A little more than five years ago, I wrote about a re-org at Microsoft's internal Startup Labs product development group. It turned out to be curtains for the Cambridge-based team, led by Reed Sturtevant — even though their old Web address still optimistically implores visitors to "please come back later." But five years on, it's clear the 2009 shakeup and ensuing departures freed up a number of people who've gone on to pollinate the local startup scene.
Read MoreApp team acquiredAirbnb picks up Pencil, Cambridge startup that built scheduling app
I've been on a little warmup spending spree this week, in advance of Black Friday. But instead of purchasing iPad Minis and scented candles for my family, I've been buying coffee and tacos around town to test a new mobile payment device from Burlington-based LoopPay. LoopPay touts its technology as "the most accepted mobile wallet on the planet," and the fantasy is appealing: stash all of your credit cards, debit cards, and gift cards in digital form on your phone, and then leave the physical versions — and perhaps your wallet, too — at home. Here's the reality.
Read MoreLast shotsDays are numbered for secret basketball court in the Landmark Center's tower
Tom Coburn will attest to the fact that my first shot in the secret basketball court went in for two.
After that, Coburn sank a few in a row. The half-court is tucked away inside the rather dark, bricked-in 12th and 13th floors of the Landmark Center's tower; back when the building was a Sears, Roebuck & Co. distribution center, the space used to hold a giant water tank. And for Coburn, the CEO of an online marketing startup called Jebbit, it's his home court. His offices are one floor up, on 14, but his lease includes one of Boston's hidden treasures.
As we approach the biggest eating week of the year, I’ve noticed a growing number of entrepreneurs in Boston trying to figure out how to get onto your shopping list and into your fridge. And investors are trying to figure out how to get a piece of the next Annie’s Organic (acquired by General Mills for $820 million this fall) or Vitaminwater (acquired by Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion).
Read MoreMad acquisition skillzPluralsight picks up Smarterer, focused on skill tests, for $75 million
You never know which meeting is going to lead to something worthwhile...
Dave Balter, founder and CEO of the online skills testing site Smarterer, was at an edtech conference in Phoenix in April. Balter had about three dozen meetings scheduled over the course of the event, but other people at the conference kept telling him he should meet the CEO of Utah-based Pluralsight, which serves up online training in the tech and creative industries. Balter sent him a quick e-mail "and we squeezed in ten minutes before everyone went to the airport," he says. A few months later, Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard flew to Boston "and we began active merger discussions," Balter says.
Read MoreBeta TestingFirst look: Test-riding a prototype electric bike wheel from GeoOrbital
Having just written about some Boston-area bike startups rethinking what the bike can be, I was excited to get a first look at a new electric wheel from GeoOrbital, a Cambridge startup. The company's premise is that millions of people don't ride their bikes very much, but they might if they could install an affordable accessory — like GeoOrbital's sub-$500 wheel — to give them extra range and keep sweat stains in check.
Read MoreOutsource your errandsStartup Alfred raises $2 million for urban butler service
Uber and Lyft made chauffeured cars accessible to non-Wall Streeters, and sites like Airbnb and Flipkey made it possible to find a sweet deal on a beachfront villa. Now Alfred, a startup born on the campus of Harvard Business School, wants to let you pay for just a fraction of a personal assistant, at $99 a month.
And today, the company is announcing its first funding round: $2 million, supplied by Boston-based Spark Capital and SV Angel of San Francisco.
Rhode Island-based CVS Health, operator of Minute Clinics and the country's second-biggest drugstore chain, is planning to open a technology development center in Boston this winter. Chief Digital Officer Brian Tilzer tells me that the CVS Health Digital Innovation Lab will fit about 100 people — some of whom will move from CVS HQ in Woonsocket, and some of whom will be new hires. "We may not hire all 100 next year, but we're going to hire a lot," Tilzer says. The lab's focus will be on "building customer-centric experiences in health care."
Read MoreInnovation EconomyBoston should host an Olympics for visionaries
There are some people who are pro-Olympics. Others simply say no to trying to bring the 2024 Summer Games to Boston. I am proposing we skip the skeet shooting and squat-lifting and instead do something entirely different: Let’s grab a gold medal for achieving something more important than putting on a Really Big Show.
Read MoreShared digs for healthcare revolutionariesBaystate Health opens shared space in Springfield for health care tech companies
Dennis Keohane and I shot a few minutes of iPhone video in the balcony at House of Blues today, reflecting on the Techstars pitches that struck us as most interesting.
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.