Boston Tech: Autism Funding, Acacia Soars, 3D-Printed Violin & More

This week in Boston tech highlights, we’ve got funding for an autism technology startup, Wall Street showing lots of love for the area’s only tech IPO of 2016, the expansion of a local coding bootcamp, a 3D-printed violin, and more. Read on for details.

—The Affinity Project, an autism-related technology startup doing business as Sidekicks, raised $7.1 million from investors, according to an SEC document. The company is led by founder Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who used to work at The Wall Street Journal. After leaving the WSJ, Suskind went on to write a book (later made into a documentary) about how he and his wife used dialogue and songs from Disney movies to communicate with their autistic son when he became mute.

Sidekicks is developing a virtual avatar to help parents communicate with their autistic children.

—A week after power company Diamond Generating Corp. announced it was investing an undisclosed amount of money in Boston-based solar energy firm Nexamp, a new SEC filing shows that Nexamp raised $30.3 million in new equity financing. Diamond Generating CEO Satoshi Hamada is listed as a Nexamp director in the document.

Diamond Generating, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, acquired a “near majority” stake in Nexamp through its investment, according to the filing.

—After Acacia Communications (NASDAQ: ACIA) posted strong financial results in its first quarterly earnings report since going public, investors rewarded the networking technology company by bidding up its shares. As the Boston Business Journal noted, Acacia gained $800 million in market value overnight, and was worth $3.1 billion as of Aug. 12. By Thursday, Acacia’s market cap had climbed past $4 billion, and its stock price was trading above $115 per share. Acacia’s stock debuted at $29 in May.

Acacia is the Boston area’s only tech IPO so far this year. Read more about Acacia’s origins and path ahead in this story by Xconomy’s Greg Huang.

—Launch Academy, which runs software-coding bootcamps in Boston, announced it is expanding to Philadelphia. Its first program there is scheduled to begin next year. Launch Academy held its first session in Boston three years ago.

—Meanwhile, Startup Institute is reportedly shuttering its Chicago program. The firm runs bootcamps that teach technical skills and help individuals connect with hiring managers. Startup Institute will maintain its Boston and New York programs, Chicago Inno reported.

—Forbes announced two startup competitions that will award a total of $1 million in prizes at its Under 30 Summit being held in Boston in October. One of the competitions will focus on early-stage for-profit ventures from around the world with ideas that could impact society. That contest is a result of a partnership between Boston-based Rough Draft Ventures, which is backed by General Catalyst Partners, and Sound Ventures, co-founded by actor Ashton Kutcher and talent manager and businessman Guy Oseary.

The other competition will reward U.S.-based education nonprofits, particularly those focused on low-income and urban communities. That contest is backed by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

—A few executive moves of note: EzCater hired former Rue La La executive Onur Mergen as its chief technology officer. NuoDB named Jeff Boehm, former DataGravity marketing vice president, as its chief marketing officer and Oracle veteran Stephen Fahey as its senior vice president of sales. And Pegasystems (NASDAQ: PEGA) appointed Tom Libretto—who has worked at Lotus, IBM, Nokia, and JPMorgan Chase—to the roles of chief marketing officer and senior vice president.

—And here’s a fun one to close out your week: Formlabs 3D-printed a violin made of white resin for Boston musician Rhett Price. BostInno talked with Formlabs about designing a 3D-printed acoustic instrument, and with Price about the sound quality. See Price perform with the violin in the video below.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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