Bellevue Eyes IT Degree, Appature Hires CFO, DataSphere Raises Cash

3/13/12Follow @curtwoodward

A few tidbits of Seattle-area tech industry news to get you warmed up on this snowy, miserable day:

Bellevue College is researching a possible four-year degree in information technology, and is looking for help from employers with an online survey about their needs in IT education and training. It’s a very early effort, but there is both need and precedence for the college to take this step.

In addition to the typical training certificates and two-year associate’s degrees, Bellevue and some other small colleges in Washington have started offering more opportunities for four-year degrees. A move into offering IT degrees could be welcomed by the industry, along with the big chunk of would-be computer science students who can’t make the cut at the University of Washington.

Tech hiring has remained strong in the region following the Great Recession, but there’s a supply problem. As more California firms move up to the region in search of tech talent, the UW has not been able to significantly increase its enrollment because of rapidly dwindling taxpayer support of higher education.

—Medical-industry marketing software startup Appature has hired Mark Klebanoff as its first chief financial officer to help it keep pace with increased sales and overall expansion, which includes a pending move to a larger headquarters. Klebanoff brings a long list of tech industry experience, including serving as CFO at RealNetworks when that company went public.

“The company is entering a phase of accelerated growth and I look forward to helping the Appature team manage all the good challenges that come with scaling a world-class, SaaS company,” Klebanoff says in a statement.

Founded in 2007, Appature sells online software services that help pharmaceutical and medical device companies market their products, both to doctors and to consumers, through targeted advertising—a huge change in how megabucks medical marketing was done in the past. Appature’s recent expansion has included its first set of remote offices and a deal pipeline that grew by a factor of 10 last year, as CEO Kabir Shahani told us in this interview.

DataSphere, an online marketing firm targeting local media and other small businesses, has added $8 million in a series D round of financing. The Bellevue, WA-based company says the money will be used to hire more salespeople, improve its sales system, and improve its products.

“We have a great start but we see a great deal of additional opportunity to help local advertisers with the increasingly complex online marketing space,” spokesman Gary Cowan says in an e-mail. The company declined to offer any firm statistics on its revenue or growth.

Chicago’s First Analysis joined the round along with previous DataSphere investors, including local VC firms OVP Venture Partners and Ignition Partners. This is a bit less money than DataSphere raised in its last two previously announced rounds, but Cowan says that this wasn’t a down round. “The size of the raise is based purely on the capital requirements to achieve on our next stage objectives,” he says.

Notable DataSphere customers have included broadcasters like Seattle’s KOMO-TV, which used DataSphere to sell local ads on its network of news websites.

—Tickets are on sale for the Seattle Angel Conference, a combination pitch contest and investor recruiting program patterned after a successful effort in Oregon.

When I last talked with conference organizer John Sechrest, the project was in the very early test phases. But it looks like there’s been enough interest to get it rolling, with speakers including former Jive Software CEO Dave Hersh lined up for the event on May 31.

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

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