Seattle Roundup: UW Startups, CSE Expansion; New Funding Flows

Northwest technology companies have racked up more than $67 million in fresh funding over the last two weeks, including investment rounds for Limeade, Acumatica, Urban Airship, Blue Box, and Lytics. Meanwhile, we’re following news of another wireless sensors company emerging from the University of Washington’s computer science department, which has already run out of space after just over a decade in the Allen Center as demand from employers and students surges. UW is advancing plans for a new computer science building. And Version One Ventures, the investment fund headed by Boris Wertz, has raised a second fund. Read on for details on all this and more:

—The wireless power and gesture sensing technologies coming out of the UW over the last couple of years have been impressive. Now computer science faculty Joshua Smith and Shyam Gollakota are putting together a business, Jiva Wireless, to commercialize their work. The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley noted the nascent company, which is targeting a potentially huge market of sensors that is expected to proliferate as the Internet of Things takes hold.

—Speaking of UW Computer Science and Engineering, the department is going ahead with plans to build a new, 130,000-square-foot building to accommodate growth. The UW sent out a request for architectural services (PDF) for the building, which would help it double the number of degrees it could grant each year to around 600, and offer many more students introductory computer science courses. Demand for computer-related occupations is strong and predicted to continue growing, and students want to enroll to gain the necessary skills to fill the jobs, as UW computer science professor Ed Lazowska lays out in this PDF. But there’s a clear bottleneck in the form of limited capacity at the state’s premier computer science training program. The UW says it will seek a state appropriation for the new building, but as Gov. Jay Inslee explained in an interview with Xconomy on Friday, nearly everything will have to take a back seat to basic education funding in the coming legislative session.

—Meanwhile, west of the UW campus, a new innovation district is taking shape. We spent time recently inside the new Startup Hall to learn how this unique venue for commercial innovation and entrepreneurship came into being, and how it’s helping transform the University District.

—And speaking of UW spinout companies doing interesting things with wireless sensors, SNUPI Technologies is joining the “Works with Nest” home products integration program. SNUPI’s WallyHome sensors, which detect changes in environmental conditions that may indicate water leaks and other home hazards, can be linked to a Nest Thermostat to measure temperatures throughout a home and adjust furnace settings accordingly. Nest Labs, acquired by Google earlier this year, said that other “Works with Nest” products include ivee, Life360, Pebble, and Rachio. Also, SNUPI recently added former Dropcam marketing vice president Elizabeth Hamren to its board of directors. Dropcam was acquired by Nest Labs.

Version One Ventures has raised a $35 million second fund focused on seed and Series A investments in companies working on marketplaces and platforms, and software-as-a-service, as well as e-commerce. Boris Wertz, who leads the venture firm from Vancouver, Canada, writes that investments from the second fund will likely include “healthcare, cryptocurrencies, and Government 2.0,” and focus on “those startups creating things which didn’t exist before. It’s often not enough to make something faster, cheaper, or better. We are looking for entrepreneurs with a bold vision … those who want to disrupt big categories or create entirely new ones.”

—Bellevue, WA-based Limeade, which provides software to help businesses improve employee well-being, is raising $25 million from Oak HC/FT Partners for expansion and new product development. Earlier investor TVC Capital and Limeade employees and directors are also participating in the round. Limeade’s software helps its customers, including The Ohio State University and Jamba Juice, assess employee well-being and encourage and measure healthy behaviors.

Acumatica, which makes cloud-based accounting software, announced $13.3 million in new funding from MYOB, an Australian company that also makes accounting software and is a strategic partner of Kirkland, WA-based Acumatica. It brings total investment to more than $30 million and provides capital for new products, partnership efforts, and branding.

Urban Airship, which makes technology to push messages to consumers on their mobile devices, based on their location, has raised a $12.1 million Series D funding round from True Ventures, Foundry Group, and August Capital. The Portland, OR-based business has raised $58.7 million in total.

Blue Box, the Seattle company offering private cloud computing services, raised $10 million in Series B funding from Voyager Capital, Founder Collective, and company executives. The company had raised $4.3 million in late 2012. The new funding will support new technology development, hiring in engineering, and expanded sales and marketing efforts.

Lytics, also based in Portland, raised $7 million in a Series A funding round from investors led by Comcast Ventures, joined by Voyager Capital and Rembrandt Venture Partners, as well as angel investors from the digital marketing world. Lytics, which makes software for digital marketing, says the funding will be plowed into further development of its products, which use machine learning and predictive analytics to help marketers identify new audiences and integrate marketing, and hiring.

—Online real estate brokerage Redfin bought another Seattle company, Walk Score, which rates locations based on how easily desirable amenities can be reached by foot. It’s the first acquisition for Redfin. CEO Glenn Kelman writes that it will help the company better portray life in a new neighborhood for would-be home buyers. With Walk Score “we can realize a key component of Redfin’s strategy, to get local, which means putting everything we know about a neighborhood, and everything we’ve done there, into our website and mobile tools, so we become a go-to destination for people exploring a move,” Kelman writes. Terms were not disclosed. Kelman writes that Walk Score data—which also includes a location’s public transit and bike accessibility—will be free to third-party sites for up to 5,000 requests per day, up from the current 100.

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

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