In boom times for the tech industry, the bands playing the private parties and customer conferences get more recognizable. This year, acts like OK Go, Parliament Funkadelic, and the Dropkick Murphys have played for fist-pumping crowds of social media mavens, digital publishing gurus, and roboticists.
Read MoreChanneling the frustrationMobile app Shelfie wants to let shoppers cash in on empty shelves
Shelfie is not only an au courant name for an app, but a cool concept for these next few weeks of retail frenzy. Once you have the Android or iPhone apps, whenever there's a product you're hunting for that's out-of-stock, you use it to snap a picture of the empty shelf. The info about what's not there will be valuable to both retailers and product manufacturers, Shelfie posits. The shopper's reward? Points that can be converted into gift cards for use at places like Starbucks, Amazon, or Target.
Read MoreFinding a spot, made simplerNew wave of parking apps heading for Boston, with Veer first to launch
Has your mobile phone not quite eliminated the headache of parking in Harvard Square or the North End? A trio of new startups hope they can help — and none of them is attempting to "monetize" city-controlled street spots, as the Baltimore startup Haystack tried to do this past summer. The first to launch is Veer, which shows up in Apple's iTunes Store today.
Read MoreInnovation EconomyTrolling campuses for the next Facebook
Two April days, separated by a decade. Two college sophomores walk into the Charles Square complex in Cambridge to meet with prospective investors. They’ve both built apps to help students communicate with friends on campus, and attracted a small community of users.
Things are looking up for Bay State oenophiles. On Jan. 1, it becomes legal for wineries to ship their products directly to your doorstep. And starting this week, the Somerville startup Drync is making it possible to order a bottle or a case through its mobile app and pick it up at a local retailer.
Read MoreWhere are they now?Tracking the Microsoft Startup Labs diaspora
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.
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.
Read MoreInnovation EconomyInfinite Web shelf space sparks a surge of food startups
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.
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.