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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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The Big One

A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.

Lucy: Time to make a visit to your local magazine stand. Polina Raygorodskaya, CEO and co-founder of Boston travel startup Wanderu, has made it on the latest cover of Inc. for its Most Innovative Women series.

Dylan: The Inc. feature has some pretty good details on Wanderu, which essentially provides a Kayak-like experience for booking train and bus tickets (I’ve used it before, and it works really well). The most significant takeaways from the piece? Wanderu is now profitable, and it “now generates $100M in annual revenue.” That is quite a lot for a company with only 28 employees (for comparison’s sake, CarGuru’s 2015 revenue was $98.6M as it reached around 200 employees at the end of that year), so I reached out to the company to see if it could elaborate on the figure provided to Inc.

Staffo Dobrev, a company spokesman, told me that the company couldn’t share specific revenue numbers, but said that figure mentioned in the article is a “ballpark estimate” for 2017. Even if it’s an optimistic estimate, it’s still impressive to see a company of relatively small size with only $8M in funding reach this point.

Lucy: With more than 300 bus, ferry and train partners in North American and Europe, a recent partnership with Skyscanner and plans to get into hotel booking, the company is clearly onto something. We’ll definitely be watching Wanderu for a while.

Making Moves

Inside the people, companies and organizations making moves today.

Dylan: Paul English, co-founder of Kayak and Lola, is the driving force behind a new effort to build a monument in Boston that memorializes Martin Luther King Jr. In a speech at the Boston Chamber of Commerce this morning, Mayor Marty Walsh gave his support to the project. English told me he plans to donate $1M of his own money and raise up to $5M to get the monument built. English said he is putting together a committee that will determine the winning monument design in a public contest, and that former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will be involved; other members will largely be from Boston’s African-American community, he added. His goal is to build a large monument that reflects the importance of King’s teachings. He also hopes that it can facilitate more conversations about race and social justice in Boston. If you want to get involved, English encourages folks to visit this site.

Lucy: HubSpot announced it has agreed to acquire Motion AI, a Chicago startup that creates artificial intelligence chatbots for businesses. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. This marks HubSpot’s third acquisition of an AI startup after buying Kemvi and Evolve earlier this year. The company has recently signaled that machine learning and artificial intelligence are a big part of its future. Read more: HubSpot Is Making Its Third Acquisition in Artificial Intelligence 

Dylan: Progress Software, which acquired the Boston startup Kinvey earlier this year, is in the middle of a fight with an activist investor that thinks it has been underperforming under poor leadership and spending too much money on acquisitions. As BBJ reportedPraesidium Investment Management’s call for the resignation of Progress chairman Jack Egan and its criticisms were brought to light in a letter published Friday. The company defended itself earlier this week, noting that its stock price has been at an all-time high since Yogesh Gupta became CEO.

Lucy: Fans of selfies and photography, listen up. The first device, outside of the smartphone, to monetize our collective obsession with selfies was most likely the selfie stick. Now, on the heels of that modern marvel comes the MOON Selfie – a tiny light that selfie-takers can attach to their smartphones to improve the overall quality of their shots, especially when taken at nighttime. The company is an idea of Ed Madongorere, a Boston-based former cinematographer, and his co-founder Dixen Yang, who went through the high school accelerator LeangapRead more: Inspired by a Failed Food Pic, This Boston Cinematographer Invented a Selfie Light 

Dylan: One more quick move to mention: Snapchat has partnered with Boston-based Jebbit to give the social media app’s advertisers a new way to collect information about the preferences and motivations of users. Read more: Snapchat Partners with Jebbit to Give Brands Better Data About Users



In The Know

The Inno stories you need to read today.

4,500 signatures (and counting) in support of Amazon buying Benny’s [Globe]

Not just for CRISPR: Lemelson-MIT Prize honors Feng Zhang for ‘big ideas that change fields’ [Stat]

Facebook’s Effect On Politics — And Our Lives [On Point]

Wayfair’s New AR-Powered iPhone App Lets You Preview Furniture in 3D [BostInno]

MIT Reveals the First 7 ‘Hard Tech’ Startups in The Engine’s $200M Fund [BostInno]

Office Envy: Inside Catalant HQ, a 100% Open Office With a Wellness Room for New Moms [BostInno]

New Money

Your daily funding roundup.

Lucy: Qeepsake, a text messaging service that lets parents collect memories about their babies, raised almost $878K in an equity offering, according to a new Form D.

Dylan: Wevo, an AI and crowdsourcing tech startup, has raised a $1.6M seed round from Will Graylin Frank Moss, Tom Rutledge, Udi Mokady and other investors.

Player Personnel

Who’s moving where.

Dylan: The moves just keep on coming, even on the personnel side:

SmartBear, whose Somerville office I toured a few months ago, hired Christian Wright as its new EVP and general manager of its API business. Previously, Wright held multiple CTO and GM positions within eBay Enterprise.

General Catalyst added Holly Maloney McConnell as a new managing director. She was most recently a principal at Guidepost Growth Equity, formerly known as North Bridge.

Lucy: Two more to share:

— Frank Guerrera is the new chief technical systems officer at Pegasystems. Most recently, he served as VP of SaaS services at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

— Jack Hembrough has joined the board of directors of CyberSaint. According to his LinkedIn profile, Hembrough is also a member on the board of Pwnie Express.

Mea Culpa

Sometimes we make mistakes.

Dylan: In yesterday’s Beat, I accidentally misspelled the first name of Seann Gardiner, DataRobot’s new EVP of business development. It has two Ns, not one. I apologize for the error.

In The Community

The events and happenings to know about tonight and this week.

Lucy: Save the date: 12 student startups from Massachusetts’ top colleges and universities will gather at City Hall Plaza on October 13 for the fifth annual Beantown Throwdown, the state’s largest multi-school startup pitch-off. Finalists include EarlierCarea dentist online booking service from Boston University, and Infinite Coolingwhich just completed the MIT delta v accelerator. The event is presented by HUBweek and hosted by the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge.

Read This Right Now

Insight and analysis from the community and beyond

Lucy: Mike Salguero, founder and CEO of ButcherBoxwrote about how running a startup that offers intermediary services can be different from leading a company that sells a physical product: “The experience of selling an actual product with ButcherBox, being able to deliver high-quality meat directly to our customers’ doors, is so different. You just have so much control over what your customers receive — in both price and quality. More than that, it has been astounding to see the impact that a great team can have on a business when working with a product.” 

HUBweek: When is the last time you went to a block party? Or better yet, a robot block party? We’ve got you covered at HUBweek this year, as we’ve partnered with the City of Boston and MassRobotics to host the city’s first Robot Block Party. Join us on October 15 at The HUB presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance on City Hall Plaza to meet Glocky from WPI, KIBO from Tufts, a solar powered garden weeder from Franklin Robotics and two dozen more ‘bots. Curious? We have good news: Registration is totally free.

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Meet The Authors

Dylan Martin:
dmartin@americaninno.com

Lucia Maffei
lmaffei@americaninno.com

Kyle Gross
kgross@americaninno.com

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