Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Boston area start-ups

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit these cool Boston area startups:

Skyhook wireless, ThingMagic, Pongr and uLocate.

The technophile in me thoroughly enjoyed it while the entrepreneur in me mostly went "Why didn't someone think of this before, it's about time!"

It was fascinating to talk with Michael Sheen and Steve Solari, the CEO and COO of Skyhook. I first heard of Skyhook when Steve Jobs mentioned them in his Macworld keynote last year, with reference to this cool technology that uses wi-fi networks to determine location. When Michael and Steve talked about how it felt to be on the receiving end of a call from Steve Jobs (who said he wanted to work with them!) I got to hear the other side of the story. Very interesting start-up story. I hope to write another post soon with the details.

ThingMagic totally grabbed my imagination. The first iteration of my first start-up was built around the dream of a RFID solution until technical challenges forced me to adapt and switch to another technology. Therefore, when I heard that the technical challenge that had prevented me from building my prototype had been overcome, it was super-exciting to say the least! Hearing Yael Maguire, co-founder and CTO of ThingMagic speak was fascinating. They've partnered with Intel to build their RFID chip and Yael's description of how they solved the challenges of full duplex communication was educational. Having designed and built a prototype for a semi-duplex communication chip, I could appreciate the technical challenges. On the business side, it was interesting (and inspiring!) to hear about yet another start-up that was bootstrapped until very recently, which is when they took in their first round of funding. When ThingMagic CEO Tom Grant (a former VC himself) talked about how they carefully thought about whether or not to accept outside funding and the criteria they used to decide to take in extra money, I found myself nodding in complete agreement. As the founder of a bootstrapped start-up, I couldn't agree more that bootstrapping is the way to go if at all possible and that taking in VC money should be the last resort, not the first, like most first-time entrepreneurs tend to think.

To be continued.

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