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Easing student debt burden PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Two years ago, Northeastern University graduate Kelli Space garnered headlines — and criticism — with her website Two Hundred Thou, which sought public donations to ease her staggering student loan debt of $200,000. Now Space, 25, is trying to help others reduce their own loan burdens with Zero Bound, an online platform for students and alumni to receive donations in exchange for community-based “volunteering.” “A lot of people can say Two Hundred Thou was very selfish. Obviously it was very Kelli-centered,” Space, Zero’s co-founder and chief marketing officer, told the Herald. “Having one person seek student loan donations in exchange for nothing was sort of unfair. This is a lot fairer.” Space, who has a full-time job in New York, has $130,000 in debt remaining despite receiving nearly $13,000 via Two Hundred Thou. She created Zero Bound with her friend Sabrina Norrie, 29, who serves as the startup’s CEO. Through the platform, which the pair hopes to launch by early January, students and alumni create profiles, have the option to disclose their debt, and describe where they would like to volunteer their time, to find an organization that fits their needs. “Currently, young professionals aged 16 to 24 are volunteering less than any other age group, yet they have a tremendous amount of energy, education, skill, budding expertise and perspective to offer to their communities,” said Norrie, who has $28,000 left in student debt. Once volunteer hours are completed, students and alumni write up testimonials, and submit photos from the experience, which the duo will use to verify hours with the respective organizations. All money that students earn for their efforts will be transferred directly to their loan accounts. With student loan debt this year topping $1 trillion nationwide, Space said the startup was constructed with the Occupy movement as inspiration. “They’re definitely in mind in terms of who we’ll be able to market this toward and who we’ll be helping,” she said. The pair are in the midst of a 45-day crowd-funding campaign to raise close to $82,000 for website development and startup costs. Nearly $5,000 has been raised so far. Several hundred people already have signed up for Zero Bound updates on when the company will go live, Space said, adding she’ll “definitely” have a profile and volunteer “as soon as we launch.” Introductory emails also have been sent to several dozen nonprofits in the Northeast with several “already wanting to know when they can start receiving student and alumni volunteers,” Norrie said. Space added that she’s prepared for naysayers who may doubt the startup’s mission. “If that backlash does come, we’re still confident about the idea and we’ll definitely still be helping other people,” she said.

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Newbury Street going retro with shop inspired by ’50s pinup model PDF  | Print |  E-mail

The tony first block of Boston’s Newbury Street will take a nostalgic turn a la 1950s pinup model Bettie Page next month.

The Bettie Page clothing boutique — the nation’s 10th and the second on the East Coast — will offer a contemporary take on women’s dresses, skirts and other items that recall the heyday of the late Playboy Playmate known as the “tease from Tennessee.”

“They’re retro-inspired clothing, and they’re made out of modern fabrics, and sizing is more attuned to modern women,” said Jan Glaser, co-CEO of Las Vegas-based Tatyana Designs, which has a 30-year license to use Page’s name for women’s clothing.

The chain’s most popular item is the $150 nautically flared “Captain” dress in navy blue, with a double-breasted, ruffled sailor collar trimmed in white satin.

Glaser is shooting for a mid-October opening of the 1,700-square-foot store at 32 Newbury St., which will be outfitted in pink and black with leopard touches and images of Page.

Glaser and designer/co-CEO Tatyana Khomyakova launched their first Bettie Page store in 2007 in Las Vegas, at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.

“We decided to expand in the Boston area because that’s where a lot of our customers are from,” Glaser said. “We decided to locate on Newbury Street because it’s just a world-famous shopping area, and it’s surrounded by colleges.”

The chain’s core customers are 18- to 35-year-old women — from rockabilly fans to young professionals, according to Glaser.

“About 30 percent of our customers know who Bettie Page is, but they account for about 50 percent of our sales,” he said. “We were looking for a brand identity that would give us a head start and build an affinity among a very devoted group of clients.”

Tatyana Designs went public last month through a reverse merger. Its shares are traded over the counter now, but Glaser expects to move to the NASDAQ next spring. Each store generates about $1 million a year in sales, and the company also has e-commerce and wholesale divisions.

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Business software booms in Massachusetts PDF  | Print |  E-mail

The Hub is riding an unprecedented wave of enterprise software success, with investors and entrepreneurs flocking to startups that provide tech solutions to business clients.

Enterprise technology companies are low profile. They sell to businesses and boast reliable revenues that don’t depend on the whims of consumers. Here are some local enterprise software companies to watch:

• Demandware, which provides e-commerce websites for Adidas, New Balance, Gucci and others around the world, with its customer base growing 35 percent annually. While highly publicized tech IPOs such as Facebook and Zynga fell hard, Demandware stock was trading at $30 Friday after debuting at $23 in March.

 Acquia, founded by open-source software superstar Dries Buytaert, with a content management system used by 2,500 customers including the prime minister of France, the Grammy Awards and every site that ends in .gov.

• Rapid 7, which is headquartered in the Prudential Center and helps businesses assess and fix their tech security.

Others include AppNeta, which helps companies that want fast delivery of web apps and content, has 1,000 users worldwide and had raised $18 million in venture capital as of June; Akiban, a cloud data management company;Apperian, which was founded by former Apple employees to help businesses build corporate apps; and VMTurbo, which has more than 8,000 worldwide users of its workload management platform.

Michael Skok of North Bridge Venture Partners has spent three decades in the software business, but has never seen enterprise software as hot as it is today.

“It just went out of favor because I guess what it is isn’t sexy,” Skok said. “But we, as a firm, think it’s extremely sexy.”

He added, “Right now it’s certainly one of the top segments for us, and by far and away the most obvious.”

The boom in enterprise is fueled by several factors — growth in cloud computing, the influence of Apple’s user-friendly designs and the increased ability of employees to bring their own devices to work, sending corporate app development into overdrive.

Bain Capital Ventures managing director Ben Nye said Boston’s academic landscape and high concentration of entrepreneurs make it a hotbed for enterprise companies. “The vast majority of what we do at Bain is enterprise-centric,” he said.

Although venture capital investment was down by 18 percent in the first quarter of this year, the investment in enterprise software companies increased by 14 percent, according to a Dow Jones VentureSource survey.

“We get to do things now that are exciting in terms of the innovation and more fun,” said Tom Erickson, who has spent his entire career in enterprise and is now CEO of Acquia, on the list of Forbes’ most promising companies in America and named private company of the year last week by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council.

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Seaport developer’s son takes lead in National Mall fundraising PDF  | Print |  E-mail

The son of Seaport real estate developer John Drew is rounding up corporate donations to help pay for a big fix to America’s “front yard ” — the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where a monumental $700 million restoration project is under way.

John P. Drew regularly visits the national park, a historic landscape between the Lincoln Memorial and U.S. Capitol, while managing the nearby Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

“It’s in a complete state of disrepair. It’s shocking,” he said of the National Mall. “I think many people assume that it’s probably pristine and in great shape, but it’s not.”

Drew, 38, who commutes from the South Shore to D.C. weekly for the Drew Co., joined the Trust for the National Mall’s corporate committee in 2009 and will serve as co-chairman for the next year. His goal is to generate at least $1 million from corporate donors toward the nonprofit trust’s effort to eventually raise $350 million — money that will be matched by the National Park Service.

“It’s not just a D.C. issue; it’s a symbol for the nation,” said Drew, who will organize meetings with potential Boston donors this fall. “Being the type of city with the history we have here, people recognize the connection.”

While the National Mall’s reflecting pool reopened in August after a two-year, $34 million reconstruction, there’s plenty more to do, according to trust president Caroline Cunningham. “It was never really designed for 25 million people (visiting each year), and the last time the park saw an infusion of capital was about 40 years ago for the bicentennial,” she said.

The turf on the great lawn is being overhauled, and up next are major upgrades to the Constitution Gardens and the Washington Monument, which was heavily damaged in an August 2011 earthquake. Sidewalks are cracked and sunken in many places. The landscapes around the monuments need fresh designs.

Cunningham said dozens of companies already have stepped up, and she expects to find plenty of support in Drew’s domain.

“There are a lot of patriots in Boston,” she said. “They understand the importance of history and the leaders that shaped our country, and there are a lot of companies (in D.C.) that got their start in Boston.”

The trust will follow the “Olympic model,” Cunningham said, allowing donors to deploy the National Mall brand in “cause-related marketing” much like McDonald’s sports the iconic five-ring logo. “It is America’s front yard, and we want to be mindful that we’re not selling it,” she said, adding that donors will be recognized in a small building near the White House.

Drew will drum up donors in three cities — D.C., Boston and Dublin, where the Drew Co. operates another trade center. The firm, which is building the Waterside Place apartment tower on the Southie waterfront, has managed the government-owned Reagan Building and trade center since it opened in the Federal Triangle in 1998.

At 3.1 million square feet, it’s the biggest building in the area after the Pentagon. The 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. complex houses three federal agencies and 30 private companies, hosts 1,500 events a year, and serves workers and tourists in its 1,000-seat food court. The Drew Co. has 500 employees based there, handling management, leasing, hospitality and trade services.

“It keeps us very busy,” Drew said. “We get about a million visitors a year. We have a public plaza, so people cut right through to go the Mall.”

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Apple reboots old gadgets PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Apple’s new operating system is such an improvement that it might make you love your iPhone 4S again — and think twice about dropping $199-plus on the newest iteration tomorrow.

By integrating Twitter and Facebook with your contacts list, iOS 6 has finally caught up to Android and nearly reached Windows 7 in terms of how information about people you know is organized on your phone. It’s a good sign for the iPhone 5, which comes with iOS 6.

Siri is a new woman. She can open applications, call and message contacts and do things that a voice recognition assistant is supposed to do.

IPhone 4S owners will find themselves with a more business-friendly smartphone. If you’re in a meeting or running to one when a call comes in, a new phone feature allows you to instantly reply to the caller with a text or get a reminder later to contact that person. A “do not disturb” button also makes sure you won’t be bothered by anyone except VIPs of your choosing.

Those without the latest devices might be disappointed after spending an hour or so downloading and setting up iOS 6, which was released to the public at 1 p.m. yesterday. Owners of the iPad 2 and those who still have the iPhone 4 or 3G won’t get Siri, and the process will just further drive home that it’s time for an upgrade.

Before you download iOS 6, make sure you delete the apps you no longer use to free up plenty of space, download the latest iTunes (version 10.7) and back up your device (to Apple’s iCloud or program of your choosing).

After you download iOS 6, open the settings program, go to Facebook and Twitter and click on “update contacts.” That will integrate your contacts list with your social media friends.

The iOS 6 rollout wasn’t without glitches. The much-anticipated mobile ticketing, payment and coupon app Passbook simply wasn’t working for many users, myself included.

Apple’s proprietary maps application is in and Google Maps is out. The results are a mixed bag. I put the turn-by-turn voice navigation feature through the paces in downtown Boston. But it was no match for the Big Dig, thinking I was on I-93 when I was above ground and barely knew where I was most of the time.

I’m sticking with my Garmin GPS for now — and enjoying my iPhone 4S for all of two more days.

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