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On the radar: 10 start-ups worth watching

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 28, 2011 11:10 AM

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One of the perks of my job is getting a chance to talk to entrepreneurs who are just getting companies off the ground. They tend to brim with enthusiasm about tackling opportunities that others can't see. (And if they don't, well, usually their start-ups don't make it.)

Here are ten I've encountered this month, in no particular order:

- Campus Libre founder Pat de Santis graduated from WPI earlier this year, and he's trying to solve a problem every college student has encountered: the high price of textbooks. Campus Libre offers students a way to buy and sell used textbooks from other students at their school; the company hopes to generate revenues from referral fees, when students can't find a suitable used text and decide to buy a new one online.

- Brendan Smith launched Bizulu, a new twist on online auctions, last month. "eBay was built in 1995, when Al Gore had just invented the Internet," Smith jokes. "We built Bizulu for generation instant gratification. They want to get in and get out." Auctions on Bizulu last exactly ten minutes, and there are interesting competitive ways to "blitz" other bidders, reducing the amount of their bid, over several rounds of bidding.

- Ever been to an event — maybe a wedding or graduation party — where everyone seemed to be snapping pictures, but only a few surfaced afterward on Facebook or Flickr? Junctions, from John Hoopes and James Rogers, wants to solve that problem with a new iPhone app that lets you produce, organize, and share group photo albums.

- Mads Srinivasan, a recent graduate of MIT's Sloan School of Management, is working on Neemware, a tool to gather user feedback and market research information within mobile apps. Srinivasan says he's talking to a number of app developers now (Neemware is rolling out first for iPhones), and adds that he may try to raise money for the start-up soon.

- Dave McLaughlin's start-up, Vsnap, was part of this year's crop of MassChallenge companies. Vsnap is geared to sending short, person-to-person video messages via e-mail — 60 seconds max — using the Webcam on your computer, and including related documents like a product info sheet or photo.

- CoPatient, from Rebecca Palm and Katie Vahle, offers to help analyze your medical bills, spot mistakes, and negotiate for fairer rates if you're being billed more for a service than is typical. They either work on contingency — taking 30 percent of the amount they save you — or you can buy a $50 monthly subscription. (Both Vahle and Palm are employees of athenahealth, a Watertown company that helps doctors wring money from insurance companies.)

- Groupize helps small groups find hotel rooms, book buses, and make restaurant reservations. Founder Charles de Gaspeau Beaubien has worked in tourism for his entire career.

- Fivi is a "personal wellness community" that encourages you to set and manage your fitness goals. There are also videos on topics like preventing injuries and controlling your sodium intake. Nabil Aidoud, a former consultant at IBM Global Services, is the founder.

- With CollegeGolfPass, Kris Hart is trying to make the links, lessons, and driving ranges more accessible to college students.

- Lindsey Witmer describes MyOmBody as "a holistic health coach in the palm of your hand." Does eating slowly with others improve your mood? How much exercise does it take to reduce your stress level? The start-up's mobile app, now in a testing phase with iPhone users, will help track those dynamics.

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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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