Massachusetts Innovation News & Events

Investor Capitalists in Boston

Venture Capital Boston Massachusetts

Start-up Axio, IDEO put heads together


david skok

MATRIX PARTNERS - David Skok – A top go-to investor

Highlights from Scott Kirsner’s Innovation Economy blog.

One of the cooler start-ups in Cambridge right now is Axio, which is developing a headband that could improve your ability to focus on work, studying, or an athletic endeavor.

I wrote about the company back in February, and since then, Axio has participated in two “accelerator” programs: Haxlr8r, which involved spending 15 weeks in Shenzhen, China, and Highland Capital Partners’ Summer@Highland program for collegiate entrepreneurs, based in Kendall Square.

Now Axio will be the first “start-up in residence” at the Central Square offices of IDEO, the renowned design firm.

“Axio is doing really cool stuff with sensors and playing across the hardware and software boundary,” says Colin Raney, IDEO’s location director in Cambridge.

“We think there’s a great opportunity to learn from each other.”

Axio’s headband uses three sensors that touch the wearer’s forehead to measure brain activity, and transmit the data via Bluetooth to a PC or mobile device. Software on the device helps guide the wearer to a state of intense focus. Cofounder Arye Barnehama has said the company is aiming for a price of about $100.

As for whether IDEO will open its Cambridge office to other fledgling businesses in the future, Raney says, “We’re definitely interested . . . but fit is critical.

For us, this is about learning, finding inspiration, and playing in new spaces.”

Boston’s go-to investors

Venture Capital Boston Massachusetts

When an entrepreneur in Boston has a new idea, which investors see it first?

I surveyed 91 entrepreneurs this month to create a list of the “go to” venture capitalists in Boston in five different categories. It was easy to determine the top dogs in software and the Web but harder in life sciences or semiconductors. My question was simple: “Who is the first VC in Boston/New England you’d pitch?”

I asked people to weigh in only on fields where they’d had experience: social, mobile, consumer Web, and games; enterprise-oriented software, services, software-as-a-service; life sciences, health care, and medical device; cleantech, energy, sustainability, LEDs, and batteries; semiconductors, telecom, materials, robotics, and other “hard” technologies that don’t fit into the cleantech category.

Top vote-getters in the first two categories each received more than a dozen votes, while the other winners rarely received more than three; I received fewer responses from entrepreneurs in life sciences and cleantech, and there were a greater number of investors receiving votes in these categories, especially in life sciences, where 45 respondents gave votes to 23 different VCs.

■ Social media, consumer Web, mobile and games (62 responses):

Go-to investor: Bijan Sabet, Spark Capital

Runner-up: Eric Paley, Founder Collective

Go-to firm: Spark Capital

■ Enterprise-oriented software, services, and SaaS (57 responses):

Go-to investor: David Skok, Matrix Partners

Runner-up: Izhar Armony, Charles River Ventures

Go-to firm: Matrix Partners

■ Life sciences, health care, and medical devices (45 responses):

Go-to investor: Michael Greeley, Flybridge Capital Partners

Runner-up: Bruce Booth, Atlas Venture

Go-to firm: Polaris Venture Partners

■ Cleantech, energy, and sustainability (32 responses):

Go-to investor: Matt Nordan, Venrock

Runner-up: Bilal Zuberi, General Catalyst

Go-to firm: North Bridge Venture Partners

■ Semiconductors, telecom, materials, and robotics (32 responses):

Go-to investor: David Aronoff, Flybridge Capital Partners

Runner-up: No clear runner-up

Go-to firm: Matrix Partners

Note: Antonio Rodriguez of Matrix Partners joined the firm in 2010, and his lack of a long track record may be why he received votes in three different categories: social, enterprise, and semiconductors.

His voted totaled 7.25, making him the third-highest after Skok and Sabet.

And Aronoff at Flybridge moved to New York over the summer to help expand the firm’s office there, so he may not really be accurately defined as a Boston VC going forward.

For the full Innovation Economy blog, updated daily, visit

Privy wins Boston Main Streets “Social Media Challenge”

Boston Main Streets - Photo via: (City of Boston)

City selects Hub-based start-up Privy to help businesses boost sales via social media

Boston.comPosted by Matt Rocheleau | Article Courtesy of:
Boston Main Streets - Photo via:  (City of Boston)

Boston Main Streets Social Media Challenge – Photo via: (City of Boston)

At Stone Hearth Pizza in Allston, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Ben Jabbawy, founder and CEO of Privy, hold up a sample of social media — a tweet sent by Menino’s official Twitter account.

The tweet reads: “Congrats winner of @BosMainStreets Social Media Challenge! @GetPrivy helps neighborhood biz turn ‪#sm‬ users into customers. ‪#socialmainst‬”

By Matt Rocheleau, Town Correspondent

A start-up based in Boston’s Innovation District that aims to offer an alternative to “daily deal” websites like Groupon was selected from more than 60 applicants to partner with the Boston Main Streets program to help businesses covert social media users into measurable in-store sales.

Privy, which launched publicly in early April, ofers small businesses the technology to sell deals and other promotional offerings to customers who follow them on Facebook or on Twitter or visit their websites, the Globe has reported.

City leaders announced Monday that Privy beat out seven other finalists to win the Boston Main Streets “Social Media Challenge.”

For its triumph, the start-up will receive a $10,000 prize through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. To fund the grant, the foundation is using its money from the New Urban Mechanics initiative, a collaboration between Emerson College and the city’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.

“Our platform for helping small businesses get the most out of social media was a perfect fit for the ‘Social Media Challenge,’” said a statement from Ben Jabbawy founder and CEO of Privy, a finalist in the 2011 MassChallenge competition for start-ups.

“We are thrilled to have won the challenge and are excited to ramp up our efforts to help Boston Main Streets and the thousands of neighborhood businesses throughout Boston create online communities and customers,” the statement continued.

The city-led challenge was launched in partnership with another local business, Startup BLVD, which is an online match-making and consulting service that helps connect start-ups, larger companies and municipal governments.

The city used the company’s platform for solicit proposals from businesses participating in the challenge.

According to’s “Innovation Technology” section, Startup BLVD opened on Monday a new co-working office space in Allston near Harvard Avenue and the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The “Social Media Challenge” was the first in series of challenges launched by the city’s Office of Business Development that are designed to address specific needs of Boston’s small business community.

This particular challenge launched in January and developed as part of the Main Streets’ “Social Media on Main Streets Initiative” after neighborhood businesses expressed interest in exploring ways to boost revenue through social media.

Using Privy, businesses can launch and track deals from their own website, social media channels and e-mail databases. Consumers can purchase the promotions online and redeem the offerings in-store using either a mobile device or a printed coupon.

The company offers businesses a free one-month trial and then charges a flat, monthly fee, which is priced based on the level of service a business needs. Privy collects an additional 15 percent cut of the purchase price of a coupon each time a customer buys one.

But, because businesses are not charged extra for simply marketing the deals, they can promote their products an unlimited number of times without the up-front costs of traditional advertising.

During its beta period, the company worked with more than 30 clients, who sold about $40,000 in deals, Privy’s CEO told the Globe in April.

On Monday, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Department of Neighborhood Development director Evelyn Friedman announced the company won the challenge at Stone Hearth Pizza, a current Privy client located in Allston.

“I am proud that our ‘Social Media on Main Streets Initiative’ is providing Boston’s small businesses with new tools to help them compete in today’s economy and connect with neighborhood shoppers,” Menino said in a statement.

“We are excited to announce Privy as the winner of the ‘Social Media Challenge’ and to help our neighborhood businesses leverage online tools to increase sales,” he added. “This new initiative is an example of how collaboration and innovation can benefit Boston’s small businesses.”

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at

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Boston.comPosted by Matt Rocheleau | Article Courtesy of: