Companies Hit $1B in Investment

With Blue Fever’s $2.8M seed round on December 18, 2018, the total raised by the 101 member companies since opening the VDC in 2009 reached $1,031,072,265. The companies have a headcount of 1,344. The 127 investors in the companies include 5 of the top 10 venture capital firms in the world. The financing round that put the total over $1B was the August 8, 2018 $72M Series C announced by SQZ Biotech. VDC companies surpassed the $500M mark in 2016. 

Other notable financial milestones in 2018 are the S&P Global acquisition on March 6, 2018 of Kensho for $550M; the June 28, 2018 acquisition by Amazon of PillPack for $1B; and the August 27, 2018 announcement by VMware of its acquisition of CloudHealth Technologies for $550M. CloudHealth Technologies was formed by Dan Phillips while he was an EIR at the VDC. 

Stories Behind the Results

SQZ Biotech: Building a fast growing company.

Polaris Partner and a former Pfizer exec Amy Schulman bet on cell therapy company SQZ Biotech because of Armon Sharei, even though he’s young and had never started a company before. “For somebody as smart as he is, he’s really humble and he’s eager to learn.”

Armon picked the VDC to launch the company out of the MIT Langer Lab. In 18 months, SQZ grew to 30 employees, and landed a $500M deal with Roche. Today it has 85 employees.

“The VDC offers an excellent environment in which to build our company. The staff are phenomenal in their commitment to culture and understanding of the unique needs of a startup. And we are inspired by all the innovative work our neighbors in the space are doing.”

Visit SQZ Biotech

PillPack: Rescuing the rockstar software engineer.

PillPack pre-sorts drugs into daily regimens and ships them to customers nationwide, relieving the burden of managing medications. Well before it became a $1 billion Amazon acquisition, we facilitated a visa that kept an engineer of the backend pharmacy system in Boston.

We worked with PillPack’s attorneys to file a cap-exempt H-1B petition, which was approved. While in residence at the VDC, she contributed to making the Introduction to Software Engineering course more current and relevant to the real-world. PillPack eventually won its own visa for her independent of UMass.

According to Matt Pokress, PillPack’s VP for Engineering: “Wouldn’t have been able to do it without this team – and she continues to be a huge contributor to our success.”

Visit PillPack

Platelet Biogenesis: Delivering mission critical core research facilities.

This spinout from Brigham and Women’s Hospital needed private laboratories to build its team and access to animal and imaging facilities. The company grew from 5 to 20 employees at the VDC. And it landed a $10 million Series A investment from Qiming Venture Partners to support preclinical testing of its bioreactor which permits the production of blood cells for transfusion therapy.

Even after graduating to larger facilities, Platelet BioGenesis scientists continue to use the animal facility and confocal microscope. According to Lea Beaulieu, Platelet’s Associate Director: “The UMass Boston facility has all the things we need. They want to help people meet their goals and succeed. We maintain our protocols there for these reasons and will continue to as we expand.”

CloudHealth Technologies: Starting out with a team of talented interns.

Kleiner Perkins backed CloudHealth Technologies was formed while the co-founder, Dan Phillips, was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the VDC. The idea behind CloudHealth is to help businesses manage their entire cloud ecosystem. The company’s approach has won it more than 3,000 customers.

To start out, Phillips brought on a UMass Boston intern, Livja Jaho. According to her, “When I was a student, I became the third person to join the CloudHealth team.”  Phillips adds: “UMass Boston students are exactly the type I like to hire at my companies. They can handle adversity, want ownership, and require and expect little supervision. They have been exceptional.” 

VMWare recently acquired the 300-person company for just north of $500 million in cash.

Soofa: Keeping a vital electrical engineer in the country.

In 2014, three female co-founders from the MIT Media Lab and Harvard Graduate School of Design (all from Germany) launched Soofa, a tech company focused on bringing smart infrastructure to cities across the globe. Soofa is backed by Underscore VC and Accomplice.

During beta testing of the Soofa Sign, its solar powered outdoor community bulletin board, the key engineer had an immigration problem. “He is in charge of the hardware and firmware. Because of his talent and experience, he is vital to Soofa,” according to co-founder Sandra Sandra.

The VDC facilitated a visa that kept him in the country. The more than 75 Signs that have been installed throughout the United States are transforming how businesses are messaging so that it’s relevant to the local audience.

Visit Soofa

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