Highlights from Scott Kirsner’s Innovation Economy blog.
Nudging your way through a sea of bodies on the dance floor is so 20th century. These days, to ask the DJ to play a song, you’re better off using your mobile phone.
At least that’s the vision of RequestNow, a start-up founded by two Boston University undergraduates. When you send a text message to a designated phone number, RequestNow figures out what song you’re probably talking about and adds it to the DJ’s queue. Songs requested by more than one person float to the top of the list. The founders are Matthew Auerbach and Guy Aridor, who met in a computer science course; Auerbach has some experience as a DJ.
I tried a demo last week, and it was pretty good at figuring out what songs I was seeking to hear. Texting “Heroes” put the David Bowie song on the play list. The first time I asked for “Crazy,” it assumed I meant the Gnarls Barkley song, but a second text for “Crazy by Seal” set it straight.
RequestNow hopes that DJs will pay a monthly fee for the app, starting at $9.99. A higher-priced version will let them send marketing messages to people who request songs, presumably promoting gigs. “It gives them the ability to market themselves and develop a relationship with audiences,” says Peter Boyce of Rough Draft, a seed stage investment group that is putting $10,000 into RequestNow.
‘New frontier in luxury’
Atlas Venture just made its first investment out of a new fund that it put together earlier this year, bankrolling a Cambridge start-up called CustomMade. And there are at least three things that are notable about the deal:
■ It’s a bet on old-school, Yankee-style craftsmanship.
■ It’s in a start-up located not quite two blocks from Atlas’s office in East Cambridge.
■ While Atlas usually makes early seed or first-round investments, this is a second round of funding for CustomMade, which has now raised $26 million.
CustomMade is a marketplace site similar to Etsy but focused entirely on products that are made to order. The site helps customers communicate with a number of “makers” around the country, find one they like, and manage the design process. The two most popular items customers want made, says CEO Mike Salguero: tables and necklaces.
CustomMade has 40 employees, and “the majority of this money will be used for hiring,” primarily in engineering and marketing. More than 12,000 makers bid on jobs through the site, and CustomMade pockets 10 percent of every successful transaction (with a cap of $1,000). “Our next challenge,” Salguero says, “is getting average customers to experience Custom for the first time — making it easier, more predictable, and more delightful.”
In a blog post, Atlas Venture partner Fred Destin predicts that “custom is the new frontier in luxury and ‘affordable luxury.’ ”
Industry-specific social network
LinkedIn and Twitter both have a vast audience. But the cofounders of a Cambridge start-up, Industry Inc., believe they have identified a gap. Neither social network, says cofounder Raj Bala, lets you interact easily with peers from the industry you work in.
So far, Industry will target people who work in tech, life sciences, and K-12 education. To start, you enter your work e-mail address and add contacts. (Eventually, the app will suggest people to follow.) You can also add people from the public stream of messages, which shows everything being shared in your field, or click on a company name to see employees who are Industry members.
Unlike with Twitter, there’s no limit on the length of your posts. “You could use it to ask a question, share a link, or organize something in the offline world, like a meetup of Boston area storage start-ups,” Bala says.
Cofounder Subra Aswathanarayanan and Bala worked together at EMC Corp.