Roundup: Illumagear, ComputeNext, Paul Allen, BPA

3/10/14Follow @bromano

Seattle-area startups Illumagear, maker of safety lighting for construction workers, and ComputeNext, a cloud-services marketplace, attracted funding recently. Meanwhile, Paul Allen and the Bonneville Power Administration plan to bankroll researchers focused on artificial intelligence and the regional power system, respectively. And Cadence Biomedical landed a distribution partner in Asia. Read on for details.

ComputeNext, a Bellevue, WA-based company making a marketplace for cloud services, has raised $4 million. Founder and CEO Sundar Kannan says the company has been working quietly since 2010 on what he describes as an end-to-end marketplace for finding, comparing, purchasing, and provisioning a variety of cloud services such as storage, computing, and specific applications such as video transcoding. “It’s a one-stop shop, just like Expedia,” he says. Kannan, who previously worked in business development for Windows Azure, says more than 35 cloud service providers are marketing their wares on the ComputeNext platform. The company raised $4 million from 16 private investors, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. None of the investors are venture capitalists, Kannan says, declining to identify his backers. The funding will support development of another line of business, in which ComputeNext would handle branded marketplaces for datacenters and other cloud services providers. Kannan says the company has previously raised another $4 million across three separate rounds. ComputeNext employs 12 people in Bellevue, three in Europe, and 50 in India, he says.

Illumagear, the Seattle startup making a novel LED safety light, is closing a Series A funding round to back sales, marketing, manufacturing, hiring, and intellectual property filings. The company began selling its Halo Light—which attaches to a hard hat and casts a 360-degree ring of light around the wearer—for $229 (retail price) in the U.S. and Canada about a month ago. Illumagear exhibited at CONEXPO—one of the world’s largest construction industry trade shows—in Las Vegas last week. Andrew Royal, the company’s president and chief product officer, declined to disclose the total size of the funding round. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the company had raised nearly $2 million out of an equity offering of up to $2.7 million, with about $1.4 million of that issued on conversion of a convertible debt note. Royal says the company has raised money from individual angel investors and angel groups. It won the inaugural Seattle Angel Conference in 2012. The company, was founded in 2011 by Max Baker, a laid-off project engineer who wanted to remain involved in construction and invented the Halo Light to improve worker safety and visibility.

—Seattle medical device company Cadence Biomedical is expanding internationally through a partnership with medical device importer and distributor LM, which will be its exclusive distributor in the Republic of Korea. Cadence, profiled by Xconomy in 2012 and the subject in 2013 of lots of positive press, makes the Kickstart Walking System, which helps people who have suffered a stroke, spinal cord injury, or other neurological injuries to learn to walk again.

—Paul Allen is putting more money into artificial intelligence research, this time through a research grant program from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which the Microsoft co-founder began with his sister, Jody Allen. Through the Allen Distinguished Investigator Program, the foundation will fund as many as eight projects with $1 million to $2 million focusing on topics in artificial intelligence including machine reading, diagram interpretation, and spatial and temporal reasoning. The funding targets unconventional research that is unlikely to receive support from traditional sources. The research topics “are aligned with the vision of the recently launched Allen Institute for AI,” the foundation notes, but the grant program is distinct from the new institute, headed by former University of Washington professor Oren Etzioni. Grant applications are due by May 30.

—The Bonneville Power Administration has $3 million to $4 million to invest next year in innovations that could help the regional power system. The federal agency responsible for selling power generated by dams on the Columbia River and operating much of the Northwest transmission grid, BPA runs a Technology Innovation Office to fund research work in areas including transmission technology, energy efficiency, and the prevention of aquatic invasive species. Initial applications are due March 27. Researchers from businesses, nonprofit groups, universities, utilities, and national laboratories must be prepared to share 50 percent of the cost of their work.

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

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