Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shut-downs, RunMyErrand, Healthcare IT cluster: Three recent Globe columns

I've been remiss about posting my last three Globe columns. Here they are:

1. On what happens to start-ups when they become shut-downs

    It’s suddenly a buyer’s market for all kinds of assets belonging to once-promising companies, from office furniture to patents to laboratory equipment.

    “We’re seeing anywhere from a doubling to a tripling in volume, compared to this time last year,’’ says Myron Kassaraba, a Belmont-based partner at Pluritas LLC, a firm that helps sell patents and other intellectual property. Barry Kallander, a Bolton consultant who helps wind down companies that have run out of cash, predicts: “We still may see the deluge.’’

Gregg Favalora, founder of Actuality Systems, mentioned in the article, wrote this blog post after it ran, and this one just before.

2. On RunMyErrand, a Cambridge company started by a former IBM programmer, Leah Busque

    Last June, Leah Busque quit her job at IBM. It was the first job she’d had since graduating from college in 2001, and she was a software developer on the fast track there.

    But ever since she and her husband had run out of dog food a few months earlier, Busque had become obsessed with a start-up idea: creating a network of “runners’’ around Boston who would take care of errands for busy people for a small fee.

    “I was just passionate about the idea,’’ Busque says, “and so even though the economy was already in a downturn, I was really excited to take the leap.’’

Here's Busque's blog entry elaborating on the piece.

3. On the Massachusetts people and companies that are involved with helping Obama reach his goal of a digital medical record for every American (and also spending $20 billion in stimulus money)

    Almost 50 years ago, a Harvard-educated president gave voice to a lofty ambition: to send men to the moon before the end of the 1960s. A collection of brainiacs at MIT and Raytheon designed and built the electronic navigation system that safely guided six Apollo spacecraft to the lunar surface.

    Earlier this year, another Harvard-educated president laid down another big challenge: By 2014, every American will have an electronic medical record, with the goal of cutting the cost - and improving the quality - of healthcare.

    While having your healthcare history digitized may not be as inspirational as seeing Neil Armstrong step off that ladder, it’s likely to affect your life much more directly over the next decade.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Boston's Most Innovative Display Companies

Sunday's Globe column focused on three companies trying to bring new display technologies to market: Siftables, Vitality, and A2a Media.

Here's the video, with demos from Siftables and A2a, followed by my list of the five most innovative display companies right now in the Boston area (plus a few bonus companies).

So in addition to those three companies, each of which I think has some promise, here are the five most innovative display companies in the Boston area. How do I define innovative? Cool technology with the potential to change the world. Let me know who I missed in the comments section.

    1. E Ink: Low-power, paper-like digital displays for products like Amazon's Kindle and mobile phones.

    2. Ambient Devices: Putting Internet connected displays in unexpected places, like a refrigerator magnet or umbrella handle. Former Palm CEO Carl Yankowski was enlisted last summer to help Ambient make it big.

    3. Myvu: Will consumers wear Robocop-style glasses to watch video content from their iPod? Myvu's gonna find out.

    4. CircleTwelve: A one-man effort to commercialize the DiamondTouch table developed at Cambridge's Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs. Here's some earlier Innovation Economy coverage of CircleTwelve, and a comparison of DiamondTouch and Microsoft's Surface technology.

    5. QD Vision: Enlisting quantum dots to produce brighter displays that use less power. Here's a Technology Review article on the company.

And in the honorable mention category: Actuality Systems still sells its knock-out 3-D displays, but is repositioning itself as a medical imaging company. Emo Labs is a company built atop cool technology: integrating a display and speaker, so the audio actually comes out of the screen. But they've been having trouble gaining momentum, despite some funding from Polaris Venture Partners.

On the content side, three more companies are worthy of note.

FrameMedia is a neat Wellesley company thinking about how to deliver content to Internet-connected picture frames... and LocaModa and Aerva are both exploring ways to enliven flat-screen displays in public places with all kinds of interactive content.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

BBQ for Entrepreneurs

There was an informal gathering of about 35 entrepreneurs last night at Bill Warner's Collaboration Space in Cambridge, which I helped organize.

There were founders from just about every corner of the tech world, from air taxi start-ups like Linear Air to gaming companies like Conduit Labs to printer companies like AirPrint. (Perhaps enterprise software was under-represented.) There was no panel discussion, no speeches -- just some informal introductions, schmoozing, food from Blue Ribbon Barbecue in Arlington, and beer from Pabst Blue Ribbon in Milwaukeee. Bill had an LCD projector that people could hook up to to show demos. I was especially impressed with what Actuality Systems and Veveo were showing... I'd seen LocaModa's demo before, but it was fun having a game up on the screen that people could sent text messages to to play.

Some people talked a bit about the differences between the tech scenes Boston and California (I didn't bring it up - I swear). But mostly, it was just a really interesting group of people talking about what they're up to. Amazingly, when asked for a show of hands, about 90 percent were working on some sort of consumer-oriented technology or site.

In the photo at right is Yonald Chery, new father, who brought some supplemental barbecue, turning the event into a kind of barbecue taste-off. Yonald's Memphis-style dry rub brisket is pretty incredible; he has won the catering contract for my next party.

Update: Here are Halley Suitt's Flickr photos from the event.

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