Beyond 5×5: Five More Boston Startups You Should Know

We’re all gearing up for one of Xconomy’s biggest events of the year—today’s “5×5: Five Cities, Five Big Tech Ideas” forum, which is sold out. But I wanted to shine a little light on five other Boston-area companies I’ve been hearing about lately in my discussions with entrepreneurs and investors around town.

Frankly, it’s impossible to write about all the companies I’d like to cover, but here are a few that have piqued my curiosity this week—not necessarily the biggest or most successful, but interesting nonetheless. (And none of them are in particularly frothy sectors like social media or daily deals, I might add.)

So, apropos of nothing, here are five companies to watch:

FastCAP Systems: This MIT spinoff is developing a better ultracapacitor, which is an energy-storage device that competes with batteries and eventually could power your car or cellphone. FastCAP has won funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for its technology, which uses carbon nanotubes to construct more efficient electrodes. Another startup in this sector is Seattle-based EnerG2, which is also using a carbon-based nanomaterial to improve ultracapacitor electrodes.

LeadKarma: This Web marketing startup, founded in 2006, was doing “lead generation” before most people knew what lead generation was. The company runs websites for specific industries, such as insurance, that help consumers find quotes for services (and help companies acquire customers). Sounds simple but effective—and it’s all based on algorithms that adapt to what consumers are buying at any given time.

NeuroScouting: This stealthy startup stands out from most tech companies I hear about. Its approach is to understand how elite athletic skills show up in the brain of professional athletes—and then design computer technologies to enhance athletes’ mental training. The company is led by a couple of PhD neuroscientists, Wesley Clapp and Brian Miller, who believe they can blaze new trails in diagnostics and training in sports.

Nexage: This is a three-year-old mobile advertising company whose time is coming. Nexage, which moved to Boston last year from California, focuses on helping publishers make more money from advertising through mobile devices. This week the company released a new software product, for rich media ads—ones that are interactive or include video, say—on mobile platforms. (The technology is complementary to what DataXu does on the “demand side,” for advertisers.) All in all, Nexage seems positioned to cash in on the mobile advertising industry once the absolute spending numbers go up, as experts have been predicting for years now.

Shoebuy: OK, this online shoe-selling company was founded in 1999 and was acquired by IAC (NASDAQ: IACI) in 2006, but it’s still pretty interesting—and is still going strong as one of the top e-retailers in Massachusetts. (IAC also owns other sites like Ask.com, Match.com, Citysearch, and Urbanspoon.) One local entrepreneur told me, “It’s not Zappos, but it’s a hell of a business.” To me, Shoebuy seems like a smaller, more frugal version of Zappos, but it works basically the same way—and with similar results.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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