Thursday, September 15, 2016

#MIN90 Recap

Autodesk BUILD Space
Last night's Mass Innovation Night (#MIN90) was a great opportunity to see Autodesk's amazing new BUILD Space in the Seaport District in addition to checking out a whole lot of exciting new products. I talked to quite a few people who came to MIN90 specifically because they wanted to see the Autodesk BUILD Space. Autodesk was once again a great host, providing pizza and other refreshments and a congenial setting for networking. Fittingly for a space devoted to the building industry, a number of the products were building themed.

The absolute hit of the night (and winner of the grand prize) was Building Conversation with their augmented reality architectural visualization.  Imagine being able to walk into your plan right on site. That's right, you can walk through your project, look around, and see what it's going to look like with far more location-specificity than those artist's renderings we're always looking at during planning board hearings. It's like a hologram of your planned building right in the location. (Must remember to mention this to planning board sibling.)
Demoing Building Conversation
One product that caught my attention was Smartick, a new method for developing kids' math skills in a concentrated and adaptable way. Yeah,  math has to do with building -- math has to do with everything.  As someone whose favorite subject was math back in ancient times, I am pleased to see Smartick taking on the challenge of building up the math skills of kids from ages 4 thru 14. We need more creativity and flexibility in math education. 
Another product that was both interesting to me and popular with the crowd was Concrete Sensors. Did you know that moisture is the leading cause of failure in concrete flooring? How do you know when concrete is dry and ready for the next phase of a construction project? Concrete Sensors' wireless sensors monitor and report the curing and drying of concrete in real time and the app that goes with them lets you know what's going on so you can make better decisions, save time, save money, and improve quality control. (Must remember to mention this to construction sibling.)

Concrete Sensors
Speaking of concrete, I was really impressed with VariMold,  one of the two student start-ups from Wentworth Accelerate. VariMold offers a system for molding complex curved shapes in concrete. Urban architecture could use more curves.
The StorkIt mobile app enables on-demand shopping and delivery of various merchandise between friends (and/or neighbors). Craving a pumpkin spice latte? Enter that in the app and have one of your friends pick it up when he or she goes to Starbucks. It sounds to me like an app to organize the kind of stuff friends and neighbors used to do for each other back in the late Jurassic when I was young -- like, hey Solomon, can you pick up Billy's skates from the skate sharpening shop on your way home from school?
Presenting StorkIt
Knead  partners with your company's HR folks enhance the corporate wellness program by bringing short duration massage right to the office.
TiroGage  monitors tire pressure for medium and heavy duty trucks and buses. Imagine properly inflated tires on those big trucks barreling down I-495 -- man, would that ever reduce blowouts caused by under-inflated tires. And yes, they've heard all the Tom Brady football jokes already.
Jade Robot is a teaching tool designed based on teaching experience. The robots and their accompanying classroom materials get kids interested in programming and bring out their math and science potential. The built in user interface lets kids try things --  programming and configuring the Jade Robot without the use of a computer.  For more advanced projects, students can program the Jade Robot in Scratch and C with a Bluetooth wireless interface. Best of all, it appeals to both boys and girls -- no need for special girly robots to get girls interested.
Jade Robot
Cognate  is a trademark registry that makes it simple and convenient to document, monitor, and protect your common law trademark rights. I enjoyed joking with Bennett about trademarking my name so the other 46 Janet Egans in Essex County couldn't use it :-)
Bennett from Cognate
I didn't get a chance to talk much with LeafCanoe  about how its platform enables travel "experts" to share and monetize their knowledge by publishing smart guides.  I remembered Daijie Huang from an EforAll (then known as Merrimack Valley Sandbox) pitch contest back a couple of years ago and wanted to catch up a little more on how her strategy has changed/grown, but I just simply ran out of time.
Finally, as is traditional, I'll end this with an Expert Looking Expert. This month's Expert is Bob from Heartland offering his expertise in payments and payroll management.
Expert Looking Expert

Thursday, September 1, 2016

six reasons you might want to come to Lawrence this weekend

Flag at Lawrence City Hall

Looking for things to do this Labor Day weekend?  Have you ever thought of visiting Lawrence, the city that played a huge role in US labor history?  You can celebrate Italian culture, Lebanese culture, and labor history from Friday evening through Monday. Assuming that Hurricane Hermine leaves us alone, this is a great time to make that visit. Here are a few reasons that you might want to visit Lawrence this weekend:

1. Bread and Roses Heritage Festival

The festival commemorates the Strike of 1912. Yeah, in Lawrence they actually celebrate labor on Labor Day. The day long festival features, among other things, a live history stage  where you can learn about Lawrence's history and its present from  historians, writers, union representatives, and community activists.  There's live music on multiple stages, kids' activities, trolley tours, historic walking tours, and tables with vendors and non-profit organizations.

Monument to the 1912 Strikers

2. Moody Street Sound

They will be at Bread and Roses. Yes, you get to hear this fantastic band from Lowell on the Robert Frost Stage in Lawrence, how much more "Merrimack Valley" can you get? Trust me, you need to hear Jessenia Moriera's vocals. She's amazing.
Crowd at the Main Stage (2013)

3. Giant Puppets

What could be more perfect for Labor Day than political theater performed by giant puppets? Bread and Puppet Theater will once again perform at the Bread and Roses Heritage Festival. They've been appearing regularly for years and they're always popular.
Bread & Puppet's Bus and Props before the Performance (2014)

4. Feast of the Three Saints

Friday evening thru Sunday afternoon Lawrence's Italian community celebrates their Italian heritage, honors Saints Alfio, Filadelfo, and Cirino, and raises money for many local non-profits . Even if you're not Italian, this celebration will wow you with great food, free music, old friends (if you're Italian and from Lawrence like my brother-in-law), a torchlight parade, fireworks, and people yelling Viva Sant Alfio!
One of Lawrence's Canals

5. Crispelli

What? You've never had crispelli? "Fried dough" doesn't even begin to cover it -- my favorite is stuffed with ricotta, but I'm told that the anchovy ones are really good too.  This Sicilian treat is so closely associated with Lawrence that legend has it you may not be able to find it anywhere else in the US. The famed Italian Kitchen on Common Street offers crispellli along with the more widely known  arancini (rice balls) as their main menu items all year round.  They'll be serving up crispelli during the Feast of the Three Saints all weekend. Lining up for crispelli is a Lawrence Labor Day Weekend tradition.
Immigrant City Mural

6. The Mahrajan at St. Anthony Church

Love Lebanese food? Lawrence has long been home to a large Lebanese community. Since the early 20th century when immigrants came from Lebanon to work in the woolen mills, Lebanese food and culture has been a big feature of Lawrence life. St. Anthony Maronite Church may well be the oldest Maronite parish in the United States. The Maronite patriarch even visited Lawrence this summer (back in June).  St. Anthony's will be celebrating the Mahrajan Festival, a celebration of all things Lebanese, especially food. Saturday and Sunday are the days to check out homemade Lebanese delicacies.
Immigrant City Archives

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


OK, loyal readers, I got well and truly stuck in traffic yesterday evening and finally turned around and went home instead of continuing on to catch the tail end of #MINFoodie11. I haven't seen any news on the car fire that caused the traffic jam at 93 & 125 in Wilmington, so I assume the driver was OK. There was a lot of smoke and lots of fire trucks and basic gridlock. Anyway, it looks like I missed a great MIN event and it amuses me that my tweet about being stuck in traffic is part of the Storify for the event ...

MIN88 Storify -- for some reason just out now

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Six Reasons You Should Come to Lowell this Weekend

Downtown Lowell is the place to be this weekend. The Lowell Folk Festival is celebrating its 30th year as the longest running free folk festival in the country. Need more reasons?

Crowds Checking Out the Food Booths
Here are six reasons to come to Lowell during folk festival weekend:

1. Food!

Tour the world's traditional cuisines without leaving downtown. Local churches and nonprofits showcase their ethnic food traditions to raise money for their community programs. My personal favorite is the loobie and rooz from St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church. They have a way with green beans that I've never experienced anywhere else. Perennial crowd favorites are the lumpia and the turon from Iskwelahang Pilipino and the pierogi from the Lowell Polish Cultural Committee.

Mouthwatering Loobie & Rooz from St. George's

2. Learn to Make Pierogis

Did you enjoy those pierogis from the Polish Cultural Committee? This year you can learn to make them in the Foodways demonstration area. The demos this year range from the aforementioned pierogis to Jamaican fish tea and Chinese noodle making.

3. Baklava Sundaes

The baklava sundaes from the Hellenic American Academy PTA are the most anticipated sweet treat of the entire folk festival. I know people who come to the festival just for the baklava sundaes. You have not experienced Lowell Folk Festival if you have not had a baklava sundae.
Flat Frost and Flat Basho Enjoying Baklava Sundae at the 2015 Lowell Folk Festival
4. Beautiful Downtown Lowell

Folk Festival is the perfect time to check out the Mill City's red brick mills, canals, public art, three (count them three!) vinyl record stores,  the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Mill No. 5 (you have to experience it to understand), art galleries, art in the park, and did I mention record stores?

Beautiful Downtown View

5. unchARTed

This combination gastropub and art gallery serves up amazingly delicious pizza. They're having a Festival Friday event featuring an absolutely amazing lineup of performers. That's not all, there's a Festival Saturday event too! And it features even more fantastic performers including Jen Kearney, D-Tension, and more.

unchARTed Territory on Market Street
Crowd Enjoying Pizza and Art at unchARTed

6. Music Music Music Music Music!

This year's Folk Festival lineup features Nigerian musical icon King Sunny Ade & His African Beats. That's reason enough to come. This is his first North American tour since 2009 and he's playing to sold out venues all over the US and Canada. You get to hear him for free. This is big.

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are bringing the Cape Breton traditional music. Ana Lains brings Portuguese fado. Oh, and there's Chicago blues, Inuit throat singing, Iraqi oud, polka, Peking opera, gospel ... you get the idea: traditional music of the world!

There's dance too. That goes with music, right? You do not want to miss Lowell's own Angkor Dance Troupe, a true cultural treasure featuring traditional Cambodian classical dance as well as folk dances. Angkor Dance is reason enough to come to Lowell anytime they're performing. Take advantage of this opportunity. Do not miss it.

Angkor Dance
Still need more music? Besides the amazing lineup of musicians on the Folk Festival stages, there will be music all over the place. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops and the streets all add to the musical landscape. Besides the unchARTed events I mentioned,  you can check out local favorite Reverend JJ and the Casual Sinners at the Athenian Corner on Sunday. And you never know when the Gentleman Songsters might show up on a street corner or in a restaurant.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wow! Innovative Innovations at #MIN88

Wow. Just wow. A new take on mass transit, responsive parking meters, secure passwords, a whole new paradigm for content distribution, vegan unicorns, oh my! LogMeIn hosted Mass Innovation Night number 88 at their spiffy new Fort Point location (across the street from their former somewhat less spiffy Fort Point location) and the innovations were more innovative and more diverse than ever before. Oh, and they provided pizza. Hosts who provide pizza are always appreciated!
Our Host
Imagine getting around our cities without a car. Self-driving or otherwise, cars are not the future. To Mike Stanley, founder of Transit X , the future looks like a clean and efficient personal mass transit system of pods traveling on overhead rails zipping us around the city. My immediate reaction was that Lowell needs this immediately. Imagine pods whisking you from the Gallagher Terminal to downtown at 45 mph without ever having to take your life in your hands crossing Dutton Street! I mentioned this to Mike and he said he actually has spoken to the folks at the UML Innovation Hub. We can hope. Meanwhile,  his plan is to have a full-size and portable test system up and running about a year and a half from now and a real production system in two years, probably making its debut in Chelsea or Everett. If it really is as cheap as he claims, I foresee widespread adoption. I mean at $10 million per mile it is WAY cheaper than the $500 million per mile for the Green Line extension. So, yeah, TransitX got my vote for audience favorite.
TransitX Mike Stanley Posing with Full Size Graphic of Pod
Tiny Non-working Model -- The pods are the dark things above the bus.
Passwords. They're good, right? As TapLink founder Jeremy Spilman described them: "secrets you can keep in your mind." But we keep hearing about all these password breaches at places like LinkedIn or whatever ... so can we fix this without having to overcomplexify the burden on the user? (Yeah, I made up overcomplexify -- let's get it into the dictionary.) TapLink says yes, we can make passwords secure against offline attack even if your company’s password database is stolen. TapLink's blind hashing technique essentially obscures the passwords in a huge pool of data. At least that's what I gathered from his lightning quick presentation.
TapLink's Table Attracting Some Interest
Raise Your Hand if You Like Passwords
More supercoolness: LBRY makes it possible to publish a piece of digital content, like video, book, game, or some other kind of content not yet developed on top of a distributed network that makes it extremely efficient, robust, and resistant to censorship. Chew on that for a second. Founder Jeremy Kauffman said he'd explain it to his grandmother as "YouTube, but entirely controlled by and run by its users." It's decentralized. It's open source. It uses blockchain in creative ways to manage the content catalog and the way users can get paid. He never used the word disruptive (in fact the whole event was remarkably free of startup-speak) but that's what it its.
Stream, Share, Earn
Crowd Listening to Presenters
Innovative parking meters? You bet! Sentry Parking Meter/Kiosk is a parking meter that responds to your mobile device. Yeah, you can pay with your phone, but wait, there's more. Get directions to an open spot, instructions on how to pay, street closure alerts, weather warnings, and even discount offers from local businesses. My personal favorite feature? No more running back to add time if you are running late - just use your phone. And there's a “grace period” so you don't have to worry about getting a ticket if you're just minutes short.
Yes, It's  a Parking Meter
Unicorn Goods
It can be hard for vegans and animal lovers to find stylish goods that don't harm animals. Unicorn Goods solves this issue with an online shopping platform to help you buy animal friendly products. Anything that simplifies reducing impact on animals, people, and the planet is bound to find a sizable market.
Victoria, Founder of  WORKINGURL
I recognized Victoria and her extremely cool WORKINGURLCO carryall bags from following EforAll Southcoast's first accelerator class. Ever notice how women often have to carry a lot of stuff on the go? These bags solve that problem with style. Seriously check them out.

Care Cards - Best Costume of MIN88
Best Costume and Best Prop of MIN88 both go to Care Cards, whose T-shirts and scary skeleton helped promote their inspirational card deck designed to help you adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The rapid fire job opportunities at this MIN incarnation were unusually diverse, with calls for performers and artists and unpaid interns and more ... The new economy is interesting...

Diane Calls for Artists during Rapid Fire Job Opps
Virtually Here Saves You Time

I tried to talk to everyone and get photos of everyone, but you know how that goes.  Virtually Here's Virtual Assistant helps your business save time. AppInAll provides a group communication search tool for iPhone and Android. Supertitle provides perfectly synced subtitles for movie watchers at home, in nearly any language of their choosing. If I missed anybody else, I'm sure I'll catch up with you around the startup scene.

Our friends from Suja Juice were there offering tasting probiotic waters. I can vouch for the lime/ginger flavor.

Finally, as is traditional, I will close with an Expert Looking Expert shot. Jason from LogMeIn doubled as host and resident expert and agreed to pose looking exceptionally expert.

Expert Looking Expert

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Kicking Off Summer with EforAll

We had a perfect evening for celebrating entrepreneurship and summer in our beloved Merrimack Valley yesterday.  The EforAll Summer 2016 Kickoff at the Greater Lawrence Community Boathouse. There was good food and good company and lots and lots of networking.
Community Boating
There were boat rides and games and temporary tattoos and I even saw some people dancing to a Latin beat.

Merrimack River
Multi-talented EforAll Marketing Manager Andy Vargas demonstrated 21st century DJing -- just plug that phone into the sound system and presto, you've got a party.
Andy Vargas
The Party Connection served up the beverages, including adult beverages.
The Party Connection
The boat rides on the river were very popular. The boat could accommodate 10 at a time. Everybody wore life jackets.
Putting on the Life Jackets for the First Boat Ride
People were snapping up burgers and dogs as soon as they came off the grill.
The kids took advantage of the volleyball net for both volleyball and some game I'd never seen before involving getting a football over the net.
I couldn't get a photo of the bubble machine, but I did get the temporary tattoo guy to pose for me.
Temporary Tattoo Booth
Did I mention I met the Zen Fuddhist? We had a great conversation about food and Lowell and all that good stuff.
Savannah and Bradley -- Food Entrepreneurs -- Zen Fuhddist
The crowd was buzzing all evening. Lots and lots of networking going on.
The river was looking so beautiful it was hard to leave.
Looking Downriver Toward Lawrence Dam