OwnerIQ sees steep growth via ‘big data’ online ad targeting

OwnerIQ, a MassVentures-backed company, was featured today in the Boston Business Journal. A Boston-based firm which enables targeted online banner ads using data about what consumers already own, expects to reach $30 million in revenue this year and is “on a growth trajectory that puts us at a $100 million company in a couple years,” CEO and co-founder Jay Habegger said in an interview. For the full story read here.

MassVentures Leads $1.1 million Seed Round of Financing for Online Publishing Start-up Libboo

October 11, 2012 – MassVentures, focused on fueling the growth of innovative, technology-driven companies in Massachusetts, today announced its second investment in online publishing start-up Libboo. The $1.1 million seed round included investments from East Coast Angels, Hubspot CTO and founder Dharmesh Shah, Avid and Wildfire founder Bill Warner, and past President and CEO of Compete, Don McLagan.

Libboo, a TechStars Boston company and MassChallenge finalist, is an online platform that connects “buzzers” (passionate readers and advocates who love to raise awareness about the books and authors they enjoy) with books from talented authors, to more effectively get those authors discovered by new audiences. With its launch, Libboo introduced revolutionary ways to combine the power of reader and author to create award-winning bestsellers.

“It’s been a big win for Libboo to have partnered with MassVentures since our involvement with MassChallenge. They recognized our unique approach to helping talented authors, in an overly crowded space, gain visibility and promote their work, and have been a valuable partner in helping bring this to reality,” comments Libboo CEO, Chris Howard. “Libboo is committed to creating a place for talented authors to get discovered and rewarded for their talent. It is important that Libboo’s investors be passionate and visionary angels and VCs looking to be a part of an industry shift.”

The round will allow Libboo to continue to grow its all-star team, specifically in engineering, operations, and business development. Libboo sees its investors as just as much a part of the team as the full-time staff. Their combined strengths and drive to move the publishing industry into the future will be invaluable in Libboo’s goal to discover the next digital bestseller.

“We are excited to be increasing our investment in Libboo. We originally invested in Libboo back in January when the company was one of two winners of our MassChallenge Fast Track Program, an annual program focused on giving high-potential, Massachusetts startups the runway needed to prove out their value proposition,” said Nick Pappas, Vice President at MassVentures. “We continue to be impressed by Chris’ vision and the progress that he and the team have made over the past 10 months. We look forward to working with them in this next phase of the company’s development.”

 

Libboo closes $1.1M seed round led by MassVentures

Reprinted from: Boston Business Journal
10/3/2012

Weeks after re-launching its business, Boston startup Libboo said it’s closed a $1.1 million seed round led by MassVentures and including HubSpot CTO and co-founder Dharmesh Shah and Avid founder Bill Warner.
Libboo CEO and co-founder Chris Howard had shared the plans to shift away from online book publishing with me in April.
On Sept. 24, Libboo re-launched as a site designed to enable the discovery and promotion of new and emerging authors. The startup also announced that it has partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to provide access to many of their bestselling and debut authors and books.
The round also included Don McLagan, former president and CEO of Compete. The funding will allow Libboo to grow its engineering, operations and business development team, the company said.

MassVentures: The Year in Review, The Year Ahead

September 6, 2012 – It’s been an eventful year! Besides our name change, we recatalyzed with a new board, focus and mission to better describe who we are, what we do and who we do it for.

The facts and highlights from the year are below, but I wanted to take a minute to reflect on our mission to help stimulate the Massachusetts economy and create jobs. Our past successes and new focus provide us the ability to take the lead in investments and support entrepreneurs in the earliest stages of development,where traditional VCs have generally avoided. MassVentures is about getting companies started – companies like uTest, lifeIMAGE and OwnerIQ, that we funded from an early stage, co-invested with the VC community and have seen upwards of 200% CAGR in revenues over the past four years, increased employment eight-fold over that time and raised funding at ever-increasing valuations. I’m confident that investments like these and the new START program investments, focused on the commercialization of SBIR-funded technologies, are helping to grow the local economy and lead Massachusetts out of the recession faster than the rest of the nation.

In 2013, we look forward to new investment opportunities, new partnerships with the venture community and supporting the innovation economy here in the Commonwealth to help strengthen our economy even further and to continue with the success created in the past 12 months.

Best,

Jerry Bird 

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The Facts and Highlights

2012 Programs

  • Seed program – equity or convertible debt funding of up to $100K
  • First Round program – initial investments of $250K – $500K in Series A equity capital and follow-on funding
  • START program for SBIR-funded companies

Capital

  • $5M in traditional investment capital from MassDevelopment
  • $6M START program
  • $3M from recent portfolio exits

Successes

  •  uTest
  • OwnerIQ
  • lifeIMAGE
  • Libboo
  • vSnap
  • START program winner, Locately, is acquired
  • Cambridge Viscosity is acquired

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And Beyond…

For the next year, we look to put our knowledge and capital to work in new companies with a particular focus in the following areas:

  •  Software
  • Healthcare IT
  • Industrial automation & robotics
  • Internat & digit\al media
  • Mobile applications and platforms.

With our past successes and domain expertise in these areas, we have a deep understanding of the players, opportunities and investment groups that will help to support and drive growth in the years ahead.

Entrepreneurs are encouraged to submit their business proposals through our website.

We look forward to hearing from you and wish you success in the coming year!

 

MassVentures Continues Investment in OwnerIQ

New Round Doubles Valuation of Ownership-Targeted Media Company

MassVentures announced that it has continued investing in OwnerIQ, a leading provider of targeted digital advertising solutions, as part of a $7.5 million expansion round which doubled the company’s valuation.

OwnerIQ’s relationships with manufacturers and online retailers have enabled it to bring ownership targeting to the marketplace, where it has delivered strong results for advertisers – reaching highly targeted audiences in real time at scale. Those strong results, which leverage OwnerIQ’s unique technology, prompted the company to expand its offerings, creating new revenue streams for brands, in order to better serve manufacturers and retailers.

In recent months the company launched CoEx, the cooperative exchange that enables manufacturers to share site-visitor data easily with online retailers. More than 100 retailers and manufacturers are currently using the platform. OwnerIQ has also pioneered the concept of Branded Audience Networks, partnering with several top retailers to transform their web assets into revenue-generating ad networks.

“OwnerIQ continues to execute, delivering innovative advertising and media solutions to its customers,” comments Nick Pappas, Vice President, MassVentures. “We are pleased to support the growth and success of OwnerIQ since the early days. It is great to see a Massachusetts company taking a leadership role in this sector.”

“The online assets of brands and retailers offers advertisers a huge market opportunity and revenue stream, and OwnerIQ enables advertisers to define and reach their ideal online consumer base to help grow their businesses,” said OwnerIQ’s CEO, Jay Habbeger. “With the continued investment, OwnerIQ is well-positioned to develop its offering and take advantage of this important trend.”

Watch: Libboo founder Chris Howard on Startup Insights

Excerpts from Boston Business Journal article
Date: Monday, August 6, 2012, 10:15am EDT

In the inaugural edition of the BBJ’s Startup Insights video series, Libboo CEO Chris Howard opens up about how he got his startup off the ground — including how he pretended to be an investor at an event while working to raise funding. Watch the video here.

Libboo, a MassVentures-backed company has developed an online service for authors to publish their own books. In April, “Chocrotes and the World without Question,” a Libboo-published book by a Somerville author, reached No. 1 on an Amazon.com list of new children’s releases.

In May, the company was one of at least four startups who got to TechStars Boston demo day with seed capital in hand.

For more on Libboo, see April’s BBJ post: Libboo seeks to become the Pandora of books, shifts away from ‘team publishing’.

TerraTherm, Inc. Welcomes Visit from Massachusetts Officials

08/02/12 – TerraTherm, Inc., a world‐wide leader in hazardous waste cleanup and MassVentures-backed companyMayor visits TerraTherm, was visited in its new facility by Gardner City Mayor Mark Hawke and his staff, as well as other officials representing various Massachusetts governmental institutions. The group included spokespersons from Congressman John Olver’s Office, Senator Jennifer Flanagan’s Office, the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, the City of Gardner Dept. of Community Development and Planning, Mount Wachusett Community College, the North Central Workforce Investment Board, and a Gardner City Councilor also representing a local bank.

Dr. Ralph Baker, TerraTherm’s Co‐Founder, Chairman and Chief Scientist led the visit beginning with a brief presentation and overview of the firm’s history and accomplishments, followed by a tour of the facility. The visitors were highly engaged and very interested in learning about the technology and the progress TerraTherm has made. Dr. Baker had this to say about the visit, “We were very pleased to host Mayor Hawke and distinguished guests, introducing them to our world‐ class technology and receiving such a nice welcome to Gardner.”

TerraTherm had recently moved from its office in Fitchburg, MA to its new location at 151 Suffolk Lane, Gardner, MA. Their previous location was about one‐third the size of the new facility, and was unable to sustain the company’s rapid growth. TerraTherm recently signed a 10‐year lease on the new building located in the Summit Industrial Park off Route 101. Co‐Founder, President and CEO John Bierschenk added, “We are pleased to be in this wonderful new facility and to have the space necessary to support the growth of our fabrication and professional services teams. We have already begun planning for additional office space to accommodate the hiring of 10 additional people”.

About TerraTherm
TerraTherm, Inc. is a worldwide leader in the development and implementation of in situ thermal remediation of source zones and hazardous waste. They design, build and operate projects from concept to closure, using In Situ Thermal Desorption (ISTD), Steam Enhanced Extraction (SEE) and Resistance Heating (RH). Worldwide service is conducted from company headquarters in Gardner, MA, and offices in Bakersfield CA, Denver CO, and Houston TX, as well as licensees including Krüger A/S (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Poland), Provectus Group Ltd (UK), SheGoTec Japan, Inc. (Japan) and Thermal Cleaning Technologies, Inc. (Israel). For more information, please visit www.terratherm.com.

Media Contact: Michelle Johnson (mjohnson@terratherm.com)

Startup Q&A: robotics-enabled tile mosaic firm Artaic

Reprinted from the Boston Business Journal (July 31, 2012)

South Boston’s Artaic, which uses robotics technology to build custom tile mosaics, this month was named among the 10 finalists for the 2012 MassVentures START program.
The company received $100,000 as part of the award from START, a $6 million dollar initiative that aids local companies growth through SBIR contracts.

Founded in 2007, Artaic is led by CEO Ted Acworth, who says the company’s forte is fast, accurate and affordable production of mosaic tilescapes. The arrangements can be assembled from a wide variety of materials, including eco-friendly sintered glass and domestically produced unglazed porcelain.

I recently spoke with Acworth about where the company currently sits and where it’s headed.

What stage are you at?
We’ve always thought of ourselves as a scrappy startup. Recently, we were accused of not being a startup. At first I resisted that, but then I realized we’re in the growth stage. We proven the concept, we’ve proven that the application of these technologies to this market makes sense and provides enormous benefits.

What are your roots and how did you get to where you are now?
I have a background in precision mechanical systems, objects, image processing and robotics. It was the right tool-set, and it felt like the tile industry was a great place to apply that skill-set.

What’s the inspiration behind Artaic?
The idea was to create a love of art, design, and creativity with the knowledge of technology. We wanted to get to do the most amazing tile projects on earth.

Are you looking to raise more funding?
We’re always interested, always looking for the right ways to grow. If we find the right investors that are the right people to work with, we’re always open for it. We did a friends and family round, an angel round as well. We’ve raised over $1 million in funding from angel, grants, loans and other sources.

I was surprised to learn you’re the one of few doing what you are with tiles.
There are other companies that make mosaics, for sure, but they’re at the very upper top, miniscule tier of the tile market, and it’s very expensive. It’s largely done by hand labor, and it makes it very logistically challenging, very expensive, the lead times are ten times longer. Most customers elect not to do mosaics. We feel that we can make mosaic much more accessible, much more popular, and thus, more of society can enjoy beautiful mosaics and artwork.

What other value do you propose to potential customers?
We offer amazing service, extremely reliable renderings and blueprints of what they’re going to get. They can very quickly, efficiently and accurately come to a visualization of what the artwork is going to look like. When we send them a proposal, it’s literally a blueprint of the mosaic, tile by tile. This is exactly what they’re going to get, and consumers have never had that before. The market has never had that kind of fidelity; they’re starting to feel really good about mosaic again.

Are you worried competition could pose a challenge to you sooner than expected?
We keep an eye on the competition, but we’re lean and light we grow really fast. Our second-generation robot is ten times faster than our first generation robot. We’re about to be 100 times faster on production, compared to human labor. I feel that by the time the competition tries to enter, we’ll be on the next generation.

Who is currently using your product?
We focus on the American market in terms of how we contact commercial interior designers and architects. The good news is that American architects and interior designers do one-third of all projects elsewhere in the world. If you’re designing a new hotel, restaurant, casino or yacht in any location, there’s about a one-in-three chance you’re going to go to an American firm. We love that because we get reach. Currently we’re working on a dozen projects outside the USA.

What is your biggest project to date?
Empire Restaurant was the biggest square footage — 1,850 square feet of mosaic uses 266,400 individual 1-foot porcelain tiles.

Anything else you’d like to say to readers?
What pops into mind is that entrepreneurship is alive and well, and a hell of a lot of fun. We have amazing ecosystem here in Massachusetts. I think we’re doing well in terms of quality and volume of sheer entrepreneurial activity right now. We’ve got an amazing industry. That’s one message, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Vsnap’s Dave McLaughlin: why tech startups are like making movies

Boston Business Journal, July 24, 2012

Before Vsnap founder Dave McLaughlin was a Boston startup captain, he spent a decade as a screenwriter in Hollywood, ultimately going on to write and direct a film in Boston starring the likes of Eliza Dushku and Amy Poehler.

He wrote the independent film, “On Broadway,” while working in Hollywood but didn’t find the financing to create it until 2006 (after he’d left to run marketing for the Boston Redevelopment Authority).

McLaughlin moved into the tech world when he joined local mobile payments startup Fig Card as CEO in 2010 — a company that was acquired by eBay in April 2011. He next launched his current startup, Vsnap, which offers a short-video messaging service; this month, the company closed a $750,000 seed round led by Ted McNamara, an executive-in-residence at General Catalyst Partners.

Though he’s out of the film business, McLaughlin says there’s plenty about that experience he draws from as a startup CEO.

Resources. “I spent the first 10 years of my career in the independent film business, mostly as a writer, a little bit as a director. But I was also raising money, building teams, and bringing films to market and so forth. And so while I thought of myself then as sort of a guy who didn’t want to get a conventional job, I was in fact doing all the pieces of starting and growing businesses. They were one-off LLCs for the purpose of producing and exploiting a certain piece of IP, as opposed to the kind of business that startups are, so they were different in that way. But they are very similar in that they start from nothing and have to attract all the resources — capital and equipment — and build the set of relationships and build the team.”

Team. “I think directing movies is just like running a tech company — which is to say, if you’ve done your job right as a film director, then probably everyone else, all of your department heads, know more than you about their respective areas. You want a cinematographer, knows the most about lighting. Yet you’re the person who gets to be the arbiter of all those decisions. I feel much the same way, on a day-to-day basis, the community manager knows more about Twitter than I do, and the CTO knows more about what’s under hood.”

Dealing with advice. “The central characteristic of the job of a film director, or I think the startup CEO, is this ability to balance humility with bulletproof self-confidence. So with the suggestions that come at you, you’re always trying to figure out whether you’re right to maintain your focus, while at same time being open to the help others are going to offer.”
Both are obviously creative endeavors at their heart, McLaughlin said. But, he added, “I think that technology startups (are) just a more creative place to be than the film business.”

“Some people are surprised by that,” he said. “But in the film business you’re really in boxes in terms of what you can do. In tech you now have these amazing platforms — the iPhone, the tablet — and what you can build on top of them is pretty much whatever you can imagine. So I think it’s a much more fertile place for creative expression at the moment.”

State VC arm plots new path in crowded investing field

Boston Business Journal
Date: Friday, July 20, 2012, 6:00am EDT

The Massachusetts Technology Development Corp., the state’s venture capital arm, has a brand new name, a focused mission and plenty of money to invest in early-stage companies.

Yet the MTDC’s modest track record and a number of high-profile blow-ups involving government-affiliated investment programs for emerging technologies — names such as Solyndra and Evergreen Solar come to mind — raise questions as to whether the newly dubbed MassVentures has what it takes to successfully nurture fledgling Bay State businesses. The outfit’s ability to back promising startups is further complicated by the area’s abundance of private investors and venture firms clamoring for a stake in those very same businesses.

MassVentures President Jerry Bird will have none of it. “We complement what the private sector does as opposed to compete with it,” Bird said during a recent interview. “We have to find a gap that’s not being addressed.” Bird joined the old MTDC in 2005 from Clafflin Capital Management Inc. He took the operation’s reins last year when his predecessor Robert Crowley resigned amid a controversial state purge of high-paid public workers. In the months since he has seen eight of the organization’s 11 board members replaced and overseen a complete overhaul of MassVentures’ brand and investment strategy.

MassVentures’ mission-makeover came in June, after 300 entrepreneurs responded to a survey saying there was a capital gap that the state venture firm could fill. To be sure, Bird said many first-time CEOs and entrepreneurs need MassVentures’ advice, deep knowledge of state regulations and access to capital earmarked for emerging technologies.

Among the biggest — and perhaps riskiest — changes embraced by Bird’s team is a plan to take lead positions in venture investment rounds. It’s something MassVentures hasn’t done in the past, Bird said, but it is a move that sends an important statement concerning the operation’s willingness and ability to support entrepreneurs in the earliest stages of development.

MassVentures has a $25 million evergreen fund to invest, including $5 million in new money awarded in this year’s state budget. Bird expects to make new seed investments totaling up to $500,000 in five-to-seven companies starting July 1 — MassVentures is on a state fiscal year calendar — and then another $2 million in follow-on deals.

Over its 36-year history, MassVentures has invested $83 million in 133 companies predominantly concentrated in the IT, telecom, energy/environmental and health-care IT sectors. Bird said the organization’s internal rate of return (IRR) is 16.5 percent on money invested thus far. He calls the organization’s performance a good return for the taxpayers of Massachusetts, especially after accounting for jobs created through its investments.

But others are less impressed. Howard Anderson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School, said he is skeptical about whether MassVentures truly complements the rest of the state’s venture/startup dichotomy. “They serve a legitimate purpose, but they’re not the only game in town,” Anderson said. “It’s not like there isn’t a mechanism in place.”

Anderson also noted there is a danger that government-backed investors such as MassVentures, which have limited flexibility and scale when it comes to deploying capital, will more often be stuck with the leftovers passed over by private investment peers. “There is a need for capital, but if the traditional private sectors aren’t investing in a company, there’s probably a reason for that,” he said. “The private sector guys will not kiss every pretty flower that comes up.”

MassVentures’ existence has not been without controversy. In 2004, the venture capitalist governor, Mitt Romney, vetoed state funds for the firm, only to have the Democratic Legislature restore them. Six years later, the state auditor accused it of cooking job-creation data, an accusation that later proved false, according to Bird. And in 2011, Gov. Deval Patrick forced Bird’s predecessor Crowley to resign amid a state house-cleaning of high-salaried quasi-public agency chiefs. At the time Crowely’s annual pay was $188,000.

But Bird said MassVentures’ new name wasn’t an attempt at a fresh start. “MassVentures really is a much clearer description of who we are and what we do and who we do it for,” Bird said.