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Innovation Economy

Start-up creates disposable sheets for dorm beds

Beantown Bedding cofounders Kirsten Lambert and Joan Ripple.

Excerpts from the Innovation Economy blog.

College students can find time for all sorts of activities, but one chore that always seems to drop off the bottom of their to-do list is washing the sheets.

Two Hingham entrepreneurs have come up with a solution: linens made from a fiber called Tencel, derived from Eucalyptus trees, which you can simply toss into a compost bin or trash can when they’re dirty. The sheets from their start-up, Beantown Bedding, are both compostable and biodegradable. A set that includes a fitted sheet, flat sheet, and pillowcase costs $25.

“We met when our kids started dating,” explains Kirsten Lambert. “Then they went off to college, and we found that they basically never washed their sheets.”


They started developing the concept of disposable sheets last year, got their first wholesale orders at a trade show in March, and received their first inventory in June.

Heather Henriksen, director of the office of sustainability at Harvard University, said she thought the concept of compostable sheets might have merits in places where there isn’t sufficient water to regularly wash linens, like a disaster relief camp.

But on a college campus, she suggested that using a washing machine or laundry service is still better. “I think the most important R in the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) is, of course, reduce — do not create the waste in the first place,” she said.

The sheets from Beantown are intended to last about a month. “After that, they start to pill and look worn,” says Lambert.

Right now, Beantown’s products are being produced in China, but the founders say they’re hoping to find a domestic factory.

Database venture collects $2 million

It sounds like the outline of an espionage thriller: a team of top techies from the National Security Agency vanish from the intelligence agency’s Maryland campus, collect $2 million, and resurface at a “hackerspace” in Cambridge.


Their objective: marketing a new, ultra-secure and super-scalable database technology, originally created within the walls of the NSA, to large corporations.

But it’s also the true-life story of the latest “big data” start-up to get funding from Massachusetts venture capital firms. It’s called Sqrrl, and the founding team is still in the process of relocating from the Washington, D.C., area. They’ll be operating out of the new hack/reduce collaborative workspace on the edge of Kendall Square. The $2 million in funding comes from Atlas Venture of Cambridge and Matrix Partners of Waltham.

Sqrrl is planning to sell and support its own commercial version of the open source database software known as Accumulo. Accumulo has an interesting history: it was originally built at the NSA and based on a data storage architecture called BigTable that Google created to store vast amounts of information — like Google Earth’s satellite images of the entire planet — across multiple data centers.

Somewhat amazingly, the government decided to release the code for Accumulo to the open source community, so that others could use it and improve it.

“That’s a growing trend in government, but it’s still not exactly commonplace,” said Sqrrl chief executive Oren Falkowitz.

So what makes Sqrrl so special? First, the Accumulo database can handle enormous amounts of data, said Antonio Rodriguez of Matrix Partners: “You can imagine the volume of data the NSA was working with, like gathering records of every purchase of fertilizer everywhere in the world to try to identify people who might be up to no good.”


Second, said Falkowitz, is a “cell-level” approach to security that can grant or refuse access to individual elements of information — like a Social Security number or medical diagnosis — within the database.

For the full Innovation Economy blog, updated daily, visit www.boston.com/innovation