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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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The Big One

A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.

Dylan: The time of reckoning is here for the tech industry. Today, the Federal Communications Commission announced its plan to dismantle net neutrality rules passed during the Obama administration — a plan that is expected to pass under the Republican-controlled commission and will “give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers can see and use, and at what cost,” as the Washington Post reported.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a release that his proposal would “simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices” and stop the government from “micromanaging the Internet.” It has also been argued by Pai and proponents of ending net neutrality that it would allow telecom companies to invest more in their networks and innovation.

Some Boston tech leaders, on the other hand, see it as a major threat to companies who rely on equal access to the internet to sell products and reach consumers.

“If we start stratifying access to connectivity, we disadvantage American entrepreneurs in a global competitive race for the economy of the future,” iRobot CEO Colin Angle said at an event in April. “It’s short-term thinking for the nation because we are in a global economy, and it is a mistake to kneecap our entrepreneurs.”

At the same event, Carbonite CEO Mohamad Ali said without net neutrality, an ISP could offer a product that competes with Carbonite at much faster download speeds. “They actually have a capability that is far inferior, but if they’re able to then give preferential speed to their customers over ours, that damages our company, that damages our job creation,” he said.

Kirk Arnold, former CEO of Data Intensity, said repealing net neutrality wouldn’t just hurt tech companies, it would hurt any business that relies on the Internet. “This isn’t any longer a technology industry question. Net neutrality is a manufacturing question, it’s a consumer goods question … and the impact on jobs is significant across all these sectors,” Arnold said.

If you’re wondering as a tech leader what to do about this, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Inventor of the World Wide Web, has an answer: take the fight to Washington, D.C. “Whatever side of the political spectrum you are on, keeping the web open, keeping the market for connectivity separate from the market for content is really, really important,” he said in a September speech at a MassTLC event. Read more: Tim Berners-Lee Tells Boston Tech Leaders to Fight for Net Neutrality in Washington

In The Know

The Inno stories you need to read today.

Making Moves

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

Dylan: Surprise! Massachusetts just got its second tech IPO filing of the year with Casa Systems, a little-known company based in Andover. The company, which makes software for cable providers, is seeking to raise up to $150M in its initial public offering, and it brought in $233.6M in revenue for the first three quarters of this year, BBJ reported. It’s unclear if the IPO will happen this year, with CarGurus remaining the only Mass. tech company to have IPO’d so far in 2017.

Lucy: On Indiegogo, Cambridge-based startup Brain Power raised nearly $60K against an original goal of $10K, BBJ reported. The company is developing Google Glass-based software meant to help autistic children better interact with the world around them.

Dylan: Sayonara, Virgin Pulse. The company announced that it will move its global headquarters from Framingham, Mass., to Providence, BBJ reported. The state of Rhode Island reportedly offered the company $5.7M in tax incentives. The company said its new Providence HQ will have 300 employees by 2021.

Lucy: Big things happening in Fenway. The neighborhood where I live will be home to three solar-powered digital information boards thanks to a collaboration between Samuels & Associates and Soofa. The digital displays, which provide real-time info about public transit and local events, will be located at the corner of Van Ness and Kilmarnock, on Boylston Street by Sephora and at 401 Park outside of REI.

Dylan: Wayfair, whose HQ I recently visited for a deep dive on the company’s virtual reality and augmented reality work, is on the lookout for a new home base to hire as many as 10,000 workers in the coming years, The Boston Globe reported. The ecommerce company is looking for an office with up to 1M square feet of space, nearly three times the size of its current HQ in Copley Place.

Lucy: Our former editorial intern Natasha Mascarenhas keeps digging into SimpliSafe for The Boston Globe. After employees reported an alleged bedbug problem at the HQ, workers at the Boston home security company have filed a class action lawsuit to recover unpaid wages, Mascarenhas reported. Filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the complaint alleges that employees were not paid adequately for overtime, breaks and training sessions.

Dylan: Sad news for the Boston tech community. Centage, a Natick-based company that provides budgeting software, announced that its CEO and President Barry Clapp died last Thursday on his 66th birthday. The company said that under Clapp’s five years of leadership, Centage’s sales consistently grew 30-40% every year. Clapp also helped streamline the company’s sales processes, quintuple its number of employees and lead the transition of its flagship product to a cloud-based offering. Jeb Spencer, co-founder and managing partner of TVC Capital, has been appointed executive chairman and will take over Clapp’s duties in the interim until the company names a new CEO.

“Barry worked tirelessly over the last five years to transform Centage into the leader the company has become. His passion for the company, his commitment to excellence, his unequaled standards of integrity and character and his devotion to his customers, employees and investors is unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. We will all carry the things we learned from Barry with us for the rest of our lives, and he will serve as an inspiration to us all,” Spencer said in a statement.

Player Personnel

Who’s moving where.

Dylan: RateGravity, a Boston-based online mortgage lending platform that went through Techstars this year, has added another banking and finance veteran to its team. On Tuesday, the fintech company announced that it hired Mike Ma, a former Bank of America and Betterment executive, as its CMO. This comes several months after the company added Massachusetts’ former top financial watchdog David Cotney as a regulatory advisor and raised a $2M seed round. Read more: Exclusive: Former Bank of America Exec Joins Fintech Startup RateGravity

Lucy: UMass Medical School has appointed Jim Glasheen as executive vice chancellor for innovation and business development, BBJ reported, starting December 4. Glasheen, who spent the past 15 years at California-based Technology Partners, will replace Brendan O’Leary.

Dylan: Allure Security, which was founded in Columbia University research labs, has relocated from New York to Boston with the hiring of Mark Jaffe as CEO and chairman and John Sullivan as VP of sales. Jaffe previously co-founded Prelert, which was acquired by Elastic in 2016. Prior to that, he held leadership roles at McAfee, Securify and OnLink. Sullivan was previously at Uplevel Security and Prelert.

Lucy: Threat Stack hired Jonaki Egenolf as CMO and Chris Ford as VP of product. Previously, Egenolf served as VP of global marketing at Veracode and Ford as chief product officer at Blue Cedar Networks.  

In The Community

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

Dylan: Another event for folks who are into cryptocurrency and blockchain. The MIT Enterprise Forum is hosting a panel on “Initial Coin Offerings: The Rise of Crypto Capitalism” on Thursday, Nov. 30, from 5:30 p.m. to 8. The panelists will include David Vorick of Sia, Chetan Manikantan of Tengu, Kavita Gupta of ConsenSys, former Massachusetts commissioner of banks David Cotney and Christian Catalini of MIT Sloan. The event costs $25 for MIT Enterprise Forum members, and $45 for non-members (discounts available for students).

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Meet The Authors

Dylan Martin

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