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14 for ’14: Xconomy’s Top Innovation Stories of the Year

Xconomy National — 

It has been quite a year for one-word headlines: Ebola, Sony, Uber, WhatsApp, to name a few.

Behind those headlines are complex issues in business and technology that came to the fore in 2014. Things like impediments to vaccine development; mounting threats in cybersecurity and privacy; the regulatory and cultural struggles of high-flying startups; and intensifying battles between companies trying to win the future of markets like mobile, advertising, and healthcare.

At Xconomy we live to bring you news, features, and analysis on important topics like these, from the front lines of where things are actually happening. Our reporters are in 10 regions and counting, and they aim to deliver local stories with global impact.

The following are my picks for Xconomy’s top stories of 2014. If you read only a few articles this year, read these. If you want to know the deeper stories behind the headlines, read these. If you want to take the pulse of innovation communities that don’t always get a lot of attention, read on. Each piece provides the context, national significance, and close-to-the-scene access that you couldn’t get anywhere else.

Here are the stories from around our network, in reverse chronological order:

1. Houston’s Bellicum Pharma Rides T-Cell Therapy Wave to $140M IPO

The first Houston biotech to go public in over a decade is part of a wave of cancer immunotherapy companies (see Juno and others), as Angela Shah reports.

2. Startups and 13 States Jumpstart Equity Crowdfunding Without SEC

The world of startup crowdfunding is changing fast, with different rules in different states; Michael Davidson sorts it all out.

3. New Ag-Biotech Initiative Plants Seeds for Startups

There’s something brewing in North Carolina agricultural tech; Frank Vinluan gives the historical context for an important new partnership.

4. So Far, Little Proof That Digital Health Is Healthy. Does It Matter?

As health IT starts to go mainstream, Alex Lash asks a critical question—and ponders the future of healthcare.

5. Startups, Jobs, Economic Impact: An Analysis of Commercialization at UW

Ben Romano’s in-depth look at the commercialization business at the University of Washington—with lessons, perhaps, for other schools.

6. John Maraganore: From “Prototypical Geek” to Canny Alnylam Chief

Ben Fidler’s signature profile of one of the biggest names in biotech, complete with scientific twists and turns and business opportunities lost and won.

7. Mapp Bio Steps onto Global Stage as Ebola “Hot Zone” Gets Hotter

A San Diego biotech company rises to prominence following the worst Ebola outbreak in history, as Bruce Bigelow reports.

8. What’s After Big Data? Niche Analytics, Data Wrangling, Smart Storage

My look at the future of “big data,” and where startups are heading in their efforts to outmaneuver traditional powers like IBM and EMC.

9. Sexism and Misogyny in Tech: How Investors Can Help Drive Change

J.P. Ruth tackles one of the hot-button topics of the year, and asks some constructive questions of startups and their investors.

10. Udacity’s Nanodegrees: Edtech’s Challenge to College Credentials?

Bernadette Tansey peers into the future of job training and sees that big tech companies want a piece of the education market.

11. Don’t Want Google in Your House? Some Home-Tech Startups to Watch

When Google bought Dropcam for half a billion dollars, Curt Woodward took a look at competing startups that have, shall we say, lower privacy costs.

12. Madison’s Tech Future: 5 Ways It Could Succeed, 5 Ways It Could Fail

Jeff Engel’s on-the-ground look at the pros and cons of a small but lively startup cluster—with plenty of challenges that apply elsewhere.

13. Ingress, Google, and Linda Besh: How a Mobile Game Augments Reality

Sarah Schmid runs with Detroit mobile gamers and their leader, who has come to Google’s attention through the virtual world.

14. WhatsApp, $19 Billion, and the Unreal Economy of Silicon Valley

The biggest tech acquisition of the year leads Wade Roush to question the fundamentals of the industry.

Honorable mention (a half-dozen wildcards; plenty of others I missed):

Vecna CTO Builds Solar-Powered Volkswagen Bus—And It Actually Works

Biotech Startups Tap Spider Genes in Quest to Spin Silk Gold

Steve Wozniak on Galaxy Gear, Google Glass, & Future of Wearables

Bluebird’s Gene Therapy Quickly Halts Blood Disease in Small Study

This Boston Lawyer Could Be Uber’s Nemesis as It Eyes Expansion

Can Sacramento End Its Innovation Drought?

International Wild Card:

And if you are interested in an up and coming international innovation cluster, check out our special report (21 stories all told) on Innovation in Ireland.