Alumni Ventures Group is the most active venture fund you’ve never heard of

Alumni Ventures Group is investing upwards of $200 million a year in tech startups. Has anyone noticed?

Alumni Ventures Group’s (AVG) limited partners aren’t endowment or pension funds. Its typical LP is a heart surgeon in Des Moines, Iowa.

The firm has both an unorthodox model of fundraising and dealmaking. Across 25 micro funds, AVG is raising and investing upwards of $200 million per year for and in tech startups.

Tucked away in Boston, far from the limelight of Silicon Valley, few seem to be paying attention to AVG. There are a few reasons why, and those seem to be working to the firm’s advantage.

Today, AVG is announcing a close of roughly $30 million for three additional funds: Green D Ventures, Chestnut Street Ventures and Purple Arch Ventures, which represent capital committed by Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern alums, respectively.

“People don’t really know what to make of us”

AVG walks and talks like a venture fund, but a peek under the hood reveals its unconventional fundraising mechanisms.

Rather than collecting $5 million minimum investments from institutional LPs, AVG takes $50,000 directly from individual alums of prestigious universities. The firm pools the capital and creates university-specific venture funds for graduates of Duke, Stanford, Harvard, MIT and several other colleges. 

“People don’t really know what to make of us because we’re so different,” said Michael Collins, AVG’s founder and chief executive officer.

Collins started AVG to make venture capital more accessible to individual people. He’s been a VC since 1986, formerly of TA Associates, and had grown tired of the hubris that runs rampant in the industry. In 2014, he started a $1.5 million fund for alums of his alma mater, Dartmouth. Since then, AVG has grown into 25 funds, each of which fundraise annually and are seeing substantial growth over their previous raises.

“What we observed is VC is a really good asset class but it’s really designed for institutional investors,” Collins (pictured below) said. “It’s really hard for individual people to put together a smart, simple portfolio unless they do it themselves. That’s why we created AVG.”

AVG and its team of 40 investment professionals make 150 to 200 investments per year of roughly $1 million each in U.S. startups across industries. In the second quarter of 2018, PitchBook listed the firm as the second most active global investor, ranked below only Plug and Play Tech Center and above the likes of Kleiner Perkins, NEA and Accel. 

Unlike the Kleiners, NEAs and Accels of the world, AVG never leads investments. Collins says they just “tuck themselves into” a deal with a great lead investor. They don’t take board seats; Collins says he doesn’t see any value in more than one VC on a company board. And they don’t try to negotiate deal terms.

Though unusual, all of this works to their advantage. Founders appreciate the easy capital and access to AVG’s network, and other VC firms don’t view AVG as a threat, making it easier for the firm to get in on great deals.

“We are low friction, we are small and we have a hell of a Rolodex,” Collins said.

VC doesn’t have to be a star business

Despite a deal flow that’s unmatched by many VC firms, AVG manages to fly under the radar — and the firm is totally OK with that.

“A lot of VC is a bit of a star business where people try to build their own individual brand,” Collins said. “They get out there; they like publicity; they blog; they speak at conferences; they want to be known as the person to bring great deals to. We don’t lead. We work in the background. We just don’t feel the need to put the energy into PR.”

“Most VC returns are really achieved through investing in great companies as opposed to changing the trajectory of a company because you’re on the board,” he added. “If you’re a seed investor in Airbnb or Google, you were really great to be an early investor in that company, not because you sat on the board and you’re brilliance created Google’s success.”

AVG has completed 115 investments in the last 12 months. It’s investing out of 10-year funds, so at just four years in, it has some more waiting to do before it’ll see the full outcomes of its investments. Still, Collins says 65 of their portfolio companies have had liquidity events so far, including Jump, which sold to Uber in April, and Whistle, acquired by Mars Petcare a few years back.

“I hope that we can be a catalyst to bring more people into this asset class,” he concluded.

“I am a big believer that it’s really important that America continues to lead in entrepreneurship and I think the more people that own this asset class the better.”

Jane.VC, a new fund for female entrepreneurs, wants founders to cold email them

Want to pitch a venture capitalist? You’ll need a “warm introduction” first. At least that’s what most in the business will advise. Find a person, typically a man, who made the VC you’re interested in pitching a whole bunch of money at some point and have them introduce you. Why? Because VCs love people who’ve […]

Want to pitch a venture capitalist? You’ll need a “warm introduction” first. At least that’s what most in the business will advise.

Find a person, typically a man, who made the VC you’re interested in pitching a whole bunch of money at some point and have them introduce you. Why? Because VCs love people who’ve made them money; naturally, they’ll be willing to hear you out if you’ve got at least one money maker on your side.

There’s a big problem with that cycle. Not all entrepreneurs are friendly with millionaires and not all entrepreneurs, especially those based outside Silicon Valley or from underrepresented backgrounds, have anyone in their network to provide them that coveted intro.

Jane.VC, a new venture fund based out of Cleveland and London wants entrepreneurs to cold email them. Send them your pitch, no wealthy or successful intermediary necessary. The fund, which has so far raised $2 million to invest between $25,000 and $150,000 in early-stage female-founded companies across industries, is scrapping the opaque, inaccessible model of VC that’s been less than favorable toward women.

“We like to say that Jane.VC is venture for every woman,” the firm’s co-founder Jennifer Neundorfer told TechCrunch.

Neundorfer, who previously founded and led an accelerator for Midwest startups called Flashstarts after stints at 21st Century Fox and YouTube, partnered with her former Stanford business school classmate Maren Bannon, the former chief executive officer and co-founder of LittleLane. So far, they’ve backed insurtech company Proformex and Hatch Apps, an enterprise software startup that makes it easier for companies to create and distribute mobile and web apps.

“We are going to shoot them straight”

Jane.VC, like many members of the next generation of venture capital funds, is bucking the idea that the best founders can only be found in Silicon Valley. Instead, the firm is going global and operating under the philosophy that a system of radical transparency and honesty will pay off.

“Let’s be efficient with an entrepreneur’s time and say no if it’s not a hit,” Neundorfer said. “I’ve been on the opposite end of that coaching. So many entrepreneurs think a VC is interested and they aren’t. An entrepreneur’s time is so valuable and we want to protect that. We are going to shoot them straight.”

Though Jane.VC plans to invest across the globe, the firm isn’t turning its back on Bay Area founders. Neundorfer and Bannon will leverage their Silicon Valley network and work with an investment committee of nine women based throughout the U.S. to source deals. 

“We are women that have raised money and have been through the ups and downs of raising money in what is a very male-dominated world,” Neundorfer added. “We believe that investing in women is not only the right thing to do but that you can make a lot of money doing it.”

How smartphone apps could help keep health records accurate

Ben Moscovitch Contributor Share on Twitter Ben Moscovitch directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ health information technology project. Robert S. Rudin Contributor Share on Twitter Robert S. Rudin is an information scientist with the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. Suppose that the next time you go to a new doctor’s office, you wouldn’t have to balance a clipboard on […]

Suppose that the next time you go to a new doctor’s office, you wouldn’t have to balance a clipboard on your knee, write down your whole medical history, remember the five-syllable name of every medication you’re taking, and list all your allergies. Suppose that your smartphone could simply tap into the office’s computer system, where you could upload your entire medical history safely, securely, and accurately.

Such an app could ease the frustration patients feel when they fill out the forms for a new doctor. More importantly, it could help solve a serious but lesser-known problem that plagues hospitals and clinics: While the increased use of electronic health records has helped streamline record-keeping, providers aren’t always able to reliably pull together records for the same patient that are held in different hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices.

That was the scene in Boston in 2015, when emergency room doctors were struggling to treat a patient named Maureen Kelly—only to discover five different electronic records for Maureen Kelly, each with the same birthday and ZIP code. They had no way of knowing which record matched the patient in front of them. Was she the Maureen Kelly with diabetes? The Maureen Kelly who had only one kidney? And if they were to decide to send her record to a specialist outside the hospital, how could they know which of the five to send?

Fortunately, Maureen Kelly recovered. But to make the best possible medical decisions in cases like hers, doctors need immediate access to accurate patient data—including those from records held in other facilities. Digital systems should be able to seamlessly match records from a pediatrician in Pittsburgh or a surgeon in San Diego each and every time. An inability to do so—which could mean physicians not having important details, such as a patient’s drug allergies, chronic illnesses, or past surgeries—can mean the difference between life and death.

Doctors using digital tablet together in hospital (Photo: Ariel Skelley/Getty Images)

It’s hard enough keeping records straight within a single large hospital system; transferring them among different doctors’ offices and other hospitals is even more challenging. As digital health care systems have proliferated, they’ve used a variety of formats to record essential pieces of information, such as addresses and birthdates, that don’t easily transfer from one system to another. And, of course, patients’ identifying information isn’t static—birthdates don’t change but people move, change names through marriage or adoption, and more. Matches among different systems have also been stymied by data entry errors.

And while patient harm is the primary risk posed by inaccurate records, cost is no small consideration. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology reported that each instance of a misidentified record cost the Mayo Clinic roughly $1,200—and that’s just within the Mayo system. These administrative costs are magnified when data are exchanged on a nationwide scale.

No one solution can solve every patient-matching problem. But The Pew Charitable Trusts is investigating several ideas. Pew recently asked the nonprofit RAND Corporation to evaluate solutions that would let patients exercise more control over how their records are matched. RAND looked at a variety of options and concluded that the growing use of smartphones offers a particularly promising opportunity to improve record matching in two ways.

Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images

First, smartphones could allow patients to verify their phone numbers at the point of care, perhaps by responding to a text message—a strategy already used in banking, travel, retail, and other industries. Once a number was confirmed by the patient, the hospital’s computer could use it automatically to match other records against that number with a higher degree of certainty.

Second, patients could use an app to enter their information—such as an address or even a driver’s license number—and have that information sent directly to the hospital when they check in for their visit. This would let patients update their information and voluntarily provide more accurate data to facilitate a match. Smartphone apps could eventually aggregate and transfer even more information—such as medication lists or health histories—and replace the paper on clipboards used today.

The smartphone approach will not solve this problem by itself. There are potential limitations—patients would need to own phones and know how to use them, and the system might not work in emergency situations when a patient didn’t have or couldn’t operate a smartphone—but the Pew Research Center found earlier this year thatmore than three-quarters of Americans now use smartphones, including nearly half of people older than 65.

To address the larger problem of patient matching, stakeholders must pursue a variety of solutions, including smartphone apps. Technology developers would be wise to advance and start pilot projects now of smartphones and a variety of other solutions, and demonstrate how they could be used to save lives, improve care, and reduce health care costs.

The Infatuation raises $30M from Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo to bring Zagat into the digital age

WndrCo, the consumer tech investment and holding company founded by longtime Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, has invested $30 million in The Infatuation, a restaurant discovery platform.

WndrCo, the consumer tech investment and holding company founded by longtime Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, has invested $30 million in The Infatuation, a restaurant discovery platform.

The Infatuation made waves earlier this year when it purchased Zagat from Google, which had paid $151 million for the 40-year-old company in 2011. Despite efforts to makeover the Zagat app, the search giant ultimately decided to unload the perennial restaurant review and recommendation service and focus on expanding its database of restaurant recommendations organically.

New York-based The Infatuation was founded by music industry vets Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal in 2009. It has previously raised $3.5 million for its mobile app, events, newsletter and personalized SMS-based recommendation tool.

Stang told TechCrunch this morning that they plan to use a good chunk of the funds to develop the new Zagat platform, which will be kept separate from The Infatuation.

“The first thing we want to do before we build anything is spend a lot of time researching how people have used Zagat in the past, how they want to use it in the future, what a community-driven platform could look like and how to apply community reviews and ratings to the brand,” said Stang, The Infatuation’s chief executive officer. “Zagat’s roots are in user-generated content. … What we are doing now is thinking through what that looks like with new tech applied to it. What it looks like in the digital age. How [we can] take our domain expertise and that legendary brand and make something new with it.”

The Infatuation will also expand to new cities beginning this fall with launches in Boston and Philadelphia. It’s already active in a dozen or so U.S. cities including Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco. The startup’s first and only international location is London.

Katzenberg, who began his Hollywood career at Paramount Pictures, began raising up to $2 billion for WndrCo about a year ago. Since then, he’s unveiled WndrCo’s new mobile video startup NewTV, which has raised $1 billion and hired Meg Whitman, the former president and CEO of Hewlett Packard, as CEO.

On top of that, WndrCo has invested in MixcloudAxiosNodeFlowspace, Whistle Sports, TYT Network and others.

Given The Infatuation founders’ experience in the entertainment industry, a partnership with Katzenberg was natural.

“We really felt like between content and technology they had … expertise on both sides,” Stang said. “The Infatuation is at its best when great content intersects with great technology, to find a fund that was perfectly suited to that was exciting.”

The Infatuation raises $30M from Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo to bring Zagat into the digital age

WndrCo, the consumer tech investment and holding company founded by longtime Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, has invested $30 million in The Infatuation, a restaurant discovery platform.

WndrCo, the consumer tech investment and holding company founded by longtime Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, has invested $30 million in The Infatuation, a restaurant discovery platform.

The Infatuation made waves earlier this year when it purchased Zagat from Google, which had paid $151 million for the 40-year-old company in 2011. Despite efforts to makeover the Zagat app, the search giant ultimately decided to unload the perennial restaurant review and recommendation service and focus on expanding its database of restaurant recommendations organically.

New York-based The Infatuation was founded by music industry vets Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal in 2009. It has previously raised $3.5 million for its mobile app, events, newsletter and personalized SMS-based recommendation tool.

Stang told TechCrunch this morning that they plan to use a good chunk of the funds to develop the new Zagat platform, which will be kept separate from The Infatuation.

“The first thing we want to do before we build anything is spend a lot of time researching how people have used Zagat in the past, how they want to use it in the future, what a community-driven platform could look like and how to apply community reviews and ratings to the brand,” said Stang, The Infatuation’s chief executive officer. “Zagat’s roots are in user-generated content. … What we are doing now is thinking through what that looks like with new tech applied to it. What it looks like in the digital age. How [we can] take our domain expertise and that legendary brand and make something new with it.”

The Infatuation will also expand to new cities beginning this fall with launches in Boston and Philadelphia. It’s already active in a dozen or so U.S. cities including Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco. The startup’s first and only international location is London.

Katzenberg, who began his Hollywood career at Paramount Pictures, began raising up to $2 billion for WndrCo about a year ago. Since then, he’s unveiled WndrCo’s new mobile video startup NewTV, which has raised $1 billion and hired Meg Whitman, the former president and CEO of Hewlett Packard, as CEO.

On top of that, WndrCo has invested in MixcloudAxiosNodeFlowspace, Whistle Sports, TYT Network and others.

Given The Infatuation founders’ experience in the entertainment industry, a partnership with Katzenberg was natural.

“We really felt like between content and technology they had … expertise on both sides,” Stang said. “The Infatuation is at its best when great content intersects with great technology, to find a fund that was perfectly suited to that was exciting.”

GreyOrange raises $140M to develop fully-automated robotics for warehouses

GreyOrange, a Singapore-headquartered firm that develops robots for warehouses, has pulled in a $140 million Series C funding round as it targets more expansion and growth. The company was started in 2011. Today it has five regional offices across the world — covering India, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and the U.S. — three R&D centers and more than 60 […]

GreyOrange, a Singapore-headquartered firm that develops robots for warehouses, has pulled in a $140 million Series C funding round as it targets more expansion and growth.

The company was started in 2011. Today it has five regional offices across the world — covering India, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and the U.S. — three R&D centers and more than 60 ‘installations’ of its tech with retail customers worldwide. Right now, GreyOrange’s two main products are a robot ‘butler’ that moves heavy shelves and installations around warehouses and a robotic ‘sorter’ belt that organizes packages, but the vision is to build something more holistic.

“In three to four years we want to be the first in the world to achieve the goal of operating a fully-autonomous warehouse,” founders Samay Kohli and Akash Gupta told TechCrunch in an interview.

That’s a huge goal, and it puts the company in competition with established firms like Amazon-owned Kiva among others.

This new injection of funding is aimed at setting the trajectory to reach the startup’s lofty target. The round was led by Mithril Capital, a firm created by U.S. investor Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan, with participation from Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal and existing backers that include Blume Ventures.

The capital takes GreyOrange to $170 million raised from investors that include Mitsubishi and Flipkart .

“Warehousing is completely under-serviced and nothing has really changed,” Kohli and Gupta said. “The stuff you can do now is really just the tip of the iceberg. We’re trying to strengthen our backbone, so the majority of this investment will go into our own supply chain as we really try to take it 5-10X over the next couple of years.”

GreyOrange recently forayed into North America with the opening of a headquarters in Atlanta and plans to launch a research center in Boston. The company is also looking to develop its business in the country, too. It said in a press statement that it is aiming to deploy over 20,000 robots in the next three years.

Starry launches pilot program with Boston Housing Authority to expand affordable internet access

Internet service provider Starry announced today the launch of its Starry Connect program with a pilot through Boston Housing Authority (BHA) to help provide free access to internet for residents living in one of the city’s public housing apartment complexes. The Boston-based startup launched in 2016 with a plan to provide internet access through a […]

Internet service provider Starry announced today the launch of its Starry Connect program with a pilot through Boston Housing Authority (BHA) to help provide free access to internet for residents living in one of the city’s public housing apartment complexes.

The Boston-based startup launched in 2016 with a plan to provide internet access through a spoke-and-wheel system of transmitters and access points. This point-to-multipoint system uses a phased array laser on top of a city building to send a 5G signal out that users can connect to via Starry Points that can be installed at a window or personal roof.

“Access to high-speed broadband is critical for education, communication, and personal and professional development, and yet today, many people still lack access to a basic, affordable, and reliable internet connection,” said Chet Kanojia, co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “That’s why we’re excited to partner with the Boston Housing Authority to devise creative solutions to help get more of their residents online and engaged with the critical services they need.”

With the program Starry launched today, residents of the public housing apartment building will be able to access free Wi-Fi in the building’s common area, hallways and new computer lab.

Virginia Lam Abrams, Starry senior vice president of communications and government relations, told TechCrunch that some residents may also be able to access the signal in their rooms, but the primary focus for this installation is to provide common area access for these primarily elderly and disabled residents.

Because Starry Connect’s pilot launch in the BHA building is part of the Boston public housing system, residents will receive free connection, but Starry also has plans to provide low-cost pricing options for residents living in affordable housing, as well.

The program has no set end date, says Abrams, but the company has plans to check in with residents in a few months to see where the program is succeeding and where it can be improved. Following this initial pilot launch, Abrams says that Starry has hopes to expand into other BHA communities, as well as public and affordable housing in other U.S. cities.

Since its launch, the startup has expanded into Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and following a $100,000 million funding round it closed this July, has plans to scale and expand into more cities in the coming year, including Houston, Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Ore.

Boston-area startups are on pace to overtake NYC venture totals

Boston has regained its longstanding place as the second-largest U.S. startup funding hub. After years of trailing New York City in total annual venture investment, Massachusetts is taking the lead in 2018.

Boston has regained its longstanding place as the second-largest U.S. startup funding hub.

After years of trailing New York City in total annual venture investment, Massachusetts is taking the lead in 2018. Venture investment in the Boston metro area hit $5.2 billion so far this year, on track to be the highest annual total in years.

The Massachusetts numbers year-to-date are about 15 percent higher than the New York City total. That puts Boston’s biotech-heavy venture haul apparently second only to Silicon Valley among domestic locales thus far this year. And for New England VCs, the latest numbers also confirm already well-ingrained opinions about the superior talents of local entrepreneurs.

“Boston often gets dismissed as a has-been startup city. But the successes are often overlooked and don’t get the same attention as less successful, but more hypey companies in San Francisco,” Blake Bartlett, a partner at Boston-based venture firm OpenView, told Crunchbase News. He points to local success stories like online prescription service PillPack, which Amazon just snapped up for $1 billion, and online auto marketplace CarGurus, which went public in October and is now valued around $4.7 billion.

Meanwhile, fresh capital is piling up in the coffers of local startups with all the intensity of a New England snowstorm. In the chart below, we look at funding totals since 2012, along with reported round counts.

In the interest of rivalry, we are also showing how the Massachusetts startup ecosystem compares to New York over the past five years.

Who’s getting funded?

So what’s the reason for Boston’s 2018 successes? It’s impossible to pinpoint a single cause. The New England city’s startup scene is broad and has deep pockets of expertise in biotech, enterprise software, AI, consumer apps and other areas.

Still, we’d be remiss not to give biotech the lion’s share of the credit. So far this year, biotech and healthcare have led the New England dealmaking surge, accounting for the majority of invested capital. Once again, local investors are not surprised.

“Boston has been the center of the biotech universe forever,” said Dylan Morris, a partner at Boston and Silicon Valley-based VC firm CRV. That makes the city well-poised to be a leading hub in the sector’s latest funding and exit boom, which is capitalizing on a long-term shift toward more computational approaches to diagnosing and curing disease.

Moreover, it goes without saying that the home city of MIT has a particularly strong reputation for so-called deep tech — using really complicated technology to solve really hard problems. That’s reflected in the big funding rounds.

For instance, the largest Boston-based funding recipient of 2018, Moderna Therapeutics, is a developer of mRNA-based drugs that raised $625 million across two late-stage rounds. Besides Moderna, other big rounds for companies with a deep tech bent went to TCR2, which is focused on engineering T cells for cancer therapy, and Starry (based in both Boston and New York), which is deploying the world’s first millimeter wave band active phased array technology for consumer broadband.

Other sectors saw some jumbo-sized rounds too, including enterprise software, 3D printing and even apparel.

Boston also benefits from the rise of supergiant funding rounds. A plethora of rounds raised at $100 million or more fueled the city’s rise in the venture funding rankings. So far this year, at least 15 Massachusetts companies have raised rounds of that magnitude or more, compared to 12 in all of 2017.

Exits are happening, too

Boston companies are going public and getting acquired at a brisk pace too this year, and often for big sums.

At least seven metro-area startups have sold for $100 million or more in disclosed-price acquisitions this year, according to Crunchbase data. In the lead is online prescription drug service PillPack . The second-biggest deal was Kensho, a provider of analytics for big financial institutions that sold to S&P Global for $550 million.

IPOs are huge, too. A total of 17 Boston-area venture-backed companies have gone public so far this year, of which 15 are life science startups. The largest offering was for Rubius Therapeutics, a developer of red cell therapeutics, followed by cybersecurity provider Carbon Black.

Meanwhile, many local companies that went public in the past few years have since seen their values skyrocket. Bartlett points to examples including online retailer Wayfair (market cap of $10 billion), marketing platform HubSpot (market cap $4.8 billion) and enterprise software provider Demandware (sold to Salesforce for $2.8 billion).

New England heats up

Recollections of a frigid April sojourn in Massachusetts are too fresh for me to comfortably utter the phrase “Boston is hot.” However, speaking purely about startup funding, and putting weather aside, the Boston scene does appear to be seeing some real escalation in temperature.

Of course, it’s not just Boston. Supergiant venture funds are surging all over the place this year. Morris is even bullish on the arch-rival a few hours south: “New York and Boston love to hate each other. But New York’s doing some amazing things too,” he said, pointing to efforts to invigorate the biotech startup ecosystem.

Still, so far, it seems safe to say 2018 is shaping up as Boston’s year for startups.

Siemens acquires low-code platform Mendix for $700M

Siemens, the giant German technology company, today announced that it has acquired Mendix, the popular low-code application development platform, for €0.6 billion (or about $700 million). Mendix, which was founded in the Netherlands but now has its headquarters in Boston, will continue to operate as usual and keep its name, but Siemens notes that it […]

Siemens, the giant German technology company, today announced that it has acquired Mendix, the popular low-code application development platform, for €0.6 billion (or about $700 million). Mendix, which was founded in the Netherlands but now has its headquarters in Boston, will continue to operate as usual and keep its name, but Siemens notes that it will also use the company’s technology to accelerate its own cloud, IoT and digital enterprise ambitions.

“As part of our digitalization strategy, Siemens continues to invest in software offerings for the Digital Enterprise. With the acquisition of Mendix, Siemens continues to add to its comprehensive Digital Enterprise and MindSphere IoT portfolio, with cloud domain expertise, cloud agnostic platform solutions and highly skilled people,” said Jan Mrosik, CEO of Siemens’ Digital Factory Division.

Mendix’s service is already deeply integrated into IBM’s, SAP’s and Pivotal‘s cloud services. Mendix co-founder and CEO Derek Roos notes that his company and Siemens first discussed a strategic partnership, but as those talks progressed, the two companies moved toward an acquisition instead. Roos argues that the two companies’ visions are quite similar and that Siemens is committed to helping accelerate Mendix’s growth, extend the company’s platform and combine it with Siemens’ existing MindSphere IoT system.

“If you’ve ever wondered which low-code platform will have the viability to invest and win in the long term, you no longer have to guess,” Roos writes. “This commitment and investment from Siemens will allow us to accelerate R&D and geo-expansion investments significantly. You’re going to see faster innovation, more reach and an even better customer experience from us.”

Over the course of the last few years, “low-code” has become increasingly popular as more and more enterprises try to enable all of their employees to access and use the data they now store. Not every employee is going to learn how to program, though, so tools like Mendix, K2 and others now make it easy for non-developers to quickly build (mostly database-backed) applications.

Siemens also today announced a new company structure, dubbed Vision 2020+. The details of that aren’t all that interesting, but the company does note that it was to strengthen its growth portfolio through investments in fields like IoT integration services. The Mendix acquisition is part of that, but I’m sure we’ll see a few similar moves in the near future.

Ahead of today’s acquisition, Mendix had raised about $38 million from investors like Battery Ventures, Prime Ventures and HENQ Invest.

Boeing’s new R&D center focuses on autonomous flight

Flying cars are BS. But there is actually a chance that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in general aviation as startups and major players like Airbus are looking to modern technology to allow more people to take flight without having to first learn how to steer a Cessna 152 down a short runway […]

Flying cars are BS. But there is actually a chance that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in general aviation as startups and major players like Airbus are looking to modern technology to allow more people to take flight without having to first learn how to steer a Cessna 152 down a short runway (though that’s a good skill to have, too). Boeing, which is not currently a player in general aviation, clearly doesn’t want to be left behind. The company today announced that it is opening a new R&D office in Boston that will focus on designing, building and flying autonomous aircraft.

Perkins + Will (PRNewsfoto/Boeing)

The new office will be staffed by Boeing engineers and employees of its Aurora Flight Sciences subsidiary, which it acquired last year. Unsurprisingly, the company also plans to work with the boffins at MIT, which is the landlord of the company’s new offices in Kendall Square.

“Boeing is leading the development of new autonomous vehicles and future transportation systems that will bring flight closer to home,” said Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief technology officer, in today’s announcement. “By investing in this new research facility, we are creating a hub where our engineers can collaborate with other Boeing engineers and research partners around the world and leverage the Cambridge innovation ecosystem.”

There’s obviously plenty left to be figured out with regards to autonomous flights — or even just giving people access to semi-autonomous aircraft that would fall under the FAA’s ultralight designation so that the pilot wouldn’t need a pilot’s license.

Right now, the rules are pretty clear about what’s possible and what isn’t — and most ideas around “urban air transportation” (at least in the U.S.) aren’t feasible under today’s rules. But those rules were written for an aviation system that handles fewer than 250,000 small general aviation aircraft, most of which feature very little in terms of automation. The FAA has shown some ability to act relatively fast when new technology comes along (see: drone regulations), so maybe that’ll be the case here, too. By 2020, the average Cessna you see puttering about in the sky above you will be close to 50 years old, but who knows, maybe we’ll see sleek electrified personal Boeing drones zooming 500 feet above our heads instead.