The Future 5 of Boston Tech, Q1 2023

These emerging startups might be working on the next big tech innovations.

Written by Jeff Rumage
Published on Mar. 16, 2023
The Future 5 of Boston Tech, Q1 2023
Pictured from left are the founders of EarlyBird Education, Tangle, Future, High time Foods and SOS.
Pictured from left are the founders of EarlyBird Education, Tangle, Future, High Time Foods and SOS. | Image: EarlyBird Education, Tangle, Future, High Time Foods and SOS / Built In

Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming tech companies, Built In launched The Future 5 across seven major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five early-stage tech companies, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of Boston’s rising startups from last quarter here.

* * *

The start of a new year brings the opportunity to showcase five up-and-coming Boston tech companies in our quarterly Future 5 series. We are shining a light on some unique startups this quarter, including digital vending machines that dispense health and wellness products, a credit card that incentivizes eco-friendly purchases and a virtual workspace that wants to make collaboration fun and easy for remote teams. Keep reading to learn about these companies and others in our Q1 edition of the Built In Future 5 series.

Built In’s Future 5 Up-and-Coming Boston Tech Companies, Q1 2023

  • EarlyBird Education (Edtech)
  • Tangle (Virtual Reality)
  • Future (Fintech)
  • High Time Foods (Foodtech)
  • SOS (Hardware)


Boston edtech startup EarlyBird Education has developed a video game designed to identify reading disorders in students ages 4 through 8. 

The video game is based on research by developmental neuroscientist Nadine Gaab and Yaacov Petscher, an associate director at the Florida Center for Reading Research. Their research was transformed into a video game at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator.

The director of the accelerator at the time was Carla Small, who is also the mother of child with dyslexia. Small was so inspired by the possibilities of this new technology that she left the accelerator to help Gaab and Petscher launch EarlyBird in 2020. The company has since sold its gamified literacy assessment to school districts in 20 states. Last summer, EarlyBird started selling the software directly to families.

Read More About EarlyBird EducationThis Video Game Can Spot Dyslexia Before Kids Learn How to Read


What started out as a makeshift collaboration tool for a remote team of virtual reality game developers at Absurd:Joy eventually grew to become a flagship product.

The startup is now in the process of changing its name from Absurd:Joy to Tangle, the name of the remote work collaboration platform. Tangle, which is designed to be left on throughout the work day, aims to recreate the serendipitous “swivel chair” moments of collaboration and conversation that became more difficult to recreate in the shift to remote work.

In Tangle, every team member has their own virtual room. They can control their privacy by keeping their door open or closed. When their door is open, their audio can be heard by other team members who have their doors open. Users can knock on each other’s doors to start a conversation, but they can also post notes on their door to indicate they need time to focus.

Tangle has built-in video functionality too. To avoid video meeting fatigue, users are encouraged to create their own video game-like avatar to participate in meetings.

Read More About TangleVR Game Developers Rethink Remote Work With Tangle Workspace App


Future is a startup that aims to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint by incentivizing purchases from environmentally sustainable companies.

Future developed a debit card, called FutureCard, that rewards consumers with 5 percent cash back when they pay for environmentally sustainable products and services, like public transportation, electric vehicle charging and bikeshare programs. The card rewards users with 6 percent cash back when they support Future’s eco-friendly partner companies. More than 50,000 businesses qualify for additional cash back rewards with the FutureCard, according to Future.

In addition to cash back rewards, Future quantifies a user’s carbon footprint through its FutureScore. The company also recommends spending and lifestyle changes that could improve one’s FutureScore. Users who adopt these changes are rewarded with FutureCoins, which can be redeemed for an initial starting value of $90 per coin.

Read More About FutureFuture Is Tackling Climate Change by Incentivizing Eco-Friendly Purchases


High Time Foods has developed a shelf-stable alternative protein that goes beyond the format of patties, nuggets and sausages. The startup’s chicken substitute can be shaped to create meatballs, kebabs or any other shape.

High Times Foods’ protein is made from peas, wheat and mung bean protein. Chefs simply add a little water and olive oil to create a meat substitute, which has the same taste and protein content as chicken, according to High Time Foods. The product does not have sodium, cholesterol or preservatives, according to the company.

High Time Foods’ products are now featured in eight Boston restaurants, including burrito chain Boloco, Egyptian restaurant Koshari Mama and South Indian restaurant Madras Dosa Co. The startup aims to get its product in 20 restaurants within the next three months.

Aakash Shah, High Time Foods’ co-founder and CEO, said the company recently moved its manufacturing operation to a larger space that will help it meet its goal of reaching the same price point as chicken.

Read More About High Time FoodsHigh Time Foods’ Shelf-Stable Protein Is Popping Up on More Boston Menus


Tired of being in spaces that were not equipped with period care products, Susanna Twarog and Robina Verbeek launched SOS to provide these products for free through digital vending machines.

SOS’ machines carry 10 unique health and wellness products. In addition to free period care products, users can also pay for deodorant, hair ties and other health and wellness essentials. The continually rotating supply in the machines helps consumers discover new products, and its digital display provides users with information about the brand’s story and the ingredients in each product. When customers aren’t using it, the machine displays programmatic and direct campaign advertisements.

More than 100 digital vending machines have been installed across Boston, New York and Florida since 2020. The company plans to triple its geographic footprint by the end of the year and eventually reach every city in the country.

Read More About SOSSOS Reinvents Bathroom Vending Machines for the 21st Century

Hiring Now
Healthtech • Other • Software • Analytics • Biotech • Pharmaceutical • Manufacturing