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Innovation Economy

Software helps developers explain projects

Karin Brandt

Karin Brandt

Highlights from the Innovation Economy blog.

If something is being built in your neighborhood, chances are you won’t get much information about how it will affect you — or a chance to voice your opinion. Unless, that is, you have enough time to attend community meetings and hearings regularly.

A start-up from the TechStars Boston accelerator, CoUrbanize, is trying to tackle that problem. Last week it announced its first partnership, with the bike rental network Hubway. CoUrbanize will help Hubway get feedback about where to put stations.

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Cofounder Karin Brandt, a city planner educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says other partnerships with commercial real estate developers could be unveiled soon.

CoUrbanize’s Web-based software allows developers to “explain their projects and the impacts they can have on the surrounding areas, like shadows and traffic and parking,” Brandt says.

“They can also get feedback from passive proponents” — who may not have the same opinions as people attending hearings and community meetings. “We’re trying to reduce the barriers to involvement for people.”

The software allows developers to publish a timeline of meetings; detail a project’s upside, like job creation, new retail stores, or tax revenue; and invite comments to an online forum, with posters using their real names.

The interesting balancing act, of course, will be ensuring that CoUrbanize’s sites feel like a neutral forum, rather than anything controlled by developers, cities, or residents.

The company sees its “sweet spot” as helping developers and governments communicate about issues that are hard to understand and visualize, Brandt says, and notifying people about what’s happening in a more sophisticated way than simply handing out fliers.

HubSpot stays put

One of Cambridge’s fastest-growing companies just signed a deal to keep its headquarters in a onetime furniture factory built in 1860.

HubSpot, which sells software to help ­clients manage digital marketing efforts, will more than double in size at the Davenport Building on First Street in East Cambridge, leasing about 117,000 square feet as other tenants move out. Most of the new space won’t be available until later this year.

With about 450 employees in Cambridge and a new European office in Dublin, HubSpot is often mentioned as one of the Boston-area companies most likely to go public in the next 12 months.

Start-up Jill’s List sold

Jill Shah had just sold her Back Bay start-up, Jill’s List, on April 15. The money had just hit her bank account. She hadn’t even had a chance to tell her seven employees about the sale when she heard two explosions nearby — Shah’s company is on Boylston Street, between the first and second Boston Marathon bomb sites.

Shah’s two children had come into the office­ with their nanny to have lunch with her.

“I had figured I would pull everyone together for a toast after lunch,” she says.

Instead, thinking that buildings nearby had been blown up, Shah, her kids, and her team evacuated their building at 726 Boylston St. and went home. “We weren’t in the office for a week,” she says.

Things have settled down since. Shah is now running the Boston office of Mindbody, a California company that sells Web-based software to fitness studios, salons, and other wellness-oriented firms to help them manage their businesses.

Jill’s List had created a network of more than 4,000 alternative medicine practitioners, such as acupuncturists and masseuses, and helped employees find the right practitioners for their needs, book appointments, and track payments.

Employers pay a monthly fee to give their employees access to the Jill’s List network.

Jill’s List had a partnership with Mindbody prior to its acquisition by the company..

“Our thesis is all about the convergence of health care and wellness,” says Mindbody chief executive Rick Stollmeyer.

Jill’s List is the company’s second acquisition; Shah will be senior vice president of what is being rebranded as the Mindbody Wellness Network.

Shah started Jill’s List in 2010 and never raised outside funding.

She’s married to Wayfair cofounder Niraj Shah, whose Back Bay e-commerce­ company has pursued a different funding strategy: It began as a bootstrapped business but collected just over $200 million in outside capital last year.

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