6 Novel Startups To Watch

Over 40 companies received venture financing in the last 45 days in Massachusetts, totalling over $160+ million invested. In reviewing the deal flow, a few companies stood out for the novelty of their business concept. The products range from a musical brain to a white board you paint on a wall.

The Echo Nest

The Somerville-based Echo Nest was co-founded by Tristan Jehan and Brian Whitman, two former MIT PhDs who met at the MIT Media Lab. The company has built a platform it refers to as a “musical brain”, that reads and listens to music and music trends. The platform provides analytics to support developers of music applications. The software developer API allows a variety of actions including searching for music, reviews, videos and blogs. My personal favorite API function is hotnesss, which returns a numerical description of how hot an artist is. Echo Nest is hiring across a variety of job functions, so if you are in the market, you may want to take a look at their job postings.

Additional information: blog, jobs, twitter

Investment: $7m from Matrix Partners and Commonwealth Capitol

Practically Green

The Boston-based Practically Green was founded by Susan Hunt Stevens and Jason Butler, former senior executive and technologist respectively at Boston.com. The company helps consumers make decisions to create greener lifestyles through an online quiz supported by advertising and sponsorships. A beta version of the quiz is available for free on their site, and assesses how green you are today. The site also provides social network integration to allow you to compare your green scores with your friends, and provides a customized action plan for how you can become greener. Thanks mostly to my wife, I earned a “solidly green” rating (6 out of 10), and now have 40+ actions I can take to move up the green scale.

Additional information: blog, twitter

Investment: $750K from Common Angels and private investors

Fashion Playtes

The Salem-based Fashion Playtes was founded by Sarah McIlroy, a marketing professional who sought to recreate her childhood experience of making clothes with her mother. The company allows girls to design their own clothes using an easy to use web application. The design process starts with a sketchbook that provides simple drawings of different garments that can then be customized with patterns, color and fabric. The finished designs can then be purchased online and shipped to the customer. The products include dresses, t-shirts, headbands, pants, jackets, skirts, belts, and handbags. Prices range from $7 and up. Online gift certificates are available at the site for holiday shoppers looking for a unique gift for a tween girl.

Additional information: blog, jobs, twitter

Investment: $4m from New Atlantic Ventures and Launch Capital

IdeaPaint

The Cambridge-based IdeaPaint was founded by former Babson students John Goscha, Jeff Avallon and Morgen Newman. The company makes a dry-erase paint product that turns any smooth surface into a dry erase board. The product is available for both home and commercial use, and can be purchased directly on their web site or through distributors. Check out their blog for some great videos of the product in use at schools and home They also recently announced a partnership with NBC’s new reality series “School Pride” that will incorporate their product. You can buy an IdeaPaint kit for home that covers a 4x3 foot area for about $60.

Additional information: blog, twitter

Investment: $100K from undisclosed investors

Goby

The Boston-based Goby was founded by Mark Watkins, Vince Russo, and Michael Stonebraker to provide a location search engine to help you find things to do. The company is an outgrowth of database research by the MIT professor and serial entrapreneuer Michael Stonebraker. The search engine is accessible by browser and mobile application, and asks three simple questions: what you want to do, where and when. The search results are ordered by relevance, and include pictures, maps, phone numbers and even relevant locations nearby. The core semantic search technology is focused on providing structure to the normally unstructured data of the web. Goby.com provides a great vertical alternative to the increasingly over generalized Google.

Additional information: twitter

Investment: $2.5m from Flybridge and Kepha

QuickHit

The Foxborough-based QuickHit was founded by Jeff Anderson, the former president and CEO of Turbine, Inc. If their name and location did not already give it away, they provide a free online sports game - specifically an NFL football game with some engaging play for a free browser-based game. The company received an NFL license in the summer, allowing it to compete directly with the Electronic Art’s “Madden NFL” franchise with its browser game.

Additional information: blog, twitter

Investment: $3m from undisclosed investors

Conclusions

If something here catches your interest, please take a look and pass it on to a friend. What better way is there to support a local startup than to find ways to be greener, provide a gift for a tween, find something to do this weekend, or play some online football?


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