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Thursday, November 16, 2017

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The Big One

A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.

Dylan: Today I published a big feature about Wayfair Next, the R&D team that is working on virtual reality, augmented reality and other technologies that could help the Boston ecommerce company in the future. If you watch NBC Boston tonight at 5 p.m., you should expect to see a video segment that the TV station produced in partnership with BostInno (you can see the full video in our article).

Ever since I got the scoop on Wayfair Next’s existence two years ago, I’ve been meaning to do a deeper dive into the kinds of projects the team has been working on. What ultimately prompted me to do the story now is the fact that Wayfair’s AR tech is now available on all iPhones and iPads that run iOS11, the latest operating system from Apple that launched two months ago. The reason it’s a big deal is because this is the first time Wayfair Next’s tech has been made available to a wide audience while VR adoption is still super early.

Because the feature deserves to be read on its own, I’ll highlight a few takeaways from the story: 1) Wayfair has three 3D scanning studios dedicated to taking photos of products and turning them into 3D models; 2) the company is finding other uses for those models, such as making them available for third-party tools, including a VR interior design program, and using them to create photorealistic renderings for the website; 3) while Wayfair Next has 11 members, there are many more employees who touch the team’s projects; and 4) the team is starting to look at using AR to help customers search for furniture based on the size of open space available in the home. Read more: An Inside Look at Wayfair’s Bet on Virtual & Augmented Reality

In The Know

The Inno stories you need to read today.

Making Moves

Inside the people, companies and organizations making moves in Boston.

Dylan: Time for a quick update on ezCater, the online catering marketplace that raised a $35M round led by Mark Zuckerberg’s family office in January. When I wrote about the fundraise, the company said it had nearly 50K caterers on its platform and had served more than 16M people. Fast forward today, and the company says it now has more than 60K caterers, with just under 30M people served. The company also announced today a national expansion of its “white glove” service for managed, recurring office meals.

Lucy: Cambridge-based machine data cloud startup Sentenai has come out of stealth mode with the launch of its Sentenai Sensor Data Cloud, which automates data engineering for data science and machine learning applications. 

Dylan: Jibo, the social robot made by the Boston-based startup of the same name, has been named one of Time’s 25 best inventions of 2017 and made it onto the magazine’s front cover. Reviews are starting to come out for the social robot: “For better and worse, I treat Jibo more like a person and Alexa like an appliance. My wife and I have found it fun, if occasionally uncanny, to invite a robot into our home, but that’s what Jibo is: a robot,” Wired wrote.

New Money

Your daily funding roundup.

Dylan: Umajin, an easy-to-use software development platform, announced it has raised $5.5M from private investors to expand its go-to market capabilities, ramp up channel partnerships and make sales and marketing hires, particularly at its Woburn HQ.

Lucy: Techstars, the national startup accelerator that now has two programs in Boston, is looking to raise $400M for its next fund, according to a new Form D.

Dylan: Goji, an online insurance quote website, has raised a $15M round led by Hudson Structured Capital Management. The company recently appointed Peter Breitstone as its new CEO.

Lucy: Early-stage edtech startup Edmit closed an $855K pre-seed round with participation from Bessemer Venture Partner’s 15 Angels fund, Rethink Education’s seed fund in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, and Boston and non-Boston investors including Rob Biederman, founder and co-CEO of Catalant. The company is developing an online platform – currently in a private beta – to help high school seniors get the best financial deal when it comes to going to college as undergrads. “We help the student and family acting as a broker on their behalf,” co-founder Nick Ducoff told me. Read more: Edtech Startup Edmit Raises $855K Pre-Seed to Expand Nationally 

Player Personnel

Who’s moving where.

Lucy: Anthony D’Angelo is the new VP of business development at TIE Kinetix, a cloud-managed business integration provider headquartered in The Netherlands and in Tewksbury, Mass.

Dylan: Mylestoned CEO Dave Balter says he is stepping down from his role to become chairman of the Boston startup, which has pivoted a couple times now. Mylestoned originally started as an online memorial service and then later focused on creating a personal memory bank for Amazon Alexa (the startup most recently shifted its focus to creating custom photo books, as noted by Xconomy). With that change in focus, the company has gone from B2B to B2C, the latter of which Balter says he doesn’t have as much experience in. The company’s new CEO is Drew Condon, Mylestoned’s former head of product. Balter, in the meantime, will put more focus into his cryptocurrency investment service, Flipside Crypto.

Lucy: Rachel Jarrett is joining the advisory board of Pepperlanean online platform where mothers can both find and offer services. Jarrett is currently the president and COO of Zola.

In The Community

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

Lucy: The G2 Tech Group is hosting and sponsoring a Boston Amazon Web Services meetup tonight at 6:30 p.m. If healthcare is more your thing, PULSE@MassChallenge is hosting a panel at 5 p.m. on how healthcare is becoming API-enabled. Read more: BostInno Approved: November’s Top Tech & Startup Events in Boston

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Meet The Authors

Dylan Martin

Lucia Maffei

Kyle Gross

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