Once I see them present Thursday morning, I'll update this post, and dole out some awards in categories like Best Presentation, Most Momentum, and Coolest Concept. (In the photo at right are Nicole Stata of Boston Seed Capital, Chip Hazard of Flybridge Capital Partners and Dave Balter of BzzAgent and Boston Seed Capital, schmoozing at the November 2012 demo day in Boston.) If you'd like to follow tweets about the event on Twitter, the hash tag is #tsdemoday.
Descriptions in quotes below come from TechStars managing director Katie Rae's original post announcing the current class of companies. When the companies hail from somewhere other than Massachusetts, I've listed that.
One of the startups, Worcester-bred Freight Farms, will be the first local company to try out a new funding platform called WeFunder as part of its fundraising process. WeFunder was started in Cambridge by Nick Tommarello and Mike Norman, but is now based in Silicon Valley. (Tommarello participated in TechStars Boston several years back with an earlier venture, Sparkcloud, and more recently went through the Y Combinator program in Mountain View.)FULL ENTRY
Interactions Corp. collects $40 million in new funding to make customer service calls less frustrating
Interactions Corp. helps about 22 big customers, including Hyatt and Humana, handle incoming phone calls more efficiently, without requiring callers to press 2 for billing, 3 for sales, or * to go back to the previous menu. But it also doesn’t rely entirely on speech recognition, which can often run into trouble, especially when interpreting phrases or full sentences. Instead, Interactions layers human assistance on top of automated speech recognition when necessary. If there's a lot of background noise, or the caller has a thick accent, a human listens to that fragment of the conversation and routes the caller to the right place. The company calls its solution the "Virtual Assistant"; you can listen to some examples here.
Interactions has about 80 employees at its headquarters in Franklin, and it plans to open up a second local office on Lincoln Street in downtown Boston next month. “There’s a certain group of employees that we’ll have greater access to in that location,” says CEO Mike Iacobucci, right. With the new funding, Iacobucci says he’ll be hiring across pretty much every function, including engineering, sales, marketing, and client services. The company also has offices in Indianapolis and Austin.
Iacobucci says that Interactions has “done really well” penetrating the hospitality market, where clients include Hyatt and Best Western, and that other customers come from industries like telecom, retail, and healthcare. As for this new round of funding, he says, the investors "felt we had sufficient traction," and Iacobucci felt "it was time to expand the businesses." The other VC firms participating in this round are Sigma Partners and Sigma Prime Ventures of Boston; Updata Partners; North Hill Venture Partners of Boston; Cross Atlantic Capital Partners; and RED LLC.
"There's a real mission orientation to this business, which is part of what attracted me," says Griffith, adding that he has been meeting with five or six companies a week as he starts to craft his post-Zipcar life. "Also, I have a 14-year old son who plays soccer, basketball, and baseball, so I understand the marketplace CoachUp is trying to create. Coaching right now is a cottage industry. There are concerns about safety, and competence, and who these people are, and that's what they're addressing." The site offers detailed profiles and reviews of each coach, and covers the lesson packages it sells with a $100,000 liability insurance policy. Fliegel says that over 7000 coaches are offering lessons through the site, and that California is the company's biggest market, followed by states like Texas, Florida, New York, and Georgia. The company has 15 employees, and has been hiring quickly. CoachUp launched last May, and was part of the TechStars Boston fall class in 2012.
Griffith tells me that his post-Zipcar plan isn't simply to jump on a bunch of startup boards and do some angel investing. "I've got another run with a company in me here," he says. But he's also interested in playing a role in the startup scene. "One thing I'm focused on is what can I do to make a more robust ecosystem here in Boston. We've come a good distance, but there's still lots of work that can be done."
Also advising CoachUp are Sheila Marcelo, CEO of Care.com, and Jumptap's chief product officer, Adam Soroca. "I look at Airbnb and Care.com and Zipcar as models," says Fliegel. "We want to be the next great consumer company in the U.S. We're going big."
A new startup out of the TechStars Boston accelerator, CoUrbanize, is trying to tackle that problem, and this week the company is announcing its first partnership, with the bike rental network Hubway. Co-founder Karin Brandt, right, an MIT-educated city planner, says that other partnerships with commercial real estate developers could be announced as soon as next week, when this latest crop of TechStars Boston startups present to investors.
CoUrbanize's web-based software allows developers to "explain their projects, and the impacts they can have on the surrounding areas, like shadows and traffic and parking," Brandt says. "They can also get feedback from passive proponents" — who may not have the same opinions as people attending hearings and community meetings. "We're trying to reduce the barriers to involvement for people." The software allows developers to publish a timeline of meetings; detail a project's upside, like job creation, new retail stores, or tax revenue; and invite comments in an online forum, with posters using their real names rather than pseudonyms. The interesting balancing act here, of course, will be ensuring that CoUrbanize's sites feel like a neutral forum, rather than anything controlled by developers, cities, or residents.
But Brandt says that the company sees its "sweet spot" as helping developers and governments communicate issues that are hard to understand and visualize, and notifying people about what's happening in a way that's more sophisticated than going door-to-door with printed flyers." CoUrbanize aspires to help residents voice their opinions, but also to help developers stop misinformation from being circulated — which can often happen in anonymous forums.
With Hubway, Brandt says CoUrbanize will help the bike-sharing network "get feedback about future stations, and where they should be located" as it expands in neighborhoods like Charlestown, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and the Innovation District in South Boston. Her co-founders are Daniel Weismann and David Quinn.
HubSpot, which sells software to help clients manage their digital marketing efforts, will more than double in size at the Davenport Building on First Street in East Cambridge, leasing about 117,000 square feet there as other tenants like Zipcar move out. Most of the new space won't be available until later in 2013. (Zipcar, now part of Avis, is heading to the Fort Point Channel neighborhood in Boston.)
With about 450 employees in Cambridge and a new European office in Dublin, HubSpot is typically listed as one of a half-dozen tech companies most likely to go public in the next 12 months. Its current digs at the Davenport fill about 50,000 square feet.
HubSpot chief operating officer JD Sherman writes via e-mail, "HubSpot's deal with the Davenport should allow us to stay in the same location for the next three to four years, which we are really excited about. We've always believed in creating an office and a culture that employees truly love, and the space, access to public transportation, and proximity to top-tier universities and tech companies make East Cambridge an ideal fit for a rapidly growing company like ours."
Jill Shah had just sold her Back Bay startup, Jill's List, on April 15th. The money had just hit her bank account. She hadn't even had a chance to tell her seven employees about the sale yet when she heard two explosions nearby; Shah's company is located on Boylston Street, in between where the first and second bombs went off on Marathon Monday.
Shah's two kids had come into the office with their nanny to have lunch with her. "I had figured I would pull everyone together for a toast after lunch," she says. Instead, thinking that buildings nearby had been blown up, Shah, her kids, and her team evacuated their building at 726 Boylston and went home. "We weren't in the office for a week," she says.
Things have settled down considerably since Shah's somewhat atypical acquisition experience last month. She's now running the Boston office of Mindbody, a California company that sells web-based software to fitness studios, salons, and other wellness-oriented businesses to help them manage their businesses. Jill's List had created a network of more than 4,000 alternative medicine practitioners like acupuncturists and masseuses, and helped employees with flexible spending accounts or health savings account find the right practitioner for their needs, book appointments, and track payments. Employers pay a monthly fee to give their employees access to the Jill's List network.
Jill's List had created a partnership with Mindbody prior to the acquisition. "Their software helps practitioners run their businesses, and we've been trying to feed those practitioners into corporate America," Shah says. "We're also focused on ways to help doctors write orders for things like acupuncture or yoga as easily as they can write an order for a blood test or a CT scan."
"Our thesis is all about the convergence of healthcare and wellness," says Mindbody CEO Rick Stollmeyer, who is planning his first visit to the Boston office this Friday. Jill's List is the company's second acquisition so far; Shah will be senior vice president of what is being rebranded as the Mindbody Wellness Network. The acquisition price isn't being disclosed.
Shah started Jill's List in 2010, and never raised outside funding. She's married to Wayfair co-founder Niraj Shah, whose Back Bay e-commerce company has pursued a different funding strategy: it began as a bootstrapped business, but collected just over $200 million in outside capital last year.
– It has been around since 2004, and is run by one of the early employees of Akamai.
– With 250 employees, it is one of VMware's largest R&D offices outside the Palo Alto headquarters.
– The last VMware founder who remains with the company, Scott Devine, works out of the Kendall Square office.
– The office oversees an internal VMware venture capital program to foster new ideas that may not neatly fit into an existing product line.
Vice president of innovation Julia Austin told me a bit about how that program works. Her job at the cloud and virtualization giant is to "incubate, fund, and occasionally kill new ideas" at VMware, as she puts it. She also oversees collaborations with East Coast academic institutions like MIT. (Earlier in her career, Austin was VP of engineering at Akamai.)
"We have a VC-like board of eight people, a mix of technical and business people," she says. "Anyone can pitch an idea, whether it's in an adjacent area to our products or not. These are things that shouldn't be in a business unit while they are being developed," because they might not be seen as ready for the market yet, or they might not appear to have high enough revenue potential. "We fund the best ones, and the people stay VMware employees. We give them a stake. The goal is to sell it back to the company. With their funding, we may give them hardware, a number of people, space, and support services. But it's not an endless bank."
A handful of ideas have gotten initial funding, Austin says, and "one project just got its B round funding. We expect them to have a business plan, and some idea of how to make money." She says that it's possible that VMware could spin some of the ideas out as independent companies, though that hasn't happened yet.
Austin says that the company has committed to invest "millions" in these internal startups, and if successful, there is significant upside to the entrepreneurs running them. But there's also risk: if an internal startup doesn't click, she says, "the risk to the individual is, you need to find a new role at the company, within a certain window of time."
Austin says that more than 60 ideas have been presented over the last year-and-a-half, in areas like R&D, customer service, and field sales. But she won't be specific about what any of the projects are focused on, aside from saying that one is getting close to public release.
"It's too early to tell you it's a resounding success," she says. But it is a very interesting way for a large tech company to foster innovation...
Now, it seems like the professional services firms are also pulling up stakes.
Law firm Foley Hoag LLP, which opened an "Emerging Enterprise Center" in Waltham in 2006 to work with tech and life sciences companies, plans to close the office by the fall. The EEC is home base for about a dozen attorneys and a handful of entrepreneurs-in-residence. It is also a venue for networking events and workshops.
Jasmine Trillos-Decarie, Foley Hoag's director of marketing and business development, explains in an e-mail:
...We established the EEC in Waltham because that’s where the entrepreneurs were at the time. Now, entrepreneurs gravitate to urban areas like the Innovation District and Kendall Square. ...Many venture capital firms have also relocated back to these areas in the past couple of years. For us, the synergies are even more perfect, as we have called the Innovation District home for ten years, and have been actively involved in supporting its development. Now we can support industries that are moving here. In addition, we are also focusing on supporting entrepreneurs on the ground in Kendall Square through our office at the Cambridge Innovation Center.
At our Boston office, we will continue to host events like TEC@FoleyHoag targeted at educating entrepreneurs, providing them networking opportunities with venture capitalists, and generally supporting the culture of innovation that is so essential to the continued growth of technology in Massachusetts. In addition, we will continue to host select entrepreneurs-in-residence in our Boston office, and we will shortly be announcing that two of those whom we are hosting in Waltham will be joining us in Boston.
(The firm opened a small outpost earlier this year at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall, as Trillos-Decarie mentions above, though its primary office locally is on Seaport Boulevard near the World Trade Center.)
Trillos-Decarie says that the closure of the Waltham office won't have an impact on Foley Hoag's headcount locally; those employees will eventually be housed in the Boston office. Networking events and seminars will continue to be held at the Emerging Enterprise Center in Waltham through August.
If you still think of Campbell's as the tomato soup behemoth that inspired Andy Warhol, maybe you haven't been paying attention. The New Jersey company these days offers customized Goldfish crackers, and recently launched a new line of microwaveable soups exclusively through digital and social media like Spotify, Tumblr, and the Angry Birds game. The company also named a vice president of innovation, Michael Paul, in March.
A few nuggets from Morrison's keynote address, and my quick chat with her afterward.
• Morrison is an advocate of "fail fast, fail often, fail cheap" when it comes to developing new product ideas. Her ambitious goal at the company is to double the rate of innovation, while halving the cost and time spent cultivating new product ideas.
• "Not every great idea needs to be Campbell-generated. It's clear that partners and vendors and other external sources will generate innovative ideas for us."
• In thinking about how consumers will shop, cook, and eat in the future, Morrison says Campbell's is trying to understand emerging trends like "quantified lives," or "managing our bodies and diets through personal data and feedback loops." She cited Blippar as an example of how shoppers might use an "augmented reality overlay" on top of product packages to view multimedia, recipe ideas, or coupon offers. Coca-Cola's Freestyle drink machine, offering more than 100 different flavors of soda, is an example of "more distributed and personalized approaches to creating, sharing, and eating food." And she mentioned Reading-based Kiva Systems, now part of Amazon, as an example of "people and automated systems cooperating to achieve an objective." (Kiva makes robotic warehouse equipment that carries items to humans, rather than requiring humans to walk to the items.)
• "Our core consumers are baby boomers," but Campbell's is also trying to "build engagement with faster-growing consumer groups, like millennials and Hispanics."
• In launching its new Campbell's Go Soups, which she calls "portable nutrition" in a microwaveable pouch, the company relied exclusively on digital and social media, including Twitter, Spotify, Facebook, and FunnyOrDie.com. The target audience was those 80 million millennials between the ages of 25 and 30.
• "The top principle for disruptive and sustaining innovation is that it has to have a laser focus on customers. Innovation begins with their needs and expectations."FULL ENTRY
Workbar offers memberships that start as low as $30 for a day pass, and go up to $2400 per month for a four-person private office. There are shared kitchens, copiers, and printers, as well as high-speed Internet access.
The new Cambridge location, on Prospect Street about a block from the Central Square T stop, will be much more visible than Workbar Boston, which is below street level. Cambridge has what Jacobson calls a "business-centric café space" at street level, which will feature cushy sofas, shared tables, whiteboards, a coffee bar, and digital signage that will show who's in the office today, as well as list upcoming events like workshops and mixers. A "welcomista" will be there to greet prospective Workbar members and show them around the space. On the mezzanine level, there's a glass-walled room that can be used for training sessions or private meetings. (The first-floor space used to house Crimson Hexagon, a social media monitoring startup that moved to Boston.)
Workbar also has the complete top floor of the building, which Jacobson has carved up into three sections. "The Study" is an area for quiet "heads-down work," in his words. It has views of the Boston skyline. "The Commons" is an open area for teams working together. In the back of the building is "The Switchboard," where it's OK to make phone calls or conduct Skype videochats. (There are also private booths for phone calls there, and an area that will house a few treadmill workstations.) The top floor also has two small outdoor patios, and a kitchen that will have a communal table.
As is the case with the Boston location, Jacobson expects the denizens of Workbar Cambridge will be a mix of consultants and freelancers; early-stage startup companies; and individuals or teams from bigger companies that may not yet have local offices (Facebook is one example), or have offices in distant suburbs.
Jacobson says the first and fifth floor spaces are about 13,000 square feet in total. Analogue Studio of Boston worked on the interior design, and Anderson Porter of Cambridge was the project's architect. Here's a rendering of what the first floor will look like once completed. (Click to enlarge.)
A few pics of the unfinished interior, and another rendering, are below.FULL ENTRY
Terrafugia unveils TF-X concept vehicle: A plug-in hybrid that takes off like a helicopter and (almost) flies itself
If so, aviation startup Terrafugia is willfully disregarding it. The Woburn company is unveiling today a concept design for a future product called the TF-X — well before it has delivered its first product, the much-touted Transition "roadable aircraft." (Here's the Transition on "Good Morning America" last year.)
But in talking to Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich last Friday, he made it clear that the company looks at the TF-X as the kind of vehicle that could — big could — usher flying cars into the mainstream. It would be capable of taking off and landing vertically, outside of an airport. (Heliports or empty lots are fair game, as long as you have permission.) It would have "fly-by-wire" controls that would let you set your destination, and have the vehicle navigate to it with minimal pilot involvement. It'd be a plug-in hybrid outfitted with both batteries and an internal combustion engine, which would presumably make it more fuel efficient than most of today's "general aviation" (a/k/a private) aircraft. The TF-X would have a 500 mile range. And as with the Transition, if you encountered bad weather, rather than trying to fly through it, you would simply land at the nearest safe spot and drive the rest of the way to your destination, at highway speeds.
And if Terrafugia can somehow attain large enough production volumes, the TF-X might actually be a flying car that the middle class (OK, upper middle class) could afford. (Terrafugia anticipates the base price of its Transition will be $279,000, and in our conversation Dietrich expressed hopes that the TF-X would sell for less than that.) Dietrich acknowledges that getting the TF-X to the market will probably be at least an 8 to 10 year process, and require his company to do some major fundraising.
More concept images and a company-provided video are below, plus the audio of our conversation last Friday, which runs about 20 minutes.FULL ENTRY
Angel of the Year: Andy Palmer of Koa Labs
Rising Star VC (Tie): Rob Go of NextView Ventures and Stephen Kraus of Bessemer Venture Partners
Rising Star Entrepreneur: Sravish Sridhar of Kinvey
Deal of the Year (Tech): Actifio
Deal of the Year (Healthcare): Moderna Therapuetics
Entrepreneur of the Year (Tech): Andy Ory of Acme Packet
Entrepreneur of the Year (Healthcare): Katrine Bosley of Avila Therapeutics
VC of the Year (Tech) : Spark Capital
VC of the Year (Healthcare) : Third Rock Ventures
Exit of the Year (Tech) Acme Packet, acquired by Oracle
Exit of the Year (Healthcare): Avila Therapeutics, acquired by Celgene
Best New Startup: Jounce Therapeutics
Hottest Startup: WayfairFULL ENTRY
Reben was in town for the Tribeca Film Festival; he had deployed 20 BlabDroids there as robotic documentarians, asking questions of random people and recording their answers. (BlabDroid also won the Creative Sparks competition at DIY Days, earning Reben some free office space in New York and a "micro-grant" of $500. I served as a judge.)
The 'bot is designed to look cute and homemade, and it speaks in the voice of a 7-year old boy — all strategies to induce interviewees to let down their guard and start talking freely. Among the questions BlabDroid is prone to ask is, "What's the worst thing you've ever done to someone?"
BlabDroid garned quite a lot of publicity while in New York for Tribeca (here's the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Gizmag). But Reben's Kickstarter campaign to raise $75,000 in order to put the 'bot into production hasn't yet caught fire. For $299, you get a fully-assembled BlabDroid that can move around under its own steam, and connect via Bluetooth with a smartphone; a less-expensive "Starter BlabDroid" is also available. With about a month left, Reben is still $70,000 short of his target.
Reben heads to the UK later this month to speak at the Thinking Digital conference. BlabDroid's predecessor was a Media Lab project called Boxie, The Story Gathering Robot. Below is a video that BlabDroid shot at a film festival in Amsterdam back in March, and a photo of BlabDroid's Arduino-based innards.FULL ENTRY
To remember those killed and injured... To express our gratitude to the first responders and the healthcare professionals who helped the city get through a pretty horrific week... To reclaim one of our favorite neighborhoods, Back Bay...And to help the businesses there get back on their feet.
Katie Burke of HubSpot and Kate Castle of Flybridge Capital took that idea and ran with it, and Tuesday night (April 30th), there's a pub crawl they organized that starts at 6 PM. Eleven startups, tech giants, accelerators, and venture capital firms are hosting gatherings at seven Back Bay bars. They'll be buying a few rounds, and inviting attendees to donate generously to the city's OneFund, which helps victims of the bombings.
You don't need to work at the host companies to come, or even know anyone who works there. Everyone's invited, whether you work in the startup world or not. If you're planning to go, send out a tweet or Facebook update with the #BackToBackBay hashtag, to let your friends know what bar you'll be at, at what time, so they can join you.
Here's who is hosting at each venue.
• Globe Bar and Café – PromoBoxx and DataXu
• Lir – Wayfair
• Lolita Cocina – Flybridge and BzzAgent
• McGreevey’s – Digital Lumens, Flybridge and HubSpot
• Solas – Kibits and Plastiq
• Towne – HubSpot
• Whiskey's – Microsoft and MassChallenge
The map for the event is here.
I'm planning to hit Towne at 6:30 and Lolita around 7:30. Hope to see you there...
That was the hope this morning, when fifteen startup teams headed north to pitch a roomful of Boston-area angels at the Cambridge Innovation Center; previously, interested investors had to hop on 95 South and head to Providence to get a look at the latest cohort of Betaspring graduates. Today's presenters were looking to raise anywhere from $175,000 to $2 million. It'll be a few weeks, at least, before we see whether the Greyhound strategy has an impact on the amount the entrepreneurs are able to raise. (At right is ZoomTilt founder Anna Callahan.)
Here are a few new services worth checking out, and startups worth putting on your radar screen. Companies in that second category, I'm betting, have pretty decent odds of collecting some cash — even if they're not working on consumer-facing ideas.
• RaftOut, a site that makes it easy to coordinate concert ticket purchases among friends. Want to see a show, but don't know who else in your social circle will pony up to join you? Just click the "Bring People" button before you make a purchase. You can try it out with some upcoming shows in Boston here. The company is in the process of integrating with ticket sellers like Brown Paper Tickets and TicketFly.
• ShutterCal, which prompts you to pick the best picture you've taken each day. The company places these images onto an online calendar, which you can share with family or friends. You can try the service for free; purchase an ad-free, $3-a-month digital subscription; or buy a $14.99-a-month membership that sends you a packet of printed photos each month. You also get a nicely-designed shoebox (below) that holds a full year's worth of photos.FULL ENTRY
Snooki's potential successor is Gui Cavalcanti, one of ten contestants on the new show "The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius," which debuts May 1st at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel. Cavalcanti, right, is best-known locally as the co-founder of Artisan's Asylum, a "maker space" in Somerville that provides artists and entrepreneurs with access to a wood shop, metal shop, 3-D printers, and other tools, as well as classes in how to use them. Cavalcanti also led a successful effort last year to raise money online to build a giant, rideable six-legged robot named Stompy, pulling in almost $100,000. (I wrote about the Asylum last May, and included Cavalcanti on my 2012 list of "Innovation Amplifiers.")
"Big Brain Theory" challenges its contestants each week to come up with a solution to "a seemingly impossible engineering challenge," according to its website. Contestants on the losing team are subject to elimination. The eventual winner gets $50,000, and a one-year contract to work at WET, a Los Angeles design firm best known for the fountain show outside the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. (I guess every talented engineer dreams of one day designing water features for hotels?)
Cavalcanti says he spent about seven weeks shooting the show, in and around Los Angeles. In the first episode, airing Wednesday, he plays a major role as the teams try to stop an explosives-laden package in the bed of a pickup truck from exploding. "Big Brain Theory" feels like a blend of "Mythbusters" and "Project Runway," and it's a lot of fun to watch if you're at all interested in how design, math, and engineering can be applied in real-world scenarios.
What inspired Cavalcanti to audition for the show? He explains via e-mail, "I was an avid fan of 'Battlebots' and 'Junkyard Wars' growing up, and watching the shows got me even more interested in engineering than I was before. When I heard there was a new kind of design/build show coming up that was looking to feature real design and engineering skills (as opposed to the hacking skills that were prominent in 'Junkyard Wars'), I really wanted to participate, if only to inspire a new generation of kids to get interested in engineering like I had been. On top of that, it was an opportunity to just get away and make stuff for once, which I ironically hadn't been able to do nearly as much as I wanted while running Artisan's Asylum."
Last spring, he says, the show's producer put out a call for contestants. "After seeing it the second or third time, I decided to apply, and got a call back within a half-hour or so," Cavalcanti says. As a result of being chosen for the show, Cavalcanti handed over the reins at Artisan's Asylum to Molly Rubenstein, who had been the director of operations. He says he is now "doing half-time development work at the Asylum," and Rubenstein is serving as the new executive director.
A teaser video for the show is below:FULL ENTRY
10 insights into the challenges of corporate innovation, from this week's Innovation Leaders Forum in Boston
The overarching theme: promoting new ideas inside a large, established organization can be pretty darn hard. Resources are often scarce. Business unit leaders can be hostile. Top executives may want to talk about innovation during earnings calls, but often don't make enough of a commitment to actually rolling out the best ideas. And innovation leaders constantly worry that if they can't move the needle on revenues or costs, they may find themselves looking for their next job.
Amidst that anxiety, there were some interesting insights about how large companies approach innovation. Here are ten comments that stood out. The last one is my favorite.
• "You need to create a sense of urgency [around innovation] at a gut level, not just a PR level." — Jim Euchner, vice president of global innovation at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. (He's pictured on the left, with Moises Norena of Whirlpool.)
• Phil Swisher, chief innovation officer at the private bank Brown Brothers Harriman, said that often, HIPPOs tend to dominate discussions about innovation (HIPPO being an initialism for the "highest-paid person with an opinion.") Running experiments is much better than simply taking direction from a HIPPO, as politically difficult as that may be. "Hypothesis testing is better than hunches," Swisher said.
• "Visuals are really powerful. We try to make the invisible visible," said Lorna Ross of the Mayo Clinic's Center for Innovation. That could mean studying and mapping communication patterns in the operating room during bypass surgery. "When you can show somebody where the problems are, it can be easier to get people to change," she said.
• Whirlpool Corp. chief innovation officer Moises Norena talked about "growing the core" (the company's major appliance business), "extending the core" (offering new products and services related to that core business), and "expanding beyond the core" (new, high-margin stand-alone businesses).FULL ENTRY
In Google's Ingress augmented reality game, a ceasefire at MIT and a memorial to slain officer Sean Collier
Not surprisingly, a lot of squabbling over portals happens around Cambridge, and on the MIT campus.
Over the past few days, in the wake of Friday's shooting of MIT campus police officer Sean Collier, Ingress players made two decisions. They called a temporary ceasefire on the MIT campus, turning it into a neutral zone. And they created a memorial to Collier near where he was killed at the Stata Center.
Last Saturday, Christopher Davis, an Ingress player and Google employee, posted a message suggesting that two portals be placed side by side, one from each faction, near the Stata Center on Vassar Street, and also at Copley Square. "Nothing could be a stronger statement that 'We are Boston. We are united,'" Davis wrote in a posting to the local Ingress forum. The two teams worked in partnership to set up the memorial; it was completed around midnight last night.
The Copley Square memorial hasn't yet appeared. "There hasn't explicitly been anything set up in the game around Copley or Boylston Street," explains Ingress player Stephen Lewin-Berlin, a managing director at Quanta Research in Cambridge. "You have to be within 40 meters of a location to do anything, and all that area has been a crime scene." Until the past day or two, at least...
Lewin-Berlin tells me that the idea of making the MIT campus a neutral zone, and setting up the memorials, wasn't exactly uncontroversial within the Ingress community. "For some people, this is an important symbol," he says. "But for others, Ingress is a way to play and get away from real life. There were some interesting dynamics in the discussion group and the in-game chats." Lewis-Berlin says he hopes the ceasefire and memorial will endure for a week.
The screen-capture above is from the Ingress Boston community on Google+, which has 196 members. A memorial service for Collier is scheduled to take place today at noon on the MIT campus; Vice President Joe Biden will be among the speakers.
Bisceglia is co-founder of The Tap Lab, a Cambridge startup that last month released Tiny Tycoons, its second location-based game. While we haven't yet seen a breakout hit in the realm of games that depend on your standing in a particular spot to play or take some action (and Tiny Tycoons moves away from that idea), this is a pretty cool visual history of the attempts we've seen thus far. It mentions Boston-based SCVNGR, and also some of the enabling technologies that have made location-based games possible, like wifi positioning data from Skyhook, also in Boston.
Click the image to enlarge it.
Israel's Gizmox picks up $7.5 million to help companies convert existing apps to HTML5; will set up U.S. office in Cambridge
Gizmox makes it easier for big companies to get their existing software applications running on the web and mobile devices, using the HTML5 standard, without having to rewrite them from scratch. Gizmox customers can either then run the applications from their own data centers, or in the cloud using Gizmox’s servers.
"Enterprises are far behind where the consumer web is at, with respect to HTML5," Kuznetsov says. "But their employees want to use the same applications they use on their desktops on their mobile devices."
Atlas Venture partner Jeff Fagnan adds, "There are billions of dollars that big enterprises have invested in ERP, CRM, .NET, and Java applications, and it's hard to mobilize those and extend them out into the cloud." Kuznetsov says that Gizmox has developed "transposition" technology that can take those existing enterprise apps and deliver them in HTML5, without rewriting them by hand. "You can adjust and modify the output if you want," he says. About 40,000 applications have already been converted using the platform, according to Kuznetsov.
The company has about 40 employees in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Kuznetsov says it is now starting to hire locally. “We’ll be at least 15 people in the short-term, and more from there,” he says, adding that the focus is on sales and marketing employees, along with a few "technical folks and engineers." The company doesn't yet have office space — it's still working out of Atlas' office across from the CambridgeSide Galleria — but Kuznetsov says he's looking only in Cambridge. Fagnan and Chris Lynch of Atlas are joining Gizmox's board.
This was nothing like an ordinary week.
On Monday, our city's medical professionals tried to save as many victims of the Marathon blasts as they could. A resident at Boston Medical Center who had been running the race, Natalie Stavas, offered aid to victims on the scene. One trauma surgeon, Dr. David King, reported to work at Mass General not long after he himself crossed the finish line. Employees of Boston Children's Hospital who had been manning a medical tent on the marathon route in Wellesley hurried to the hospital to see how they could help. Hundreds of others whose names we don't know took care of the wounded as they were transported to the city's hospitals, and once they arrived. (Worth a read is this piece in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande, who is a surgeon at Brigham & Women's: "Why Boston's Hospitals Were Ready.")
By Thursday night, after some patients had been released, and others were on the road to recovery, there were new victims on their way to the hospitals: an MIT campus police officer, Sean Collier, who died, and an MBTA transit police officer, who was wounded in a firefight and brought to Mount Auburn Hospital. Then, Beth Israel staffers tried to revive one of the bombing suspects, who showed up in their emergency room at 1:10 a.m. this morning with gunshot and blast injuries. One Beth Israel doctor, David Schoenfeld, happens to live in Watertown. When he started hearing gunshots and sirens in his neighborhood last night, he did the obvious thing: he drove to work.
"You give the best care you can to every patient that comes to you, regardless of what may or may not be," he said at a press conference earlier this morning. "Whether it was a suspect, an innocent, a police officer, you have no idea who it is when they arrive. You give them the best care you can."
If this had been an ordinary week, doctors, nurses, technicians, and admin staffers would have simply been delivering their best care all around town, without getting much appreciation from those not wearing one of those plastic hospital bracelets. A few of them would have run the marathon on Monday to raise a few million for research initiatives and patient care, gone home, and maybe recuperated a bit.
This has been a far from ordinary week, and we owe tremendous gratitude to all those green-gowned workers who show up for work at our city's hospitals on normal days and the rest, ready to help all of us.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited several local hospitals yesterday to say thanks. I'm adding mine here...
We've all been looking at pictures and videos of what happened. It's hard to avoid. It's hard to believe this happened in our city, full of students, educators, healers, scientists, and entrepreneurs.
But there are also photos of the race that show it for what it has been for more than a century, and what it will continue to be in the future: one of our city's rites of spring, a celebration of life and endurance, a race that so many run to raise money for a cause, or in honor of someone else.
Next year, I hope that the entire city will find a way to run, walk, or bike the course... or cheer as spectators... because the marathon is now a bigger part of our city's soul than it ever was before.
(The picture above was taken by the Boston Globe's Dina Rudick.)
Moo is probably best-known for its full-color business cards that can sport a different picture on the back of each one, and it already operates a U.S. printing facility in Providence, Rhode Island. CEO Richard Moross describes Moo as "a design and technology business currently focused on printed stationery, but ultimately we deal in professional identity products for small businesses." Last week, Moo, which was born in 2004, sold to its one millionth customer.
"We have roughly 50 people in Providence, over 100 people in London, and we foresee at least ten people in Boston focused on marketing initiatives," he says. "Today, 75 to 80 percent of our revenue is outside the U.K., and about 60 percent of that is in North America. So the gravitational pull is toward the U.S." Over time, he says, "it may make sense to locate other roles here, or increase certain functions in the U.S."
Moross, who was in town last week, says that Moo had been looking at various cities on the Eastern Seaboard for its U.S. office, "but we picked Boston as a by-product of the person we hired." Shore, right, spent a little over five years at Zipcar, eventually becoming vice president of global brand; before that, she'd worked in the marketing departments of Boston.com and Lawyers Weekly.
Moross says that Moo hasn't yet found office space in Boston, but that it has been focused on the Innovation District and the Leather District, near South Station. With both VistaPrint and Staples based in Massachusetts, Moross observes, "There's a fantastic group of companies in the neighborhood catering to small businesses. We're all in the same kind of industry."
His Boston startup, which helps consumers resell their old electronic gadgets after they've upgraded, had grown to about $35 million in sales for 2011. But it was accepting 22 different categories of products for resale, including videogames, GPS devices, and even computer monitors. And it was spending a huge amount of energy working with retail partners like Wal-Mart and Staples to try to persuade consumers to part with their old devices at the moment they bought a new one.
Those partnerships, Ganot now says, "weren't working out the way we envisioned. They required a lot of resources from our side, but where it really failed was their ability to embrace and market the program. It became sort of a 'check the box' sustainability initiative for them."
Last February, Ganot told his staff that Gazelle would no longer market its "re-commerce" service through those retail partners, and that it would radically reduce the range of products it accepted. The company would focus on Apple products, and higher-end mobile phones from brands like Samsung, HTC, and Blackberry. "We went from working with hundreds of thousands of SKUs," Ganot says, referring to individual product models, "to about 1000 SKUs." Roughly $9 million of Gazelle's $35 million in 2011 revenue, he says, came from its retail partnerships and all those products it was no longer accepting.
But the streamlining didn't set Gazelle back. Revenues for 2012 were $58 million, Ganot says, and "we should do over $100 million this year. Our growth isn't slowing." (One thing that will likely help Gazelle in 2013: last month, eBay shut down its own competing service, Instant Sale.) Ganot says that 30 percent of Gazelle's customers have used the service more than once.
Ganot estimates that the re-commerce business will generate $5 billion annually by 2015. "The number one challenge for us is still building awareness for the concept of re-commerce, as opposed to just putting an old phone into a desk drawer and forgetting about it," he says. Another customer concern, he says, is getting rid of the data on the device; Gazelle performs a complete data wipe before re-selling it. About 80 percent of the products it receives are sold to wholesalers, who frequently ship them to foreign countries where they will command higher prices. The rest are resold through eBay and Amazon.com.FULL ENTRY
Angel of the Year
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David Chang- PayPal Boston
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About Scott Kirsner 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.
May 22: MIT Sloan CIO Symposium
Chief information officers from Guess, Haemonetics, Intel and other companies talk discuss "architecting the enterprise of the future."
June 3: MITX Innovation Awards
Economist & blogger Jodi Beggs hosts at the Westin Copley.
June 25: TEDxBoston
The oldest and biggest of the locally-organized TED events is back, at the Seaport World Trade Center. Tickets are free, but tough to get. Also streams on the web and airs on WBUR.