Roundup: DreamBox, Resolution Tube, & Qazzow Funded; U District Startups

12/19/13Follow @bromano

‘Twas the week before Christmas and Seattle-area entrepreneurs filled their stockings with venture capital. Another local ed-tech company, DreamBox Learning, pulled down a significant early-stage funding round. Two companies taking different approaches to customer service in very different industries—Resolution Tube and Qazzow—each landed venture funding. And the U District got some more attention as a potential startup neighborhood as Founder’s Co-op and Techstars Seattle will be moving there next year. Read on for details on this and more:

DreamBox Learning, a Bellevue, WA-based online education company, has landed a $14.5 million Series A1 round that will finance product development and expansion. The funding was led by Reed Hastings, the Netflix CEO, who in 2010 partnered with the Charter School Growth Fund to acquire DreamBox. Other investors in the round include John Doerr, Deborah Quazzo, a pair of unnamed Seattle education philanthropists, and GSV Capital, which tripled its investment. Specifically, DreamBox plans to expand its pre-kindergarten-to-fifth grade math education product, which provides interactive, personalized instruction on PCs and iPads, and boost sales and marketing, particularly to buyers at the school-district level.

Resolution Tube, a Techstars Seattle company combining mobile video and augmented reality technology to improve customer service, has raised $1.5 million from lead investor Madrona Venture Group, Acceleprise Ventures, and angel investors including Techstars CEO David Cohen, Rudy Gadre, Owen Van Natta, and Vijay Vashee. Co-founder and CEO Arnav Anand previously worked in manufacturing vehicles, mining equipment, and medical devices, and was frustrated by the inefficiencies inherent in repairing mechanical equipment. The company’s solution is a smartphone app to give field service technicians remote, instant access to engineers and other experts who help them resolve repair issues on the first visit. Resolution Tube joins four other companies from the 2013 Techstars Seattle class to raise funds so far. The others we’ve seen are Shippable, Wire, Inside Social, and Everpath.

Qazzow, which provides question-and-answer functionality to e-commerce sites, raised a $2.4 million Series A round from lead investors WRF Capital and Voyager Capital, with Summit Capital, the W Fund, and angel investors including Geoff Entress participating. The University of Washington Information School spin-out will use the funding for customer acquisition, continued testing and product development, and recruitment. It’s targeting a general release in the first quarter.

—Aspirations for the U District as the next Seattle startup hub got a big boost this week with news that Founders Co-op and Techstars Seattle will relocate to Condon Hall, west of the main University of Washington campus, from the increasingly pricey South Lake Union neighborhood. Check out the good coverage of the news from Geekwire and the Puget Sound Business Journal. One of the first startups to stake out the U District is SNUPI Technologies. Here’s what I wrote about the company’s location in a profile in November:

The door to SNUPI’s office is situated between a skate shop and a burger joint right on The Ave, complete with its grittiness, interesting people watching, and smells of food and incense. It’s not where you’d expect to find a startup, but climb the stairs to see the exposed brick and office dog, and you might as well be in Pioneer Square.

The university and the city are in the midst of a major planning effort aimed at turning the neighborhood west of 15th Avenue into “a regional center for innovation, knowledge, and creativity.” There’s lots to recommend the area, principally its proximity to a UW campus increasingly focused on spinning out startup companies, and the arrival of the Sound Transit light rail stop in 2021, which will strengthen connections to the rest of the city. (The neighborhood’s development is also a stated focus of the Startup Seattle initiative launched by the city in May.)

“It’s happening,” [CEO Jeremy] Jaech says. “I think this is going to be the next Pioneer Square or South Lake Union.”

— Redmond, WA-based Ivycorp released a new version of its Ivytalk group messaging app that promises a higher level of privacy. “The group messaging market continues to experience phenomenal growth globally. However, people are increasingly concerned about privacy, as they realize most free consumer applications collect and sell their personal information,” says Ivycorp founder and CEO Mary Jesse in a release. “In response to growing customer demand, we built a new breed of messaging app that allows group messaging users to maintain control of their own personal information.” The update removes the requirement to create a user account to start a group chat, providing access through a group name and password sent privately to participants. It also adds multimedia sharing features.

Indix, a Seattle big data startup bringing pricing intelligence to product managers, has landed Microsoft as a first reference customer. The software giant is using the Indix platform, released in October, for its Microsoftstore.com site and to manage pricing, competitive positioning, and other marketing intelligence across other channels. Indix founder and CEO Sanjay Parthasarathy is a Microsoft veteran. Other Indix customers include a top retailer in footwear and home decor, though it isn’t naming them now.

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

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