Friday, April 28, 2017

Entrepreneurs, start your startups

Yesterday, the Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner had a nice roundup of the most promising local startups in the Boston area. A very interesting list, indeed, which I’ll get through half of today, and the rest next week. (The list comes from The Globe, but anything in quote marks/indented comes from the actual company site unless otherwise noted.)

First up was RateGravity, a mortgage matchmaker that’s looking to lower mortgage costs by an average of $30K over the life of a loan. I get that they can find the lowest interest rate for you, speed up processing by using technology, and eliminate the sales person. What I’m not clear on is their calculation on how this might add up to a savings of $2K per year on a $400K loan (the example that RateGravity uses).  Not that I don’t believe that they can save someone $2K a year. This seems entirely plausible. It’s just that when I took a quick look at their numbers, I couldn’t get them to add up. But, hey, this is a non-monetized blog, and there’s only so much time I’m willing to dig in on this – especially given that I know zip about mortgages – so I’ll take their word for it. So please, go forth, and find folks cheaper mortgages.

There are a lot of rotten and dangerous jobs out there, and as anyone who’s seen the movie The Perfect Storm could tell you, a number of those rotten and dangerous jobs take place at sea. Sea Machines intends to do something about that by developing unmanned workboats “that could be charting the depths of a harbor, limiting the damage from an oil spill, or ferrying supplies to an offshore platform.” They’re hiring more software developers so that they can eliminate yet another swath of rotten, dangerous blue collar jobs (c.f., coal mining). Anything that can be automated will be automated, but just saying. Meanwhile, while sub-sea repairs are something I pretty much know zip about, I did do some work for a company many years ago – don’t ask how – that had submersible ROVs (Remote Operating Vehicles) that were used to inspect subsea cables, etc. I’d forgotten all about it. Just googled, and the products I wrote about are still out there, down in the deeps.

BrainSpec,the brainchild of a brainstorming session held a couple of years back at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, provides software for Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS), which does “a ‘virtual biopsy’ by measuring the concentrations of chemicals in the brain.” Having seen what an invasive, physical biopsy can entail, I’m all for virtualizing things. BrainSpec software is used to diagnose terrible things like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, and metabolic disorders. Go for it. And while the BrainSpec folks are no doubt mostly science-y brainiacs,focused mostly on the science-y brainiac stuff, I have to say that they have software marketing speak down pat. (I’ve highlighted the words that I’ve used at least a million times myself.)

Our revolutionary new software package combines the latest processing technology with an intuitive and accessible interface to put all the power of MR spectroscopy in the hands of doctors everywhere.

Have marketing words, will travel.

OffGridBox began life in Tuscany, and, I were OffGridBox, I might have stayed there, running my company out of a villa that had a pool and someone from town who came out every day to cook for me. But somehow – capital? technology? techies? – the company found their way to Boston. What they produce is systems for NGOs, schools, hospitals, businesses and homeowners that provide sustainable power and clean water by using solar and reusing rainwater. They’re focusing their efforts on Rwanda, a country sorely in need of power and clean water, but the concept is certainly extensible to those who want to live off the grid.

How hip is Bonzer? I’ll tell you how hip they are. They don’t have a fussy old-school URL extension like .com, .org, or .netRayttle. Theirs is .rocks. As in They’re sort of like Zipcar, only eco-friendly. Instead of Mazdas, pickup trucks, and date Beemers, Bonzer deploys RaytlleE28PROs, that don’t go very fast or get you very far or fit much in them, but that do get you around those urban places where there’s no public transpo and you can’t walk to. But I’m guessing that the places where Bonzer cars are located are both near public transpo and walkable. Still, there’s the hipster factor in play here. So I’ll be on the lookout for a Bonzer-mobile. Note to I know you’re little, but stay off the sidewalks!

According to PlenOptika,”One out of every five people worldwide lack the eyeglasses they need.” To meet the need for prescription glasses, PlenOptika has come up with QuickSee, a handheld device for optometry that can be deployed “in rural and low-resource settings. It is smaller than a laptop, rugged, and battery-powered.” As someone who’s worn glasses since childhood, I can only imagine what it would be like to have to go without them. Bravo, PlenOptika.

Adaptt Intelligence is, I’m betting, a bunch of really smart guys doing really smart things. Scott Kirsner’s article says that they’re:

combining software and sensors to make buildings more intelligent about which spaces humans are occupying, and which are empty, so that less energy is wasted cooling, heating, or lighting vacant areas.

Which is obviously a good thing. There’s a lot of smart building technology out there. The more the merrier, I guess. Anyway, they don’t have much to say about it quite yet. (No web site. The closest I could get was adappt intelligence who do stuff with machine learning. Close but no cigar…)

Bottom line: lots of interesting tech-ish startups in Boston. More to come on Monday.

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