Innovation Economy

192 stories
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
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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
Billion dollar businesses
Unicorns among us: Bonus material on companies with $1 billion-plus valuations
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My Globe column this week focuses on unicorns — those incredibly-rare private companies that have attained valuations of $1 billion or more, according to their investors. We've got three based in Massachusetts: Moderna Therapeutics (Cambridge), Intarcia Therapeutics (Boston), and Actifio (Waltham). Together, the three companies are valued at nearly $6 billion. Read More
App your service
MobileSuites app wants to make hotel stays more convenient
From left: MobileSuites
CEO Dennis Meng, COO
Basel Fakhoury, and CTO
Bob Saris.
One of the more old-fashioned aspects of staying in a hotel is having to pull a leather binder out of a drawer and then pick up a 1980s-era phone to order room service, arrange a wake-up call, or set up a spa appointment. A Cambridge start-up, MobileSuites, wants to upgrade that part of the guest experience, letting you use your smartphone to explore the amenities and interact with the staff. After piloting the app with three hotels last year, MobileSuites says the iPhone app can now be used at about 700 hotels around the United States, including chains like Hilton, Westin, and Marriott. Read More
Meet the lone Super Bowl veteran who works in Boston's startup scene
Seattle Seahawks linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Isaiah Kacyvenski warm up before Super Bowl XL in 2006. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
I caught up with Isaiah Kacyvenski Thursday evening just after he'd arrived in Phoenix for this Sunday's Super Bowl. Kacyvenski told me he'd put in a pretty full week at the Cambridge-based electronics startup MC10 — interrupted by the blizzard, of course — before heading west. Nine years ago, when he traveled to the Big Game in Detroit, it was as a starting linebacker and special teams captain for the Seattle Seahawks. Kacyvenski, a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Business School, is the only Super Bowl veteran I've ever met who's part of the Boston startup scene. When he was drafted by the Seahawks in 2000, he became the highest NFL draft pick in Harvard's history, and his career lasted until 2008, when injuries forced him to retire. He's now a business development executive at MC10, which develops flexible electronics. I asked Kacyvenski a few questions before he headed to the NFL Players Association party last night. Read More
Follow the money
Fund Wisdom tries to make sense of emerging business of equity crowdfunding
Data from Fund Wisdom about the cities where startups have been most successful in raising money using web-based platforms like AngelList and Crowdfunder.
Brian Thopsey acknowledges that when it comes to online equity investing — investors backing startups through sites like AngelList and Crowdfunder — the data are still messy. And we haven't yet see the floodgates open, with Regular Joes putting a few grand here and there into fledgling businesses in exchange for shares of stock. That, Thopsey says, won't happen until early 2016. But he's already working to build a company, Fund Wisdom, that will gather data about what's happening on these new sites. Read More
They've got your spot
Predictive parking startup Smarking heads west for Y Combinator program
Diego Torres-Palma and Wen Sang of Smarking. (Photo by Scott Kirsner / BetaBoston)
Wen Sang says he was astonished to learn how much fuel is burned — and traffic caused — by drivers in search of the perfect parking spot. At the same time, most parking garages have spaces sitting empty. What if you could share that information with drivers, perhaps even adjusting the price of vacant spaces so that they were more appealing? Sang says he came to the United States from China to earn a PhD, not start a company. But the possibility of solving that problem led him to launch Smarking last year, after earning his doctorate in mechanical engineering from MIT. Read More
Innovation Economy
Reebok, others have technology to help prevent concussions, but few sports adopt it
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Ben Harvatine couldn’t point to a single time that his head slammed hard against the wrestling mat. He just felt progressively worse over the course of a practice at MIT. “I’d had concussions before, but this one felt really different,” Harvatine says. “I couldn’t talk right, and was having trouble walking. But like every athlete, you find ways to rationalize it — maybe you’re just dehydrated.” Read More
Biker clubhouse
With grant money, Fortified Bike plans a hangout for Boston's bike community
Cofounder Slava Menn (right, with cofounder Tivan Amour) says they want the community space to unite disparate biking efforts in Boston.
Boston startup Fortified Bicycle just nabbed a $150,000 grant through the Mission Main Street Grants program run by JP Morgan Chase & Co., and it plans to use the money to build out a new office on the edge of Chinatown that it hopes will become a gathering place for Boston's bike community. Read More
Robotics startup Jibo raises $25 million, brings on Nuance exec as CEO
Jibo is a $599 countertop robot designed to handle tasks like scheduling and videoconferencing. (Company-supplied photo.)
Steve Chambers says he first heard about the "social robotics" startup Jibo in late 2013, when two friends mentioned the startup to him within two hours on the same day. At the time, Chambers was running worldwide sales, marketing, and business development for Nuance, the publicly held speech recognition company in Burlington. Chambers says he couldn't leave that post immediately, but he joined Jibo's board last September as executive chairman, and helped founder Cynthia Breazeal raise $25 million in new funding. Today, the Weston company is announcing that Chambers, a veteran of both the speech recognition and videoconferencing industries, is joining Jibo as its new CEO. Read More