Bounce Imaging, which is developing a rubber-coated ball with six wide-angle lenses for use in dangerous situations, has attracted attention and praise for its design since it won The Venture Forum’s Audience Choice award at last year’s Five-Minute Pitch contest. It received the Popular Science Invention Award last spring, had its chief commercial officer featured in Euromoney magazine, and was named a Coolest Tech Startup by Entrepreneur magazine at the January International Consumer Electronics Show.
“We continue to push forward on development,” reported company co-founder Francisco Aguilar. “We’re working with police departments across New England and across the U.S.” They secured a round of seed funding last spring and are taking production through a lot of tests. The team added engineers and now numbers 15 people across three countries.
Participating in the Five-Minute Pitch contest brought some “great exposure,” Aguilar said. He recently spoke with members of an angel group who recalled his Venture Forum presentation.
The poster winner from last year’s Five-Minute Pitch contest, Freight Farms, raised $1.2 million in Series A funding last December. The round was led by Morningside Venture Investments Limited, together with LaunchCapital and Rothenberg Ventures. Founder Brad McNamara says the Boston company is “moving right along,” scaling up manufacturing to meet national demand for their recycled shipping containers converted into intensive hydroponic farms.
“We’ve validated a market that no one believed existed,” said McNamara in a recent telephone interview. His team has grown to 12 full-time employees, selling the boxy farms to a wide variety of food entrepreneurs. Market interest in locally grown, fresh, healthy food continues to rise, and Freight Farms’ core product, “Leafy Green Machine,” is backordered until May. The 2014 model, with an improved light system, electrical design and software user interface, is shipping this spring.
Freight Farms first pitched at the WPI Venture Forum back in January 2011 when it was United Hydroponics. In the one-minute spotlight, McNamara asked for $250,000 to build a prototype for his urban rooftop greenhouse. A year later, he returned as Freight Farms, and the greenhouse concept had evolved into the high-yield food production shipping containers.
The 2013 Five Minute Pitch winner, Trovare, Inc. is close to the production phase for its technology-enhanced silicone wristband that enables wearers to identify people nearby with similar interests. After an unexpected delay that required a mechanical redesign, the Cambridge-based company is back on track and has its first customers. It has also signed a licensing agreement with Fitbark, Inc., one of the most prominent startups in the wearable technology industry.
Founder Fabrizio Filippini noted that The Venture Forum win last year gave him connections to a wonderful coach, Russ Schlossbach of Pitch Contest sponsor GesmerUpdegrove, who talked him through refinements to his presentation the night before the finals. Since then, the Amico bracelet has an expanded capability, allowing members to connect earlier, before they enter a gathering place such as a club or restaurant.
“We still cannot believe that we won,” said Filippini. The first bracelets should be on customers’ wrists by mid-year, enabling them to meet new people in person, not just online.
September case study presenter Jordan Fliegel of CoachUp.com has received $6.7 million in Series A financing to expand the web presence of the online marketplace that matches athletes with private coaches. As the Boston Business Journal noted, CoachUp will use the funding to expand beyond team sports to dance, yoga and fitness. CoachUp had previously received a $2.2 million seed round last November. The new round is co-led by Point Judith Capital of Boston and General Catalyst Partners of Cambridge and includes Kayak co-founder and CTO Paul English, Albert Dobron, managing director of Providence Equity Partners, Data Point Capital of Boston, Suffolk Equity Partners of Cambridge and Breakaway Innovation Group of Boston.
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Governor Deval Patrick attended an official ribbon cutting for TechSandBox’s startup incubator in Hopkinton on November 5. While the organization, founded by TVF member and former board member Barb Finer, officially opened last April and moved to Hopkinton last August, the event affirmed the early success of the co-working space for science and technology entrepreneurs. Some 200 business leaders and politicians attended the event, where Gov. Patrick gave an address on ways his administration has supported the startup economy in Massachusetts during the past seven years.
Due to an increased focus on application quality, the software and mobile app tester uTest will change its name to Applause in 2014. The company acquired the Polish applications quality tools firm Apphance in 2012, and launched their Applause Analytics product in early 2013 to give companies feedback from app users. According to a company statement, uTest will retain its current name as one of its brands. It will expand its global pool of 100,000 contract testers in the first half of 2014. Shortly after its founding, uTest was the subject of a January 2009 case presentation at the WPI Venture Forum.
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