12 brilliant Boston start-ups to watch

14 Sep 2018

Downtown Boston. Image: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Boston is buzzing with start-up potential across a wide spectrum of technologies, from AI to cloud, fintech and the internet of things.

The Massachusetts capital is often compared to Silicon Valley but, in truth, Boston has always had its own thing going on.

The city boasts some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world, and Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) need no introduction. Facebook emerged from a dorm room at Harvard and fast-growing tech firms such as HubSpot came from founders doing MBAs at MIT. In fact, MIT’s reach into the entrepreneurial fabric of the US is considerable and recently, Amazon acquired Boston start-up PillPack for close to $1bn. Another Boston start-up, CarGurus, went public last year and is valued at around $4.7bn.

According to a recent TechCrunch report, venture investment in the Boston metro area hit $5.2bn by August this year.

The Cambridge area of Boston boasts one of the biggest concentrations of biotech and life sciences companies in the world and, from a digital tech perspective, the city is back on the map with a start-up energy to rival cities such as New York and Seattle.

In 2017, WalletHub ranked Boston as America’s 27th best city to start business and the Kauffman Index has ranked the Boston area eighth in terms of entrepreneurial growth.

Here’s our pick of the 12 best digital start-ups in the Boston area to watch in 2018.


Alyce has created a human-enhanced AI platform for the corporate gift-giving industry. The platform enables businesses to send gifts to prospects, customers or employees out of a selection of more than 30,000 products in its marketplace. Founded by Greg Segall, Alyce raised $5.3m in funding in 2017 from investors that include Boston Seed Capital, the Founder Collective, General Catalyst, Golden Ventures and Manifest Investment Partners.


Cake is a user-friendly digital platform for advance care planning and end-of-life planning. Founded in 2015 by Suelin Chen and Mark Zhang, Cake has a format for asking people direct questions about their final wishes, creating a living document that can be shared with loved ones. Cake raised $1.6m last year in a seed round involving Pillar Companies and Arkitekt Ventures.


A pioneer in on-demand, non-emergency healthcare transportation, Circulation drives efficiency and better patient outcomes. A preferred healthcare partner of Uber, Circulation was founded in 2016 by Jared Hawkins, John Browstein and Robin Heffernan. The company raised a $10.5m Series A round in July last year from the Providence Service Corporation, Flare Capital Partners, NextGen Venture Partners, Intermountain Healthcare Innovation Fund, Echo Health Ventures, Humana and Boston Children’s Hospital.


A software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for serverless reliability management, CloudZero enables businesses to adopt and manage serverless systems in seconds. Founded in 2016 by Erik Peterson and Matt Manger, the start-up last year raised $5m from investors including Matrix Partners and Underscore VC.


Humatics has developed a breakthrough micro-location and spatial intelligence platform that could revolutionise how people and machines locate and collaborate. Founded in 2015 by David Mindell and Gary Cohen, the company raised $18m last year in a Series A funding round involving Total Access Fund, Tectonic Ventures, Presidio Ventures, Lockheed Martin Ventures, Intact Ventures, Fontinalis Partners, Castor Ventures and Blue Ivy Ventures. This brings total funding in the company to more than $22m.

Owl Labs

Located in the Somerville area directly north-west of Boston, Owl Labs has developed a video conferencing platform that better supports remote-working employees. The start-up’s smart camera system automatically focuses on the person speaking to create an immersive telepresence experience. Founded by iRobot alumni Max Makeev and Mark Schnittman, Owl Labs has raised $7.3m in funding to date from investors that include Matrix Partners, iRobot and former Google Android boss Andy Rubin.


SessionM is a customer data and engagement platform that enables some of the world’s most innovative brands to forge stronger and more profitable customer relationships. Founded in 2010 by Lars Albright, Mark Herrmann and Scott Weller, the company recently raised $23.8m in a round led by Salesforce Ventures. Causeway Media Partners, CRV, General Atlantic, Highland Capital and Kleiner Perkins also participated. Albright sold his previous company, Quattro Wireless, to Apple in 2010 for an estimated $275m.


Smartcat is an AI platform that connects linguists, companies and agencies to streamline translation of any content into any language on demand. At its core, Smartcat is a SaaS company that automates translation workflows. Founded by Ivan Smolnikov in 2013, the company recently raised $7m in a series A round led by Matrix Partners.

Spoiler Alert

Spoiler Alert helps food businesses, farms and non-profits solve the problem of unsold food inventory and to track food donations. Founded in 2015 by Emily Malina, Marty Sirkin and Ricky Ashenfelter, the social-good start-up has raised $2.7m to date.


Focused on the future of transport and personal portability, Superpedestrian combines robotics with pedal power and has an exclusive licence to MIT’s Cophenhagen Wheel, a semi-autonomous vehicle condensed into a single red wheel. Founded in 2012 by Assaf Biderman, Superpedestrian recently raised $16.5m in funding, bringing total funding to $43.7m. Investors include the ‘podfather’, Tony Fadell; Spark Capital; Eir’s new owner, Xavier Niel; General Catalyst; and actor and musician Jared Leto.


Toast is a point-of-sale platform aimed at restaurants and catering businesses. Founded in 2011 by Aman Narang, Jonathan Grimm and Steve Fredette, Toast recently raised $115m in funding led by T Rowe Price. Other investors in the company include Tiger Global Management, Bessemer Venture Partners, General Investment Management and Lead Edge Capital.


Vesper is the designer of microphones and advanced acoustic-sensing technology that brings studio-quality acoustics into handheld devices. Founded by Bobby Littrell and Karl Grosh, it recently raised $23m in a Series B funding round led by American Family Ventures with strategic participation from investors such as Baidu, Amazon’s Alexa Fund and Bose Ventures.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years