Innovation Economy

203 stories
Outsource your errands
Startup Alfred raises $2 million for urban butler service
An Alfred errand-runner brings in a customer's shoes for repair. Company-supplied photo.
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. Read More
Tapping tech talent in Boston
Pharmacy giant CVS Health will open digital innovation lab in Boston
CVS store
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 More
Shared digs for healthcare revolutionaries
Baystate Health opens shared space in Springfield for health care tech companies
TechSpring's workspace in downtown Springfield. Photographed in October.
Friday is the official ribbon-cutting for a new shared workspace in Springfield focused on testing and deploying new health care technologies. Baystate Health, the big nonprofit healthcare system that spawned the space, has dubbed it the Baystate Health Technology Innovation Center. But that sounds like a name coughed up by a committee, and Christian Lagier, a former entrepreneur and business development executive who will run it, says he expects everyone will call it TechSpring. Read More
Pitching in the shadow of Fenway
Here's the line-up for today's Techstars Boston startup showcase
Jakob Garrow of EdTrips high fives a group of fifth graders from Mason-Rice Elementary School in Newton, at today's demo day.
It's graduation day for the latest class of entrepreneurs participating in the Techstars Boston accelerator program. They'll pitch an audience of investors and fellow founders at the House of Blues on Landsdowne Street, hoping to get the capital and connections necessary to make it big. Among the twelve startups are teams designing new bikes for city-dwellers, devices for wireless music streaming, and sites that aim to become the OpenTable of school field trips. This is the first Techstars session run by Semyon Dukach, an angel investor, entrepreneur, and one-time leader of the MIT Blackjack Team. Read More
One less errand
Washio's laundry ninjas infiltrate Boston
Washio founder Jordan Metzner.
To the list of services that can be summoned with a few taps on your smartphone, you can now add laundry and dry cleaning. A California startup, Washio, launches in Boston this week. The company pays contractors with their own cars — they refer to them as "ninjas" — to zip around town picking up and dropping off sacks of clothing, and promises 24-hour turnaround. Washio will compete with local cleaners who already offer delivery services on price and convenience; founder Jordan Metzner says that customers can specify a half-hour window in which they'd like a pickup or dropoff to occur. Read More
Talent hunt
GSN Games' move from the suburbs to Boston all about hiring
GSN Games office locations.
One of the Bay State's biggest game-development studios is leaving the 'burbs for downtown Boston this Friday. GSN Games, which creates Web-based and mobile games like Bingo Bash and GSN Casino, had been based at the Meditech/Adobe building on Route 128 in Waltham, but is heading to 100 Summer St., a short walk from South Station. GSN Games, previously known as GSN Digital, is part of the Game Show Network, whose owners are DirecTV and Sony Pictures. Many of GSN's most popular games pay out cash prizes to players. Read More
Just for you
99Degrees collects $400,000 in funding to deliver custom clothing faster
Left to right: Fancy Faith, Brenna Schneider, and Tameria Lanier of 99Degrees Custom. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
Brenna Schneider sees customization as the future: when you order a hoodie or a pair of kicks, you should be able to make the design your own. But one of the big limitations, Schneider says, is the long wait. Since most of the products are made overseas, it can take several weeks to get what you ordered. "And of course, the e-commerce world has no tolerance for weeks," she says. "There's pressure for quicker turnaround on custom orders." Read More
Getting to know you
Acquia unveils new product to help companies market across different channels
Acquia chief technology officer Dries Buytaert, presenting today at the company's customer conference in Boston.
Acquia, a Burlington-based startup that develops products and services to enhance the open source publishing platform Drupal, is holding its first customer conference in Boston this week. Among the announcements is a new product called ContextDB, focused on helping companies market to and communicate with customers as they move from mobile devices to laptops to brick-and-mortar stores. Acquia has raised about $120 million from investors, including Amazon.com and North Bridge Venture Partners, and is often mentioned as a near-term candidate for an initial public offering. Read More
Rethinking cities
The latest urban disruptors: Uber, Postmates, FlightCar, and more
A Postmates bike courier making a delivery.
I was out in San Francisco late last month, and one of the things I did was set up some coffees, lunches, and visits with entrepreneurs and investors who are working on disruptive ideas for cities. The result was this column: "Dispatch from the disruption zone." Often, these startups find themselves operating at the edge of the law, or in conflict with existing regulations. Their role models are businesses like Uber and Airbnb, which have fought those battles before them — and also attained multi-billion-dollar valuations in the process. Read More