Highlights from the Innovation Economy blog.
The Cambridge start-up Ovuline is pretty clear about its mission: “We make babies,” founder Paris Wallace likes to say. But while couples in days of yore relied on scented candles, oysters, or Al Green for help, in 2013 Ovuline is pitching an app and a website to help the process along.
And the company has just raised $1.4 million from a group of investors including Lightbank, Cambridge-based Launch Capital, LionBird, and TechStars chief executive David Cohen.
Ovuline sells a mobile app ($9.99) and access to a website ($30) to help women monitor fertility and get advice about “what to do every day to maximize it,” Wallace said. “We are finding our early users are getting pregnant two times faster than the national average.”
Wallace says Ovuline is expanding its focus to “use the same data analytics and clinical guidelines to help women have a healthier pregnancy.” Wallace talks about collecting data with home blood pressure cuffs, scales, and pedometers.
“Right now, the standard of care is 10 to 14 doctor visits over the course of a pregnancy. But taking your blood pressure daily can be a way to spot problems like preeclampsia, which can threaten the health of the mother and the fetus,” he says. “You can catch things early.”
Most women wouldn’t consider renting a storefront and opening their own boutique.
But Kitsy Lane, a Maynard start-up, wants to make it a no-brainer for style mavens to set up online boutiques in an hour or two. And since the company’s launch last summer, more than 20,000 women have done just that. They choose the merchandise that is featured; promote the store on Facebook, e-mail, and other social networks; and collect a commission on everything sold. Kitsy Lane will handle inventory, payment, and shipping. It’s the Tupperware party of the Twitter era.
The model seems to work: The company says revenues have been growing 40 percent month-to-month, and recently it announced a $3.5 million funding round, led by Data Point Capital and Longworth Venture Partners. That’s on top of $1 million supplied last year by Point Judith Capital and angels.
“There’s a very broad spectrum of people that run Kitsy Lane boutiques,” says founder Andy Fox. “We made a concerted effort to target some bloggers and stylists. We have a couple of celebrities, like Shereé Whitfield of ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ and Mashiela Lush from the ‘George Lopez’ show. But the bulk of the user base is stay-at-home moms, or people who have another job and are doing this at night from the couch.”
Apple seems to have set up a new office in Kendall Square, just a few floors from Amazon.com in the Cambridge Innovation Center.
I know just about nothing about the new office, and haven’t found anyone who does. Apple did not respond to my inquiries. Building residents say an Apple sign appeared above an office door just before the holidays. The single door has frosted glass; the office looks like it could hold four or five people.
Apple always has had sales and support staffers in the Boston area to serve corporate and academic customers. But what would be big news is if this is a new engineering or R&D outpost.
Historically, those are activities Apple has done only at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.
“It’d be a huge strategic shift if they are hiring engineers here,” says Chuck Goldman, a former Apple executive who is chief strategy officer at Boston-based Apperian, which helps companies deploy mobile apps to their employees.
Perhaps, as Jonathan Kay hypothesizes, Apple “wants to play in any sandbox that is in such close proximity to Google and Microsoft.” (Not to mention Amazon.) Kay runs Apptopia, a Boston app brokerage.Visit www.boston.com/innovation for the full Innovation Economy blog, updated daily.