Seattle Roundup: Indow Windows, Helion, Startup Next, & More

8/15/14Follow @bromano

This week’s roundup features high-tech window inserts at Alcatraz, funding for a fusion energy startup, and investment advice based on making a bunch of white guys uncomfortable.

Also, expansion at Applause, contraction at RealNetworks, and new partnerships for Startup Next and Glympse:

Indow Windows, a Portland, OR, company backed by investors including Seattle-based cleantech angel group Element 8, has won what it says is its largest order yet, but it’s not from a drafty old West Hills mansion. The company’s insulating window inserts will be installed at Alcatraz—the former federal prison in San Francisco Bay and now a popular national park—as part of an art exhibit by Ai Weiwei opening next month.

The Chinese dissident’s work will be viewed through old, broken windows from a previously off-limits gun gallery overlooking an inmate work area. The broken glass presents an obvious safety hazard, but Alcatraz’s status as a National Historic Landmark prevents exhibit organizer FOR-SITE Foundation from making any permanent alterations. Enter Indow Windows, which have compression tubes around their edges allowing them to be installed with no hardware.

Helion Energy, a Redmond, WA, company working on the illusive challenge of fusion energy, announced a $1.5 million investment from Mithril, the investment firm founded by Ajay Royan and Peter Theil, and Y Combinator. The company is working on what it says is a technology capable of producing cheap, clean electricity by using electromagets to compress deuterium to ridiculously high temperatures and pressures. The deuterium “fuses and the expanding particle energy is directly converted to electricity, pulsing once per second,” the company says in a news release.

This obviously requires a great deal of energy, and creating a fusion reactor that can actually produce more energy than it consumes remains the challenge. Helion says it “plans to reach breakeven energy generation in less than three years with just a few tens of millions of dollars,” so this investment will need to be followed by significantly more capital. Helion, which includes University of Washington professor John Slough as its chief science officer, has previously attracted a $5 million Department of Energy grant to prove its technology at a small scale.

Applause, an app testing and quality company based in Boston, is opening up a Bellevue, WA, office to serve clients including Microsoft, Starbucks, Google, Concur, and Expedia, and to tap the area’s technology talent pool. The company’s analytics and big data efforts are housed here. Applause currently has 15 employees in its Bellevue office.

—Quote of the week candidate: Jason Stoffer of high-flying Seattle-based venture firm Maveron on the company’s investment in e-commerce company Dolls Kill: “If it makes 50 white guys uncomfortable, it usually means you’re onto something.” Re/code has the full profile of the San Francisco company.

—Fresh off of elevating company founder Rob Glaser from interim to permanent CEO, Seattle-based RealNetworks announced plans to reduce its staff by about 10 percent, or 85 positions. The digital media company, which has seen losses mount this year, expects $1.5 million to $2 million in charges related to the move during the current quarter.

—Startup Next, the pre-accelerator program of Seattle-based UP Global, is expanding into three new markets by way of partnerships with existing pre-accelerators: Groundwork Labs in Durham, NC; the Lean Entrepreneur Program in Vancouver, Canada; and Start It Smart in Sofia, Bulgaria. Pre-accelerator programs are meant to do just what you’d expect: Get nascent companies spiffed up for application to full-fledged startup accelerators and incubators, some of which, like Techstars Seattle, accept fewer than 2 percent of those that apply. Earlier this summer, Startup Next teamed up with Boulder, CO-based Global Accelerator Network.

—Seattle-based Glympse has partnered with Pebble to put its location-sharing technology on the Pebble SmartWatch. The deal marks the third wearable device integration for Glympse. It is also available on Samsung Galaxy Gear and Android Wear.

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

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