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Friday, December 15, 2017

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The Big One

A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.

Dylan: For Laura Fitton, going on the record and publicly accusing a powerful venture capitalist of sexual misconduct was the last thing she wanted to do. But in the end, she felt she had to.

Back in December 2011, not long after Fitton sold her startup to HubSpot and became an executive there, Fitton met Shervin Pishevar, a well-known VC in Silicon Valley who also co-founded Hyperloop One, at a charity event in New York, where he allegedly forced her to kiss him and made unwanted advances. A few days later, Fitton had told Pishevar that what he did was inappropriate, a characterization he rejected.

Fitton first told her story to Axios last week, and Pishevar, through his lawyer, has denied there was any inappropriate behavior. On Thursday, Pishevar resigned from Sherpa Capital, the VC firm he co-founded that has backed big-name tech companies like Uber.

I talked to Fitton after her story came out last week, and you can read the full interview on our website. Some takeaways:

— Fitton for a while thought that Pishevar’s alleged transgression was an isolated incident and that after calling him out privately, she assumed he had learned his lesson and would act better.

— Seeing the sexual misconduct conduct allegations against VCs like Justin Caldbeck and Dave McClure over the summer made her start thinking about whether to tell her story.

— What pushed her further: Pishevar’s lawsuit against a Republican opposition research firm that claimed he was “an agent of the Russian government” and that he “paid money to settle a claim for sexual assault in London.”

— But what really propelled her was when Bloomberg published a story in late November about five women who told the publication they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Pishevar. Fitton realized that because those women declined to be named in the story for fear of retaliation, going on the record would start to turn the tide.

— Fitton considers herself privileged enough to make a decision like this because she has a large support network, a company that backs her, and she isn’t raising money for a startup — the latter of which she said could be the reason the other women didn’t go public.

“Every woman has a story like this and most of them are never going to get heard publicly, even if they speak up, and that’s deeply hard and unfair,” she said. Read more: Laura Fitton on Why She Spoke Out Against Sexual Misconduct

In The Know

The Inno stories you need to read today.

Making Moves

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

Dylan: Jibo Inc. has made layoffs a little over a month after the Boston-based startup launched its eponymous $899 social robot. The company told me on Friday that an unspecified amount of employees were laid off this week to focus on building more capabilities for Jibo — which has received praise from reviewers for its level of interactivity while getting panned for its lack of functionality. Read more: Layoffs Hit Jibo More Than a Month After Social Robot’s Launch

Lucy: A sudden realization of something unexpected – for example, a promising business opportunity – may occur in any circumstance. For Arian Radmand, former CTO and founder at CoachUp, the “aha!” moment for his new startup TurnGram happened at Walgreens. Tired of ordering and picking up photos on his way to his parents’ house, Radmand invented an online service that he presents as “your photo concierge service.” His main selling point is that once customers have decided to subscribe and linked TurnGram to their Instagram accounts, they don’t have to lift a finger to have their photos printed and delivered. Read more: This Cambridge Startup Will Print and Send Your Instagram Pictures to Your Mom

Dylan: Casa Systems has become the second Massachusetts tech company to go public this year (and with not much time on the clock, so good job, folks!). The company raised $78M in its initial public offering by selling 6 million shares at $13 a piece. As noted by Multichannel News, that’s well below its original plans to offer 8.4M shares within the range of $15-17. As of the time of this writing, the company’s stock price is up around 12% to $14.66 a share, giving Casa a $1.22B market cap.

Lucy: As part of our Office Envy series, we’ve seen many companies subtly weave their brand identity into the design of their space. CollegeVine, a Cambridge-based startup that aims to help teens navigate the college admission process, goes one steps further. Leaning into the “vine” part of its brand, the new space on the second floor of 125 Cambridgepark Drive is all about nature and plants. The company aims to support the growth of students by playing on their natural strengths – essentially, “cultivating” their talents. This mission, combined with the desire to provide a relaxing work environment, translates into the consistent use of multiple shades of green around the office, as well as many others nature-related features. Just one example: the six conference rooms are named after famous forests, including Amazon, Sherwood and The Forbidden Forest. Read more: Office Envy: Inside the Anti-Stress and Nature-Inspired Office of CollegeVine 

New Money

Your daily funding roundup.

Lucy: Woburn-based energy company SolidEnergy Systems raised almost $34.4M in an equity offering, according to a new form D.

Dylan: Qleek, a Bolt-based startup that is making a new physical media format for music and other kinds of online streams, has raised $412K for a new round, which has a target of $662K, according to a new Form D. The startup recently appeared on an episode of Gimlet Media’s startup pitch podcast, The Pitch.

Lucy: MC10 Inc. raised nearly $15M, BBJ reported. The Lexington-based company makes wearable electronic patches to collect biometric health data. 

Player Personnel

Who’s moving where.

Dylan: Broadcast Pix, a Chelmsford-based provider of live production tools, has promoted Bob Poucel to EVP and general manager and Russell Whittaker to worldwide director of channel sales. Poucel was previously director of support and Whittaker was previously an SVP.

Lucy: Jascha Franklin-Hodgechief information officer of The City of Bostonsaid that he’s planning to step down in January, The Boston Globe reported. During his tenure, the city redesigned its Internet portal, among other things.

In The Community

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

Dylan: While the Boston event season is starting to slow down, there are a few more events coming up, including a Machine Learning Boston meetup discussing how to monetize algorithms. Find more Boston tech and startup events in BostInno Approved.

Featured Jobs

Featured startup and tech jobs on BostInno’s new Careers Directory.

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Meet The Authors

Dylan Martin

Lucia Maffei

Kyle Gross

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