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Innovation Economy

CarGurus stakes out turf on auto data

Highlights from the Innovation Economy blog.

The comparison-shopping site CarGurus moved into new digs this month, and I stopped by after they had finished unpacking to check out the company’s penthouse overlooking Harvard Square — and to catch up with chief executive Langley Steinert.

Before starting CarGurus in 2006, Steinert had been cofounder of TripAdvisor, headquartered in Newton. It operates the most-visited collection of travel sites on the Web, and Steinert thinks he can have the same kind of success with CarGurus.

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The site uses sophisticated software models to help shoppers evaluate hundreds or thousands of a given model of used car.

“There may be 600 Ford Focuses being sold in Boston,” Steinert said. “We help you figure out whether a 2009 with fewer miles than a 2010 might be a better deal, based on trim packages and options and other factors.”

About a month ago, CarGurus launched a service that also looks at new car inventory in a user’s geographic area. Steinert said that when looking for a Toyota Land Cruiser for his wife, he was frustrated by having to visit or call dealerships to find out what specific cars they had in stock, and in what colors. “Adding new cars to the site is the big push for this year,” he said.

CarGurus has 23 employees, and Steinert foresees hiring another 15 or 20 by the end of the year.

Revenues, which today come from selling “leads,” or information about prospective car buyers, “are closing in on a $40 million annual run rate,” Steinert said. Eventually, he said, the company will begin selling its marketing services to dealerships on a subscription basis, to help them market their new and used inventory.

The site uses sophisticated software models to help shoppers evaluate hundreds or thousands of a given model of used car.

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Steinert said the company got to profitability with just $4 million of funding — “all from friends and family, and the TripAdvisor ­mafia,” he said.

Cold storage for data

The number of data-storage companies just keeps on growing, and SageCloud is one of the latest Massachusetts start-ups.

“Most of the data can be put in cold storage,” said founder Jeff Flowers. That means it is recorded to a hard drive and not accessed very frequently; when it is, you probably don’t need it in under a second.

Flowers, a cofounder and former chief technology officer of Carbonite, was at the Open Compute Summit in Silicon Valley recently to discuss SageCloud, an assemblage of software, commodity hardware, and support services that will enable companies to operate their own on-site “private clouds” to keep large quantities of data in cold storage, at low cost, Flowers said.

As much as 70 percent of a company’s data can be put in cold storage, he said. That might be a stock trade or a medical record that needs to be kept for a mandated time period but does not need to be referenced very often.

The company has raised $3.2 million in funding, most of it from Matrix Partners.

The 10-person company will move into office­ space in Boston’s Financial District in March. Flowers expects the head count will be about 30 by the end of the year.

Gus Weber leaves Polaris

Gus Weber, a well-known figure in the Cambridge start-up ecosystem, has left Polaris Venture Partners, where he helped oversee Dogpatch Labs.

Weber started a new job last week at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., where he will oversee personalization across all its media properties. Before joining Polaris, Weber had spent almost five years as community liaison and “technical evangelist” at Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center in Kendall Square.

There is other news related to Dogpatch, the Cambridge facility that offers free office space to about 35 small start-ups and solo entrepreneurs. It will move next month out of One Cambridge to 101 Main St., and Polaris will no longer foot the entire bill for Dogpatch denizens’ rent. Polaris is also closing Dogpatch space in New York and California.

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