Innovation Economy

180 stories
Just wingin' it
Soaring investment and lagging legislation — it's a Wild West for drones
The PARC drone from CyPhy Works is tethered to a controller by a microfilament cable that sends power up to the drone and downloads high-definition video. (Photo: Cyphy Works)
Andrew Kehlenbeck pulls up a shirtsleeve and exposes a few linear scars on his forearm. They’re slashes from the plastic propeller of a small drone — a very modern sort of workplace injury. Kehlenbeck is co-founder and lead engineer at Panoptes Systems in Cambridge, and he is designing a safety system to keep unmanned aircraft from hitting walls, ceilings, trees, and people. Panoptes is just one of the local companies hoping to benefit from a soaring hobbyist drone market and an expected surge in sales to businesses. Read More
Raked, bagged, and carted away
In restructuring, Heartland Payment slashes most of Cambridge-based Leaf team
LEaf payments
You may have encountered the technology from Leaf at local businesses like Voltage Coffee, Aceituna Cafe, or Garlic & Lemons: instead of a cash register on the counter, a small Android tablet sits on a pedestal. After the cashier rings you up by tapping the screen a few times, he swipes your credit card and asks you to sign the screen instead of a receipt. Leaf's software could provide merchants with reports on what had been selling well, and it also tracked workers' hours. Cambridge-based Leaf aimed to dramatically undercut the big sellers of registers (also known as point-of-sale systems), selling its tablet for $250 and the accompanying software for $50 per month. Read More
Lunchtime fun
CyPhy's drones capture company snowboarding breaks in Danvers
Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.31.02 PM
What would you do if a couple feet of fresh snow fell... and right outside your office door was a small hill? Oh, and your CEO was an avid snowboarder? And your company made small drones with built-in cameras? The answer at Danvers-based CyPhy Works was clear: institute snowboarding lunch breaks, filmed from the skies. The runs aren't very long, but CyPhy CEO Helen Greiner says the walk back up the hill is good exercise. While many of CyPhy's employees are mechanical engineers, Greiner says "they haven't built me a lift yet." (That's Greiner, who was previously a co-founder of iRobot Corp., going off a jump in the image above.) Read More
Dept. of Good Clean Fun
Swedish import Boda Borg will bring 'questing' to Boston area
Boda Borg is a chain of indoor "questing" facilities. (Photo courtesy of the company.)
Ready to go questing? Brookline entrepreneur Chad Ellis is planning to open an indoor “questing” center this summer, importing a concept from Sweden called Boda Borg, which blends obstacle courses with puzzle-solving. Some of the quests are so challenging, says Ellis, that only one percent of visitors can complete them — and that’s usually after a few attempts. Read More
Party people
Jobble wants to create a marketplace for event staffers
From left: Jobble founders Corey Bober, Zack Smith, and Matthew Osofisan.
Your company is throwing a cocktail shindig and you need someone to staff the check-in table for two hours. How do you fill that kind of extremely short-term gig? A startup with roots on two local campuses, Jobble, has built a mobile app and website that will try to supply a solution. Jobble is a marketplace for event staffers available for such tasks as handing out flyers at a festival or helping assemble a trade show booth. The startup will handle payments to event staffers, taking a 20 percent fee off the top. Jobble says it has seven companies lined up to beta test the service. Read More
The wayback machine
Why did YouTube win? An interview with co-founder Chad Hurley from 2005
YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. (File photo / Associated Press.)
If you remember the way video was handled on the Internet a decade ago, it was a pretty sloppy situation. Netflix was still two years away from launching its streaming service, and Apple hadn't yet introduced video to its iTunes online store. To watch something, you often had to download special video player software, or sit and wait while a QuickTime movie downloaded. And if you wanted to upload video of your own, you had to navigate a sea of different formats — and restrictions on file size. When I wrote a story for the New York Times in October 2005 about the various companies that wanted to make it simpler to share and view video online, it was tough to tell who was going to win. One of the entrepreneurs I interviewed was Chad Hurley, who co-founded YouTube. (It launched ten years ago this month.) Read More
Subscribe to the friendly skies?
All-you-can-fly aviation startup Beacon plans to link Boston, New York
Beacon initially plans to fly between Logan, Nantucket, Westchester County Airport in New York, and East Hampton on Long Island.
Regular people buy plane tickets. The super-rich buy the whole plane. And now a startup called Beacon is proposing an intermediate option: a "subscription" to its travel service, which will offer frequent trips on turboprops linking Boston and White Plains, N.Y., as well as the vacation destinations of Nantucket and East Hampton. The price starts at $2,000 a month for unlimited travel for one passenger. Read More
In the event this winter ends...
Kendall Square may soon get a 'pop-up park'
Aerial view of proposed "pop-up park" on Kendall Street in Cambridge. (Courtesy Glenn KnicKrehm, Constellation Center.)
I wrote last week about the long-delayed Constellation Center project, which aspires to build a $300 million performing arts center in Kendall Square. The project's acre of fenced-off land is basically the front yard of the Genzyme Center and the Watermark East apartment complex, just off Third Street. (See the map below.) Read More
Innovation Economy
A star still waiting to be born in Kendall Square
Halls - Color
If you last visited Kendall Square 10 years ago and returned to the Cambridge neighborhood today, you’d think Jack had sprinkled around a bushel of magic beans. New buildings have sprouted, bars and restaurants have opened, and an East Coast Google campus has been completed. You can even ice skate in the winter or rent a kayak in the summer. But one thing that hasn’t changed is Glenn KnicKrehm’s empty gravel lot in the heart of the square. The precious acre of property is still surrounded by chain-link fence, and KnicKrehm is still spinning his vision of building a $300 million arts and culture complex called the Constellation Center. Read more in my latest Innovation Economy column in The Boston Globe.    
Smarter prescriptions
With new funding, Orig3n hopes to hone in on best treatments for you
Orig3n CEO Robin Smith with COO Kate Blanchard. (Photo courtesy of Orig3n.)
Boston startup Orig3n has been showing up at marathons and triathlons with an unusual request for participants: How about parting with a vial of blood? The company is trying to build a giant library of iPS cells — that's induced pluripotent stem cells — and they've found that amateur athletes tend to be more willing to share than most. Read More
An outpost out west
Bolt, backer of consumer electronics startups, expands to San Francisco
Autodesk's design and fabrication workshop on Pier 9 in San Francisco, where Bolt's west coast crew will be based.
Born in Boston just two years ago, Bolt is expanding to San Francisco. The investment fund makes small investments in hardware startups — like a digital tip jar or a wristband that tries to shock you out of bad habits — and then gives them access to a complete machine shop, along with design and engineering experts. Read More