Ashton Kutcher Funds Pillar at Forbes Summit, & More Boston Tech News

Boston was star struck this week, as the Forbes Under 30 Summit brought Michael Phelps, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Richard Branson, and other big names to town. Besides the usual speeches and panel discussions one would expect at a business conference, the summit also featured musical performances by nationally known artists such as Jason Derulo; a late-night bar crawl (on a Monday, no less); a morning run along the Charles River led by Phelps; and a day of volunteering at places around the city.

We lead off this week’s Boston tech roundup with the results of two startup pitch competitions that took place during the Forbes summit, which included a winning presentation by a local company. Read on for details on that and other recent tech happenings in the area.

—Somerville, MA-based Pillar Technologies won $425,000 at the Forbes summit’s “Change the World” pitch competition for for-profit ventures. Pillar uses sensors and software to monitor construction sites for potentially damaging conditions, such as fire outbreaks and mold growth. The contest award includes a $200,000 investment by Sound Ventures, the venture capital firm led by Kutcher and Guy Oseary, and Rough Draft Ventures, the General Catalyst-backed fund that primarily invests in student founders. The rest of the award is $225,000 worth of advertising through Forbes.

Opus 12 was the other winner and also received $425,000 in funding and free advertising. The Berkeley, CA-based startup says its technology turns carbon dioxide emissions into chemicals and fuels.

Runners-up Wyzerr and Slice Capital each received $25,000 from Rough Draft Ventures.

The summit also included a pitch competition for nonprofits. Atlanta-based HonorCode took first place and will receive $50,000 in cash from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and $375,000 in free advertising from Forbes, according to an article on Forbes’s website.

In other news:

—Ovuline, the Boston-based maker of apps focused on fertility, pregnancy, and parenting, said it raised $10 million from investors and changed its name to Ovia Health.

HigherMe, a Boston-based startup that matches job seekers with openings, recently closed a $1.5 million seed funding round, BostInno reported. The startup went through Y Combinator’s accelerator program in Silicon Valley last year.

—Navigation app Mapkin was acquired by MapQuest. The deal was apparently made quietly earlier this year, and was first reported by the Boston Globe last week. The Boston-area startup, an alum of the Techstars Boston accelerator program, created an app that uses crowdsourcing, GPS technology, and real-time traffic information to provide drivers with personalized, turn-by-turn voice directions. The company was co-founded and led by Nuance Communications veteran Marc Regan, who is now MapQuest’s director of mobile products, according to LinkedIn.

—Flare Capital Partners recently invested in Boston-based healthtech startup Circulation, Flare’s Michael Greeley said in a blog post. Reached by e-mail, Greeley declined to disclose how much his firm invested in Circulation. The young company’s software helps manage non-emergency medical transportation for elderly, disabled, and low-income patients. Circulation recently announced a partnership with Uber.

—Flybridge Capital Partners general partner Jeff Bussgang is managing a new $2.5 million venture fund, The Graduate Syndicate, that will invest in early-stage companies led by recent graduates of Harvard, BostInno reported. (Bussgang is also a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.) Bussgang is not leaving Flybridge, BostInno reported.

[Top image of Ashton Kutcher (right) and Guy Oseary taken by TechCrunch in 2013 and used under a Creative Commons license.]

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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