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 MoreMeet the lone Super Bowl veteran who works in Boston's startup scene
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 MoreFollow the moneyFund Wisdom tries to make sense of emerging business of equity crowdfunding
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 MoreThey've got your spotPredictive parking startup Smarking heads west for Y Combinator program
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.
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 MoreBiker clubhouseWith grant money, Fortified Bike plans a hangout for Boston's bike community
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 MoreMobile tech for museum-goersSpotzer, deploying tech to enhance museum visits, raises first funding
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.
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 MoreDeja vu all over againDriftt, out to improve collaboration on documents, collects $15 million
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 MoreSpawning more startupsPureTech pockets $50 million to bring life sciences ideas out of the lab
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.
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 the Convergence Forum. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.