From the Hive

Some advice for entrepreneurs, Google style

Want to customize a doorknob?, a start-up, may be able to help.
Want to customize a doorknob?, a start-up, may be able to help.

Highlights from, Boston’s source for innovation news.

Jeremy Wertheimer passed along some thoughtful advice at the Google for Entrepreneurs event last week in Cambridge. Now the search giant’s vice president for engineering, Wertheimer also is cofounder of ITA Software, a travel software company Google bought in 2011 for $700 million.

Wertheimer and his small team of MIT computer scientists began their work in the 1990s, when there was no way for passengers to quickly compare airline fares.


“If you can find a problem where you don’t have any reason not to solve it but somebody else might — it might be disruptive of something else — that to me is an interesting signal” there might be an opportunity for entrepreneurship, Wertheimer said.

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He suggested looking for other signals, too.

In researching ITA, Wertheimer found that the computer systems airlines used had been created decades earlier and had never been adequately updated for an open market.

“So if you can find someplace where the system has gotten a little long in the tooth, compared to the new problems, that’s often an interesting area to look at,” Wertheimer said.

Callum Borchers


3-D printing for the rest of us


Will we one day have a Google Drive or Microsoft Word for 3-D objects — a way to create, modify, and share three-dimensional models without having to learn complicated CAD software?

That’s the vision at, a start-up operating out of the Koa Labs shared workspace in Harvard Square. Greg Tao is chief technology officer, and Dylan Reid is chief executive.

What is trying to do is create Web-based software for an age when individuals and small businesses — including those without engineers on staff — will want to create or edit 3-D objects and have them produced in small batches, or perhaps as one-offs.

“We want to make the experience of working with three dimensions more like the experience of working in two dimensions, like on a document or a spreadsheet,” Reid said.

Matter also wants to make it easy to embed 3-D models into websites. A video game site, for instance, might embed models of popular game characters and let users make changes to them, and then send them to a service bureau or a site like Shapeways to be produced.


Currently, 3-D object design is a “for nerds, by nerds” kind of space, Tao said. A growing number of 3-D printers are available, some for just a few hundred dollars, but they require care and feeding. The company is “interested in how normal people would want to make stuff. They don’t perceive the objects in their lives as being flexible, since most are mass-produced in the millions. But we think people want to apply their creativity to objects.”

Some examples: customizing a doorknob or taking a 3-D scan of your friend’s face and mashing that up with a nice coffee mug someone has already designed.

Callum Borchers


Hackers on the right side of the law

Governor Deval Patrick is looking for people like Red from NBC’s new series “The Blacklist” to help nab cyber criminals, by practicing hacking legally through the Governor’s Cyber Aces Championship.

The contest, which is accepting registrations until Oct. 12, is designed to help entrants hone the kinds of cyber security skills a person might otherwise pick up on the wrong side of the law. It offers tutorials and tests, and the top performers will be invited to a military-style cyber attack simulation next spring.

“The Cyber Aces program will help us create a pipeline of talent so Massachusetts can build on our successes and lead the nation in this evolving innovation industry,” Patrick said. He added in a letter to schools soliciting student entries that cyber security jobs pay well but are hard to fill. Cyber Aces’ founder, Alan Paller, likened the shortage of cyber security professionals to a lack of fighter pilots at the outbreak of World War II.

“And like the pilot-training programs of that era, Cyber Aces initiatives, like this state championship, are how we will create the specialists we need,” he said.

Callum Borchers