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Innovation Economy

iWalk, bringing prosthetic foot to market, raises $15 million

By Scott Kirsner
January 17, 2011

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Highlights from Scott Kirsner’s Innovation Economy blog.

The Cambridge company iWalk Inc., which has spent the past five years working on an advanced prosthetic foot, raised an additional $15 million recently.

Participating in the third funding round were Boston-based Sigma Partners, General Catalyst Partners of Cambridge, and New York City-based WFD Ventures.

Paul Flanagan of Sigma is iWalk’s newest board member.

So far, iWalk has raised nearly $40 million.

The company was founded by Hugh Herr, an MIT Media Lab professor who is a double amputee; as iWalk has developed successive iterations of its PowerFoot device, few people have worn it as long as Herr.

The device reacts to the environment, whether that’s stairs, a ramp, or level ground. Built-in sensors and microprocessors enable the PowerFoot to mimic the natural way that the foot, ankle, Achilles tendon, and calf muscle work together, storing and releasing energy (using an actuator and spring assembly.)

Inside the PowerFoot is a lithium-polymer battery that needs to be recharged daily.

The PowerFoot weighs 4.5 pounds, which the company says is equal in weight to the foot you were born with (or a little lighter), assuming you weigh 170 to 250 pounds.

Chief executive Tim McCarthy said the company delivered its first five “commercial’’ PowerFoot devices to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., this month. McCarthy moved to Boston in December 2009 to join iWalk; he had previously headed sales and marketing for the American division of Össur, a prosthetics maker in Southern California.

Earlier in his career, Herr developed a prosthetic knee for Össur, based in Iceland.

“We typically stay away from things that require FDA approval,’’ said Flanagan, “and their product has an exemption from that. So that put it into the playing field for Sigma. I talked to 20 soldiers and other people who’ve used the device, and the feedback on the product every single time was amazing.’’

Sadly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the diabetes epidemic, are creating potential customers for iWalk.

Doubling down Two companies that specialize in dangling discounts in front of consumers who carry a particular credit card are merging this month.

Lexington-based Cartera Commerce Inc. (formerly Mall Networks) and Atlanta-based Vesdia Corp. say that once combined, they will work with four of the top five credit card issuers and three of the four largest US airlines.

Both companies are privately held, and this was an all-stock transaction. Terms were not disclosed.

The business essentially involves collecting offers and discounts that can be presented to consumers who carry a certain credit card or frequent-flier card. If you’re enticed to, say, get 500 airline miles by having your carpets cleaned, or get 5 percent cash back when shopping, the merchant pays for that reward in return for landing you as a customer.

And you get airline miles or cash back on your monthly credit or debit card statement.

Cartera’s chief executive, Tom Beecher, will be chief executive of the combined company, which will retain the Cartera Commerce name. He said the new company will have 150 employees (about half from Vesdia and half from Cartera).

He does not anticipate layoffs or the closing of Vesdia’s Atlanta facility.

“We think of this as a growth merger,’’ Beecher said. “Our plan is to continue growing in both locations.’’

ComVest, the private equity firm that acquired Vesdia in 2009, is the largest shareholder in the new entity. Among Cartera’s investors are Flybridge Capital Partners, DACE Ventures, and Venture Capital Fund of New England.

Leaving for Oracle Another Microsoft Corp. executive with ties to Boston has left the company.

Ken Moore, who had been general manager of the SharePoint Workspace product at Microsoft, took a vice president job last month at Oracle Corp. and will soon be moving to California.

Moore had been part of the early team at Groove Networks, a company that aimed to foster online collaboration, working alongside founder Ray Ozzie. (The two also worked together at Iris Associates, which spawned Lotus Notes.)

Moore joined Microsoft along with most of the Groove team when Microsoft acquired the Beverly startup in 2005 and had been supervising aspects of SharePoint since then.

While Ozzie shipped out to Washington state and eventually assumed Bill Gates’s old mantle of chief software architect, Moore remained in Massachusetts.

Earlier in his career, Moore worked at Digital Equipment Corp., Progress Software, and IBM.

For the full Innovation Economy blog, updated daily, visit www.boston.com/innovation.