Seattle Smorgasbord: UW Molecule, Telanetix Sold, Symform CEO, and More

1/24/13Follow @bromano

Can you taste the potential in a promising new ferroelectric molecule, new ownership for cloud-based voice provider Telanetix, new leadership at backup service Symform, more cash for app host Blue Box, and a software program that promises to vanquish jargon? Read on to sample the latest Seattle-area tech news.

—A novel organic molecule discovered by a team including researchers at the University of Washington could be a less expensive, flexible, nontoxic alternative to traditional silicon semiconductors in certain applications.

Details of this organic ferroelectric molecule—known as, deep breath, diisopropylammonium bromide—have been published in the journal Science.

Researcher Jiangyu Li at the UW and corresponding authors at Southeast University in China say the molecule they discovered has desirable electrical and mechanical properties, such as a greater capacity for energy storage than other organic ferroelectrics, and that it maintains these properties at temperatures up to 307 degrees F.

“Ferroelectrics are pretty remarkable materials,” Li says in a news release from the UW. “It allows you to manipulate mechanical energy, electrical energy, optics, and electromagnetics, all in a single package.”

The researchers see potential uses for the molecule in energy and data storage, implantable medical sensors, and other applications that demand low cost, lightweight, flexible, and nontoxic materials.

(The image above shows electrical response overlaid on the molecule. Credit to the UW’s Li.)

Telanetix, the Bellevue, WA, provider of cloud-based voice communication services to small and medium-size businesses, is being purchased by Intermedia. Intermedia, based in Mountain View, CA, is paying $55 million for Telanetix (OTCBB: TNIX), including the assumption of $13 million in debt and other liabilities, though the consideration may be adjusted.

Shareholders of Telanetix, which trades on the OTC Bulletin Board and does business as AccessLine, should expect $7.40 a share, the companies said, when the deal closes. The company’s lightly traded stock has hovered below $1 for much of the last six months.

With the acquisition, privately-held Intermedia—a top cloud services and Microsoft Exchange hosting provider—advances its “vision of an integrated suite of cloud services for small and medium-sized businesses and the channels that serve them,” CEO Phil Koen says in a statement. He adds that the company will gain the services of about 100 Telanetix employees.

—Tech and venture capital veteran Mark Ashida is taking the helm at cloud backup service provider Symform.

Mark Ashida

Ashida, previously managing director at OVP Venture Partners, a founding investor in Symform, and a member of the Seattle company’s board, will lead an expansion plan that places greater focus on small businesses and sophisticated consumers, while continuing partnerships with network-attached storage manufacturers, according to a press release announcing the change.

“The Symform board of directors and executive team agreed to leadership adjustments to execute on its aggressive 2013 plan and support the company’s long-term vision,” the company says in the release. Ashida replaces Matthew Schiltz.

Last week, Symform announced it had completed an $11 million Series B funding round with $3 million from the National Association of Realtors’ venture capital arm.

—Web app host Blue Box has tacked on another $800,000 to the $3.5 million Series A round it announced last month. The top-up was led by Founder Collective. The seed investment firm’s managing partner David Frankel joins the board of the profitable Seattle company.

—Expect future City of Seattle correspondence, contracts, and ordinances to sing, unburdened by the weight of meaningless government jargon and doublespeak.

That’s the promise—slightly overstated, perhaps—of a new piece of software the city picked up from Seattle company WordRake. The eponymous program, installed in the Mayor’s and City Attorney’s offices, among other city departments, can detect meaningless words. Insert your own joke here about entire policy documents being wiped out by the software.

But Nancy Locke, the city’s purchasing director, loves it. “As soon as I tried it myself, I wanted my staff to have this capability on their desktops,” she says in a statement released by WordRake. “The program has helped them communicate better to our public, and any tool that can do that is very valuable.”

Valuable, and not exactly cheap. The bolt-on to Microsoft Word starts at $99 a year for one to four licenses, though costs go down for multi-year and multi-user agreements.

WordRake, founded in 2011, mainly targets lawyers. Now that governments are adopting it too, I wonder if the software can be set to detect creeping instances of Newspeak.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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