Seattle Roundup: Algorithmia, Array, Intellectual Ventures, & More

8/22/14Follow @bromano

This week, we’re tracking investments in Algorithmia, which is building a marketplace for algorithms, and Array Health Solutions, which powers health insurance marketplaces.

Also, staff reductions at Intellectual Ventures, new hires at University of Washington Computer Science and Engineering, an integration deal between Airbiquity and Inrix, and finally, a story illustrating why UW’s head football coach is not paid to spot technology trends. Read on:

—Seattle-based Algorithmia announced a $2.4 million seed round to back its marketplace for algorithms. Leading the deal is Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Rakuten Ventures, Deep Fork Capital, and angel investors including Charles Fitzgerald and Oren Etzioni, the former University of Washington computer science professor and entrepreneur who now heads the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

In a blog post outlining the company’s reason for being, co-founder Diego Oppenheimer, most recently at Microsoft, asserts that cutting-edge algorithms do little good if they can’t find their way out of university computer science departments and corporate research labs. “Algorithmia is moving away from developers working in isolation and toward providing a community for algorithm developers to share knowledge, test algorithms, and run them directly in their applications,” he writes. We took a look at where companies like Algorithmia fit in the landscape of “What comes after big data” earlier this week.

Array Health Solutions, a Seattle company making software to run health insurance marketplaces for groups, individuals, and retirees, has raised $9 million, according to an SEC filing. A company spokesman declined to provide additional details, adding that the SEC filing “is not a complete picture of the investment.” The company was founded in 2005 by CEO Jonathan Rickert and CTO Daniel Wolf.

Intellectual Ventures is cutting nearly a fifth of its staff of about 700 people, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. The 14-year-old company has raised money from corporate titans to amass a trove of thousands of patents, network with inventors, and even spin out companies such as Kymeta and TerraPower. Co-founder Edward Jung told Bloomberg the layoffs are not an indication of struggle, instead saying the company previously needed more staff as it amassed its patent portfolio. “We have more data than anybody and have analyzed it over the years,” Jung is quoted as saying. “Our analysis has allowed us to save a lot of needless paperwork and become more efficient. We don’t need as many people to sift through and sort information now.”

—The University of Washington has hired another half-dozen new faculty members for its Computer Science and Engineering department, including a pair of experts in natural language processing. The new faculty and their areas of expertise are: Alvin Cheung, data management, programming languages and systems; Yejin Choi, natural language processing; Franzi Roesner, security and privacy; Noah Smith, natural language processing; Emina Torlak, programming languages and software engineering; Xi Wang, systems, programming languages and security.

—Seattle-based Airbiquity, which makes software and services for connected cars, is integrating traffic information from Inrix, headquartered in Kirkland, WA, and parking information from Parkopedia. Airbiquity’s Choreo software lets car companies add a suite of apps to their new vehicles.

—Quote of the week candidate: Chris Petersen, the new UW football coach who infamously barred his players at Boise State from using Twitter, has joined the fray, telling reporters this week: “First of all, Twitter is not for you guys. It’s for the recruits. I think when Facebook came out I said, ‘Facebook? No one’s gonna do that.’ And when I heard about Twitter, I don’t know how many years ago, I was like, ‘That’s not a good idea. No one is going to do that.’ So I’m still behind the times. It’s always had to do with recruiting, so that’s the best way for us to communicate with those guys and that’s what it’s all about.”

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

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