Boston Tech Watch: Akamai, Zuckerberg, Firecracker, Luminoso & More

[Updated 3/9/18, 2:30 pm. See below.] Here are some of the latest headlines from the Boston-area tech scene:

—Wolters Kluwer Health said it reached a deal to acquire Firecracker, a Boston-based company that sells software that helps medical students prepare for exams. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. Nine-year-old Firecracker has 16 employees, according to a press release.

—Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ: AKAM) named former Amazon chief information security officer Tom Killalea to its board and said it plans to bring on another independent board director at a later date. The additions are part of new “value creation initiatives” Akamai said it devised in collaboration with activist investor Elliott Management. Akamai’s board is also forming a financial operating committee and has set a goal of achieving 30 percent operating margins by 2020.

The moves follow last month’s announcement that Akamai had laid off about 400 people as it cut back on research and development efforts that hadn’t translated into commercial success.

—In other activist investor news, Praesidium Investment Management disclosed in an SEC filing that it had sold off most of its shares of Progress Software (NASDAQ: PRGS) stock and now owns less than 1 percent of the Bedford, MA-based company. At the time of the filing earlier this week, Progress’s stock price had risen about 50 percent since August 2017, when Praesidium said it had purchased a 9.1 percent stake in Progress—and began pushing for changes at the company.

Wall Street apparently was disappointed Praesidium is stepping away from Progress. Several financial analysts lowered their ratings of the company’s stock, and its share price dipped 12 percent on Thursday afternoon, the Boston Business Journal reported.

—Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, awarded a $30 million grant to a new childhood literacy initiative led by Harvard University, MIT, and Florida State University.

—MIT and a new startup company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, announced a research collaboration that will attempt to deliver on the potential of nuclear fusion as a reliable energy source. Italian energy company Eni has invested $50 million in Commonwealth Fusion to support the project. [This paragraph added.—Eds.]

—Luminoso Technologies, a Cambridge, MA-based natural language processing startup, said it’s raising $12.6 million in a venture funding round led by SD Porter Holdings and Raptor Holdco. The investment includes $11.8 million in new equity funding and the conversion of debt financing, as well as $800,000 “expected to be issued later this month,” according to a press release. The MIT spinout’s software delivers data insights from analyzing text; it’s capable of understanding 13 languages, Luminoso said.

—Boston-based insurance technology startup Corvus Insurance Agency announced it closed a $4 million seed investment led by Bain Capital Ventures. Corvus’s founder and CEO is Phil Edmundson, who sold his last company, William Gallagher Associates Insurance Brokers, to Arthur J. Gallagher (NYSE: AJG) in 2015.

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

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