Monday, June 17, 2019

Mass Innovation Night #MIN123 Recap

This month's Mass Innovation Nights event, MIN #123,  drew a wide variety of advanced textile manufacturing and other apparel products and innovators to IndusPAD in Lawrence on Wednesday, June 12. Our hosts and sponsors for the night were IndusPAD and Lawrence Partnership. The products showcased ranged from practical and fashionable key wallets to a line of underwear designed to enable patients to manage leg bags and tubing comfortably and discreetly. There was a decent crowd despite sharing the night with Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. (This is the Merrimack Valley -- we take both hockey and entrepreneurship very seriously.)

IndusPAD aka Former Polartec Plant
I didn't manage to visit every product table, but made it to most of them. My blog post attempts to capture what I experienced.

Our four presenters for the night, chosen ahead of time by audience voting on the Mass Innovation Nights website, were:
Hope Sews combines both Ghanian and western clothing styles into a chic, modern style that they call cross-cultural fashion.  The clothing is made from authentic Ghanaian fabrics and prints by seamstresses in rural areas of Ghana. A percentage of each purchase goes toward providing seamstresses with micro-finance loans to buy electric sewing machines to scale their businesses. Hope Sews sees its mission as empowering women through fashion.
Hope Sews
I remebered Magnomer from an EforAll pitch contest in 2018 (didn't get to blog about them then because my computer was in the shop for weeks -- don't ask). Anyway, I am impressed with their magnetic coatings technology for plastic packaging. The coatings are used on packaging where the labels get in the way of recycling.  For example, shrink sleeves for bottles. By automating and simplifying the separation of the labels from the plastic in the recycling process they not only make recycling way easier but also increase the recycling yield. Their Design2Recycle™ concept for thinking about production makes it easier for consumer brands to increase bottle recycling without having to change the bottle manufacturing process. The difference is in the magnetizable inks for the labels.

Magnomer Showcasing Labels on Plastic Bottles
The Keysie Key Wallet caught my eye right away. Who hasn't had the "where are my keys?" experience? Rather than relying on one of those beeper things to locate your keys, Keysie keeps you from misplacing your keys in the first place. It's compact and well-designed to hold keys, frequently used credit cards, and your ID.   And you don't have to unhook it to put the key in the lock either. It's really cool-looking too.
Keysie Clips Right onto your Bag
Lawrence-based CathWear got my vote for audience choice winner immediately.  It's such an elegant solution for managing catheter bags and tubes safely and discreetly. I enjoyed talking with the inventor, Brian Mohika, a nurse who came up with the idea after watching patients struggling with managing leg bags. CathWear is underwear that looks like boxer briefs with pockets to hold the catheter bags. There's also a channel to hold the tubes in order to prevent inadvertent pulling.  Everything stays in place,  the bags and tubes don't irritate the patient's skin, there are no more irritating and unsanitary velcro straps, and best of all nobody will notice it under your clothes. It restores privacy and dignity. That's a game changer for people who have to wear leg bags to work or school every day.
Demonstrating CathWear
Terracea's jackets -- insulated and non-insulated -- were getting a lot of audience attention. The idea that you can wear the same clothing for outdoor adventures and urban streets and stay warm and dry as well as looking good is pretty cool. The Fall/Winter 2019 outerwear collection gets you through your weekday commute and your snowboarding weekend through all the weather that New England has to offer. Waterproof, comfortable, windproof, durable urban-to-outdoor clothing can handle it all. With a helmet-compatible hood, plenty of pockets (there's even an interior phone pocket with a media port) and nice snug wrist gaiters, you'll be ready for adventure on the slopes  as soon as you get off work.
IG MODA leggings, tops, and accessories feature unique designs based on Irina Gorbman's original art. The color combinations are designed to evoke a meditative vibe that makes people smile and energizes the body from within. I can imagine such vibrant patterns kicking up my workout a notch.

IG Moda

Southwick is an established brand with a factory based in Haverhill. Southwick's understated elegance and fine workmanship has been synonymous with authentic American style since 1929.  They are the flagship factory for Brooks Brothers Made-in-America clothing. 
Southwick Jacket with Classic American Soft Shoulder Design
They had some of their Fashion Tailored Clothing Jackets on display at their table. I have to say I liked the silver one, which was a custom design for one of their clients.
Southwick Silver Jacket
The gunaPAJAMA is a soft and cozy baby pajama with an innovative zipper for easy diaper change. No snaps! The bamboo viscose material feels soft to the touch and wicks moisture too. I liked the way the simple practicality of the zipper and the comfortableness of the fabric combine for the easiest diaper change ever.

The Acadia Chukka Boot from T.B. Phelps feels soft to the touch and looks great. They get the luxurious feel with natural organic finishes hand-applied on vegetable-tanned American Deerskin. Pair that look with a matching Torrence Deerskin belt made in Haverhill and you'll look great.
T.B. Phelps Boots and Accessories
Congratulations to the audience choice winners for the night -- all well-deserved:
CathWear − Grand Prize

The Audience Choice Winners Posing with the Night's Sponsors
The Experts Corner featured an outstanding lineup of experts: Larry Andrews from Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, Francisco J. Martinez, CTO of  Mission Ready Solutions, and Lianna Kushi, Executive Director of EforAll Lowell-Lawrence.  Each of them shared extremely useful insights both in their talks and at their tables in the Experts Corner.

One of the high points for me was Francisco Martinez's inspiring story of arriving in Lawrence as a 19 year old immigrant from Colombia, starting out at Polartec cleaning factory floors and working his way up to division manager, then on to launching a successful business of his own producing military clothing (Protect The Force LLC now merged with Mission Ready Solutions).  Yes, as a Polartec employee he worked at this very spot that is now IndusPAD. So many elements of the resilience of the Merrimack Valley flowed through Francisco's story that I found it amazingly inspiring.
Francisco Sharing His Expertise in the Experts Corner
The after party was right in the next room and featured a giant paella. People were already lining up for paella before 8:30!
The After Party About to Get Started
The Experts Corner is a popular part of MIN events and my traditional Experts Looking Expert photos have become popular as well. This month's Experts Looking Expert shot features two amazing expert women of the Merrimack Valley: Lianna Kushi, Executive Director of EforAll Lowell-Lawrence and Marianne Paley Nadel, owner of Everett Mills Real Estate. This is what experts look like!

Experts Looking Expert

Monday, January 21, 2019

#MIN118 Recap -- A Full House at Workbar Burlington

Already a Bustling Scene in Workbar
Mass Innovation Nights kicked off their tenth (tenth!) year with a jam-packed event at the newly opened Workbar Burlington. The lineup of products was definitely eclectic this time -- lots of new and exciting stuff in more categories than you can imagine. 
Getting Crowded
The four presenters chosen by online voting ahead of the event were:
  • Del Sur Empanadas
  • Aveyo Spoonable Avocado
  • Candorful
  • CaneWraps
I made it a priority to check out their tables first and then get to as many of the other products as possible. The product showcase was spread out among three rooms so folks got to see the different types of Workbar spaces as well as the products.
Pat Hubell (L) Telling Maureen Mansfield(R) About How Candorful Helps Vets
Candorful connects veterans and military spouses who are making the transition to civilian life with career coaches for live practice job interviews. After a series of practice interviews, candidates are well-prepared for handling an interview. Helping our service men and women nail the job interview is a great service!
Candorful Presentation
CaneWraps by Sweetmobility are colorful neoprene sleeves that wrap around a cane to make using one a more positive and stylish experience. The sleeves come in a variety of colors for style and personal expression as well as reflective patterns to increase the cane user's visibility while walking at night. The coolest feature is a protected spot inside the wrap for personal contact information so you can be reunited with your cane if you accidentally leave it behind or something.  The designers are a husband and wife team -- one is an industrial designer and the other an occupational therapist. They have a real vision of getting rid of the stigma of aging and loss of mobility. I was impressed.

CaneWraps Presentation

Aveyo Flavors
Aveyo launched Spoonable Avocado. Avocado is a superfood that's been having its 15 minutes of fame for awhile now, but it's kind of hard to think of it as a quick snack. There's the timing -- it's got to be perfectly ripe -- and there's the preparation.  Aveyo handles those things for you. It's a creamy avocado snack  in a cup -- a spoonable snack like yogurt.  It comes in three flavors: Vanilla Bean, Super Cocoa and Strawberry. I tried the vanilla bean and the cocoa. Look for them in stores soon.
Aveyo Presentation
This wasn't a food themed event, but food was definitely getting attention. My next stop after tasting the avocado spread had to be tasting the empanadas.
Empanadas Were Going Fast!
Del Sur  makes all natural Argentine-style empanadas at their small factory in Lowell. I remember Sebastian and his empanadas from the EforAll 2018 Winter Accelerator.  It was great to see the progress and to taste the wonderful empanadas. I especially like the spinach ones. It was also great to see Joey Banh from EforAll there to support Del Sur.  Del Sur sells these delicious empanadas at farmers' markets and offers catering service. Trust me, you need these empanadas at your next event.
Del Sur Presentation
The A Cloud of My Own table was attracting quite a crowd. With all the smart devices in our homes nowadays, we all need to pay attention to security. A Cloud of My Own stops hackers from monitoring and controlling those "Internet of Things" and "Smart Home" devices inside your home. I was not surprised that they won first place in the audience choice voting.
A Cloud of My Own
Lawn Serv provides a DIY lawn care subscription box customized for your lawn's particular needs.You provide a soil sample to start off and Lawn Serv selects a mix of lawn care supplies based on the soil analysis. Lawn Serv's monthly box provides just what you need for each season. Their table was really busy.
Lawn Serv
Athleisure limited edition leggings and tops from IG MODA by Irina Gorbman, Inc. feature designs based on what they call meditative art. The art is indeed beautiful to look at and I can see how wearing such beautiful designs could enhance your workout or just make your day more beautiful.
Athleisure Wearable Art
Recipi is a free small business web marketing tool that helps small businesses compete in today's digital marketplace. Using Recipi instead of having to hire a high-priced marketing consultant simplifies connecting your website, social media, and analytics etc. on one dashboard so you can maximize your web presence.
Alas, I did not manage to visit either Smarketing Institute, sales and marketing consulting, or NanaGram, photo printing and mailing service.

Standing Room Only for the Presentations
Jam-Packed Workbar
The winners in the audience choice voting were Del Sur, Aveyo, Lawn Serv, and A Cloud of My Own. All of them made a big impression.
The Winners
The experts holding down the Experts Corner were Workbar, East Boston Savings Bank (conveniently located right across the parking lot), and public speaking coach Linda Ugelow. All gave excellent brief expert presentations. Linda Ugelow's presentation really engaged with the audience, so this month's Expert Looking Expert photo is Linda making her presentation.
Expert Looking Expert

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

EforAll Summit 2018 -- Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Black Thought
What a privilege it was to attend the 2018 EforAll Summit on Entrepreneurial Ecosystems! This year's lineup of speakers was absolutely amazing. Black Thought (MC of The Roots), Bill Cummings (Cummings Foundation/Cummings Properties), and Brandale Randolph (The 1854 Cycling Company) all delivered inspiration and insight. UTEC did an excellent job hosting. 

As at previous summits, my peak of meeting new people was at breakfast. I always seem to meet people from Holyoke, but this year I also met interesting people from Gardner. Discussing how cities like Gardner have changed through the years over several cups of coffee is a great way to start the day.

The crowd built steadily during breakfast and David Parker's opening remarks outlining the day's program for us. Oh, and he had so much success with his Moana slides last year, that he featured other movie scenes on this year's slides :-)

David Parker -- Opening Remarks
For the first panel session, I chose Leveraging Your Ecosystem to hear how each of  the panelists had benefited from the entrepreneurial ecosystem and what advice they had for other entrepreneurs (and students). Panelists Luis Gonsalves, Dawn Cordeiro, Ray Hamilton, and John Noto had diverse stories about different aspects of their local ecosystem. Luis from Juice'd Cafe mentioned that the SBA is a great place to start.  Dawn from Holyoke Hummus tested out her idea at community events and recommended a strategy of always being out there telling your story. Ray from InvisaWear talked about entering competitions and taking advantage of the UML incubator and the EforAll accelerator program. John of Lowell Makes pointed out that your ecosystem starts with friends and family. The quotes going up on Post-its over my desk are:
"Your ecosystem starts with your friends and family " -- John Noto, Lowell Makes
"You need to be always telling your story" --  Dawn Cordeiro, Holyoke Hummus
"Go for it to start. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice." --  Ray Hamilton, InvisaWear
Leveraging Your Ecosystem Panel Listening to Dawn Talk about Holyoke Hummus
The Pathway to Building Successful Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Maximizing the Entrepreneurial Experience looked good too, but I was very happy with the one I chose and came home with a bunch of notes.
Andy Vargas Facilitated the Leveraging Your Ecosystem Panel
The main hall really filled up for the first keynote, a fireside chat with Black Thought (aka Tarik Trotter) MC of the hip-hop group The Roots, also the official house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. If I had to pick one quote that resonated it would be: "Be brave. You have to take the risk to reap the rewards." Christa Brown did an excellent job of interviewing him and at the end she asked him if he would rap about entrepreneurship for us. And he did! His freestyle was the highlight of the summit. You simply have to check out this video. Needless to say, he got a standing ovation. On top of all that, he also hung out with the young adults at Cafe UTEC.

Christa Brown
"Stay focused. Stick to your dream. Be brave." -- Black Thought

Big Crowd for Black Thought
For the Ecosystem Interactive Session in the main hall attendees grouped themselves around 7 topics: Inclusivity, Collaborative Culture, Shared Vision, Connected Networks, Quantify Methods, Universal Support, and Sustainable Work. Participants brainstormed ideas and goals for what to do next in those areas. I chose Inclusivity and found it a valuable discussion though it was a bit hard to hear with all the ambient noise from the other groups in the main hall.

Interactive Panel Session on Inclusivity
As the interactive session was winding down, copies of Bill Cummings' book Starting Small and Making it Big began to appear on the tables. Time for the next fireside chat/keynote. Desh Deshpande interviewed his fellow philanthropist Bill Cummings. Cummings' personal story is inspiring and packed with lessons for entrepreneurs of all kinds. He told so many great anecdotes that I could barely wait to get home and start reading the book.  Being in Lowell, he naturally brought up the thing he has in common with Jack Kerouac: they both sold Vicks VapoRub. The audience also enjoyed his story of his first meeting with members of the Giving Pledge and being asked "What's your tail number?" (Spoiler, he doesn't have a private jet.) It was great to hear that Cummings Properties provides low-cost rent to early stage entrepreneurs -- another bit of the ecosystem. And yes, Desh did ask if Bill would rap for us but he declined :-)
Fireside Chat: Desh Deshpande Interviews Bill Cummings
 "The most important thing in any negotiation is to listen." - Bill Cummings

Can't Wait to Read It!
I loved the Art of Pitching workshop. It was great to see so many entrepreneurs willing to test out their pitches and so much useful feedback emerging from both audience and judges  Anne Estabrook and Todd Fry. Some of the pitches were from folks I've heard at EforAll pitch contests before, like Nate McNiff's Wandering Stage. It was great to see Reem Yared, founder of Help Around Town, whom I met long ago at a Mass Innovation Nights event  (MIN48  -- wow, that was a long time ago). Some of the entrepreneurs didn't have much pitch experience. We all learned lots of good stuff from Anne and Todd's critique of each one. "Lead with the value proposition" was probably the most important advice.
Help Around Town Pitching
The final fireside chat of the day was with Brandale Randolph, founder of The 1854 Cycling Company, interviewed by Shelley Cardoos. Randolph shared his experience growing his business, brand building, Framingham's entrepreneurial ecosystem, and creating careers for the formerly incarcerated. His emphasis was definitely on the social impact of the business: "It’s not about the bicycles, it’s about a brand that means something." Inspiring and thought-provoking don't even begin to cover the impression he made. I highly recommend  his TEDx talk "Stop throwing breakfast sandwiches at the poor."
Brandale Randolph and Shelley Cardoos

Friday, November 16, 2018

#MIN116 Recap -- Innovation, Palm Trees, and Some Memories

This month's Mass Innovation Night, MIN 116,  took place at Lincoln North in -- you guessed it -- Lincoln, Massachusetts, sponsored by RW Holmes.  Delicious food was catered by Neillios Gourmet Kitchen -- the Swedish meatballs were particularly popular.
Our Host Venue Lincoln North
It was fun getting there through the woods (I always take the back roads to anyplace along 128) as the drive through the whole Virginia Road/Hanscom Air Force Base area brought back many memories ranging from childhood visits to the MIT Flight Facility to my first post-college job at the Air Force Cambridge Research Lab (writing FORTRAN programs to plot data about the Aurora Borealis). I wasn't exactly sure where the old defunct AFCRL was in relation to the part of Hanscom I was driving past. The hangar I remember from when my Dad worked at what was then called the MIT Instrumentation Lab (now Draper Lab) is gone -- replaced with a bigger more modern hangar -- but I did sort of recognize the general area of where his machine shop was in relation to the runways and it brought back wonderful childhood memories of air shows. Funnily enough, when I was talking with Eric Andersen about the woodsy drive to Lincoln North and the history of Hanscom, he brought up the annual air show. I wonder how many other MIN attendees have memories of the air show? Anyway, enough with the personal associations... on to the event ...

The Lincoln North building featured many indoor trees. I imagine working there would be kind of like working in an arboretum.
The Scene
Products ranged from an electric outboard motor to government transparency software. The presenters chosen by the online voting were:
It's not every day you get to listen to the MIN presentations underneath palm trees, so that added a little extra something to the experience. The microphone was a little touchy so it was kind of hard to hear WAVEPulse, but otherwise it was a good venue.
Palm Tree
Skippit uses real time video and voice interaction to create a more authentic online dating experience. A secure 5-minute call with your match eliminates those weeks of messaging leading to an in-person date where you discover within the first 3 minutes that you're not a match.
ClearGov is government transparency at your fingertips. According to the presentation, 1 out of every 3 towns in Massachusetts already uses ClearGov to share town finances and demographics. That's pretty widespread adoption. I love the idea of simplifying the way tax and budget information are presented and the ease of comparing similar towns statistically. I'd love to see my town embed this in their website.
Flux Marine has designed  a zero emissions electric boat motor.  It's kind of the Tesla of outboard motors. It eliminates the large amount of unburned gas that ends up in lakes and rivers every year too. Not only is it clean and sustainable, but it also offers better performance and reliability than gas engines. 
Flux Marine
WAVEPulse Sterilization technology from ONEightyC fragments proteins, providing a high level of sterilization and disinfection of organisms that frequently cause hospital-acquired infections. Sterilization of many surgical instruments like endoscopes poses challenges. WAVEPulse technology addresses some of these challenges with the ability to tackle prions and super bugs. I had trouble hearing the presentation, so I may have missed some things.
WAVEPulse Sterilization
The product showcase tables were filled with even more interesting stuff.  My personal favorite was Quell wearable pain relief. It's a drug free, non-invasive system that uses nerve stimulation to block chronic pain.  It consists of a device, a wearable band, an electrode that attaches to the device, and an app that lets you customize your therapy. It's small and comfortable to wear.
Emotuit provides analytics that measure college student engagement to help instructors better understand their students’ cognitive and emotional states, so they can improve their course to engage students better.
The Bond Box from Bond and Des Voeux welcomes new residents by introducing them to local small businesses. This goes way beyond Welcome Wagon. The box contains hand-picked items such as bath and body supplies, food and drink items, and gift cards – all from local Boston or Massachusetts businesses. The idea is to make moving less stressful by making you feel at home as soon as you land in your new home. It's just one of the services Bond and Des Voeux offers for move management. Do check out their website.

Bond and Des Voeux

NextWave Hire is software that helps companies hire the right people through inbound recruiting -- think inbound marketing but for HR. The software powers customers' employer brand content, social media presence, and career sites so they can connect with passive job seekers as well as active job seekers.
NextWave Hire

Kinima motion capture uses point cloud technology to track the human body in motion, measuring the body's balance, power rhythm and speed captured through marching, squatting, jumping and lateral bounding. Their table was constantly crowded, so I didn't get a chance to talk with them.
The audience choice award winners were Kinima, ClearGov, and WAVEPulse Sterilization with grand prize going to Quell.

The Experts Corner featured sponsor RW Holmes (of course) and McLane Middleton. McLane Middleton's table featured the best pens, so here's a twist on my usual Expert Looking Export photo:
Expert Looking Expert