Seattle Week in Review: A Chill in the Air and a Flurry of Funding News

Winter is coming. Yes, I’m talking about the weather. Meanwhile, a flurry of tech news from the Seattle area emerged through the deafening cacophony of news and reaction to America’s new political reality. Read on for funding news from Tola Capital, Heptio, M87, Apptentive, Echo Health Ventures, and more.

Tola Capital, a Seattle-based venture fund, has closed a $295 million fund, an SEC filing shows, eclipsing the $225 million target it set when it began raising the fund in 2015. Tola, headed by former Microsoft manager Sheila Gulati, focuses on enterprise software investments.

—Kubernetes, the open source container-management software developed at Google, underpins a new Seattle startup called Heptio, which just announced an $8.5 million Series A funding round led by Accel, with participation from Madrona Venture Group. Heptio co-founders Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda began the Kubernetes project, which helps companies develop and manage the software “containers” that allow applications to be run in a wide range of computing environments, including public clouds and on-premises servers. McLuckie, Heptio’s CEO, says the technology has great operational benefits, and the potential for reducing IT infrastructure costs. “While the technology is incredibly powerful, we have seen developers struggle to get up and running quickly,” he says in a prepared statement. “Heptio’s early focus is on making Kubernetes more accessible to developers running apps on-premises or in the public cloud. In the future, we plan to work closely with the open ecosystem to advance the platform, and deliver the features enterprises need to run Kubernetes at scale.”

M87, which is building technology to create a “proximate Internet” of devices near each other, has raised $5 million in a funding round led by Madrona Venture Group. Other participants included Qualcomm Ventures and Trilogy Equity Partners. M87 also named a new CEO: Cole Brodman, a former T-Mobile executive who has served on M87’s board of directors since 2014. The Bellevue, WA-based startup sees the “device-to-device” wireless networks it enables as a way to ease the strain on Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

“As the world smartphone population surges to nearly 4 billion and new IoT devices are coming to market every day, the challenges for the network are becoming more apparent, while at the same time opening up new windows of opportunity to leverage these devices at the network edge,” says Len Jordan, Madrona’s managing director, in a prepared statement. “M87’s unique technology seeks to broaden the uses of the phone and the connectivity required for exciting new applications.”

Apptentive, a Seattle startup that helps companies manage customer experience on their mobile apps, announced it has raised $3.6 million, from investors. Origin Ventures led the round and a partner at that firm, Brent Hill, has joined Apptentive’s board.Blossom Street Ventures and Vulcan Capital were two of the new investors that participated, while return investors included SurveyMonkey. Apptentive, which graduated from Techstars Seattle in 2012, raised $5.3 million in a Series A funding round about two years ago. It has continued to add customers—such as Major League Soccer, TMZ, and eHarmony—which use Apptentive’s tools to survey their customers and communicate with them through mobile apps. “We’re opportunistically raising money now to accelerate our sales activities, further develop our product, and continue the hard work of building rich communication profiles for over 140 million people every month,” says Robi Ganguly, co-founder and CEO of Apptentive, in a prepared statement.

Cambia Health Solutions and Mosaic Health Solutions have formed a new joint corporate venture fund—Echo Health Ventures—focused on digital health companies. Cambia is a Portland, OR-based parent company that owns health insurance provider Regence BlueShield and a portfolio of other healthcare businesses. Mosaic is based in North Carolina. Cambia opened the Cambia Grove meeting and workspace in downtown Seattle in 2015 to help link startups with large healthcare players. Cambia’s Rob Coppedge will lead the investment group, which will back companies at all stages, from seed investments to private equity deals, a spokeswoman says via e-mail. The companies aren’t disclosing the size of the fund. In Echo Health’s investment charter, Cambia and Mosaic describe “a long-term commitment” to funding companies that are transforming healthcare to make it more personal, less costly, and focused on consumers rather than enterprises. “We need a bold new approach to corporate investment focused on building the next health care system—not propping up today’s broken system,” Coppedge says in the charter document.

—Healthcare, like so many aspects of the economy and society, faces substantial uncertainty in a Trump Administration. We talked with Accolade CEO Rajeev Singh about the potential implications for his company, which serves self-insured employers and health plans, of repealing the Affordable Care Act, in whole or in part. He’s not overly concerned, noting that the trend away from the fee-for-service payment model in healthcare wouldn’t be reversed by repealing the ACA. There’s much more in the story, including how Accolade is using machine learning to improve its healthcare concierge services, and its new alliance with Bellevue, WA-based Limeade.

(We’re excited to hear more from Singh at our upcoming Xconomy Intersect in Seattle on Dec. 8. He will join Madrona Venture Group’s Matt McIlwain for an investor-entrepreneur chat. We just posted the full agenda for the event. Check out the rest of our great speaker lineup and register before Thanksgiving to save $50.)

Image from Stevens Pass Jupiter Cam.

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

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