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© BYU PHOTO 2017
Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU © BYU PHOTO 2017

New West Roundup for April 13, 2017

Today in New West news: the mighty Moabosaurus, Qualtrics raises $180M while Boulder toy company rakes in $35.4M, and an update on Black-Olive in Bozeman.

Dinosaurs are nearly synonymous with the American West. We don’t mean that as a slight. Places like Montana and Utah are treasure troves for eager paleontologists looking to piece together remnants of these “great lizards” or (wonder of wonders) unearth a new dinosaur.

That honor has come to researchers at Brigham Young University. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, researchers have officially discovered a new dinosaur, cobbled together over decades of discovery.

Dubbed Moabosaurus, the creature is a small sauropod, a long-necked herbivore measuring 32 feet in length. That’s short for sauropods, of course, but huge for humans—and the field of paleontology. From the Tribune:

“We are really excited about this new dinosaur,” [geologist Brooks] Britt said. “It’s one we have been working on for decades. We had to collect huge numbers of bones that were complete to get enough to describe the new animals.”

A specimen has been on display at BYU’s Museum of Paleontology for years, but it was only after publishing his findings in the University of Michigan’s “Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology” that Britt could give the animal a name science would recognize.

That name is Moabosaurus utahensis.

Britt’s team had recovered 5,500 bones from the Cedar Mountain Formation and dated to the early Cretaceous.

“One hundred and twenty-five million years ago, when these animals died, there was a drought, and, during this drought, hundreds if not thousands of animals died,” said Britt. “The surviving animals walked along and crushed these bones and that’s why only 3 percent of the bones we collected at this quarry are complete.”

His team members did have remains from 18 individuals to work with and these bones reveal a lot. From the many skulls they had, Britt could tell the Moabosaurus’ brain was the “size of a Chinese egg roll,” and its teeth were rounded.

“They were not useful for chewing food,” he said. “They were useful for biting the food off and then swallowing it.”

Keeping with Utah, according to Utah Business, Qualtrics has raised $180 million in funding after announcing the launch of its Qualtrics XM Platform, raising its valuation to $2.5 billion. With the latest round of funding, Qualtics’ value is now 2.5 over its previous valuation in late 2014. From Utah Business:

“We have been following Qualtrics since 2010. Each year, they have surpassed aggressive goals and continued to stay cash flow positive. The company has even grown at an accelerating rate over this time, placing them among the best-performing enterprise software companies we’ve ever worked with,” said Ryan Sweeney, partner at Accel and Qualtrics board member.

“From a revenue standpoint, Qualtrics is already the size of most public companies and there’s room for a lot more growth considering the large and expanding market in which they play,” said Sweeney. “The interest from investors everywhere underscores the notion that Qualtrics is likely the best private software company on the market today—we are very fortunate to be their partner.”

The funding announcement comes on the heels of Qualtrics establishing the experience management category and launching its XM Platform, which manages the four core experiences of business—customer, employee, product and brand experience—in one single platform. The platform automatically analyzes these touchpoints, helping organizations uncover key business drivers, predict future customer needs, and retain employees and customers.

Courtesy of Sphero Inc.
Courtesy of Sphero Inc.

Keeping with venture capital news, over in Colorado, one Boulder toy manufacturer is on a roll, raising $35.4 million ahead of its $43 million goal. According to the Denver Post, Sphero Inc., famous for manufacturing an immensely popular Star Wars BB-8 toy, which was the top selling electronic toy of 2015:

“We received more after the initial close, bringing the total closer to $35.4 million,” said Claire Tindall, a Sphero spokesperson. “This will primarily be used for working capital.”

The new funds are from existing investors, she said. The round has not yet closed.

Sphero previously raised about $80 million from investors that include Mercato Partners, the Foundry Group and a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Co. Adding the latest funds means Sphero has raised around $115 million since its inception around 2010.

Its latest filing came the same day “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” was released on DVD. Sphero also pushed out a software update to enable its BB-8 robots to react to the movie when watching it with their owners.

Finally, up in Montana, we’ve been following developments regarding the Black-Olive project in Bozeman, a proposed residential and commercial space that’s sparked a debate over the future of the city. Proponents, including Black-Olive developer Andy Holloran, have touted density as Bozeman’s future. Opponents to the project, mainly residents of adjoining neighborhoods, say the project mars Bozeman’s sensibilities and would compound chronic parking issues as the city continues to grow.

Indeed, parking was the number one factor preventing Black-Olive’s approval by the Bozeman City Commission. The commission gave tentative approval to the project in late March—provided that parking problems be addressed. A proposal to have a ride-share program was floated as well.

Now, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Black-Olive’s fortunes are, for the time, sunk. The Commission voted 4-1 to deny the plan, although three of the “nay” commissioners say they would vote for a project that adequately handled parking. Indeed, in a separate Chronicle story, commissioners noted they expect Black-Olive to return—and projects like it, as the commission tilts further toward downtown density:

While every Bozeman city commissioner except I-Ho Pomeroy voted against approving the project in its current form because of concerns over parking, commissioners indicated they were OK with the design when it came to opponents’ other big concern — the building’s size.

That leaves the possibility open that Holloran and his company, HomeBase Montana, could revise the Black-Olive design and resubmit it for another round of review.

“I would bet it comes back in one form or another,” Bozeman planning director Marty Matsen said Wednesday.

Following the commission’s vote at approximately 11 p.m. Tuesday, a somewhat bleary-eyed Holloran said it sounded like the body was asking for revisions more than denying the concept outright.

“We’ll just have to regroup and decide what’s best for the project,” he said.

Opponents, many of them neighboring homeowners, cheered the commission’s vote regardless.

The Save Bozeman Facebook page, for example, posted a picture Wednesday morning of a yellow yard sign with its “SAVE” amended by sharpie to “SAVED.”

Regardless, three commissioners who voted to deny Black-Olive Wednesday — Jeff Krauss, Chris Mehl and Mayor Carson Taylor — said in comments running up to the vote that they do want to see more density in the downtown area.

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