By Estee Pierce of VentureWire, July 9, 2003
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Affinnova, a developer of software that applies genetic algorithm technologies for use in consumer product design, is expected to announced that it has raised $6 million in a Series B round financing. Lead investor Flagship Ventures provided the full sum of the round, and is the sole outside shareholder in Affinnova. The company was founded in 2000 as an incubator company of NewcoGen Group, which is part of Flagship's family of funds along with OneLiberty, also a past investor in Affinova.
To date, Affinova has raised a total of approximately $12 million from Flagship, according to board member David Flaschen, a managing director of Flagship Ventures. "We decided that this was one of those rare investment opportunities," Mr. Flaschen said, "one that you should take full responsibility and full ownership for."
Affinnova was founded by Flagship Ventures head Noubar Afeyan from a concept developed by chief technology officer Kamal Malek, who had previously spent 12 years on the staff of the MIT Industrial Performance Center developing new products in the automotive, medical device, toy, and construction industries. Messrs. Malek and Afeyan knew each other through MIT, where the former serves as a senior lecturer at the Sloan School of Management. Affinnova's advisory board includes Rodney Brooks, director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, and Jordan Pollack, head of the DEMO laboratory at Brandeis University.
The company's software applies interactive genetic algorithm technology to data models mined from population studies to determine design candidates according to consumer preference parameters such as color highlights, texture, or surface treatments, or according to the way a statement reads or sounds. The alogorithm is particularly suited to situations where consumer preference is based on subjective, "aesthetic assessments", involving product attributes that may not be obvious or clearly identifiable by the consumer.
To date, the company has amassed a client list that includes ConAgra Foods, Dunkin Donuts, General Mills, Kraft, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Quaker Foods & Beverages, and Tommy Hilfiger - all which have since incorporated the Affinnova software as part of the product and brand development process.
The new funds, which will be devoted to further sales and marketing in the consumer packaged goods, apparel, retail, and financial services markets, are expected to last through to cash flow break even, Mr. Flaschen said.