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 MoreTapping tech talent in BostonPharmacy giant CVS Health will open digital innovation lab in Boston
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
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.
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 MoreOne less errandWashio's laundry ninjas infiltrate Boston
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 MoreTalent huntGSN Games' move from the suburbs to Boston all about hiring
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.
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 MoreHere's your ID badge and your plectrumYou got the gig — now let's jam
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 MoreRethinking citiesThe latest urban disruptors: Uber, Postmates, FlightCar, and more
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.
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.