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Editorial

Boston’s break-out tech star?

Boston’s not known for creating big, brand-name technology companies. Smart, targeted, business-to-business ones, like Akamai, HubSpot (which just filed an IPO), and EMC, yes; but the ambitious startups that target consumers and have emerged as worldwide titans, like Apple, Google, and Facebook, have centered in Silicon Valley. That’s what makes Wayfair, the local e-commerce company that recently announced its plans for an initial public offering, so interesting for the local tech scene. Boston is broadening its portfolio of consumer-facing companies, and Exhibit A is Wayfair, which is on track to exceed $1 billion in revenue this year.

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Wayfair is the brainchild of co-founders Steven Conine and Niraj Shah, who found a niche in the home furnishings market and very gradually scaled the company, only taking their first round of venture capital three years ago. Conine and Shah have built Wayfair into a powerhouse, recently moving 1,000 employees into fancy, collaborative-friendly new offices at Copley Place. Yes, it has ping-pong and foosball tables, harkening back to the dot-com era of 15 years ago.

When Wayfair goes public, it will follow Care.com, the home-care portal that went public in January and employs more than 300 full-time and over 200 part-time employees. Other e-tailers are in the wings: Karmaloop, the street-wear retailer, and Gazelle, an electronics resale site. While the biotech sector has attracted most of the attention from Wall Street — of the 18 Massachusetts-based innovation economy companies that have filed IPOs in 2014 so far, 13 have been from the biotech industry — these consumer-facing companies are proving to investors that Boston can support any kind of startup, and scale them to an IPO and beyond.

Correction: An earlier version of this editorial mischaracterized the status of HubSpot’s initial public offering. The Cambridge startup has filed for an IPO but has not yet started selling shares.

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