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Innovation Economy

Former Vertica executive hears call of ‘big data’

Excerpts from the Innovation Economy blog.

On the afternoon of Feb. 24, Chris Lynch got up in front of the 150 employees of HP’s Vertica division to make a speech. The group, focused on analytical software that wrings insight from real-time streams of data, had just moved to Cambridge from Billerica, and most assumed Lynch was simply christening the new location. They were ready to drink beer, eat cheese, and play some Rock Band.

Vertica had been acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. for $350 million a year earlier, and while the employees did not expect Lynch to stay forever, they were surprised when he told them he would be leaving in March.

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“I said, ‘I love you guys. This office is my gift to you,’ ’’ Lynch said, telling the rank and file that he believed a revolution was brewing in Boston around “big data’’ - collecting and analyzing vast amounts of information in real time - and he wanted to be part of that revolution as an angel investor. His last day was March 16.

Lynch is positioning himself as an angel investor focused on big data start-ups, primarily in Boston. His plan is to make 20 investments in the near term; already, he has put money into a handful of start-ups in the area, including Hopper, Kinvey, Mortar Data, Power Inbox, and Hadapt.

“I grew up in the tech industry in this area, and it felt like for the last 10 or 15 years we’ve been hibernating, and the West Coast is taking all the mojo,’’ Lynch said. “I want to help revitalize Boston.’’

Lynch recalled how the Web evolved from discrete online businesses, becoming integrated into existing businesses.

“Today, you have companies like Zynga and Groupon that have built their businesses on real-time analytics and big data, but the megatrend over the next year and a half is that companies like Gillette and Fidelity are going to get on board,’’ he said. “In a year or two, you’ll be asking them about their analytics strategy, and how they’re using data to gain competitive advantage. How are you using the information you have about customers to provide a better experience, and sell you more stuff?’’

Lifeables aims to sort social media

‘The West Coast is taking all the mojo. I want to help revitalize Boston.’

Chris Lynch 
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Social media has evolved into an endless parade of significant moments, trifling snippets, and everything in between. A Boston start-up called Lifeables wants to help you cull the most important memories from that parade and stash them away in a digital scrapbook.

Lifeables is focused at first on parents. You start it off with some basic profile information about your children. Then it lets you upload and organize photos and videos, but more importantly, it lets you plug in to social-networking services where you and your family already share pictures: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram right now, with plans to support others.

The Lifeables software can look at the stream of content in your social networks and label it as “things we’re pretty sure are about your kids’’ and “things we think are about your kids.’’ You then tell it that you want to “collect’’ a photo or video or status update for your digital archive, or ignore it.

“We don’t think this displaces the act of posting pictures from your mobile phone to Facebook,’’ said Karen Macumber, chief executive. Instead, “we want to be the ultimate collector for you, pulling the content from the sources that are most relevant and important to you.’’

In one sense, Lifeables offers you a way to “sequester’’ content that matters most, storing it for posterity, but in another it lets you organize and annotate your family’s content and then share it again on social networks.

Macumber said the start-up has not decided how it might charge for a premium version of the service. But Lifeables has plans to offer ways to create photo books, T-shirts, and mugs with the content you collect.

Lifeables was founded in 2010 by Jeremy Daly, who now is its chief technology officer. Macumber said the company has raised nearly $200,000 from individual investors and is trying to raise more.

Visit www.boston.com/innovation for the full Innovation Economy blog.
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