5 Startups to Watch: RunKeeper, Paydiant, PeerTransfer, & More

10/22/12Follow @gthuang

If you’re looking to get your head into the Boston tech scene, this is a pretty good week to start. Today we’re watching a number of startups making noise and helping put Boston-area entrepreneurs, expertise, and issues on the map—these are local stories with global impact.

The news cuts across mobile apps, advertising, payments, and marketing:

RunKeeper (aka FitnessKeeper) is rolling out the latest version of its fitness-tracking app for the iPhone. From what I can tell, the big advance is that the new app is more social. So now you can interact with Facebook friends and phone contacts from within the app itself, and check how you’re doing against them on a leaderboard. RunKeeper is coming off being mentioned by Mark Zuckerberg last month as a product to watch, along with Spotify, Airbnb, and Nike+. Pretty good company to be in.

peerTransfer, the international tuition-payments startup, says it is the first company to allow Chinese students to make overseas education payments in their native currency, the Renminbi. This could be a big deal, as Chinese students make up more than 20 percent of the U.S. international student population. PeerTransfer has been expanding recently and is now working with over 200 colleges; it supports about 50 currencies.

Celtra is another startup that’s growing fast, this one in mobile advertising. The company’s revenues are four to five times what they were last year, and it is profitable. Celtra is also keeping a close eye on the Asian market for mobile ads, particularly Japan. Here are some industry trends to watch in the field of rich media ads, courtesy of a company infographic. With new devices coming from Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft’s Windows 8 platform, plus Android/Samsung and others, Celtra looks to be trying to build something like the next Macromedia in the cloud, for all devices.

Paydiant is moving forward in the thorny but lucrative world of mobile payments. The startup has been working with Vantiv, a big payment-processing firm, to develop a mobile-wallet platform for merchants and financial institutions (and their customers). That product just rolled out today, and it works for existing smartphones like iPhones and Android devices.

—OK, this last item isn’t just one startup, it’s a whole bunch. I’m talking about this week’s FutureM conference on marketing technologies, taking place around the Boston area. It’s hard to single out one event from a slew of good ones over four days, but one getting lots of buzz is the “Shark Tank” pitch contest on Thursday, where six young startups are vying for $100K in angel investments on the spot: Arcbazar, Jebbit, CoachUp, Sidewalk, Timbre (Intrepid Pursuits), and NBD Nanotechnologies. With any luck, some of these startups will graduate to become the next Boston companies to watch.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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