Adelphic Mobile, based in Lexington, announced last week that it had raised $2 million for a system aimed at delivering targeted ads to mobile devices by understanding what device a user owns, where they are located, and what kind of content they have been viewing, for instance. The two founders, Jennifer Lum and Changfeng Wang, worked at Quattro, as did chief financial officer Joe Grabmeier.
Lars Albright, another Quattro founder, spent about 18 months with Apple, commuting between Boston and Cupertino, before splintering off to start his own business. The company, SessionM, is based in Boston, and has grown to about 25 employees (including three other Quattro alumni). SessionM is working on a way to “gamify’’ advertising messages, giving consumers virtual or real-world rewards in exchange for hitting certain milestones while using an app – for instance, 25 percent off a pair of Reeboks after using an app to track 100 workouts.
Albright and Lum have also started to make small angel investments in early stage tech companies in Boston, using some of their Quattro windfall. The two venture capital firms that backed Quattro, Highland and Globespan Capital Partners, earned between 400 percent and 800 percent on their original investments in a pretty short time period, allowing them to invest in future generations of start-ups.
It’s encouraging to see local venture capital firms earning solid returns, and some Quattro veterans recycled into new start-ups. But I asked Miller whether he could have imagined a different path for Quattro, one that didn’t involve selling the company. “There weren’t a lot of acquirers out there, and it was difficult to raise money for an ad-tech company during the recession,’’ he says. “If not for Highland keeping us going, I’m not sure what would’ve happened.’’
One important role that Massachusetts plays in the 21st-century economy is as the R&D lab to the world, developing breakthrough products that fill innovation gaps at bigger companies. But I worry about the state’s future as a magnet for talent when I think about how few “pillar companies’’ we produce. Those are companies like Apple, EMC Corp., or Fidelity Investments that lead the parade in their respective industries, create thousands of jobs over time, and attract people from other parts of the world to take well-paid, high-powered positions.
Right now, Massachusetts’ recycling program is working fine: starting innovative companies like Quattro, selling them, and then starting a new generation of companies. It’s cultivating great companies over time where we need to do better.
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