Seattle Roundup: Venture Stats, Elevate Capital, VR, UIEvolution, & More

Lots to catch up on this week in the Northwest including Washington’s 2015 venture investment tally; a new Portland, OR-based venture fund forming with an explicit focus on under-represented entrepreneurs and parts of the region; new funding for EnvelopVR and UIEvolution; the growing regional and global footprint of Tableau Software; and a new round of federal funding for smart grid innovation. The details:

—It’s time for the annual venture capital tally. The $58.8 billion invested nationally in 2015 is the second highest total in two decades, according to the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters. But the fourth quarter was relatively weak nationally, a trend reflected in Washington state numbers as well.

Venture investors did 25 deals with Washington companies to the tune of $165.7 million versus 29 deals and $389.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2014. For all of 2015, 116 deals went down in Washington, with total investment of $1.2 billion. That compares to 114 deals and $1.3 billion in 2014.

One quarter doesn’t make a trend, of course. Only two weeks into 2016, Washington has seen a significant later-stage deal: a $62 million Series D round for metamaterials satellite antenna maker Kymeta.

—There’s a new source of venture investment emerging in the Northwest. Portland-based Elevate Capital is explicitly focused on early stage startups from under-represented entrepreneurs and parts of the region—the Willamette Valley, Central and Southern Oregon, and Southwest Washington—that receive less capital. The firm was tapped to manage the Portland Development Commission’s $3 million Inclusive Startup Fund, which will invest only in businesses launched by women and under-represented minorities, the Portland Business Journal reports. Elevate will need to raise $1.75 million for that fund to invest alongside $1.25 million pledged by local governments.

Elevate also plans a $10 million fund of its own—for which it is raising capital now—to make “launch stage” investments in the $25,000-$75,000 range to help entrepreneurs get to a minimum viable product; early stage bets of $100,000 to $500,000 in the form of Series A and bridge rounds; and follow-on investments. It plans to invest in a diverse array of sectors including bioscience, food and beverage, apparel, and tech.

Elevate’s managing director is Nitin Rai, an experienced entrepreneur and angel investor, who chairs TiE Angels Oregon. The rest of the Elevate team is Stephen Green, Robin Jones Maloney, and Eric Boothe.

“We will be intentional about investments in under-represented entrepreneurs such as women and communities of color so our investments reflect the diversity we bring in our own team (East Indian, Hispanic, Black/Latino and women),” Rai writes in a blog post unveiling the firm.

KITT.AI, a natural language understanding startup, raised capital after spinning out of the incubator program at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. We took a look at the company’s technology and Seattle’s potential as a hub for machine intelligence innovation and startups.

—GV, the venture arm of Google parent company Alphabet, is investing in EnvelopVR, a Bellevue, WA, virtual reality software maker. GV joins the company’s Madrona Venture Group-led Series A round, announced in October, bringing the total to $5.5 million. In a news release, EnvelopVR says it aims to have its Envelop Virtual Environment—an immersive VR workspace—available when VR headsets from Oculus and HTC reach the market this year. The company has raised $7.5 million since its founding in 2014.

—In another sign of the growing interest in VR locally, the Technology Alliance is holding a day-long VR conference Jan. 28 in Seattle. Here’s the agenda and registration page for what looks like a great event.

—We reported last week on the $5 million UIEvolution raised from Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership, a fund backed in part by Toyota, with which the Bellevue, WA, company is doing significant work on connected cars. That’s just some of the $17.6 million the provider of software for Internet of Things and connected car applications is raising, according to an SEC filing. Some $10.2 million of that has come in so far, the filing shows.

Tableau Software‘s real estate and facilities team is busy snapping up physical space for more employees—now numbering more than 2,800 globally—and server space for more customers. The company plans to add another thousand employees this year, according to statements to local media.

In addition to its already-disclosed plans for 208,000 square feet of new offices near Gasworks Park in Seattle, the data visualization and business intelligence company this week announced a lease for 110,000 square feet of space in a building across from its current headquarters in the city’s Fremont neighborhood. It is also claiming 92,000 square feet in the Kirkland Urban project on the other side of Lake Washington. Several technology companies including Microsoft and Google have adopted a strategy of establishing offices on both sides of the lake to tap potential employees who don’t want to commute as far.

It’s expanding globally, too, with some 16 offices around the world including new ones in New York City and Beijing.

Also, Tableau announced its first European data center in Dublin, Ireland, a reflection of its global customer base which now numbers more than 35,000 in 150 countries. Some 3,000 customer accounts use the company’s cloud-based Tableau Online software.

—The Pacific Northwest’s leadership in electricity grid innovation was bolstered this week with a new round of federal funding. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA, is the co-leader of the Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium. Some 80 research and development projects—including 40 in which PNNL is directly involved—will receive up to $220 million in funding over three years for things like “big picture” thinking about modern grid infrastructure and the development of control theories to manage the growing number of distributed energy resources such as storage and solar panels.

The PNNL led a five-year smart grid demonstration project, the largest in the nation. As part of the new funding—about $38 million of which is expected to flow to PNNL—the laboratory plans to partner with Washington’s Clean Energy Fund and the state’s largest research universities “to create a testbed for campus buildings and devices to serve as flexible assets for integrating renewable power and reducing energy consumption,” according to a PNNL news release.

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