Venture

VC Summer Slowdown Hits Boston, Which Has Its Slowest July Since 2014

Greater Boston is home to all the elements that, when combined, make up a fruitful startupland: smart people, established universities, conferences galore, and a healthy dose of local loyalty.1 So, once a month, we’re going to take a look into the Greater Boston startup scene 2 and give you a quick round up on what’s been happening.

Looking at the total venture capital scored by Greater Boston-based startups in July year over year, 2019 was the biggest dip in five years. Thanks to the likes of startups like Toast, DraftKings, Indigo AG, and more, previous Julys in Boston saw nine-figure rounds. This July, we saw none. See the chart below for more.

The Past Month For Greater Boston

Going back to this July, however, Greater Boston startups raised $183 million through venture capitalists last month, with the majority of that total going toward Seed stage rounds, and then Series A rounds.

That total is a dip from June’s totals, when the same region raised $247 million. The June spike was due to an outsized round from Commonwealth Fusion, a startup which works on complicated concepts like superconducting magnet technology and commercial fusion on energy.

The company raised a $115 million Series A.

As Alex and Mary Ann explained when covering Commonwealth’s round that the startup has some local love in its DNA. Founded in 2017 it was spun out of MIT and works with MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

Below is a chart of notable rounds raised by Greater Boston-based startups in the past month, according to Crunchbase data.

A slew of companies scored eight-figure rounds. Lendbuzz raised $20 million to help with car loans for international students (and raised $130 million in debt financing), Sense raised $10 million to help you better track devices and automate your home, and Jobble scored $11 million to aid those who want more flexible work. Although its a tiny round, Area4 Labs Inc. raised $1 million to help us all find local music that we love, played live.

On the biotech front, we saw Leuko Labs raising $1.8 million to create a non-invasive white blood cell monitoring device. Also, Pyxis Oncology raised a $22 million Series A to focus on immunology.

Excluding Cambridge, a home for biotech startups, Boston-based startups racked up just over $139 million in venture capital funding. That’s more than double the amount that Boston-based companies raised in June, which was $59 million.

Why the sudden uptick within Boston? Tscan Therapeutics, a biotech company that plans to develop immunotherapy treatments for cancer, raised $48 million in a Series B. This is almost quintuple the size of any round scored by a Boston-based company in July.

As you can see, there was a slew of large(ish) Series A rounds made by venture capitalists. Jobble, an on demand marketplace that connects businesses to people who want flexible work, raised $11 million. DUST Identity which uses diamond dust to help identify objects raised $10 million.

Yup, diamond dust. The company launched from stealth in 2018, and now works with tech and consumer electronic brands as well as government organizations. In a press release, the CEO Ophir Gaathon said that “maintaining the integrity of the data is vital, but it is not enough. We need to extend the trust into the products.”

The list above features a healthy mix of industries, reminding us that Boston isn’t just a biotech town. In fact, as we reported last month, the city’s food tech industry is thriving too.

And as we’ll discuss in our next section on acquisitions, some Boston-based food startups are even hungry.

Toast & Weed

In July, I wrote about how restaurant management platform Toast bought StratEx, its first-ever acquisition. The buy will help Toast customers automate their payroll and HR services, like employee on-boarding and scheduling. The Boston-based company said it plans to invest over $1 billion in R&D over the next five years “to continue building software and hardware designed specifically for the restaurant industry.”

More in acquisition news, Curaleaf, a public cannabis company, acquired Chicago-based Grassroots Cannabis for $875 million. BostInno reports that the combined entities make Curaleaf the world’s largest cannabis company by revenue.

To Close

This is just a snapshot of what was up in Greater Boston in the past month. When I lived in the city, I noticed growing tech scene just by sifting through Eventbrite and recording what business events are going on around me.

I’m not going to compare Boston to San Francisco just yet because I don’t have the nuance under my belt yet. That said, as I’m starting to understand SF better I think Boston is doing what’s necessary to be taken seriously as a startup hub — it’s opening innovation labs, and then more innovation labs, helping immigrant founders, devoting Wednesdays to immigration talks, and setting up Friday nights where you can meet your entrepreneurial neighbors.

This column is meant to be a quick, digestible window into this growing enthusiasm. Talk next month, and in the meantime any Greater Boston news can be sent over to natasha@crunchbase.com.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

 


  1. For transparency, I went to school in Boston, so I’m part of this mix.

  2. This includes Boston and Cambridge.