Innovation Economy

192 stories
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
Mobile tech for museum-goers
Spotzer, deploying tech to enhance museum visits, raises first funding
A gallery at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. (MFA photo.)
Think about the wall plaques or audio guides that shape your visit to a museum: They're no different for visitors more interested in history than art, or those who want to dive deeply into a particular artifact and skim past others. A Boston startup called Spotzer wants to change that, by letting you use a smartphone as your guide, and deploying Bluetooth "beacon" technology throughout museums so that you can chart your own course. The company just got its start last year, but it has already done pilot tests with institutions like the Boston Athenaeum, MIT's List Visual Arts Center, and New York's Neue Galerie — and Spotzer founder Brendan Ciecko is in the midst of wrapping the company's first funding round. Read More
Talk to the cylinder
What's Amazon been up to in Cambridge? Speech rec for Echo product, among others
Amazon's Echo device, priced at $199, can play music and answer questions. But it isn't yet widely available. (Photo courtesy Amazon.)
Amazon has started shipping — in small numbers — a tabletop device called Echo. If Apple's Siri and Bose's WaveRadio had a baby, it would be something like Echo. Once connected to your wireless network, the $199 device can stream music and news programming from services like iHeartRadio and Amazon Prime, and it can also answer spoken questions on subjects like the weather, or what year the War of 1812 ended. And it turns out that a team at Amazon's Kendall Square research-and-development office has been developing the speech recognition capabilities for Echo. Read More
Deja vu all over again
Driftt, out to improve collaboration on documents, collects $15 million
The Driftt team, from left: David Cancel, Marshall Moutenot, Alden Keefe Sampson, and Elias Torres.
So much happens in five years... In 2010, I covered the initial funding of a Cambridge startup called Performable, which was out to help websites hold on to more of their visitors. In 2015, those same two entrepreneurs are collecting capital for a new idea, Driftt, from the same venture capital firm that initially backed Performable, CRV. Between 2010 and 2015, they got acquired by HubSpot for $20 million, helped that company rebuild its digital marketing product and grow its software development team, and left in September 2014, just before HubSpot's IPO. Read More
Preserving those 'Kodak moments' in the digital age
Smile! Next startup from Blade incubator wants to solve digital photos
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The next startup off the assembly line at Boston-based Blade will focus on a headache that pretty much everyone has: How do you keep track of and share the best photos you take? Some of them may wind up on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook — or perhaps on the front of your holiday card. But the majority "remain locked away on our digital devices," Lineage Labs contends, "rarely finding the right way or the right time to be shared and enjoyed." Read More
Spawning more startups
PureTech pockets $50 million to bring life sciences ideas out of the lab
PureTech founder and CEO Daphne Zohar, center. (Photo by Scott Zuehlke, courtesy PureTech.)
The big players of the biopharma world descend on San Francisco next week for the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, and in advance of it, Boston-based PureTech is announcing it has raised $50 million in new funding. PureTech takes successful research out of academic labs, and assembles teams that can move it toward commercialization. Among its projects are startup companies focused on obesity, hair growth, drug delivery without needles, and therapeutic video games. Read More
New funding for maker for manufacturing robots
Rethink Robotics, selling versatile worker bots, raises $27 million more
One of Boston's highest-profile robotics companies announced in a federal filing this week that it has collected almost $27 million in fresh funding. Rethink Robotics sells a two-armed robot called Baxter that can be easily trained to perform a variety of tasks. Rethink's founder is Rodney Brooks, the former MIT professor who co-founded iRobot Corp., and one of its earliest backers was Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. Read More
Double feature
After Google buy, special effects shop Zero VFX cooking up more software
Zero VFX co-founders Sean Devereaux and Brian Drewes on the set of the soon-to-be-released boxing film, Southpaw. (Courtesy Zero VFX.)
It was a surprising acquisition by Google that happened in the thick of vacation season last August: the Silicon Valley giant picked up Zync Render, a software tool developed in Boston that makes it easier and cheaper to use cloud data processing services to produce special effects for movies or TV commercials. Zync Render had been created by a team at Zero VFX, a special effects shop that has worked on movies like "American Hustle" and "The Equalizer." And now the parent company that spawned Zync is planning on a sequel. Read More
Smarter stuff
PTC chief executive discusses drivers behind ‘Internet of Things’ phenomenon
PTC headquarters in Needham. (Photo: Scott Kirsner/BetaBoston)
In the early stages of writing a piece about whether 2015 will be the year that the Internet of Things finally goes mainstream, I sat down with PTC chief executive Jim Heppelmann. PTC is the Needham-based company that sells software related to designing products and then servicing them once they've been sold. An increasing number of those products, Heppelmann says, will connect to the Internet for monitoring and upgrades, and creating new offerings for those connected devices has been a big focus for PTC of late. The company recently said that it expects to see double-digit growth of its IoT revenues over the next four years, and several of PTC's latest acquisitions have been IoT-related. Read More
Fill-in-the-blank forecasting
Mad Libs predictions: What Boston techies and investors expect in 2015
Google's latest self-driving vehicle prototype.
Crowdsourcing — the new coinage for “getting other people to do your work” — was one of the business world’s big trends in 2014. And this week, I’m milking it for all it’s worth. Instead of coming up with my own predictions for the year ahead, I created a list of fill-in-the-blank statements and sent them to a bunch of local digerati. Crowdsourcing in action! Read More
Teikametrics helps Amazon.com merchants figure out what to stock — and how to price it
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Teikametrics is one of those behind-the-scenes players that may have been involved in some of your online gift-buying this month. The Boston-based startup offers analytic services to companies that sell goods on Amazon.com — including local firms like Newbury Comics and Aubuchon Hardware. Among the questions Teikametrics can answer: How much inventory should a seller stock at various Amazon fulfillment centers to ensure quick delivery, anywhere in the world. Read More