Boston Tech Watch: MIT Solves, AltioStar Raises & Enel Scouts

May 14, 2019

The week in Boston tech news saw the launch of a philanthropic venture fund at MIT, some large fundraising rounds, an open source acquisition, and more.

—MIT is raising a philanthropic venture fund to support social impact tech startups taking on some of the world’s biggest problems. The donor-advised fund operates by investing tax-deductible contributions from donors into companies with promising social impact. Returns from those investments are reinvested into the next round of startups, which will be selected by MIT Solve, a university unit that hunts for entrepreneurial teams tackling global problems and matches them with funding sources. Flagship Pioneering founder and chief executive Noubar Afeyan is seeding the new Solve Innovation Fund with a $3 million donation. MIT Solve says the fund will be led by MIT Solve Principal Casey van der Stricht, and will aim to raise $30 million from donors.

—The city council of Somerville, MA, has advanced a proposed ban on the city government’s use of facial recognition, making it the first East Coast community to bar the technology’s use, according to ACLU Massachusetts. City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen introduced the anti-facial recognition measure, which stops the city and its officials from “obtaining, retaining, accessing, or using” a facial recognition system, as well as any information obtained from such a system. The passage of the measure Thursday night sends it to the another legislative committee of the council.

“Facial Recognition software is functionally equivalent to requiring every citizen or visitor in Somerville to carry and display a identification card in all public places,” Ewen-Campen wrote in a online petition. “This surveillance technology therefore represents a mass violation of privacy that is fundamentally opposed to Somerville values.”

ACLU Massachusetts says the surveillance tech is “unregulated, unreliable, and in its most dangerous forms, poses a profound threat to racial and gender justice, personal privacy, political and religious expression, and freedom of association.”[Added.]

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