Innovation Economy

Investment shop senses it’s time for a big play

Andy Palmer’s Koa Labs has space for about 20 entrepreneur.
Andy Palmer’s Koa Labs has space for about 20 entrepreneur.

Highlights from the Innovation Economy blog.

Remember the Internet of Things?

That trend, always on the verge of going mainstream, would have had our fridges, pets, car keys, and homes outfitted with sensors that constantly report on their well-being — or whereabouts — via a wireless network.

Well, it’s still on the verge of going mainstream, and now there is an investment firm setting up shop in Needham to try to accelerate the arrival of “the next explosive wave of the Internet . . . the Internet of Things.”


The founders of IoT Works are Woody Benson, formerly the managing director of Prism VentureWorks, and Philip DesAutels, who had helped Microsoft develop its education business.

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They are not saying much about the new firm — or whether they have raised money so that it can make investments or acquisitions.

“Investments and advising will be happening for sure,” Benson says via e-mail, adding, “We are working on a big play with a global partner.”

IoT Works publishes a blog and e-mail newsletter focused on sensors, connected light bulbs, autonomous cars, and health care applications.

I asked Benson about Prism, the Needham VC firm he has run for more than eight years; it was unable to raise additional money from its backers, despite backing a few winners like LogMeIn, m:metrics, and Maven Networks.


“Prism is not making new investments,” he explained. “We have plenty of [capital] reserves to support our companies.”

No need to drum up business

Serial entrepreneur Andy Palmer says he doesn’t need ink for a new start-up space he has opened in Harvard Square, and there’s no website, either. Palmer says Koa Labs has space for about 20 entrepreneurs, and he has been fielding inquiries from at least 50.

Desks cost $450 a month, and Palmer says his focus is on “young, first-time folks who want to be on the Red Line.”

Already working from the space are the Cambridge employees of Recorded Future, a predictive search engine; the Harvard-focused Experiment Fund, run by Patrick Chung and Hugo Van Vuuren; and an energy-oriented hedge fund.

Palmer has been involved with start-ups like Vertica, CloudSwitch, and Infinity Pharmaceuticals, in addition to a longstanding relationship with Novartis’s Cambridge R&D facility as its head of software. He’s also an active seed investor, having done 15 deals in the past nine months. Palmer says he’s working on two more projects these days: another collaboration with database guru Michael Stonebraker of MIT, and a spin-out from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Palmer also writes a blog called The Fundable.

Training for techies


A new post-collegiate training program for wanna-be techies is spooling up in Cambridge: Launch Academy. The goal of the 10-week program is to “take people with little-to-no experience, graduate them as junior Web developers, and then place them in positions at supportive tech companies, where they can continue their learning,” says cofounder Evan Charles, who previously ran a speech pathology practice in Newton and worked at Bain Capital.

His cofounder, Dan Pickett, was most recently the technical cofounder at Textaurant, which helps restaurants manage waiting lists.

Launch Academy will focus on Ruby on Rails, a popular framework for creating Web applications. It’s used by LinkedIn and Hulu.

“The starting salary for Ruby developers right now is between $60,000 and $90,000,” Pickett says.

Charles and Pickett say the program will be self-funding, with tuition of about $11,000. The program will run 14-plus hours a day, Charles says, with a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on challenges. Launch Academy will culminate with a “hiring day,” when companies will be invited in to meet the graduates — and ideally, make offers.

They hope to run the initial Launch Academy program in Kendall Square starting in May, perhaps at Cambridge Innovation Center.

Visit for the full Innovation Economy blog, updated daily.