Innovation Economy

165 stories
Finding a spot, made simpler
New wave of parking apps heading for Boston, with Veer first to launch
Aaron Kolenda and Jonathan Corbin, co-founders of the parking app Veer.
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 More
Innovation Economy
Trolling campuses for the next Facebook
(From left) Barron Roth, John Moore, middle and Luke Sorensen discuss Downtyme during a development meeting at Boston University. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
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. Read More
Everything's coming up rosés
Drync wine app partners with retailers to offer pickup as option
Drync's mobile app lets users scan the label on bottles of wine to keep track of vintages they like — and re-order more.
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 More
Where are they now?
Tracking the Microsoft Startup Labs diaspora
Former Startup Labs employee Pat Kinsel, standing and gesturing to the screen. Photo courtesy of Reed Sturtevant.
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 More
App team acquired
Airbnb picks up Pencil, Cambridge startup that built scheduling app
wyth-itunes2
Airbnb has quietly acquired a small Cambridge startup, Pencil Labs. Pencil Labs had built a scheduling app called Wyth that was intended to eliminate some of the headaches of coordinating get-togethers with friends. Three of the key players at Pencil, including co-founders Carla Pellicano and Han Shu, have already relocated to San Francisco, where Airbnb is based. Read More
One card to rule them all?
My pre-Black Friday spending spree with LoopPay's mobile wallet device
looppay
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 More
Last shots
Days are numbered for secret basketball court in the Landmark Center's tower
The Landmark Center's little-known half-court is in a windowless space below the tower's top floor.
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 More
Innovation Economy
Infinite Web shelf space sparks a surge of food startups
CropCircle Kitchen employee Jackson Barros prepped jalapenos for Alex’s Ugly Sauce. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
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 More
Mad acquisition skillz
Pluralsight picks up Smarterer, focused on skill tests, for $75 million
Smarterer CEO Dave Balter and Aaron Skonnard, CEO of Pluralsight.
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 More
Beta Testing
First look: Test-riding a prototype electric bike wheel from GeoOrbital
GeoOrbital's prototype wheel, on a used Cannondale mountain bike. (Photo by Scott Kirsner / BetaBoston.)
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 More
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