of Centive was announced last month, there didn’t seem to be much upside for the investors, founders, and employees of the Lowell company: after nearly a dozen years of work building Centive, and more than $92 million in venture capital raised, they handed their company over to Xactly in exchange for stock in the San Jose start-up, which is privately-held and not yet profitable.

Entrepreneurs, team members, and investors work insanely hard under the expectation that they’re creating something of value. The dream is that eventually, the stock market or a deep-pocketed acquirer will repay them for all that work. But right now, public offerings are at a standstill, and the types of acquisitions that have been happening over the past few months don’t look too alluring.

“Investors are looking at their portfolios, and trying to decide which companies can cut costs and survive, who’s going to die, and who they can sell,” says Paul Deninger, vice chairman of the investment banking firm Jeffries & Company. “And sometimes when they sell, they’re happy to just get their bait back, and maybe make a tiny profit.”

Centive isn’t the only recent example of the lackluster market for tech companies. Earlier this month, a bargain-hunting Oracle Corp. snapped up Burlington-based mValent, Inc. for an undisclosed sum. mValent, which helps customers keep track of the way computer systems are configured, had raised more than $26 million from local investors like Polaris Venture Partners, Flybridge Capital Partners, and Charles River Ventures. In January, San Francisco-based Riverbed Technology, Inc. paid $25 million in cash for Mazu Networks of Cambridge, which makes software to help optimize the performance of their technological infrastructure. Only problem is, investors like Waltham-based Matrix Partners, Greylock Partners, and Pilot House Ventures of Boston had poured $47 million into the company.

There’s a possibility that Riverbed may shell out another $22 million for Mazu, if the acquired company hits certain business targets over the coming year. But analyst firm The 451 Group opined that achieving those targets will be “unlikely” given the current economic situation.

Somewhat incredibly, the banker who handled the Mazu transaction dubs it “a huge win.” How’s that? “When you have interested parties at the table in this market, and you have a company that has momentum and is doing well, you sometimes say, ‘Let’s take advantage of this now,’ versus taking the risk that the company will either require further funding, or the company may lose its momentum,” says Ben Howe of America’s Growth Capital in Boston. In other words, the price could get worse in six months, or would-be acquirers could vanish.

Venture capital firms are holding on to their best companies – the top prospects – and wouldn’t consider a low-ball offer. But when it comes companies that seem like black holes for funding, or the time and attention of their VC board members, the attitude is, “Any semi-serious offer will be considered.”

“You’ll see a whole bunch of investors just getting rid of stuff this year,” says Giles McNamee, co-founder of the Boston investment bank McNamee Lawrence & Co.

Liz Cobb founded Centive, then known as Incentive Systems, in 1997 to help companies better calculate the commissions that are paid to sales reps, and inform the sales reps about how well they were performing. She wrote the business plan and raised a first round of $2 million to build the product. Eventually, the company promoted Mike Byers, its chief financial officer, to CEO, and Byers went on a fund-raising tear. The company also started chasing big, million-dollar deals with customers like General Electric, Kinko’s Analog Devices, and Computer Associates. But every deal, Cobb says, was a custom job requiring lots of individual attention.

A big shift happened in 2005 and 2006, when a new CEO, Torto, was brought in. The company sold off its original enterprise software business in order to focus on software-as-a-service, or delivering its sales compensation software over the Internet, which reduced the cost of acquiring customers and also the amount of hand-holding they needed. Torto also recapitalized the company, which wiped out many of the earliest investors and gave a larger stake to those who were willing to stay in the game and keep funding Centive.

Xactly was founded around that era as well, and Centive started bumping into them in the marketplace. “For the past four years,” says Cabrera, “we’ve been battling each other for #1 and #2 in the market.” Xactly also opened up a Boston sales and marketing outpost.

By last year, Torto had nearly nudged Centive into profitability. After the Oak Bar meeting, Torto discussed the potential deal with his board, and the two companies began the due diligence process. “We always figured it would be an all-stock deal,” says Cabrera, “but a lot of time was spent on the delicate subject of valuation.” It was determined that Torto and most of the rest of the Centive management team wouldn’t stay on after the acquisition closed. But Xactly plans to retain the Centive engineering team in Lowell – at least for the foreseeable future, while they combine the best features of the two products.

For their part, even if they don’t have any cash to show for it, Centive’s investors are trying to remain optimistic. They’re now minority shareholders in Xactly, and that company could turn out to be a big winner. Right?

John Gannon is a partner at Polaris Venture Partners in Waltham, which backed Centive from its genesis to its most recent $10 million round, in 2005. “I think there’s a higher likelihood that by putting these two companies together, there will be a really positive exit from an IPO or an acquisition,” Gannon says.

Cobb, Centive’s founder, had split from the company in 2003 after some differences of opinion about its direction. So she wasn’t at the Oak Bar meeting when the two companies began exploring an acquisition. She learned that her old company had been sold a few weeks ago, when a colleague at Makana Solutions, the company she now runs, sent her an e-mail with a link to the announcement. Her founding stock in Centive had been so diluted over the years that she didn’t wind up with a stake in Xactly.

“It’s not fully what I had imagined,” she says.

In 2009, she’s not the only entrepreneur who’ll be feeling that way.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Student Brainstorming

What are some of the ways we can better connect graduating students with the innovation economy here in New England? That's the topic of today's Globe column, and I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

From the column:

    The greatest renewable natural resource we've got in New England is smart young people. Hundreds of thousands of them are getting educated in our region right now; in Massachusetts alone, about 75,000 will earn degrees come May. And once springtime approaches, most graduates will return home or seek their fortunes elsewhere - often in Silicon Valley.

    A study commissioned by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce last month found that over the next five years, Massachusetts will have the lowest rate of population growth of any state, when you're looking specifically at people 25 years old or older who've earned at least a bachelor's degree. Joining us on the laggards list are neighboring states Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine.

    "Our problem in New England is that the ripe entrepreneur-age kids are leaving in droves," says [Angelo] Santinelli, a consultant and ex-venture capitalist who also teaches entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley. "Our biggest export is brains."

Here's a video clip of a recent chat I had with venture capitalist and entrepreneur Bob Metcalfe on the topic.

And an earlier blog post here graded Boston's networking groups and trade associations based on how welcoming they are of students.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's Polaris Up to in San Francisco?

Waltham-based Polaris Venture Partners seems pretty active out in the Bay Area these days...

This summer, the firm did a seed round for Plinky, a new company co-founded by Sim Simeonov (a technology partner at Polaris' Waltham office) and funded by Mike Hirshland, who also technically works out of the Waltham office. Plinky is based in the East Bay, in Lafayette.

Now, Hirshland has helped launch The Dog Patch Lab. It's a work space and series of networking events to bring together Web entrepreneurs. Polaris is the "founding sponsor," and Hirshland is one of the "top dawgs" at the lab.

It is based in San Francisco, on Pier 38.

(I've had a few meetings scheduled this year with Hirshland, but he has blown off most of them. No doubt because he's in California?)

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, September 8, 2008

How Many Mass. Companies in TechCrunch 50?

The TechCrunch 50 starts today out in San Francisco. In its second year, this has become one of the hottest platforms for launching new companies.

How many are from Massachusetts?

Two, by my count: EmergInvest, a Cambridge start-up that aims to help investors put money to work in emerging markets (here's their entry in CrunchBase); and HangOut Industries, the Pano Anthos company that's developing virtual "rooms" for hanging out (and helping advertisers build brand awareness). It's funded by Highland Capital and Polaris, and based in downtown Boston.

Here's a bit more on HangOut from their press release:

    Launched today, at the prestigious TechCrunch50 conference, Hangout gives teens the ability to connect and truly interact with their friends online. On Hangout, teens interact with their friends as they do in the offline world- whether it be watching favorite videos on YouTube, listening to music, sharing Facebook photos, engaging with popular brands and products that they love, playing games or making music, or just chatting “in person”. Kids can now create their own personal 3D rooms leveraging real goods and clothes and hang out with their friends in their own spaces. Hangout combines the immersive nature of the Sims with the personalization of MySpace and the security and privacy of Facebook.

There may be more companies from Massachusetts who'll be appearing in the conference's Demo Pit, but none that I recognize.

Update: Givvy founder John Treadway, a start-up geared to increasing charitable giving, just e-mailed to let me know his company is part of the Pit action.

Update #2: David Beisel of Venrock e-mails to let me know that RaizLabs, Snipd, and Magic & Miracle Ventures (three more Demo Pit companies) also have some Boston roots. Snipd, as far as I know, is a Y Combinator company that was in Boston this summer, but will likely end up elsewhere. (Its founder is from Austin, TX.) Beisel also mentions that you'll be able to see Givvy at the September 15th WebInno meeting, which he organizes.

New Hampshire's own Don Dodge is on the panel of judges that will offer feedback on each of the fifty company presentations. Perhaps he'll post about any other Boston companies he encounters....

What do you think - is there a West Coast selection bias in this group ... or does Massachusetts just not have very many Web 2.0 companies?

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, March 7, 2008

Crane and Sasisekharan Make It a Trifecta

I had Tempo Pharmaceticals CEO (and Polaris Ventures partner) Alan Crane on a panel this past Wednesday night at one of the occasional Convergence Forum dinners at the Harvard Faculty Club.

Earlier in the week, Ryan McBride of Mass HIgh Tech had noted that Crane was involved in a new start-up called Parasol Therapeutics. This is the third company that Crane, MIT prof Ram Sasisekharan, and Polaris have started (#1 was Momenta Pharmaceuticals, now public; #2 was Tempo.)

Crane just smiled when I asked him about Parasol, which also involves Polaris principal Kevin Bitterman. He said the company is still very much in stealth mode, and that he's just serving as a director -- no plans to leave Tempo and serve as Parasol's CEO.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Last night's MITX panel on Internet video

Last night's sold-out MITX panel, 'Internet Video: What's Next?', was a lot of fun... and a full house despite dire warnings of impending precipitation. (Which always get people in Boston agitated.)

In the audience was a big contingent of video folks from the Globe, at least one exec from Visible Measures, video analyst Will Richmond, blogger and consultant Cesar Brea, and lots of folks from PermissionTV, one of the event's sponsors.

I won't try for a comprehensive re-cap here, but we talked about three areas: how is viewing behavior changing on the Web; how are videos made and distributed, and how are they monetized and measured.

No one has yet solved the problem for the mainstream consumer of getting Internet video onto a TV. Mike Hirshland of Polaris Venture Partners said that it could wind up being the player who can most successfully do deals with cable companies -- a risky prospect for venture capitalists to bet on. He said he'd earlier invested in a company, Ucentric Systems, that tried to built a next-gen set-top box, but was about eight years too early.

The panel seemed to agree that story and content trump production values. Denise DiIanni of WGBH recalled that several years back, filmmakers working with 'Nova' resisted shooting on video and tried to stick with 16 millimeter film. But the audience didn't see the difference, and didn't care.

Hirshland said that pre-roll advertising is already dead, and that the ad formats that will win will be highly targeted, and allow the viewer to choose to engage with them, rather than forcing a viewer to sit through them.

Someone from the audience asked a great question about how Internet video will evolve. Right now, he said, we're treating it like TV -- but it'll likely turn into something different. Denise DiIanni of WGBH had a great reply, which is that Internet video allows for conversations between the creator of media and the consumer -- putting both on a level playing field.

Videoblogger Steve Garfield, sitting in the audience, showed us how he does liveblogging with his Nokia N95 cell phone. Using QIK, he streamed video while he was talking.

After the panel, I had an interesting chat with Cesar Brea, who said that an impending recession will likely force advertisers to get serious about Internet video, emphasizing solid measurement and accountability. IE, it may shift things more to a pay-per-click model, as opposed to pay-per-impression.

Finally, here are some of the clips that we showed and talked about at the start of the panel....

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Stem Cell Start-Up Fate Gets $12 Million

Fate Therapeutics hopes to use stem cells to fix damaged tissue; the start-up just received $12 million in A round funding from ARCH Venture Partners, Polaris Venture Partners, Venrock, and OVP Venture Partners. The company's scientific founders hail from the University of Washington, Harvard, Stanford, and the Scripps Research Institute.

Fate says it'll have offices in both Massachusetts and Washington (the company was incubated in the Seattle offices of ARCH), but until a CEO is hired, they won't have a decision about where the HQ will be.

From the Seattle Times coverage:

    In Seattle "we're able to attract money to great ideas," [ARCH founding partner Robert] Nelsen said. "The hardest thing is finding the right team and the right CEOs."

    Fate will work on drugs that cause dormant adult stem cells to rebuild damaged tissue, as well as drugs that reprogram mature adult cells into stem cells that can repair ailing organs.

    The therapies could help treat Down syndrome, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as well as repair tissue after heart attacks, infections or transplants. Stem cells could also help fight certain types of cancer.

Mass High Tech adds:

    The firm aims to develop chemical-based, or small molecule, drugs intended to "awaken" stem cells in the body to combat diseases and regenerate tissue. Its other molecules would reprogram adult cells to an embryonic state. None of the firm's treatments would be derived from embryonic stem cells, the company says.

    Other local notables involved in Fate Therapeutics include Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors Robert Langer and Ram Sasisekharan, both of whom serve on the firm's scientific advisory board.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Talk About Hiding the News: JibJab Gets a Fresh Infusion from Polaris

JibJab, the digital entertainment company out in Santa Monica, California (the ones who produce musical parodies like 'This Land Is Your Land' and 'It's Good to Be in DC') put out a press release this morning. Here's the start (but don't stop reading):

    World famous Internet creative studio takes aim at online greetings with the launch of JibJab Sendables™

    VENICE, CA —October 24th, 2007— JibJab, the Internet comedy pioneers behind more viral video hits than any other independent or traditional entertainment studio, today announced that it is entering the online greetings business with the launch of JibJab Sendables™. (http://www.JibJab.com/sendables)

But the last line of the release is what grabbed me: "The company recently closed a Series B funding with Polaris Venture Partners." The size of the round was undisclosed (according to PE Hub's Dan Primack, it was $3 million), but there were no other investors. Waltham-based Polaris gave the company its initial funding last June -- a $6.4 million A round.

That's Polaris co-founder Jon Flint, in the center, with the two brothers who started JibJab, Evan and Gregg Spiridellis.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What's Andora Up To?

Bob Langer's lab at MIT seems to be going through a particularly fertile period -- I heard tonight that two Langer Lab companies are currently out talking to VCs.

Ryan McBride of Mass High Tech had a fun piece last Friday about another recent Langer Lab spin-out, Andora, basically speculating about what they may be up to. The company raised $4 million earlier in the year.

Andora (no Web site yet) is in Kendall Square, and were until recently was cohabitating with Tempo Pharmaceuticals, another Polaris-backed start-up. Avid surfer Amir Nashat is running the company. Oddly, Jon Flint from Polaris, not usually a life sciences investor, is on the board.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 28, 2007

WSJ: 3Com to be bought by Bain Capital and Huawei Technologies of China for $2B

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that Marlborough-based 3Com (founded in Silicon Valley in 1979 by Bob Metcalfe, now a VC at Polaris) will be sold to Bain Capital and Huawei Technologies, a Chinese networking firm. The price could be a little north of $2 billion. From Dana Cimilluca's story:

    Canada's Nortel Networks was interested in 3Com, people close to the process have said. Nortel may have walked away because Bain secured the partnership of Huawei.

    The reason why Huawei was crucial for Bain is that it has a non-compete with 3Com's crown jewel, a Chinese networking operation called H3C, which itself used to be a joint venture between 3Com and Huawei. If Nortel had won the auction, for example, it would have faced the prospect of competing against Huawei in short order.

    Most of the rest of the value of 3Com is in its Tipping Point unit, which provides network security gear. 3Com has said it would sell shares of Tipping Point to the public; that plan would probably be scrapped as part of the buyout agreement.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Instead of Going Public, Adnexus Shacks Up with Bristol-Myers Squibb

Bristol-Meyers Squibb is paying $430 million in cash for Waltham-based Adnexus Therapeutics, which filed an S-1 statement just last month. The company planned to raise $86 million in an IPO, on top of $76 million it had already raised in VC money.

We included them earlier this year on our list of the ten most-promising New England life sciences start-ups, in the second edition of The Convergence Guide. (The list was compiled by Steven Dickman of CBT Advisors.)

From the AP report:

    The companies said the acquisition of Adnexus will help advance Bristol-Myers's role in biologics and includes an early stage trial for cancer treatment candidate Angiocept. Angiocept is designed to be a so-called anti-angiogenic drug, or one that tries to stop cancerous tumors from developing new blood vessels.

    The deal "is an important step in accelerating the strategic transformation of our pharmaceutical business to a biopharma business model," said Bristol-Myers Squibb Chief Executive Jim Cornelius, in a statement.

Among the local VC firms that backed Adnexus are Polaris Venture Partners, Atlas Venture, and Flagship Ventures. The company did a Series C round of $15.5 million just before filing for its IPO.

Update: Tuesday's Globe has the full story.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mini-Printer Co. Gets $25 Million

Zink stands for "zero ink," and the company is developing technology for tiny portable color printers, which would work with handheld devices and phones. It is run by Polaroid alum Wendy Frey Caswell, and the technology came out of Polaroid's R&D labs. Zink plans to manufacture the special paper required for its printers, and have other electronics companies make the printers.

Sharp guy Dan Primack e-mails to let me know that Zink just closed a $25 million VC round -- about a year after a $70 million round led by Polaris fell apart. His blog post is here. Will Polaris one day regret passing? We'll see....

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 27, 2007

Two lists worth a look: Promising life sciences start-ups and powerful VC firms

Back in the springtime, I was involved with assembling the second edition of "The Convergence Guide," a book that looks at life sciences activity in New England. We put together two lists that have just shown up online...one profiles the top ten venture firms doing life sciences deals in New England (compiled by Dan Primack, who writes for PE Week and Venture Capital Journal)... and one examines the ten most promising life sciences startups (put together by Steven Dickman, a biotech consultant who used to write for Nature, Science, and The Economist.) It was distributed at the BIO International Convention in May, and Gov. Deval Patrick wrote the foreword.

The VC list is here, in PDF form. The run-down:

    1 Polaris Venture Partners
    2 Atlas Venture
    3 MPM Capital
    4 Novartis Corp.
    5 SV Life Sciences Advisers
    6 Flagship Ventures
    7 TVM Capital
    8 Boston University Community Technology Fund
    9 Oxford Bioscience Partners
    10 HealthCare Ventures

And the list of companies is here, in PDF form. The first company on the list, Adnexus Therapeutics, just filed for an IPO today. That list, in alphabetical order:

    Adnexus Therapeutics (MA, just filed to go public)
    Aveo Pharmaceuticals (MA)
    Codon Devices (MA)
    Helicos BioSciences (MA, now public)
    Microbia (MA)
    Neurotech (RI)
    Radius Health (MA)
    Sirtris Pharmaceuticals (MA, now public)
    Targanta Therapeutics (MA)
    Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals (MA)

Plus three companies Dickman dubbed worthy of being "on the radar": Acceleron Pharma, GI Dynamics, and Tempo Pharmaceuticals.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Looking Good is Getting More Expensive

Today's Globe column focuses on aesthetic medicine, and some of the companies developing drugs and devices to help us look better. From the piece:

    A cluster of New England companies is developing drugs and medical devices that will reduce wrinkles and cellulite, grow hair where you want it and remove it where you don't, and help you manage your impulse to overeat.

    And while keeping you young and slim may not be as socially redeeming as, say, devising a vaccine for the next flu pandemic, millions of dollars in venture capital funding are flowing into the sector dubbed "aesthetic medicine," puffing up local start-ups like a shot of collagen injected into a pair of lips.

    In 2005, the US market for aesthetic devices and therapies was $2 billion, according to Windhover Information -- a number that is expected to grow to $4.2 billion by 2010.

Leerink Swann & Co., a Boston investment bank, put out this report (PDF document) earlier in July. It's titled "Anti-Aging Breakthroughs: Future of the Aesthetics Market." It mentions a few companies with Massachusetts links that aren't in my column, including UltraShape (based in Israel but funded by Polaris Ventures) and Juniper Medical (built on science from the MassGeneral lab of Rox Anderson and funded by Advanced Technology Ventures, but headquartered in California.) Thanks to Leerink vice chair Dan Dubin for sharing it.

Here's the video from my conversation with Daphne Zohar, founder of PureTech ventures and interim CEO of Follica, a company that aims to develop a drug/device combination that will stimulate new hair follicle growth. We talk about the aesthetics market in general, some of the marketing and reimbursement issues, and the cultural divide between aesthetic medicine companies and more "serious" biotech and device companies.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

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.)

Labels: , , , , ,