Innovation Economy

Cambridge group lures teen programmers

Aaron O’Hearn heads Startup Institute.
Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times
Aaron O’Hearn heads Startup Institute.

Highlights from Scott Kirsner’s Innovation Economy blog

New seminar aims to create more programmers. Know a high school student with an interest in technology — or just learning how to build stuff?

Startup Institute, a Cambridge-based organization that up until now has trained recent college grads to fill jobs at start-ups, will offer its first educational program for high schoolers later this month. The free High School RampUp series will run two Saturdays, April 27 and May 4. But there is only space for 30 students.

Startup Institute chief executive Aaron O’Hearn cites estimates that by 2020, the ­United States will have about 1 million more programming jobs than it has computer science students. High School RampUp targets “folks who have had zero exposure to coding — let’s call them the nonnerdy students,” he said. They’ll spend two Saturdays getting comfortable with the Python programming language, and building simple Web applications that pull in and manipulate data from social ­networks like Twitter and Facebook. (For ­instance, how many times do their friends talk about various bands or baseball teams?)


“We want these people to learn for the pure sake of learning, and expose them to coding early on,” O’Hearn said. He cites the nonprofit as the inspiration for High School RampUp; it promotes the teaching of ­programming in schools.

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Olin College student Juliana Nazaré has been working with Startup Institute to develop curriculum for the new course, which will be held in Kendall Square. Expect it to fill up fast.

Medical device company flatlines, but it may not be the end. A once-promising drug delivery start-up that sprang from the labs of two MIT professors has run out of money without delivering a product.

SpringLeaf Therapeutics raised more than $20 million from Flybridge Capital Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners, and Excel Venture Management for a new wearable pump system to infuse drugs into patients subcutaneously, without requiring visits to a hospital. But the Boston firm ceased to exist last month. SpringLeaf tried to perfect its complex battery-powered delivery system, but never got to the point of conducting a clinical trial.

That may not be the end of the story.


Pieter Muntendam, a former BG Medicine chief executive, has acquired some of the company’s assets. He formed scPharmaceuticals, to continue work on a wearable pump. Working with him are three other SpringLeaf veterans.

scPharma’s website says it will focus on using the pump to deliver a diuretic to heart failure patients, helping to control fluid buildup that often sends a patient back to the hospital.

Muntendam said that he wasn’t ready to share specifics, but said it will rely on a ­different delivery technology that will be less expensive to produce, deliver drugs more ­precisely, and face “a lower regulatory hurdle” than the SpringLeaf pump.

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