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Friday5: Start-Ups to Watch in 2010

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 18, 2009 07:43 AM

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The Friday5 is a list of five things worth knowing about. As 2009 draws to a close, I'm presenting my list of Boston-area start-ups to watch in 2010. Who are you keeping an eye on? Let me know in the comments. (Note: this list is alphabetical, not in any sort of ranked order...)

Heartland Robotics. iRobot co-founder Rodney Brooks has taken a leave from his prominent post at MIT to start a new venture. Heartland has been short on specifics, but Brooks seems to be developing a new generation of robots to be used as part of the manufacturing process. The company's investors include Waltham-based Charles River Ventures and Bezos Expeditions, the firm that manages  investments for Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

Here's Brooks talking about "Remaking Manufacturing with Robotics":


HubSpot. The Cambridge software-and-consulting company has proven itself a master at promotion and positioning: those who know about HubSpot (through its blogs, live Webcast, or the recent book written by its founders) know the company's software helps you get found on the Web and manage incoming leads. But can the company become a significant national player while ensuring that its existing customers keep renewing their subscriptions to its software?

Kayak. Can a $60 million marketing budget, a chief marketing officer, a fusillade of TV spots, and a new slogan ("Search one and done") turn the travel search site into a household name? The Concord and Norwalk, Connecticut-based company conducted research and found that only 32 percent of the 120 million people in the U.S. who use the Web to book travel were familiar with it. Elevating that number will be key to an eventual Kayak IPO. Kayak's 2009 ad spend represents almost half its revenue for the year (expected to hit $150 million.)

On-Q-ity. Aims to provide doctors with new diagnostics tools to help customize the most effective treatment regimen for cancer patients. Founded by Mara Aspinall, a former Genzyme executive, and fueled with $26 million in venture capital funding, some of it from Atlas Venture in Waltham and Bessemer Venture Partners in Wellesley Hills.

- Sun Catalytix. You want big picture? Here you go: solar panels on your roof produce electricity that Sun's device will use to separate water atoms (clean or dirty) into their hydrogen and oxygen components. The hydrogen is used to power a fuel cell, which can charge up your plug-in hybrid vehicle, or power your house at night when the sun isn't out. The technology, developed by Dan Nocera at MIT, received a $4 million grant from the Department of Energy this year, along with $3 million from Waltham-based Polaris Venture Partners. (Here's some video and more background on Nocera's work.)


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About Scott Kirsner

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 Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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