Roundup: Raikes Leaving Gates Foundation; Front Desk, Versium Funding

9/10/13Follow @bromano

Somewhere between the news of Steve Ballmer’s planned retirement from Microsoft and its blockbuster acquisition of Nokia’s mobile devices business, Seattle tech news took a very brief summer vacation. Did you notice?

Now it’s back to school, back to work. In recent days, we’ve tracked financing news for area startups including Front Desk and Versium Analytics and another major CEO opening—this one at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Read on for more details on these and other developments.

Front Desk, the Seattle startup simplifying operations for small personal service businesses, says it has raised $3.2 million in seed financing from lead investor Second Avenue Partners, along with Version One Ventures, and prominent angel investors including Zillow co-founders Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink, and J.D. Delafield, chairman of investment firm Delafield Hambrecht. SEC filings indicate three equity raises of $1 million each over the last year. In March, the company began marketing a beta version of its mobile-focused set of business tools, geared for yoga studios, doctors offices, and similar small businesses, which make up a multibillion-dollar market, the company estimates. It says it has “several hundred businesses” using the software now, which costs at least $45 a month. The financing will support product development, worldwide marketing, and streamlined operations.

—Jeff Raikes is stepping down as CEO of the $38.3 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The former Microsoft senior executive took the helm of the global philanthropy in 2008—backed by the wealth of the Microsoft co-founder and investor Warren Buffett—intending to stay for five years, according to an email he wrote to the foundation, made public today. While Raikes’ name has been discussed in connection with another local high-profile CEO opening—Microsoft, where he worked for nearly three decades, rising to president of the business division—the 55-year-old says in the email he looks forward to working on his own Raikes Foundation, which focuses on youth and education. “The [Gates] foundation is in the best shape that it’s ever been in thanks to Jeff,” Bill Gates says in a statement. Raikes has committed to stay until a new CEO is found. The foundation had 1,151 employees as of June 30.

Versium Analytics, a Redmond startup making software to help businesses combine their data with information about their customers to improve sales and marketing, has raised $1.8 million from 11 investors, out of a $2.5 million offering, according to an SEC filing. GeekWire reports the investment is from local and Silicon Valley angel investors, including the TiE Angels Group Seattle. In March, the company released its LifeData analytics platform to profile consumers and predict their likelihood to pay up on time, cancel services, or look for discounts. It’s part of a growing field of so-called data brokers creating increasingly sophisticated pictures of consumers to help companies market to them more effectively. One of these, Acxiom, last week opened its trove of data on consumers to the consumers themselves, inviting them to correct errors or even opt out.

Industry Ventures, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, is expanding its Northwest presence with the addition of Seattle-based Trevor Rubel as a venture partner. Founder and managing director Hans Swildens says in a statement that the firm, founded in 2000 and with more than $1 billion under management, has collaborated with Rubel for several years. “We are thrilled to formalize this relationship and look forward to his continued efforts in evaluating direct co-investments,” Swildens says. Rubel’s background is in financial services, and will add expertise in payments and big data, according to Industry Ventures.

—The market for online course catalogs is filling quickly. LearnBIG, a Seattle startup, has unveiled a website collecting online educational resources such as massive open online courses, iPad games, and instructional videos, geared for students from pre-kindergarten through college and continuing education. The resources will feature community reviews from parents, students, and teachers, and can be filtered by subject, level, platform, learning style, and career path. Three of the companies in the current Techstars Seattle class focus on some aspect of online education, including Everpath, which originally aimed to be a course catalog for programming, design, business, and other professional topics, but now says on its website that its offering “makes it easy to offer online courses on your own website. Promote your own brand and connect directly with students.” (We’ll hear more details at TechStars Demo Day, scheduled for Oct. 24.)

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

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