Go to your local supermarket and look at the produce section. You’ll probably see some oranges, some organically-grown red delicious apples, some cucumbers; if you’re making the trek out to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, you might even see some star fruit or black sapotes. But there’s one constant when it comes to all the produce on display: it all looks wonderful. There aren’t a lot of blemishes or bruises, and the fruits and vegetables are usually a consistent color. Everything seems ready for Food & Wine.
Another week, another Boston-area tech IPO. The latest public company in town is HubSpot, based in Cambridge. The marketing software company netted about $114 million in its public offering, and is now valued at over $900 million. The news comes on the heels of online retailer Wayfair’s IPO, but this isn’t really a new era in Boston tech. Both companies have been around for years; they raised a lot of money from investors, hired big teams, and built global businesses. What is clear is that after many years, Boston is finally pulling its weight in the tech IPO market.
Here’s the Boston tech scene, in a nutshell: Hardi Meybaum comes from Estonia, the country that gave us Skype. He moved to the Boston area in 2010, with his online product-design startup, GrabCAD. New England has a rich history in computer-aided design, with SolidWorks, Parametric Technology, and others. GrabCAD went through the Techstars accelerator program and raised about $14 million from four Boston venture firms. This week, the 50-person startup was acquired by 3D printing giant Stratasys for $100 million. Which sounds like a good outcome, but part of me wonders if GrabCAD could have been the next billion-dollar Boston company.
As you head to work this morning, your workspace sits empty, awaiting your return. Maybe it’s a cubicle, a windowless box, or a corner office with a view of Boston harbor. Whatever it is, that may change soon, in order to not only accommodate but attract a younger workforce.
Apple’s latest product announcements are being felt across New England. Mobile payment startups like LevelUp and Paydiant see opportunity in having iPhones and smart watches speed up adoption of paying with your device. Meanwhile, health-and-fitness tech companies like RunKeeper and Quanttus have to be wary about the tech giant’s dive into health monitoring. In both cases, the innovation bar has been raised, and smaller companies will have to deliver more in terms of insights and results. But the real battle is probably going to be over who owns all the data---and who might exploit it.
The marketing hype of “big data” seems to have died down. The question is, what’s next? Boston-area companies like RStudio, Tamr, and DataGravity are working on new classes of data-related problems. One area is providing analytics tools and insights for specific industries like finance or real estate. Another is making smarter storage systems that can tell corporations more about their own data. There’s also a market for cleaning up the data so it can be better analyzed — that’s called “data wrangling.” Together, these efforts aren’t very glamorous, but they do highlight where big data might actually be used in the business world.
Competition is viewed as a good thing, especially here in the U.S. After all, it’s the root of capitalism and the point of any sport. But a new study examining the dynamic between men and women in a competitive work environment suggests some things that might make you squirm in your ergonomic office chair.
Tech startups are getting deeper into urban agriculture and food. Boston-area companies like Freight Farms and Grove Labs are building businesses around apps and sensors that can monitor growing conditions in indoor spaces like homes and shipping containers. The idea is to grow vegetables using less water and land than a traditional farm. Now the jury’s still out on whether the sector will really take off beyond niche applications and high-end supermarkets. But the potential is there to provide more locally grown produce---and, eventually, to help feed more of the world’s growing urban population.
Energy companies are in the news again, for better or worse. While there have been some high-profile failures, one area that’s growing is energy efficiency. Boston-area startups like Crowd Comfort, FirstFuel, and Retroficiency are taking a page from the tech industry playbook and creating “data platforms” to try to attract developers. The idea is to get industry partners to build on top of all the information and analytics coming from utilities and building-management systems. Established companies like EnerNOC, for example, are already pretty far along in getting people to build apps around their data on energy use.
For a shade less than $500, you can own one of the world's first family robots: Jibo.
Although it may be more Jetsons than Star Wars, it's captured the attention of the academic-technology-and-finance complex. The debate is intense among those who favor (or oppose) using robots to help care for our kids as well as aging parents.
The Boston biotech IPO train may be starting up again. After a couple of slow months, obesity drugmaker Zafgen has brought in $96 million in its Nasdaq debut and saw its stock price rise more than 20 percent. And Syndax Pharmaceuticals has been preparing to go public this week; the Waltham company is working on an experimental drug for breast cancer. Meanwhile, Cambridge-based Sage Therapeutics has filed its paperwork for an IPO down the road. Sage is working on a number of new drug candidates that target neurological disorders. So, that’s three interesting companies to watch this summer.
The future will be data-driven, personalized and with way more robots. These were a few of the big takeaways at the Xconomy's Boston 2034 conference as entrepreneurs and inventors played fortune-tellers for a day. Data collection, whether it’s from bicycles detecting air quality or software tracking every bodily function, will provide more information about us than we thought we wanted to know.
As the school year comes to an end, the education tech climate is heating up. Blackboard, led by Boston-area CEO Jay Bhatt, is a longtime leader in edtech—but it needs to expand, in part by going international. Bhatt is a former math teacher who previously helped lead Autodesk and Progress Software, two companies that did the majority of their business overseas. Now, as he points out, the globalization of education is just starting to take off. And students in India, China, and Brazil are going to be reached on devices, and by international brands. We’ll have to see if Blackboard is one of them.
Jared Diamond, scientist and author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel," talked to Innovation Hub about the factors that contribute to the success — or failure — of civilizations, from the environment to health to political structures.
Young people, he believes, will have to confront issues that have been insufficiently addressed by world governments — particularly climate change.
The White House hosted its annual science fair Tuesday with a special focus on girls and women who have excelled in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields. Over a hundred students from across the country showed off their inventions or groundbreaking research, including two girls from Natick High School.
When Mark Zuckerberg left Boston 10 years ago for Silicon Valley, no one knew how much his company would be missed. Now Facebook has come full circle, opening an engineering office in Kendall Square that’s working on problems that could be crucial to the company’s future. As Facebook Boston leader Ryan Mack puts it, his team is “thinking about the next few billion users”---and that will require major tech advances in databases, networking, and compilers. With Twitter, Amazon, and other giants expanding locally, the Boston area is fast becoming a critical front in the battle for talent and tech supremacy.
Not that anyone is moving to the moon any time soon, but astronauts could continue their binge-watching habits in space thanks to researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Lab. The MIT/NASA lunar laser communication team has come up with a way to transmit large amounts of data from earth to the moon at broadband-wireless speed.
In Massachusetts, six of every 10 inmates released from state and county prisons commit new crimes within six years. But a nationwide initiative wants to prepare inmates so that when they leave, they improve their chances of never coming back.
Where can you find the largest number of cleantech startups under one roof? Try Somerville, which is home to Greentown Labs, a co-working space that’s three years old this week. That might come as a surprise; there’s a feeling that energy companies are down when it comes to investment. But Greentown’s 40-odd startups, including Altaeros Energies, Dynamo Micropower, and Grove Labs, are working around traditional venture capital and going straight to corporate partners and customers. This is a hot area to watch as we wait to see what’s next for green energy in Massachusetts.
When doctors come across a complex case, they usually discuss it with their colleagues over email or lunch. They’re generally limited to their own informal networks of physicians and specialists. A local company wants to change that by changing the ways doctors communicate.
More than 35 percent of Americans sleep about six hours a night — an hour less than what we were averaging 70 years ago. But with the dawn of the ever-present smartphone and tablet, there all kind of apps and gadgets that are supposed to help us sleep better. So what's keeping us up in the first place? And what we’re doing about it?
It’s a typical night and I’m getting ready for bed. I place my glass of water on the bedside table, read a few pages of my book, glance at my phone one last time for any text messages or replies to any tweets, and I turn off the light. The glow of my phone calls out to me. I close my eyes.
Boston-area companies are making progress in the war on cancer. Agios Pharmaceuticals has reported its first clinical results from a cancer metabolism drug, which fights leukemia by stopping cancer cells from being born. It’s a very early trial, but six out of seven patients responded well to the drug; that’s good news for Agios, which became publicly traded last July. Meanwhile, fellow Cambridge firm Cerulean Pharma has been moving toward its IPO this week; the company is using nanoparticle technology to deliver anti-tumor drugs to kidney, ovarian, and rectal cancer patients. Two very different approaches, but one common goal.
You know the slogan “there’s an app for that.” It started as an Apple ad campaign and has evolved into a fact of life. From tracking your calories to naming the song on the radio, you can use your smartphone or tablet to help with almost anything. And now, a group at the Harvard Innovation Lab has developed an app that could change how musicians practice their craft.
When you play a video game, you’re generally on a mission. As you battle your way through various terrain, slaughtering aliens, beheading zombies and reloading your ammo, one key element is with you the entire time: the soundtrack.
The field of education technology is growing up in the Boston area. Companies like TenMarks, Panorama Education, and Playrific are challenging the idea that it’s hard to sell software to K-12 students and schools. The startups are also pushing districts and publishers to raise their game when it comes to making educational materials more engaging and interactive.
Hundreds of students, doctors, designers, engineers and entrepreneurs gathered in an innovation incubator at MIT this past weekend. Their goal? To develop solutions to some of health care’s most perplexing problems.