Intellectual Ventures spinout Evolv gets $11.8M from Bill Gates and others, aims to transform security scanning

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Evolv CEO Mike Ellenbogen

Intellectual Ventures this morning announced a new spinout company, Evolv, that has landed $11.8 million in funding from investors including Bill Gates to develop imaging and detection products for a new form of security scanning at airports and other facilities.

The new company, to be based in Boston, isn’t announcing details of its product plans. However, Evolv is working in partnership with Duke University’s Center for Metamaterials and Integrated Plasmonics, whose research, published earlier this year, demonstrated how metamaterials can detect microwaves to see through solid materials in real time.

One of the Duke researchers, David R. Smith joined Intellectual Ventures earlier this year to help the company commercialize metamaterials technology.

The new company will be led by Mike Ellenbogen, a security imaging industry veteran who has been an entrepreneur in residence at General Catalyst Partners, which participated in the $11.8 million round with Gates, Lux Capital and Osage University Partners.

Metamaterials are engineered materials that can interact with light in unnatural ways. They’re also the basis for an earlier Intellectual Ventures spinout company, Kymeta, which is using metamaterials to create satellite broadband antennas without moving parts.

The announcement of Evolv’s creation comes amid increased media and government scrutiny of Intellectual Ventures’ patent holding and licensing practices. Intellectual Ventures, run by former Microsoft technology chief Nathan Myhrvold, is under pressure to show that it’s creating new technology and spinning new companies out of its labs, not just acquiring, licensing and suing over patents.

Evolve is IV’s third spinout company. The first was TerraPower, which launched in 2008 to create a new type of nuclear reactor. Gates is also involved as an investor in both TerraPower and Kymeta.