Highlights from the Innovation Economy blog.
It was a long time ago, in tech terms, when Dassault Systèmes paid $316 million to acquire SolidWorks, a Concord company that developed powerful and easy-to-use 3-D modeling software geared to engineers. The year was 1997, and SolidWorks was just four years old.
Now SolidWorks’s founder, Jon Hirschtick, has assembled a team of former colleagues, including longtime chief executive John McEleney, to develop a fresh take on product design in the era of cloud computing.
The placeholder name for the new venture is Belmont Technology Inc. It has raised $9 million from North Bridge Venture Partners and Commonwealth Capital. And the investor at Commonwealth who did the deal, Eliot Katzman, was chief financial officer at SolidWorks at the time of its sale to Dassault.
McEleney, Belmont’s chief executive, is not disclosing much about what the company is doing. But he said his team is “building enterprise product design software using modern software tools and platforms.” He said the company has nine employees and will adopt a new name when it has a product to market.
Venture capitalist Fred Destin, whose firm invested in CloudSwitch but isn’t involved in Belmont, said he believed the new company is developing sophisticated CAD software that can run in the cloud and allow designs to be easily accessed by teams across the world.
But when asked about “CAD in the cloud,” McEleney responded, “That’s probably a bit too narrow of a view.”
Drone maker showcases products
Three years after it was founded, CyPhy Works, of Danvers, is showing off two hovering drones designed for indoor and outdoor operations.
The company’s founder and chief executive is Helen Greiner, one of the three founders of iRobot Corp., maker of earth-bound robots like the Roomba vacuum cleaner and the PackBot.
One of the most interesting elements of CyPhy’s product design is that its unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are tethered to a hand-held control system on the ground, rather than free-flying. The company’s “microfilament” technology sends power to the UAV, meaning that its flight time is unlimited. It also transmits high-definition video to the control system. The company says it cannot be jammed by an enemy, unlike with systems using wireless links.
CyPhy says its two vehicles may be used for tasks like helping military or police units investigate the interior of buildings without sending people in. They can search for disaster survivors or inspect structures. One called PARC — short for Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance & Communications — is also designed to serve as a communications relay that can stay aloft for long periods without human intervention.
App streamlines daily agenda
In our wonderful world of e-mail, text messages, Twitter direct messages, and Facebook messages, it can still be challenging to coordinate events that involve human beings connecting in the real world.
A new Boston-built iPhone app called Toucanect is tackling that. It brings events, messaging, and maps together and lets you create groups of people associated with individual events and keep them up to speed on what’s happening.
Founder Shayne Gilbert said she was inspired to start work on the app after “I didn’t have the right time for an early school dismissal and my daughter was left waiting (thankfully, there was an extended day program, so she was fine). I knew that there had to be a better way to not only schedule, but communicate with my husband and sitter around our day-to-day activities.”
Gilbert said the app was developed by Cambridge-based Intrepid Dev. She received some early funding and guidance from several investors who had been backers of CardStar, a mobile app acquired earlier this year by Constant Contact.