Earlier this year, the digital marketing firm Constant Contact said that it was creating a new space to house startups that serve small business customers. Today, the company is announcing the first group of four businesses selected for what Constant Contact has dubbed the Small Business InnoLoft. In addition to office space and mentorship from Constant Contact employees and other startup experts, the companies chosen get $10,000 in marketing money.
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Maybe I'm a little obsessed with the future of design, but for me, the three most interesting pitches at today's Betaspring investor demo day in Boston were all about 3D design and output. Betaspring, the Providence-based accelerator program, bused its current crop of startups to District Hall today to pitch a small audience of investors; a larger demo day takes place tomorrow evening in Rhode Island.
Ordinarily, you wouldn't review the dress rehearsal of a play, or the friends-and-family night of a restaurant about to open. And that's what today was for Bridj, the private bus service. The company is operating test routes this month from Brookline to Boston's Financial District and Kendall Square, Cambridge, with passengers riding free. If it was a disaster, I wasn't planning to post anything. But my trip went swimmingly — except for the journalists prowling the aisle trying to interview everyone, shooting video, and snapping pics. (I wasn't among them...)
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Odds are good that no one at yesterday's "Computing the Future" symposium at MIT, organized to mark the 50th anniversary of computer science and artificial intelligence research at the school, imagined they'd be watching a black-and-white video clip of Julia Child deftly slicing potatoes. But Matt Mason of Carnegie Mellon University showed it to make a point: technology is still far behind humans when it comes to perceiving and interacting with the world. Mason and other speakers who focused on the robotics field emphasized how many problems remain to be solved. Perhaps the biggest laugh of yesterday morning's session came during another video clip, when the AlphaDog robot from Boston Dynamics, above, was pushed by an employee trying to test its stability — and promptly rolled over and smashed into a parked car. "That's the new guy's car," another employee noted.
A cadre of large financial services and technology firms have been working for more than a year on a new program called the Fintech Sandbox that aims to support early-stage financial services startups in Boston and elsewhere. Key players behind the program include Fidelity Investments, Thomson Reuters, Amazon.com, the venture capital firm .406 Ventures, and startup BuysideFX. Sandbox supervisor Rocky Weitz, formerly CEO and co-founder of the Boston startup CargoMetrics, says the plan is to have it up and running later this year.
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These are boom times for the innovation economy in Boston and Cambridge. Venture capital firms and big companies are moving from the suburbs to scout deals and reel in young talent. Wannabe entrepreneurs are ditching stable jobs to go the startup route.
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Without making a splashy announcement, Autodesk started inviting startups to shack up at its Waltham facility last month. There are about 20 desks dedicated to what the company calls its STIR program, for Startups-In-Residence. And the maker of engineering and design software has already filled about half that space with three fledgling companies, according to Autodesk senior director Rick Rundell, and there are plans to bring in several more over the summer.
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.