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From the Hive

Bay State is a ‘sweet spot’ for Big Data

Highlights from boston.com/hive, Boston’s source for innovation news.

The buzz around Big Data couldn’t be more promising for Massachusetts, a state where engineers and scientists have a long history of building companies by understanding the most esoteric technologies.

Doing work in the world of Big Data certainly isn’t easy. It involves creating complex algorithms to make sense of massive amounts of digital information about everything from traffic patterns to health statistics.

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Across Massachusetts, the state’s biggest employers such as EMC Corp. in Hopkinton and tiny start-ups such as Sqrrl in Kendall Square are working in one of the hottest areas in computing.

“It is the sweet spot of what we in Massachusetts are good at,” said Greg Bialecki, state secretary of Housing and Economic Development, at a Big Data Summit Thursday at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Indeed, the sort of computing talent needed for Big Data has been produced at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for years and the data scientists coming out of that school and others are highly sought after by companies such as Google Inc. Already more than 100 companies and some 12,000 computer professionals in Massachusetts work in Big Data, according to the statewide technology organization Mass Technology Leadership Council, which organized the summit.

Last year, the Patrick administration launched the statewide Big Data Initiative in hopes of positioning the state at the leading edge of the technology. It is supporting such efforts as Hack/Reduce, a nonprofit center that provides space for data scientists and computer engineers working in the field.

Most companies outside technology remain on the sidelines of the trend, but show growing interest in using the technology to learn from the piles of data they’re sitting on.

“It’s not about the data,” said IBM’s chief economist, Martin Fleming, who spoke at the summit. “It’s the value you can derive from the data.”

MICHAEL FARRELL

Investing in fund-raising

When was the last time you raised $5,000 in 30 seconds?

Valet.io did it for Cory Booker, Newark’s mayor, who is now running for a US Senate seat. Students from Harvard and Columbia — Ben Donald, Ben Drucker, and Jake Silberg — improved modern fund-raising for nonprofits, schools, and political campaigns. Donators can contribute from their own phone or tablet without waiting for a signup sheet.

And now, Rough Draft Ventures is investing in Valet.io. The student partnership offers small seed investments of $5,000 to $25,000 to early-stage start-ups from students in Greater Boston.

Despite the name, there is a lot of money in the nonprofit sector, and innovation for efficiency’s sake is welcome. With Valet.io, silent auctions can be kept organized and pledges are tracked as they come in, making fund-raising a less daunting task.

Rough Draft Ventures has also invested in RequestNow, a start-up that lets people request songs to DJs via text, and Balbus, a company focused on speech therapy apps.

CHRISTINA REINWALD

J&J opens innovation center in Cambridge

Lest anyone think Johnson & Johnson is a stodgy multinational health care company, Thursday night’s opening reception of its new Boston Innovation Center in Kendall Square featured acrobats, mimes of famous scientists such as Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, and contortionists engaging in a colorful dance meant to symbolize collaboration.

The center will be all about collaborating with biotechnology start-ups and academic researchers in the Boston area and all along the Eastern seaboard, Johnson & Johnson executives told more than 250 invited guests who mingled under a tent outside the Boston Marriott Cambridge hotel and toured the open-style innovation offices at One Cambridge Center.

Robert Urban, who left the nearby David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT to head Johnson & Johnson’s new Boston Innovation Center, said the center aims to answer the question of “what door do you knock on” to start a conversation with the giant New Brunswick, N.J., company about forging an alliance in drug research, raising venture capital for a medical device or diagnostic start-up, or navigating the intellectual property waters.

Noting that Johnson & Johnson has already opened innovation centers in Menlo Park, Calif., and London and plans to open one in Shanghai by the end of the year, Urban told his Kendall Square guests that “Boston hopefully will be more impactful than all the rest.”

ROBERT WEISMAN

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