Highlights from boston.com/hive, Boston’s source for innovation news.
Do you get too much feedback at work? If you’re a manager, do you give too much?
A group of investors are betting that, for many of us, the answers are no. They are putting $1.4 million into a Boston startup, Dunwello, that wants to end the dreaded once-a-year performance review by creating a new online tool for delivering more consistent feedback and recognition to employees.
The founder is Matt Lauzon, formerly chief executive of the jewelry retailer Gemvara, and the first technical team member is Matt Brand, formerly at Bunk1.com and Mzinga.
When he was running Gemvara as a first-time CEO in his 20s, Lauzon said, he often used Twitter or text messages to give employees digital pats on the back. But “it wasn’t being preserved anywhere that employees and I could use meaningfully over time.”
Dunwello’s product is still in development. “We’re thinking bigger than just improving performance reviews,” Lauzon said. “We want to help people feel appreciated, aligned, and that they’re advancing at work. And we want to make sure that the most important moments at work get highlighted or preserved.”
Lauzon has raise $1.4 million from investors, including Boston-based NextView Ventures, G20 Ventures, and the Vegas Tech Fund, run by a group of Zappos.com executives.
It’s also the first investment for G20, a relatively new Back Bay fund run by former investors at Advanced Technology Ventures.
“We see this as a pretty big, juicy problem,” said Bob Hower, G20’s cofounder. “The system is pretty broken around employee reviews as an annual punctuation point, and I think Matt wants to build a more consistent, better communication channel.”
As for the business model, Dunwello is taking the “freemium approach”: Any employee at any company can use the service with his team for free.
After departing from Gemvara, Lauzon spent several months as an entrepreneur-in-residence at the venture capital firm Matrix Partners. He remains chairman of Gemvara’s board.
— Scott Kirsner
MassChallenge to open a post in London
MassChallenge is expanding its global reach. Last week, at the launch of its fifth year, cofounder Akhil Nigam said the contest for startups will be opening MassChallenge UK in London. Fellow cofounder John Harthorne also spoke via satellite from the program’s other international outpost in Israel.
Harthorne said MassChallenge has strong support from the prime minister’s office as well as the mayor of London. And Royal Bank of Scotland will be joining as a “founding partner” for MassChallenge UK.
Nigam also said there will be an additional $500,000 in “Sidecar” prize money available to MassChallenge participants in Boston this year, bringing the total prize pool for the program to $1.5 million.
— Dennis Keohane
Invention program aimed at younger teens
The Lemelson-MIT Program is mounting an expanded effort to help high school students engage with the so-called STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at an earlier age. The Junior Varsity InvenTeam initiative is “designed to cultivate inventive curiosity and skills” in ninth- and 10th-grade students.
The program is patterned on an InvenTeams effort that targets older students. The new JV initiative focuses on younger high school students at “under-resourced schools.”
The initiative will begin with pilots in Massachusetts and Texas, with plans to extend to California and the Pacific Northwest in 2015. Massachusetts schools in the pilot program include Chelsea High School and North High School in Worcester.
Prolific inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy, founded the program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994.
“The expansion of the Lemelson-MIT Program to include younger students as members of JV InvenTeams is a natural extension of my husband, Jerry’s, commitment to encouraging and providing young people the opportunity to become inventors,” Dorothy Lemelson, chairwoman of the Lemelson Foundation, said in a statement.
— CHRIS REIDY