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4/28/2009
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Boston Seeks Lead In Mobile Innovation, Startups

State funding and MIT connections fueled more than $500 million in investments in Boston-area mobile and wireless startups last year.

Boston backed up its aspirations of becoming a worldwide hub of mobile innovation with an announcement that $215 million in investments in mobile and wireless companies were made in the first quarter in Boston- and Cambridge-area firms.

Speaking at a Mobile Monday Boston meeting Monday night, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick pledged to continue to support Massachusetts companies. Before his talk, the governor toured exhibits of mobile companies, mostly startups.

"This is not your father's 128," he said in a painful reference to the Boston-area companies that invented much of the high-tech industry, only to see their fruits travel to Silicon Valley and beyond, then refined and built into major companies. Patrick noted that hundreds of startups and young companies are dotting the state, many in the mobile arena. He added that Massachusetts has a special interest in supporting companies that will create local manufacturing jobs.

The region's mobile companies are rallying around Mobile Monday Boston, which traces its humble beginnings to Helsinki in 2000. MoMo has several chapters across the world, and the Boston chapter is the largest.

"I think we have a perfect storm here of universities, venture capital, and entrepreneurs to become one of the largest mobile hubs in the world," said Kate Imbach, marketing director of Skyhook Wireless, which is an organizer of the Boston MoMo chapter.

Like many high-tech undertakings in the region, the chapter was formed in an MIT classroom in Cambridge. The MIT lineage continued as many of the presenters and exhibitors at Monday's meeting had ties to MIT.

An example of a company that received early help from the state and went on to big things is E Ink, which was a presenter at the Monday meeting. Company executives noted that the state had given a $100,000 early-stage grant to the firm. The company, which provides the displays in leading electronic book readers, now carries out some advanced manufacturing in Massachusetts.

E Ink is the leading player in the electronic ink industry and is the key ingredient behind such popular devices as the Amazon Kindle. The electronic ink industry is estimated to be worth $1 billion annually.

In reporting the latest investment figures, Mobile Monday Boston said voice-recognition software provider Nuance Communications led the first-quarter financings with a $175 million sale of stock. Other financings were for Quantia Communications, Onset Technology, Vela Systems, Quattro Wireless, and Extreme Reach. Last year, more than $500 million was invested in area companies, MoMo Boston reported.


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