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The Hive

Poker playing wins a network of investors

IRobot Corp. said its new model is a big advance over past ones. It sells for $699.
IRobot Corp. said its new model is a big advance over past ones. It sells for $699.Dave Bradley

Highlights from boston.com/hive, Boston’s source for innovation news.

Andrew Bachman, featured in a recent story about a new breed of fit tech entrepreneurs, cofounded an online marketing company as a Babson College undergraduate, sold it two years ago for $60 million, and is now on his third start-up.

You might be wondering how Bachman, who’s only 30, became so successful so young.

One answer is pretty surprising: poker.

Bachman said the card game helped him meet business people who later invested in his companies. Here’s his account:

“I graduated from Babson in ’06, and you have to remember that back in those days the World Series of Poker had just gotten on television, and that was really hot. I used to go downtown and play card games, and you’d play some games where you’d be hanging out with scummy, gross people, but then you’d meet someone there who could get you into a game where you’d be playing with hedge funders and lawyers and brain surgeons.

“I started going to those games and hanging out with those guys, and they helped me build my network. A lot of those guys became future investors in businesses of mine.”


Now poker may not belong in the business plan for everyone. Bachman is a gifted schmoozer who managed to turn dealing hands at the card table into shaking hands at the negotiating table. I’m not sure how many people can pull that off.

But there is a takeaway for others, he suggested: Always be on the lookout for networking opportunities, even in unexpected situations. “It’s really my belief in ‘return on time,’ ” he said. “If I’m going to play card games, I’m going to make sure I get the most out of it.”


At iRobot, a new top-of-the-line vacuum

Seven hundred dollars is a lot of money for a vacuum cleaner, even one that runs by itself. But iRobot Corp., of Bedford, says its latest robotic vacuum, the Roomba 880, is a major advance over previous models.


At $699, the Roomba 880 is $100 more costly than last year’s top-of-the line Roomba model. The 880 features new rollers covered with rubber ridges instead of brushes. These rollers are supposed to do a much better job of scooping up all kinds of dirt, including the ultimate enemy of vacuum cleaners, pet hair. It also features a new suction system that is supposed to be five times more powerful than in previous models.

IRobot has sold more than 10 million Roombas since the company launched the product 11 years ago. The company is also a major producer of robots for the US military.


NEA sets up shop in Kendall Square

After years spent traveling to Boston to fund biotech and software start-ups, the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates is opening an office in the tech hotbed of Kendall Square. It arrives at a time of growing venture investment in Massachusetts start-ups, especially those working in biotechnology and life sciences.

“First and foremost, Boston is the undisputed epicenter of life sciences innovation,” David Mott, a general partner at NEA, said in a blog post about the office. Kendall Square “is at the hub of an extraordinary confluence of entrepreneurial talent and innovation.”

The region has seen a flurry of life sciences companies going public in recent months. What’s more, in the third quarter of the year, Boston-area biotech start-ups attracted about 40 percent of the investment dollars spent in that category nationally. NEA has eight other offices in places such as Silicon Valley, New York, Washington, and Beijing. Though it has been involved with Massachusetts companies for years and has investments in two dozen area companies, it did not have a local mailing address.


Last year, it helped start Experiment Fund, a seed-stage investment fund that operates out of Harvard University to find and invest in start-ups that are taking shape on campus. Its new office will be close to two of its portfolio companies: drug makers Cydan and Epizyme.