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12 to track: Here's who I'm watching as we head toward fall

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 15, 2011 11:34 AM

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OK, so this list is really a baker's dozen... companies and projects that I'm eager to hear more about as we head into the fall. If you have tips or information, I'd love to hear what you know (e-mail me by clicking my name in the right-hand column). I'd also appreciate your take on other companies worth keeping an eye on, as a comment below or in an e-mail.

- AisleBuyer. They've raised almost $12 million for a mobile app that could replace the cash register, or those self-checkout kiosks you see at Home Depot and CVS. But the company has yet to announce a major retail or restaurant partner since I test-drove the app at Brookline's Magic Beans baby store last August. What's brewing?

- CyphyWorks. The new start-up from iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner, which just raised another $1.2 million last month. Working on flying robots that can operate indoors and out, for surveillance and inspection tasks. Has yet to show one in public.

- General Compression and SustainX. Both are developing systems that store energy from wind and solar power installations as compressed air, for use in times of peak power demand.

- Genzyme. What R&D initiatives will get started under Sanofi-aventis's ownership, and who is actually running things in Cambridge?

- Heartland Robotics. What will Heartland's low-cost manufacturing 'bots look like, how much will they cost, and how easy will they be to integrate into existing processes? Heartland is the other local start-up from an iRobot founder: Rodney Brooks. I talked to several people who've seen demos of its prototypes last November.

- Kayak and TripAdvisor. If the stock market is hospitable, one or both of the travel sites could go public. Kayak would be the third IPO for Cambridge-based General Catalyst Partners, and TripAdvisor would be a spin-out from Expedia, which is already publicly-held. Successful offerings could raise the profile of Boston's travel cluster.

- Lilliputian Systems. Working on miniature fuel cells for consumer electronics. Imagine just inserting a new butane cartridge in your laptop, instead of plugging it into a wall for a couple hours. I first met the founder in 2001, and ever since, I've been eager to see a demo, and learn what sorts of electronics Lilliputian's technology will work with.

- Longwood Founders Fund. The new life sciences-focused venture capital fund from Rich Aldrich, Christoph Westphal, and Michelle Dipp, a trio that was involved with creating Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. I hear they're incubating some interesting projects...

- Retired? I always wonder about next acts. What will Josh Boger, founder of Vertex, Ray Ozzie, ex-chief software architect at Microsoft, and Netezza founder Jit Saxena do next?

- Rue La La. eBay picked up the Boston-based "flash sale" specialist earlier this year, as part of a bigger purchase of GSI Commerce. But Rue La La was spun off as an independent company run by Michael Rubin (with eBay retaining a 30 percent stake). Will Rubin and Rue La La CEO Ben Fischman play well together, and what will their growth plans look like in the fiercely competitive online discounting business?

- SCVNGR. One of Boston's highest-profile mobile start-ups. But what's going to get momentum first: SCVNGR's first product, a game that involves performing "challenges" at different locations to earn points, or its second offering, an app that offers special deals at local establishments, and a way to pay for them using your phone?

- Zynga Boston. The San Francisco "social games" biggie bought two small Boston game companies recently, Conduit Labs and Floodgate Entertainment. What's the first game the Zynga Boston team will release? (Given Conduit's background, I'm guessing it'll be music- or dance-related.)

Your thoughts?

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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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