• Custom jewelry maker Gemvara was featured last Sunday on Oprah Winfrey's "Favorite Things 2012" cable special; Winfrey picked a pair of "naked cushion triple earrings" that range in price from $1109 to $1688, depending on what gemstone the buyer wants. Gemvara founder Matt Lauzon explains that it wasn't a paid placement, exactly: "One of Oprah's people spotted Gemvara and the earrings at a party our PR team hosted, and brought them to Oprah." Winfrey wore the earrings on the show, and gave a pair to everyone in the audience. "That piece was very cool, because they were all spouses of members of the military," Lauzon says.
• Boston-based Kickscout released a new version of its mobile app earlier this month. It lets you snap pictures of products you might want to buy in a store — say, a group gift for grandma — and share them with others to get feedback. If your bigger concern is making sure you get what you want, you can also use Kickscout to keep a visual "wish list" of gifts you'd like to receive.
• A great destination for unique gifts is Lexington-based Daily Grommet. Paper robot kits designed by former Nintendo engineers? Ceramic bowls that look like cantaloupes and grapefruits? A hand-dyed silk scarf whose purchase helps support women's initiatives in India? This well-curated site is full of stuff you won't find at the mall.
• Likelii founder Radhika Dutt describes her Cambridge startup pretty simply: it does for wine what Pandora does for music, suggesting brands you may like based on what you already know you enjoy. The company raised $450,000 earlier this year, and Dutt says that Likelii will soon offer a mobile app, in addition to its website. Likelii offers free shipping when you order more than $100 worth of wine... and who doesn't need $100 worth of wine to get through the holidays?
• Earlier this month, I wrote about the two cable TV ads that Back Bay merchant Wayfair is running this holiday season. One was made by an edgy San Francisco ad agency, the other by a pair of Wayfair employees who are responsible for shooting all the company's in-house video. In my online vote, more than 80 percent of you said you preferred the one shot by the employees.
• Yes, this might be the final holiday season that Massachusetts residents can shop tax-free on Amazon.com. The silver lining: Amazon continues to add jobs at its Cambridge research-and-development outpost, and a Woburn division devoted to warehouse technology (Kiva Systems, which Amazon acquired back in March.) I counted eighteen open positions at those two locations.
• For gadget hounds who like to be the first on their block to get something new, there's the Equiso smart TV system. For $79, it turns your regular TV into a smart TV capable of viewing web video from sites like Hulu or Netflix; playing games like DrawSomething; updating your Facebook status; or bidding on an eBay auction. (Equiso requires that you have a WiFi network at home and a TV that has a USB port.) The Equiso package comes with a nifty remote control with a few simple buttons on the front, and a full QWERTY keyboard on the back. The Cambridge startup raised $240,000 earlier this year on Kickstarter.
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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December 9: Web Innovators Group
Demos of new mobile apps and web ventures at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. Free admission; cash bar.
December 10: Fintech Demo Day
Short demos from startups in the financial technology realm.
December 11: Unpitch
Entrepreneurs and investors sit down for lunch, advice, and feedback. Entrepreneurs must apply to participate.