January is already flying by, but over at Avalon, we wanted to take a moment to sit back and reflect on 2015. It was an exciting year for us across our biotech and high tech practices, from coast to coast. Here are some highlights.
High Tech Investments
It was a big year on a lot of fronts, including SaaS, business intelligence, collaboration and more. We’ve made new investments and strengthened our ties with current portfolio companies throughout the year. Here are some of this year’s biggest announcements and investments across the Avalon Ventures portfolio:
Nanigans, a Boston-based advertising automation platform, has built an engine that enables better ad performance on Facebook. Nanigans’ revenue skyrocketed in 2015, and they have spread their offerings beyond their core Facebook ads to Twitter, Instagram and mobile.Their performance-based tools for advertising have helped brands go far beyond what was possible even a few years ago, comprehensively tracking the lifetime value of customers acquired via social. Now, advertisers can use Nanigans to manage all of their social media advertising. All brands are trying to figure out how to get the most out of today’s advertising options, including social, and Nanigans is helping their customers exceed expectations across the spectrum of social.
In the News: Nanigans’ Series B Announcement (May 2015)
AeroFS offers secure file sharing and syncing for enterprises. Small and less regulated companies benefit from easy-to-use collaboration and storage tools like Google Drive, Dropbox and Box, but many enterprises, especially in industries like government, finance, healthcare and manufacturing, can’t have their employees using these tools. AeroFS delivers the same “cheap and cheerful,” consumer-feeling and mobile-friendly capabilities, but privately behind a firewall. They help enterprises realize the benefits of cloud-based file sharing and syncing without having to worry about security.
In the News: AeroFS Series B announcement (June 2015)
Redbooth (FKA Teambox)
Virtual teams are increasingly common today, but they come with a unique set of challenges, like how to coordinate tasks and unify communications. Redbooth is a project management platform designed around this reality. It helps teams be more productive, and the company has been exploding as a result. Mobile devices are getting sophisticated enough that it really is possible to work anywhere, anytime; Redbooth helps teams do that seamlessly.
In the News: Redbooth is the 9th fastest-growing company in Silicon Valley (Oct 2015)
We like to call Chart.io “business intelligence without the bullshit.” Pardon the French, but we all know how important BI has become in a world of competitive advantages. Chart.io set out to turn everyone in the business into a data scientist, or at least to put the tools in their hands to analyze and draw meaning from data without needing to go to school for data science. Chart.io lets anyone at any company with access to their data visualize it, query it and derive meaning. They’re growing in leaps and bounds every year, and we’re thrilled to watch them take off.
In the News: Chartio Adds Agile Business Solution with Data Stores (May 2015)
Kaltura is a video platform that enables organizations to deliver content however, wherever and whenever they want. It helps companies ranging from telecommunications to major universities to corporations curate and deliver content in whatever way makes the most sense for their users, all without having to sort out the technological complexities of building a brand-new Netflix or YouTube from scratch. Kaltura lets you license the infrastructure and get your video platform off the ground almost immediately.
EdgeMakers has a pretty incredible story. When we heard that founder John Kao, a Harvard Business School professor who specializes in innovation and creativity in business, had taken his curriculum and converted it for use in middle schools, we were intrigued, to say the least. Kao has written five books on innovation, and he started out by offering these online classes outside the US, in places like Columbia and Brazil, where people might not have access to the tools of entrepreneurialism, innovation and creativity. At Edgemakers, Kao and his team are democratizing some of the most important knowledge and skills of our time. Today, the company seeks to amplify the creativity and sense of purpose of our younger generations. They help students seek the “edge” and close the gap between what is and what is possible. After all, the idealism of the young is one of the planet’s greatest untapped resources.
In the News: Edgemakers Announces Series D. (Dec 2015)
Life Science Investments
Synthorx is a synthetic biology company working to harness the body’s natural efficiency to create new products. We at Avalon Ventures helped to found Synthorx, based on important discoveries coming out of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. By starting with “unnatural building blocks,” Synthorx is using directed evolution to improve the selection and identification of products for drug discovery. Our goal is to develop novel proteins, enzymes, RNA and DNA for various life science applications. In 2015, Synthorx was able to begin artificially producing amino acids using a DNA-altered strain of bacteria. Read more about this exciting accomplishment and its potential applications below.
Avelas is a clinical stage company whose focus is on improving cancer care across the diagnosis to treatment spectrum. In October, the company announced that it had begun clinical trials for a breast cancer diagnostic agent at the University of California, San Francisco. The diagnostic agent is designed to help oncologists differentiate between benign and malignant tissues using a special fluorescent dye, so that they can remove tumors more effectively and completely.
In November of this year, we were thrilled to announce that GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) extended their partnership with us to continue investing in and developing promising early-stage drug candidates. GSK, based in the U.K., had already worked with us on seven different startups since we first partnered two and a half years ago (you can read about several of them here), and we’re excited to see how the partnership will continue to grow moving forward. Read more about the expansion here.
Cheers to 2016!
Each year reminds us how honored we are to work with such talented entrepreneurs and their teams, who are truly upping the ante every day when it comes to how we live, work and play. While 2015 was an exciting year with many big announcements, we’re even more excited for what’s to come in 2016. Cheers to the entire Avalon Ventures community!