Highlights from boston.com/hive, Boston’s source for innovation news.
Cardboard boxes are still strewn about, and no one has quite figured out how to operate the megasize video screen in the lobby, but LabCentral is officially open in Cambridge.
The sparkling new $12 million co-working space for life-science companies has its first six tenants in residence, with four more expected soon. These are promising young companies with small staffs that don’t want the hassle or expense of finding independent lab space and buying equipment. So they’ll share things, and probably pay far less than they would on their own: $4,000 per person each month in an open lab, or $12,000 for an entire team in one of eight available private labs.
LabCentral’s director, Peter Parker, and vice president Margaret O’Toole showed me around recently. The facility has some pretty cool features.
For instance, there’s a trio of refrigerators that hold commonly used chemical reagents. Whenever you need one, you simply swipe your LabCentral badge, grab the chemical you need, and the fridge senses what’s been taken and bills your company’s account. It’s like a minibar in a hotel room.
“Except it’s cheaper than a minibar,” O’Toole said. “They get a great discount.”
The layout is reminiscent of Cambridge Innovation Center’s, with conference rooms and phone booths available by reservation. Makes sense, since CIC founder Tim Rowe chairs LabCentral’s board of directors.
Cricket fried rice? Why not?
Three women at the Cambridge start-up Six Foods aren’t just handling insects, they’re eating them.
Laura D’Asaro, Rose Wang, and Meryl Natow hope to create buzz in the food industry by building a business around consuming insects. Getting people to eat bugs seems like a daunting task, but armed with more puns than Groucho Marx and bottomless enthusiasm for its future products, Six Foods exudes optimism.
“We know that perceptions can change,” D’Asaro said. “Lobsters used to be fed to prisoners, and people used to think eating raw fish was disgusting, but now both of those things are delicacies.”
Still honing in on its products, Six Foods is looking mainly to snack foods as a starting point. “Meal worms taste very nutty and are great for snack foods,” D’Asaro said.
D’Asaro lives at one of the local Crash Pads — a short-term housing company for the startup community — where she regularly brings insect dishes to weekly group meals — with positive reception.
Wang and D’Asaro recounted a recent event at which they accidently placed mealworm tacos in a community fridge, only to find a just handful remaining when it was their turn to make a presentation.
Hornworm salsa, mealworm tacos, cricket gingerbread, and cricket fried rice are among the dishes they prepare. But cooking with insects can be a challenge.
“For me it’s been really very challenging because they don’t react the way that things that are comparable — like shrimp or lobster — would,” said Geoff Lukas, chef de cuisine at Sofra Bakery and Cafe.
Lukas plays a mentorship role for Six Foods, helping them with recipes and business ideas. He connected with the group through a food science lecture series at Harvard, where the women attended college.
The arguments for eating bugs are hard to combat, especially in a climate where farm-to-table and sustainability are catch phrases.
“For the same amount of feed you give a cow you get 12 times the meat from insects,” D’Asaro said.
“Even if we can reduce the demand [of all other meats] by 1 percent that would be a huge impact,” Wang said.
The first big contractIn sports terms, CoachUp has played out its rookie deal and signed its first big contract. Last week, the Boston-based online network of private coaches for hire closed a $6.7 million funding round led by Point Judith Capital, of Boston, and General Catalyst Partners, of Cambridge.
Founded by Jordan Fliegel, who played professional basketball in Israel after starring at Bowdoin College, CoachUp connects athletes to coaches who can improve their skills with personalized instruction. It also offers coaches a source of supplemental income.
So far, the company has focused on team sports but plans to use some of its new funds to add other pursuits, like dance, yoga, and personal fitness.
“This round was a major milestone for CoachUp, confirming our position as a leader in both the coaching industry and sports/fitness tech space,” Fliegel said.
“Powered by an incredible team, this round will continue to support our core mission of helping athletes reach the next level in their training and athletic pursuits.”