URL slug: 
boston

An Analysis: 2012 Downtown Boston Leasing Trends

March 19, 2013

An Analysis: 2012 Downtown Boston Leasing Trends

If you are a tenant in
the market for office space in Boston this year, you may want to consider the
findings of Cassidy Turley’s research team.  Our analysis of Boston’s 2012 deals pinpoints trends and changes in a
city that is beginning to rival Cambridge’s Kendall Square as a hub for start-ups
and tech firms.

The city has
historically been home to the region’s most traditional (Finance/Insurance/Real
Estate and Business Services) organizations so it’s no surprise that nearly
half of the deals executed in Boston last year were with tenants in the FIRE
industries.  What may be surprising is
the rapidly growing popularity of downtown Boston among start-ups and
technology entrepreneurs as an alternative to Kendall Square – 44% of the deals
signed in the Seaport District were with technology-based firms.  Diminishing availability in the Seaport
District has pushed rental rates in the young neighborhood to levels comparable
to established markets such as Back Bay.

What hasn’t changed
(yet) is low rise (floors 1-12) space in the Financial District as a value play
– where rents were, on average, 18% lower than those in mid-rise space (floors
13-22).  While certain landlords
consistently achieved above-market rents, others have loosened credit standards
and are becoming more start-up friendly. Keep in mind that demand from growing
technology firms is increasing, and rent premiums are expected to climb in the
next two quarters.

We hope you
will find the following analysis helpful as you navigate the city.  

To see a larger version of the infographic, please click here or on the image below.

Ashley Lane is the Director of Research at Cassidy Turley in Boston.  You can follow Cassidy Turley on Twitter (@CassidyTurleyMA) by clicking here.

StartLabs Spurs Entrepreneurship at MIT

March 19, 2013

StartLabs Spurs Entrepreneurship at MIT

Thanks
to the Mark Zuckerbergs and Sean Fannings of the world (Fanning founded Napster
while at Northeastern), entrepreneurship thrives on campuses across Boston and
Cambridge, and StartLabs at MIT exemplifies this
entrepreneurial spirit. Founded in the summer of 2011 by MIT engineering
students, StartLabs merged with the MIT Startup Club and continues to nurture
entrepreneurship within MIT and the broader community.

The
group was designed to give scientists and engineers the tools to start a
company, according to Turner Bohlen, who was Director of StartLabs for the past
year and now serves on the student advisory comment. The Physics major says the
organization caters to students “who don’t know enough about the
entrepreneurship ecosystem to be able to place themselves in the ecosystem.
When would venture capitalists be interested in funding them? They don’t
necessarily know what their next steps are, so we help out a lot there.”

Adds Bruno
Faviero, an MIT sophomore studying Computer Science who recently stepped in as Director
of StartLabs, “we have a diverse array of entrepreneurship resources [at MIT],
so I’d love to think of StartLabs as a … unifying force to take advantage of
all our resources.”

StartLabs
has space for about 25 people in MIT’s International Design Centre. On
Wednesdays from five to midnight, StartLabs hosts SLACK Time (a contraction of
“stay late and hack”) so that aspiring entrepreneurs can use equipment such as
laser cutters and woodworking tools or seek advice from visiting lawyers or
venture capital advisors. Faviero says his goal is to teach people something
new each week, whether it’s a workshop on pitching or another aspect of running
a startup.

So far,
StartLabs has helped launch several startups including a medical adherence app
called Nightingale,
a cab-sharing app called SplitMyTaxi (which recently launched at
Boston University), and a biological battery sciences company working on a
battery for use in Third World Countries that will create energy by pouring in
sugar.

In
February, StartLabs ran a Startup Career Fair with about 63 companies and 400
students. Delian Asparouhov, an MIT sophomore who helped organize the fair,
says attendees responded well to the less formal atmosphere of the event. “A
lot of career fairs at MIT are very formal with long booths and everyone is in
suits,” he says. “By having only tall cocktail tables and providing state fair
food, the environment was much more relaxed and fun. A lot of students and
employers came up to me after the fair and thanked me for having such a
different environment that made it much easier to meet and talk with people.”

StartLabs
also hosts an annual Startup Bootcamp, which Faviero hopes to refine going
forward. “I’d love to see that as more of an actual boot camp: a short amount
of time with a high-intensity, quick course on how to become an entrepreneur,”
he says. “I want people to see that any idea can be a great idea. If you put
some thought into it, great things can happen. I want them to learn things but
also do things. That’s the best way to get a great experience.”

Susan Johnston is a journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Susan on Twitter (@UrbanMuseWriter) by clicking here.

VF Tidbits: Tim Curran Joins Sample6 Technologies as CEO

March 18, 2013

VF Tidbits: Tim Curran Joins Sample6 Technologies as CEO

VentureFizz Tidbits... news you can use:

Sample6
Technologies
, the developer of the world’s fist synthetic biology-based,
“enrichment-free” bacterial monitoring platform, has appointed Tim Curran as
Chief Executive Officer. Curran has an over 20 year record of success leading
technology companies, including as CEO of Vela Systems, which he led to an
acquisition by Autodesk in 2012. Previously, he was CEO of Eleven Technologies
which was acquired by Trimble Navigation in 2006.  READ MORE

Highlights From Startup Institute's GiveHack [Slideshow]

March 18, 2013

Highlights From Startup Institute's GiveHack [Slideshow]

Hopping into the seventh
floor elevator at Communispace with an armful of candy boxes, Matt Slaman
wanted to revamp his sales pitch.

“We should offer free
candy,” he exclaimed.  “Who doesn’t love free candy?”

Most of Slaman’s team was
still upstairs, but from among the 45 students and alumni assembled at Startup
Institute Boston’s (SIB) GiveHack event last Saturday, a handful were out campaigning
in the streets.  In six separate teams, and paired with mentors from
previous classes at SIB, these young entrepreneurs were participating in the
Institute’s first ever GiveHack, a three-hour intensive exercise in developing
and launching a fundraising campaign.

“They’ve been thrown into a
realistic startup scenario,” explained Kailey Raymond, SIB’s Program Manager
and an alumna of the Institute’s Summer 2012 class.  “They have no initial
funding and must rely on their own creativity and entrepreneurship to
accomplish a common goal.”

The teams are working to
raise $500 in donations for One Laptop Per Child by the end of this week (March
23rd).  Each team is required to host its online campaign on the
Boston-based social fundraising platform Fundraise.com.

“Startup Institute is
entirely about community,” Raymond said in explaining their choice of online
platform. “Fundraising in partnership with local companies through events like
GiveHack is one of many ways we work to reinvest in the vibrant Boston tech
community that has allowed SIB to thrive.”

Aside from these basic
guidelines, there are no limits on how the GiveHack teams choose to engage
potential donors.  Only one other rule was scrawled casually on the
whiteboards in the Communispace classroom: “Don’t break the law.”

As we raced downstairs with
additional candy boxes, Slaman explained that he was grateful for the chance to
apply skills he is learning at SIB in a focused and real-world setting.

“As a networker I know I
have to employ a diverse range of strategies to support myself and the causes I
believe in” he explained. “Putting a face to a cause is always productive, and
today it might bring new people into the fold of Boston donors supporting
OLPC.”

Brooke Morrissey, who was
already outside with her team’s billboards, said her team had taken that
concept even further.

“Our team has tried to
maintain a personal element in our networking and fundraising across the board.
Our online strategy reflects that.  We’re posting team photos, building
our digital footprint through social media, and reaching out to a variety of
contacts in the Startup Institute network.”

Their approach seemed
effective, as Slaman, Morrissey and their peers had reportedly raised $130 for
their teams by five o’clock that day. As their numbers indicate, however, each
team still has a ways to go.  If you’re interested in making a donation,
you can do so here.

Ben Mirin is a
professional videographer, journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Ben on Twitter (@benmirin) by clicking here.

ZeroTurnaround Acquires Java Development Tool Company, Javeleon

March 18, 2013

ZeroTurnaround Acquires Java Development Tool Company, Javeleon

ZeroTurnaround, the international software development
productivity company funded by Bain
Capital Ventures
, announced that it has acquired
Javeleon, a Java development tool company. Originally headquartered in Estonia,
ZeroTurnaround, moved its global sales center to Boston a couple of years ago according to the BBJ.

The acquisition of Javeleon, a company
whose product eliminates the need for the restarting of applications while
developing Java projects, adds to ZeroTurnaround’s own dynamic coding software
productivity resources, including JRebel and the recently unveiled LiveRebel 2.6.

The deal also gives ZeroTurnaround
exclusive rights to the intellectual property related to Javeleon’s products.
Javeleon’s technologies are a commercialization of innovations from the Maersk
McKinney Moeller Institute at the University of Southern Denmark that were
developed to decrease the downtime which slows down coding in Java as well as
other coding environments. The company’s co-founders, Dr. Allan Gregersen and
Michael Rasmussen will join ZeroTurnaround’s team in Estonia, helping the
company to maintain it status as an industry leader in multi-environment coding
productivity solutions.

In the press release to announce the
acquisition, both companies expressed their excitement at the possibilities
brought by the new partnership. Javeleon’s Dr.
Gregersen said, “We have admired the ZeroTurnaround success story for years,
and we believe our involvement will positively impact ZeroTurnaround’s future
growth.” Added ZeroTurnaround’s co-founder and CEO Jevgeni Kabanov, “We welcome
this opportunity to work with Allan and Michael, and we think our customers
will be equally happy with the results.”

Dennis Keohane is a teacher, journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.

3 Steps to Making A+ Hires that Fit

April 1, 2013

3 Steps to Making A+ Hires that Fit

When only the best will do...

We
all know a company is only as good as its team, which is why the hiring
process is so critical as you build out your venture. And anyone who
has made a bad hire along the way (as most of us have) knows that hiring
the wrong person can cost you far more than time and money. It
ultimately makes the difference between market leaders and market
laggards - or worse still - failed ventures entirely.

So
what can we learn from this? As I transitioned from an entrepreneur of
two decades to a VC over the last decade I was determined to study this,
and observed the same fundamental mistake made over and over again.

Startups often hire the brightest talent
they can find, expecting it to mean they will produce the greatest
results, without checking for whether those hires are the best fit.

In
fact, some startups in their enthusiasm recruit aggressively, selling
hard, or paying up to get the perceived best person, only to find they
just don’t fit. With all the right intentions, I see great
entrepreneurs, founders, investors and even boards use substantial
powers of persuasion to compete for what they consider the best
candidates. But with all the will in the world, a force-fitted hire may
work for some period of time but ultimately it will be rejected like a
misplaced organ transplant.

And finding people who fit does not
mean giving up on diversity. Personally, I believe strongly in the
benefits of diversity in teams and organizations. In fact, by definition
diversity allows a company to collect from a fuller range of talents,
capabilities, and learnings available in the labor pool. And I've also
seen first-hand that:

  • diversity fosters more innovation and creativity;
  • diverse backgrounds and experiences bring broader problem solving skills;
  • different perspectives and 'lenses' born of diverse backgrounds help teams find solutions that might otherwise be overlooked;
  • serving
    a global customer base, a diverse workforce can better personally
    relate to and understand international needs, styles and approaches.

Now
- what should you do to ensure a prospective hire is a great fit? This
article shares a framework comprised of three areas of focus critical to
hiring success.

By
leveraging this framework, you should be able to build an A+ team of
hires that will play an integral role in your company’s success. The
three areas you need to address are:

1. Will they reinforce and add to your culture?

2. Will they really love the job?

3. Can they be successful at the job?

As simple as these steps seem to be, they play a vital role in bringing on the right type of hire.

Step 1: Will they reinforce and add to your culture?

This
question is important in that you don’t want to fall into the trap of
simply hiring for smarts. Many founders like to start with IQ
measurement, which is important (and will be covered in Step 3 below).
However, even the brightest person will fail if they are disrespectful
of your values, divisive or political, and unable to socially connect
with your team. So, your hiring process could start with a focus on CQ
(Cultural Quality) and EQ (Emotional Quotient).

Cultural Quality (CQ)

When
evaluating for Cultural Quality, you need to ask yourself: does this
person naturally align with your cultural values, work ethic, and style
of working? As part of this process you should feel comfortable with (or
better yet – inspired by) their passions, beliefs and aspirations.

In fact, there are specific interview questions designed to help you asses CQ, such as: What are you passionate about?

By
being mindful of CQ, each person involved in the hiring process should
be able to rate the cultural quality of fit of the candidate and should
ultimately check their gut instincts. The result? A hire that will be
additive to you culture and have a positive impact on company morale and
success rather than be dilutive or worse still divisive.

*If you haven’t declared your culture explicitly, take a look at approaches related to Company Formation because it’s foundational to this process and serves as a key filter for CQ and hiring.

Emotional Quotient (EQ)

Alongside
CQ is EQ, which speaks to how aware people are of themselves; their
fellow players and how they build functional connections and
relationships that are appropriate to the situation.

This is an important measure in a startup hire for many reasons, such as the need for speed, multipliers and intimacy.

Speed

Startups
by definition have limited resources and the number one way they can
compete with larger players is by moving fast. That requires people
adept at what I call “speed teaming”. This involves the formation of
cross-functional and interdisciplinary teams that would simply be too
organizationally onerous or politically challenging in larger companies,
yet absolutely advantageous for startups. And individually, good
startup hires are great at experimenting and failing fast, yet learning
even faster. (I call this having a high “learn/burn” rate and it’s vital
for startup investing) This all takes a certain EQ in a team not just
IQ.

Multipliers

Secondly, organizations
with good EQ (collectively across the employee base) multiply their
effectiveness externally. For example, they are able to build
relationships with key partners that provide leverage in their sales and
marketing. And they build better stakeholder relationships in general
that improve their support base, costs or time to market with supportive
supply chains and even investor groups.

Intimacy

And
as a last example, EQ is critical for early customer intimacy, an
often-crucial part of the startup success formula. This intimacy helps
shorten the time and distance in market feedback cycles and drives
faster product cycles, fosters loyalty and translates into critical
elements in a business like low churn rate.

Without EQ in your team from the outset, a startup is likely to sub optimize or worse still face significant challenges.

I’m
sure you can think of many other reasons to recruit for EQ, so be sure
to include them in your hiring scorecard. It’s often proven to be a more
important measure than IQ in business success, and critical for a
functional startup. Example questions to get you started include:

  • What do people think of you?
  • What work relationships are you most proud of and why?
  • What environment do you like to create?

… see the presentation below for other questions

As
you can see, in reviewing the first step alone there is a lot to
consider when interviewing candidates for your venture. Invest in
thinking differently about your hiring process and you will find
enormous benefits.

Step 2: Will they really love the job?

For an ideal hire, you’ll seek out your candidate’s passions and aspirations and check for alignments with the vision and mission of your business and the role you want them to play.

If
they are inspired to go after the goals you are pursuing and see their
particular role as meeting their own aspirations then they will likely
be a good hire. Why? Because they will be doing the job for their reasons - not just yours. You’ll tap into their energy – while inspiring them with yours – resulting in a mutual fit.

And
don’t worry about being too literal on this front. Few people - other
than the founders or real natural entrepreneurs – may have vision.
However, the candidate should at least be able to relate to your goals
in some way. Good leaders help people see the impact individual roles
and objectives can have on the bigger picture, ensuring employees feel
they really can make a difference.   

Through this approach, you
can at least tap your potential recruit’s personal aspirations and
determine if they naturally align with those of the position offered. At
a minimum, make sure they are not opposed to it.

In the end, no
matter the assigned role, people tend to naturally fall back to doing
what they enjoy. Therefore, try to uncover their passions early and
check if they meet your needs and have a place on your team.

Simply
put, people who are passionate about what they do tend to take pride in
and thrive in their role…and the results and rewards typically follow
from that.

Step 3: Can they be successful at the job?

Evaluate for IQ and EKS balance

This
is often the easiest question to answer as it relies on more tangible
measures of your potential hire’s capabilities. IQ is very important,
but not every role is about IQ, so I strongly advocate breaking a job
down into the required Experience, Knowledge and Skills so that
candidates can be appropriately assessed beyond just how intelligent
they are.

The key question I always ask is:

  1. What is the most relevant Experience, Knowledge or Skill (EKS) you bring to the job?

(Obviously you have to drill into the EKS that you need to match your job spec.)

This question brings out the basics and if they’re listening the key word is “relevant”. This will tell you how much thinking they’ve done about your particular job and how (in their mind) they fit it.

All of this said, there is one area in particular I love to dig into - experimentation and problem solving.
If you’re going to make a difference as a startup, hopefully it’s a big
difference! And that may imply a breakout strategy or a breakthrough
discovery or even invention, and at least some experimentation. Example
questions include:

  • How do you experiment?
  • In your previous role(s), what did you learn, prove and act on?
  • What are examples of problems that arose and where did they lead you?

Think
about what EKS is relevant to you and what attributes might be
important to the particular job you’re hiring for. And whether it’s
intense creativity for a hire in your design team or at the other
extreme, plodding patience for your support group, weight them on your
hiring checklist appropriately. One oft forgotten that’s pretty nearly
always required in a startup for example is risk tolerance.

Identify the A players

Startups
all want to hire ‘A’ players – and this can be accomplished by looking
at three important ‘A’s. With Ability being the first ‘A’, that we’ve
largely covered, two more to look for are Aptitude and Attitude.

Aptitude

Previous
EKS is great. But with the rapid growth and change typical in a
startup, you need the Aptitude to be able to adapt and learn new skills
and knowledge or you’ll just as rapidly fall behind. Personally, I look
for quick learners who are hungry to self-educate and are adept at
handling change. Remember, if you’re going to make real breakthroughs,
you will require a willingness to fail fast and learn even faster, as
you break into new areas with undefined outcomes or boundaries.

Attitude

This
brings into play the other ‘A’. Attitude. Pursuing breakout
opportunities requires the right Attitude toward things like problem
solving, persistence, and participation in a team.

At
early stage startups for example, I look for self-starters with
positive attitudes who have the courage to embrace challenges as
opportunities to learn and not just for themselves, but also from and
with others.

A-players not only have the right Ability but also the right Aptitude and Attitude.

 

The + factor

In
this world of hyper-competition, people often extend the notion of ‘A’
players to looking for A+ players. The best startups are clear that they
have to have an edge in pursuing talent and they find ways to define
it. It can be elusive, and I have talked to many startups about this.
Everyone will have their own way of defining what makes their team stand
out. But what might be in that A+ for you? There are three things I
look for: Athletes, who are Self-Aware and truly Authentic. They’re all
pretty obvious qualities, but specifically relevant to startups.

Athletes

 Athletes
(not necessarily literally physical athletes, though that can correlate
too) often triumph over adversity, using their strength of mind and
trained goal driven persistence. And startups in particular need the
agility of an Athlete to adopt to change as discussed earlier.

Self-Aware

I
also love working with people who are self-aware because they are easy
to work with and they are open about their self-professed strengths and
weaknesses. This makes it easy to add people around them to complement
them and set them up for success. They then usually team better with
others and are amenable to mentoring and coaching.

Authentic

And
last but not least, the hire really needs to be Authentic. Believe it
or not I find some people have even convinced themselves of some things
they really are not! For instance, a sales person may convince you with
their selling skills that they are a fit when they really aren’t.
Nothing against sales people, as I was one once, and respect the role.
But it’s their job to sell and you don’t want to sell or be sold in an
interview. There need to be authentic synergies between the startup and the hire.

Make Each Interview Count

To
ensure a great fit, you need to be strategic with your interview
process. This includes developing thoughtful questions and listening
closely to the answers. The slide show below includes a compendium of
many of the questions I like to ask, but consider them as guidelines and
nothing more. They are simply my own way of getting you to think about
how to get to know a candidate. Keep in mind: every job and every
candidate is different (and therefore every interview unique). Some of
the best interviews I have enjoyed have gone completely off script and
conversational in a natural way. In the end, I still try to cover the
key aspects that enable me to understand a potential hire thoroughly.


I
highly recommend you find your own personal approach to interviewing,
based on your startup’s culture, and then add your own style to it. For
example, sometimes to get my candidates to relax, I take them for a
walk. Ultimately, however you do it, you need to feel comfortable with
the real person in front of you.

And that brings me full circle to
conclude where I started out. It really is all about fit. If you can
work your hiring process to evaluate whether you genuinely have found
someone who can be successful in the job; love it for their reasons too;
and reinforce your culture, you are likely onto a great hire. It will
be a mutual fit, one that will not require you selling them to join you.
They will know it’s right for them, just as you will know it’s right
for you.

And as ever, with humility, I am curious to hear what you
have learned from your hiring experiences that we may share for other
entrepreneurs to benefit.

Michael Skok is a Partner with North Bridge Venture Partners.  You can find this post, as well as additional content on his blog located here.  You can also follow Michael on Twitter (@mjskok) by clicking here.

Slate - Boston’s Mark on Tablet Computing in… 1990?

March 17, 2013

Slate - Boston’s Mark on Tablet Computing in… 1990?

The iPad is one of the coolest, new things in the last 3
years. Definitely cool. An inspiration in so many ways. But is it new???

In the early 1990’s, there was some amazing work being done by
a company in the Boston area on a new type of portable computer called a
tablet.  The company was called Slate,
which was Co-Founded by Dan Bricklin (co-inventor of the first spreadsheet /
VisiCalc) and I was fortunate to be part of the team as a VP of Product.

We were a software company building tablet
applications.  It was heady stuff…
creating new ways to interact with computers through gestures, rethinking apps,
and thinking hard about all that you could do, that couldn’t be done with a
keyboard and mouse.

Slate created a broad range of apps: a pen-enabled
spreadsheet called @Hand – a precursor to all the @’s we see today, a note
taking/drawing app, a calendar app, a forms package, a fax send/receive/markup
app and more. Slate even did an early version of eBooks.

We were very busy for 4 years and we were doing innovative
work in UI and HCI. And we made some breakthrough technology. There was a lot
of creative thinking about how tablets could make work and life easier.  It would allow people to do all of their work
on these tablets, creating documents, pictures, emails, etc. – not to just
consume static content. The benefits and marketing messages were remarkably the
same as what we see today: mobile, work anywhere, stay in touch,
anyone-can-use-it technology.

The tablets of the 90’s were cool, too. Tablets had special
pens to write on the screen. In fact, the technology was called Pen Computing.
The major hardware players and many new players were in the game – IBM (an
early ThinkPad), Toshiba, Compaq, Grid, Apple, NEC. Even NCR got in the game. And
upstarts Momenta and a fledgling Palm introduced tablets, too.

The operating systems came from GO Corporation, PenPoint,
and Microsoft, Windows for Pen Computing.

In many ways, tablets haven’t changed all that much. The
earlier tablets had touch screens, local storage and connectivity. Digital
cameras (the few that existed at that time) could connect and display photos
instantly. You could fill out forms and send them through the airwaves to be
processed at the home office. All of this, though, was far less elegant than
today’s tablets. No question.

Some of the cool innovations from back then:

Gestures – going way beyond swipes to flip to
the next page or pinching the screen to zoom. GO’s operating system had many
built-in gesture tools, e.g. writing an X on a word or graphic deleted it, just
as you were used to doing on paper. And, the OS had swipes for turning the page
in their first release. Directly working with objects using a pen was very
different from moving and dragging a mouse. Gestures seemed easy and natural.

Looking ahead, gestures are going 3-D, like the breakthrough technology from
Oblong. Caveat, my nephew, John, is one of the principles there. Even the Wii
takes you into 3-D for interacting with video games.

See the GO video that introduced PenPoint for some interesting and still useful
ideas for working with a tablet or surface computer. Samsung, are you reading
this?

Ink – a natural for Pen Computing. Pens were
used to sketch, to mark up a fax, to comment on documents. Or, in our
notetaking app, the ink let you doodle and have fun - think MacPaint with a pen
– lines made out of bubbles, calligraphy pens, etc.

And lots of amazing technology going on in the
background to make things look good on the screen, fast and integrated so that apps
talked with each other.

So, why didn’t these
tablets and apps take off? 

1. Price/performance
– the tablets ran around $4,000! And that’s in 1990 dollars. Translated to
2013, that’s $7,000 – just plain too expensive for wide adoption. Proving a
payback in productivity was a challenge. The machines themselves were heavy (4
lbs or more), nothing like the sleek, light tablets of today. And, they were underpowered,
slower than your desktop. No one likes to wait.

2.  Wireless and the Web didn’t exist,
practically speaking.
There was wireless of a sort. It was called network packets.
So, sending data around was slow, expensive and not always available. When it
was available, it was very reliable.

Tim Berners-Lee’s major contributions started to come
together in 1990. The foundation pieces for the Web were invented and in place.
Mosaic, the graphic browser, wasn’t
available until 1993 and search engines started to appear somewhere around
1994. So stop for a moment and think what your tablet would be worth to you
without the Web, as we know it today. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be so hard to
pry a tablet out of your hands.

3.  Handwriting recognition was the focus and
the magic. Even though a lot of great UI was being invented, all the hype was
around handwriting recognition. And handwriting recognition was about as good
as Siri is today. Not bad, but frequently, the results were pretty funny.
Recognition was up around 90%. That means 1 out of every 10 letters is wrong.
“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party” would
probably come out as, “Nou is the tine for all good men to come to the ald of
the partj.” ‘Nuff said.

And ironically, Apple’s Newton was the final death knell. What?
Apple? Not possible! In all fairness, Steve Jobs was not at the helm.

The hype around handwriting recognition was too much and
overshadowed whatever good things the tablet had to offer. The final blow was a
Doonesbury comic strip:  http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/tag/doonesbury/
which sadly, summed up most people’s experience with handwriting. Great when it
works and party game when it doesn’t.

So what’s different now? That’s the key question to ask… when
technology that’s been around before and reemerges. As companies like Samsung
re-introduce the pen, there’s a chance to look at history to see what’s be done
before and think hard about what’s different now.

Lisa Underkoffler is a Principal at Practical Applications Consulting and has held product leadership roles at a variety of companies in the Boston area.

VF Profiles: CoachUp's Jordan Fliegel

March 17, 2013

VF Profiles: CoachUp's Jordan Fliegel

As captain of his college basketball team at Bowdoin College, Jordan Fliegel took the team to its best season in school history and landed himself a contract with Hapoel Jerusalem, one of the best professional basketball teams outside the NBA. Fliegel attributes the success of the teams he played on to creating a positive team environment. “As a captain, I had the opportunity to build the kind of culture and work ethic that I wanted to have,” he says. “I thought if I ever ran a company, I would want to run it like I ran my college basketball team my senior year.”

In founding CoachUp.com, a marketplace for athletes to connect with private coaches, Fliegel has done just that. “I think the best thing that you can do is get buy-in from everyone and make whatever initiative you want to go after something your teammates want to do,” he explains. “‘Hey guys, what do you think about this or that? Structure it in a way that they have a say in the decision making process.”

While playing professional basketball in Israel in 2008-2010, Fliegel further honed his interpersonal skills as the only dual U.S. and Israeli citizen on the team. “The coach would go back and forth between English and Hebrew and I found myself in the middle of that because I was American and Israeli and I could relate well to both cultures,” he says. “I was just a rookie and I was far from being the star of the team, but on the other hand, I was the only guy who could really bring both sides together.”

Fliegel returned home to Massachusetts during the summer and coached younger players. During his second year playing professionally in Israel, Fliegel enrolled in the MBA program at Tel Aviv University. He finished his MBA the following year at Brandeis, where he met Stuart Lewtan, founder of Zintro.com, a marketplace for connecting users with subject matter experts.

Fliegel worked at Zintro in business development and learned the economics of marketplaces before leaving to focus on building CoachUp. “None of the private coaches I knew had websites or ways to market their services or keep track of their clients: no way to send reminders, collect waiver forms, or perform basic payment processing and accounting,” he says. “I knew I could help give them tools to be more effective.”

Since Fliegel launched CoachUp in 2012, the company has raised $2.7 million in funding and graduated from TechStars Boston. MassChallenge named the startup a $50,000 Gold Winner and the company  “Most Likely To Succeed” out of over 1,200 applicants and 120 finalists in the 2012 program.

Through his involvement in TechStars, MassChallenge, and other organizations, Fliegel has secured an impressive team of mentors, advisors, and investors including Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins, Sheila Marcelo of Care.com, Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot, and Alec Stern of Constant Contact. He also counts his godfather Guido Goldman, who started the German Marshall Fund, as a mentor. “I am constantly hustling, trying to meet with people who could be helpful,” he says. “I’m not afraid to reach out to anyone. I think there’s a strong appeal in what we’re doing. It’s sports and mentoring.”

Here's another fun fact about Jordan Fliegel.  He grew up and remains close friends with another Boston startup founder,  Jeremy Levine of StarStreet Sports (which was also part of TechStars Boston in 2010).

Susan Johnston is a journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Susan on Twitter (@UrbanMuseWriter) by clicking here.

VF Tidbits: Nipendo, TribeHR, ZeroTurnaround

March 14, 2013

VF Tidbits: Nipendo, TribeHR, ZeroTurnaround

VentureFizz Tidbits... news you can use:


Nipendo Secures $8 Million in Funding Round Led By Li Ka-Shing's Horizons Ventures
Nipendo, a pioneer of the first cloud-based, supplier trading solution, announced today that it has closed its Series B round of funding in the amount of $8 million.  The funding round was led by Horizons Ventures, which manages the private venture investments of Mr. Li Ka-shing in the technology sector globally.  Its other notable investments include Facebook, Spotify, and Siri.  Previous investor Tel Aviv-based Magma Venture Partners also participated in the round. Nipendo will use the capital infusion to scale its business operations and expand to the U.S., a strategic move initiated by the opening of its new headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.  READ MORE

TribeHR Announces TribeHR SuiteApp For NetSuite's Cloud Computing Platform

TribeHR, the social HR pioneer, today announced the new TribeHR
SuiteApp, built using NetSuite’s SuiteCloud Computing Platform. The new
SuiteApp is the first social human resources management software for use
with NetSuite, enabling customers to manage the entire employee
lifecycle through a powerful core human resource information system
(HRIS). This system tracks time off and work history, and offers
advanced talent management with 360-degree feedback and public
recognition, and a social applicant tracking system (ATS) with
integrations to LinkedIn and Facebook. With NetSuite and the TribeHR
SuiteApp, businesses can now manage their entire business from one
integrated cloud solution: finance, sales, service, fulfillment, and now
for the first time, human resources.  READ MORE

ZeroTurnaround Unveils LiveRebel 2.6

ZeroTurnaround, the company that’s improving the way the world develops, tests and runs software, announced today the availability of LiveRebel 2.6, its software release automation tool that helps operations and QA teams get software to users quickly, easily and safely.  READ MORE

Non-Competes & Other Highlights from MassTLC's Annual Meeting

March 13, 2013

Non-Competes & Other Highlights from MassTLC's Annual Meeting

Tuesday morning, members of the Boston (and Massachusetts at-large) tech
/ innovation community gathered at the Renaissance Hotel in the Innovation
District for MassTLC’s annual meeting.
The event was highlighted by talks from two influential members of the
Massachusetts business community: Governor Deval Patrick and The Kraft Group Founder/Chairman/President Robert
Kraft.

Governor Patrick explained his “Vision for Massachusetts” with The Boston Globe's Scott Kirsner; first, talking policy impact on the technology / innovation sector and
then responding to ideas from members of the community.

The policy portion of Patrick’s talk focused on possible tax increases
and how tax revenue will be used to update outdated infrastructure to create a
more dynamic and interactive business community in Massachusetts. Overall, the
Governor praised the state’s innovators and entrepreneurs, urged a continued push
for more technology-focused education, and offered his support to foster the
continued growth and creative spirit to keep Massachusetts a center for
innovation.

This was best displayed during the ideas proposal portion of the event.
Described by Kirsner as a “kind of office hours with Governor Deval Patrick,”
community members posed questions and ideas, and the Governor responded with
solutions and guidance. Patrick connected each proposal with a key member of
his staff who could best assist the needs of the educators, legislators, and
business leaders who sought to solve a singular problem facing the
Boston/Massachusetts technology ecosystem.

Kelly Powers, of the Advanced Math and
Science Academy
in Marlboro, proposed that Computer Science should be a requirement for
high school graduation for a state whose “economy is driven by High Tech, Biotech,
Finance, and Healthcare sectors, [who] are all depending on computing talent
and expertise to build jobs.” Flanked by a few of her students, she spoke about
how Computer Science is mandatory at AMSA from middle school
onward.

Powers, and her students from AMSA, were followed by other industry
leaders including Startup Institute’s Aaron O’Hearn and TeenLife’s Marie Schwartz, among others.

O’Hearn made a point about the difficulty his institution, formerly known
as Boston Startup School, has had in obtaining a permanent space in Boston. He
also continued to press the theme of furthering technology education, asking
the Governor how he could help to bring the Startup Institute’s curriculum and
ideas to Massachusetts’ high schools.

To help with O’Hearn’s first query, Patrick connected him with another
member of his cabinet, the Secretary of Economic Development and Housing. On
the education issue, the Governor said, “Our school’s have to be much more
connected to where we are trying to drive the economy and, frankly, where the
economy is driving us.” He added, “We have some tools for that, but we are
still working on content, and I think that is where you can help.”

One of the more interesting moments of the idea exchange occurred when
the Governor was questioned by Branko Gerovac on the subject of non-compete
agreements. Gerovac, formerly of Blackwave Inc., SeaChange Inc., and MIT, had
some great data on how Boston has fallen behind other areas in the tech sector
over the past twenty years. He earned a large round of applause from the crowd
when he commented that the way non-competes are enforced are hurting Boston,
and added, “One major change that we could make to this area would be to
eliminate non-competes, totally.” He reinforced his arguments by explaining how
the agreements cause issues with hiring employees and lead to some fired
employees being unable to work for extended periods of time.

Scott Kirsner then related a story about a trip to Pinterest where the
hallways were populated with former Facebook employees who migrated from one
innovative company to another, something non-competes would prevent from
happening in Massachusetts. 

Governor Patrick first stated that there were “a lot of tech sector
leaders who are very much on the opposite side of this question.” Yet, the
Governor later added, “I am not practicing law anymore but I have some serious
doubts as a lawyer whether a [sic] non-compete is even enforceable in
Massachusetts.”

From this writer’s point of view, the problem with non-competes in
Massachusetts is not whether or not they will be upheld as enforceable by a
judge, it’s more about the threat. 
Larger companies can take legal action against startups in an effort to
distract them and drain their cash on legal fees for an extended period of time,
which can stall the pace of innovation for our region.

The second half of the event was a “Fireside Chat” with Robert Kraft in
which the Patriots owner and head of The Kraft Group encouraged all members of
the Boston tech community to work together as a team. At times, Kraft was very
emotional, especially when talking about his late wife. However, his message
mostly related to the need for Massachusetts to maintain / regain its
innovative edge.

At one point he even referred to Facebook starting in Cambridge but
eventually moving to Silicon Valley, and his belief that major employers
leaving Boston should not be acceptable anymore. 

The Q&A session with Kraft ended up moving away from business questions to topics surrounding his NFL team, which I guess is to be expected when the owner of
the beloved New England Patriots is in the room.

Dennis Keohane is a teacher, journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.

*  Homepage photo credit, Mass Technology Leadership Council.

Pages