Instructables, Assistly, Airbnb: The 1-Minute Version of Last Week’s Bay Area BizTech News

8/2/11Follow @wroush

There’s no such thing as the summer doldrums when it comes to Bay Area technology news—not this summer, anyway. Your recap of last week’s top stories starts here:

—The National Science Foundation unveiled a new “Innovation Corps” program designed to help university researchers get their innovations from the lab bench to the commercial world. 100 I-Corps teams per year will receive $50,000 grants and will go through an intensive entrepreneurship workshop based on startup guru Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad course at Stanford University.

—I profiled Instructables, an online community of “makers” and other DIY enthusiasts featuring tens of thousands of crowdsourced how-to articles. Turns out I had pretty good timing: design software giant Autodesk announced yesterday that it has acquired the San Francisco startup and that CEO Eric Wilhelm will help the company build new online communities around its consumer offerings.

—Assistly, a San Francisco startup offering cloud-based system that helps companies provide customer support via social media, scrapped its tiered pricing system and introduced a new free version of its service; we published an in-depth case study of CEO Alex Bard’s risky decision to go “freemium.”

—Innovalight, a Sunnyvale, CA, company whose “silicon ink” technology improves the efficiency of photovoltaic panels at turning sunlight into electricity, was snapped up by DuPont for an undisclosed sum.

—Vacation rental clearinghouse Airbnb said that it had collected a whopping $112 million in Series B funding. Of course, that news got somewhat buried by the storm of bad publicity around a San Francisco-based Airbnb user whose home was vandalized.

—Menlo Park, CA-based TechShop announced the impending opening of the latest branch in its chain of community fabrication studios. The new location, in Allen Park, MI, outside Detroit, is being readied as part of a partnership with Ford.

—My San Diego colleague Bruce Bigelow sent several stories my way last week. First, San Diego wireless giant Qualcomm acquired a set of gesture recognition technologies from Sunnyvale, CA-based GestureTek. The implication: devices including next-generation version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor could have gesture-recognition capabilities similar to those provided by Microsoft’s Kinect device.

—Second, Bruce reported on an Ernst & Young study finding that IPO activity returned to pre-recession levels in the second quarter of 2011.

—Finally, Bruce recounted his conversation with Sumeet Jain, a partner at San Francisco-based CMEA Capital, about the entrepreneurial scene in San Diego. Jain opined that there are lots of investable companies in San Diego, but the dearth of local venture firms and angel investors “curating” the local startup scene makes it harder for outside firms to screen potential San Diego deals.

—My Seattle colleague Curt Woodward talked with Facebook engineer Philip Su about what it took to get Skype video calling integrated into Facebook.

—In my Friday column, I shared some insight into how I decide what to write about at Xconomy, and why I have to say “no thanks” to a lot of story pitches.

—In healthcare IT news, San Mateo, CA-based Epocrates rolled out the first phase of its electronic health record system, and Y Combinator-backed drchrono announced that its iPad-based electronic health record system had won “meaningful use” certification, making practices using the system eligible for up to $44,000 in incentive payments.

—In deals news, Motif Investing raised $20 million, WhiteHat Security raised $8 million, Taulia raised $8.5 million, Nodeable raised $2 million, Strava raised $12.6 million, Azumio raised $2.5 million, Read It Later raised $2.5 million, Hearsay Social raised $18 million, BridgeLux raised $60 million, and Michigan-based Augment Ventures put an undisclosed sum into San Francisco-based Aperia.

—In acquisitions news, Oracle bought San Bruno, CA-based Inquira, a maker of call center management software.

—San Jose-based semiconductor research company Intermolecular said it hopes to raise $200 million in an initial public offering.

Wade Roush is Xconomy's chief correspondent and editor of Xconomy San Francisco. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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