The Big One
A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.
Lucy: HubSpot has a new edict: let businesses “help customers however they want whenever they want with whatever they want.”
Dylan: That was a phrase from HubSpot CTO and co-founder Dharmesh Shah when he was revealing the Cambridge company’s “biggest project we have ever undertaken,” a conversational platform for marketing, sales and customer support that unites all conversations with customers — across email, on-site live chat, social media and messaging platforms like Facebook — into one inbox, visible for all teams. Shah made the announcement last month at Inbound.
Called Conversations, the new platform is an upcoming feature for HubSpot’s free customer relationship management software that will integrate a visual chatbot building tool from Motion AI, the most recent of three artificial intelligence startups HubSpot acquired this year.
With a platform now focused on serving everyone from prospects to existing customers, HubSpot is starting to lean heavily into AI as a way to augment work for sales, marketing and customer support teams.
The most prominent way AI will play a role in HubSpot’s future is the visual chatbot builder from Motion AI, which is meant to help businesses respond to prospect and customers online when employees aren’t available. The chatbots can also be used to answer simple questions. Altogether, the goal is to help businesses more easily scale one-on-one communications. Read More: How Artificial Intelligence Will Play a Big Role in HubSpot’s Future
Inside the people, companies and organizations making moves today.
Lucy: MIT computer scientist Regina Barzilay and Harvard historian Sunil Amrith are each among the 24 recipients of a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship. The so-called “Genius grant” comes with a five-year “no strings attached” total stipend of $625,000, which winners are free to use as they decide to. Barzilay works at the convergence of machine learning and natural language processing. Amrith focused his research on migration and its role in shaping present-day social and cultural dynamics. Read more: Harvard and MIT Professors Awarded MacArthur “Genius Grant”
Dylan: Vesper, the Boston-based maker of low-power, durable microphones that raised $15M from Accomplice and Amazon’s Alexa Fund last year, announced it has become the supplier for Synaptics’ two- and four-microphone Amazon Alexa Voice Service development kits. “Since voice capture starts with the microphone, better-performing, more resilient microphones can dramatically improve consumer satisfaction with voice-interface devices,” Saleel Awsare, an executive at Synaptics, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with Vesper allows us to provide a high-performing solution for AVS developers, which in turn, dramatically benefits consumers.”
Lucy: Octo Telematics, a provider of telematics for the auto insurance industry, has announced that it will acquire the usage-based insurance assets of Willis Towers Watson, including its DriveAbility solution and the DriveAbility Marketplace. Octo has an office in Newton.
Dylan: Akamai announced it has reached a deal to acquire Nominum, a California-based provider of DNS and enterprise security solutions for internet service providers. Financial terms of the deal, which is expected to close later this quarter, were not disclosed.
Lucy: Four Boston-area startups swept the Cleantech Open Northeast finals, claiming all four slots open for moving on to the national Cleantech Open competition in Los Angeles this January. Finalists are CoolComposite (Waltham), change:Water Labs (Cambridge), Joro (Cambridge) and P2S Technologies (Framingham). As we reported, change:Water Labs was among the winners of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.
Dylan: Entrepreneurship for All, a Lowell-based network of startup accelerators targeting mid-sized cities, announced plans to expand to more than 50 U.S. cities, an over tenfold increase from the five cities it currently operates in. The accelerator network has reached 60% of its $10M fundraising goal for the expansion thanks to two major donors: former Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodman and Commonwealth Capital founder Michael Fitzgerald. EforAll says its 254 graduating entrepreneurs have created 431 jobs, brought in $9.9M in annual revenues and raised $11.4M in funding.