Boston Roundup: Skyword, SimpleTuition, Jelly, Pebble, MIT

5/17/13Follow @curtwoodward

A smattering of fundraising announcements involving Boston-area companies and investors, along with a student entrepreneurship program in this collection of local news tidbits:

Skyword, a Boston-based marketing company that links freelance copywriters with advertisers and other clients, has raised $6.7 million. The investment was led by Cox Media Group, which Skyword says will help hire more people and generally grow the company. Cox’s holdings include 15 TV stations, 85 radio stations, and eight daily newspapers.

SimpleTuition, an online company that helps college students save money on school and manage their money, has raised another $4 million. The Series D financing round was led by Atlas Venture, Flybridge Capital Partners, and North Hill Ventures, all previous investors. The company started as a loan comparison service, but has also added textbook shopping, savings accounts, and student discounts to its roster of offerings.

—Boston-based Spark Capital has led the first venture investment in Jelly, a new startup headed by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Stone has not said what Jelly is working on, other than hinting that it has a lot to do with mobile devices—he called it “the natural next step for our connected society” in a blog post. Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabet, who led the firm’s investment in Twitter, will sit on the Jelly board. The amount of investment wasn’t disclosed, but angel investors including former Vice President Al Gore, U2 singer Bono, and Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey also were involved.

—Boston’s Charles River Ventures has invested $15 million in Pebble, makers of the smartwatch of the same name. It’s the first venture funding for Pebble, which was actually spurned by investors after its run through the Y Combinator startup program, forcing the company to turn to Kickstarter to crowdfund production of its gadget. That worked out fine—Pebble raised $10 million from customers in short order. The new VC investment was led by George Zachary, a CRV partner based in Menlo Park, CA. It’s one of several Boston connections to Pebble, including manufacturing help from Dragon Innovation and developer support from RunKeeper, one of the first two official Pebble apps.

MIT has named the 14 student teams selected for its Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator program, which helps aspiring entrepreneurs learn business skills. The program runs from June to September, concluding with a demo day. MIT says each team gets up to $20,000 in grants if it meets “customized milestones,” along with stipends and workspace. There are eight MIT-affiliated teams in the program and six groups representing international schools, including students from Canada, China, Russia, and Turkey.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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