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Baby-making startup Ovuline brings on former 38 Studios chief exec as head of business development

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 25, 2013 07:31 AM

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Jen MacLean had an extremely high-profile maternity leave last year. While she was out, the videogame company she'd been running, 38 Studios, defaulted on a $75 million loan guarantee from the state of Rhode Island and closed its doors, unable to make payroll. Now MacLean, who had a daughter last June, is joining Ovuline, a Cambridge startup focused on helping couples get pregnant and have healthy babies. MacLean will head up business development for the six-person company, which earlier this month announced it had raised $1.4 million from investors.

Ovuline is building mobile apps and a web site to help women better understand their fertility cycles, and get pregnant faster. The company's products, combined with home monitoring devices like blood pressure cuffs, will soon also track their health once they get pregnant, in between visits to the obstetrician. "It's exactly the kind of thing I would've liked to have had when I was pregnant," MacLean says. She served as an advisor to Ovuline last fall, as the company went through the TechStars Boston accelerator program. Her business development role, she says, could include establishing partnerships with "digital media properties targeting women, quantified self device companies, and trusted service providers" that have relationships with women when they are trying to conceive, pregnant, or new moms.

MacLean starts at Ovuline next week. After 38 Studios went bankrupt, she and her husband, Michael Dawe, moved from the Providence area, where 38 Studios was headquartered, to the Boston 'burbs. Dawe had also been an employee of 38 Studios, and is now working as an artificial intelligence programmer for Rockstar New England, a videogame studio in Andover.

MacLean was fairly quiet during the extremely public winding down of 38 Studios last year — except on Twitter, where she endeavored to help the laid-off employees find new work. She was named last year as a defendant in a lawsuit related to 38 Studios' collapse. She calls it "baseless," but says she's "vigorously defending" herself against the allegations.

Sources who'd worked at 38 Studios tell me that among the company's many issues, MacLean had been on the losing end of a power struggle with founder, chairman, and majority owner Curt Schilling. She had begun her maternity leave in March, several months before her due date, and my sources say that it was questionable at the time that she would return. More than 400 employees and contractors were laid off in May after the company ran out of money. Back in 2010, Rhode Island had offered 38 Studios $75 million in loan guarantees to relocate to the state, and create 450 jobs there. (38 Studios had previously been headquartered in Maynard.) MacLean was a vice president running Comcast's games business before she joined the company, and her initial role at 38 Studios was running business development under then-CEO Brett Close.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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