Friday, January 23, 2015

#MIN70 Recap

The latest Mass Innovation Night (#MIN70) featured the usual diversity of products, a wonderful host, longtime MIN attendees and first time MIN attendees, and some very expert experts in the Experts Corner. Big thanks go to IBM Cambridge for hosting -- nice food spread too.

The common threads running through the diverse products seemed to be social, location, and health.
The Crowd Builds
I enjoyed talking with Bob from  NuPlanit  which tackles nutrition and eating habits in a much more complete and connected way than "calories in - calories out" and "eat this - don't eat that." NuPlanit connects you to all the benefits of nutrition counseling in one spot. It's a virtual nutrition adviser for when that's all you need and a connection to a network of real nutritionists for when you need more support.
Speaking of healthy eating, ever notice how little actual nutritious food you find in convenience stores?  Green Leaf Convenience is reinventing the convenience store experience. Healthy food, simple and identifiable ingredients, environmentally aware and responsible practices, and employees who are paid a living wage and convenience? Yup.  They'll be opening the first location this spring. Locations being considered are the Leather District, Cleveland Circle, the Seaport Innovation District and Cambridge's Innovation District.
Golden Girl Granola -- Just One of the Healthy Foods from GreenLeaf
Loved the simple and practical design of the Lilypad Wheelchair Scale. I never thought about the difficulty that wheelchair users have in monitoring weight gain/loss until I heard Lilypad's pitch. The Lilypad Scale  makes it easy for manual wheelchair users to weigh themselves at home.
LilyPad Scale

Light, Portable, Easy to Use
Hoppinin does the location-based-social thing with a mobile app that targets casual events and “happenings”.  Rather than concerts, performances, and that sort of thing, they're about the busker on the corner, the food truck passing through,  pickup games ...  Someday I will get around to organizing a snowshoe flash mob at Harold Parker or something. The Hoppinin team had cool matching shirts and made the best pun during their presentation.  By the way, I didn't know "happening" was still a thing. I thought that usage went out of style when hippies went out of style. :-) Kudos to Hoppinin for best pun and best costume of MIN70.
Hoppinin - Best Costume
BeActiveTogether had cool T-shirts and a location-based social app too. It connects its users with other people in their network wanting to do the same exercise at the same time and place. Hm, another opportunity for me to organize my snowshoe flash mob.
BeActiveTogether Had Cool Shirts Too
I do wonder how we ever organized pickup hockey games in the days before smart phones. Come to think of it, how did we ever do anything before smart phones?

In the "making plans for tonight" department,  Trill  helps you find something to do in Boston's cultural scene right now.  Find a live local show right now from Trill's listings curated by in-the-know locals of the Boston/Cambridge cultural scene.
Trill Placard
LearnBolt  is a mobile learning solution for small businesses. LearnBolt helps you create a Just-In-Time training program from anywhere at anytime.
LearnBolt - Teach Anywhere!
One Good Act helps you set up a challenge to support a cause. Basically, it lets you challenge your friends to compete in any kind of contest to support any cause. They make "social" actually social! Check them out.

One Good Act Team
Once again, I did not get to talk to every single participating product team. I missed Connections and Rejjee. On the plus side, I got both of this month's experts to pose for the Expert Looking Expert photo.  Jamie Bradley of Sophwell offered his expertise in developing ideas and marketing programs. Nelson deWitt, author of A Kickstarter's Guide to Kickstarter, offered his expertise in crowdfunding.
Experts Looking Expert
Mark your calendars for the next Mass Innovation Night, MINFoodie 8, on  February 11 at Nutter McLennen & Fish LLP. The foodie innovations are looking delightful.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

#MIN69 Recap

Last Wednesday's Mass Innovation Night, the 69th in an awesome series,  took full advantage of the great space at District Hall in Boston. This was my first visit to District Hall (hard to believe I know) and I was suitably impressed (and artistically inspired -  something about chartreuse duct work ...) Thanks to District Hall for hosting and thanks again to Autodesk for being such a generous sponsor along with American Airlines.
Pitching Under Chartreuse Ductwork
The diversity of products at MIN is getting to be a theme. Every month the spectrum of ideas seems to get broader. MIN69 was no exception: apps, bike lights, a sex toy, moisturizing oil, you name it. 

It was great to catch up with Nkese Applewhite from Oshun Undies and hear her progress on her cleverly designed Cachet Pump and Nurse Bra. I first saw Nkese pitch this back in March at the Merrimack Valley Sandbox(now known as EforAll).  She's working on getting manufacturing going, so  look for this practical and stylish bra in 2015.
Nkese Applewhite of Oshun Undies
Now that bike commuting is back in again (what  you didn't know it was ever out of style?),  it's past time for some innovation in bike lights.  Massachusetts state law says you must use a white headlight and red taillight (or rear reflector) when riding anytime between a half hour after sunset and a half hour before sunrise. So it was great to see  these cool new bike lights that last forever from Fortified Bike.  If I were still commuting by bike, these lights would be on my bike. BTW  MassBike has a nice summary of  the state's bike laws, in case you need a refresher. 
Bike Lights
The Fortified Bike team rocked the matching team T-shirt look too. Tivan posed for me in his team shirt with the bike for a Best Costume of #MIN69 shot.
Tivan from Fortified Bicycle - Best Costume of #MIN69
Mettle is a neat mobile app that lets you set up video challenges for anything. They pitched it as a "Snapchat for video challenges. "  Want to prove your soccer skills are better than your friends' soccer skills? Want to start a charity fundraiser challenge a la the Ice Bucket Challenge? Mettle is for you.

Mettle Demo
Maybe some of the mountaineers, base jumpers, wingsuit flyers and other top outdoor athletes that Ben  Schenck interviews for the  MTNMeister Podcast  could use Mettle to do some kind of inspirational outdoor sports stories challenge.  Seriously, even if you don't do extreme mountaineering, you can learn a lot about human nature from the stories of those who do.  He needs to interview an extreme birder, but not me, although I did once fall off an embankment while looking at a ferruginous duck.
Ben Showing How He Records MTNMeister Podcasts
I'm betting that MTNMeister's listeners probably don't need SunSprite's wearable device that tracks sunlight and UV exposure to make sure you're getting enough sun to fend off depressions and Vitamin D deficiency. However, this nifty wearable might just help cubicle denizens realize they need to get outdoors to improve mood and health.
By far the hit of the night was Semenette, a novelty sex toy that adds fun, intimacy and authenticity. Their table was crowded and they won top prize in the voting for the American Airlines Business Extra Points. This is extremely well-designed for its target market.
Imagine real life as a video game with real people on a map on your mobile device. Epoque is the app for networking to connect with people nearby. Just broadcast a message and engage with the Epoque users around you in the real world in real time.

Another product that caught my attention was True Moringa moisturizing oil.  The Moringa tree grows in tropical regions, is drought resistant, and its leaves are highly nutritious. This puts it in the forefront of the fight against malnutrition. My Mom had 50 Moringa trees planted in my name for my 50th birthday, so I was interested to hear about MoringaConnect's work with their network of smallholders in Ghana. Check out their website.

Once again, I didn't get a chance to talk to everybody.  The ones I didn't make it to were: Gradberry, a website that helps young grads get the skills they need for the competitive job market,  Propel to Go, a tool for targeting lost leads from your ad campaign, and job search site FirmPlay. 

And from the Expert's Corner our Expert Looking Expert is Rich from Emmett and Company whose expertise on video production is featured in, among other things, the Innovation Women Kickstarter campaign.
Expert Looking Expert

Speaking of Innovation Women, this is a much-needed project  to provide more visibility for entrepreneurial and technical women and less hassle for event managers  trying to find women speakers for panels.  Go to Kickstarter and back this project now!
Innovation Women

Monday, November 17, 2014

#MIN68 Recap - Live Music, Skee Ball, Sliders, Oh My!

Innovation, food, games, music, you name it and we had it Wednesday night at the InnoLoft at Constant Contact  for Mass Innovation Night number 68. InnoLoft is a nifty space for startups with lots of amenities, including games. The skee ball games got a lot of use by the Mass Innovation Nights crowd and the competition was fierce.  Constant Contact provided tasty food including several kinds of sliders. The hosts really set the tone for the evening.

Skee Ball

Chicken Sliders Were Going Fast
Where to start with the cool products?  How about Howler with location-based advertising that helps small business get deals right to your phone? The deals find you! I've seen similar apps, but the two things that made Howler stand out for me were the ability to fine tune the type and amount of content you want to receive and the use of Blue Tooth Low Energy radios instead of GPS for location services (less battery drain and it can even find you indoors).

Howler's Table Was Popular -- Two People So They Handled Two Questions At Once
I never thought of the space I'm occupying at the moment as real estate until I heard BetrSpot's presentation.  A seat in a restaurant, a spot in a line (think ticket sales or Black Friday door busters),   or a table near an electric outlet in a coffee shop become  "micro-real-estate" that you can buy and sell with this location-based app (both Android and iPhone)  that creates marketplaces in these crowded first-come, first-served environments.  You think parking spots for your car are a hot commodity? What about seats at the coolest bar in town? The world is way more crowded these days, especially in the urban areas where techies work, so I can see this idea taking off pretty quickly.  I do have to say that parts of his presentation reminded me of the classic science fiction novels  Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up. I started visualizing how useful BetrSpot would be for people selling their standing room on higher ground as sea levels rise.  But that's just my imagination run wild.  Really, get this app now and commoditize your spot in the Black Friday lines.
Live cello music at MIN!!! What next? The undisputed hit of the night was Cadenza, an app for musicians that allows them to play their instrument accompanied by a real orchestra that listens to them and adapts to their tempo in real time. I bet more young musicians would stick with practice if they had this available to them.  The cellist was playing in the presentation area ahead of the presentations and began to draw an audience of his own. The live demonstration of the app adapting to his tempo made Cadenza's presentation the best preso I've ever seen at MIN.
Live Music for the Live Demo of Cadenza
Lindsay Tia 's beautifully designed and crafted bags were a big hit also. Each one is unique and made in the USA, and did I mention gorgeous?

Beautiful Bags from Lindsay Tia are Made in America
EventFish simplifies the process of planning an event. for mere mortals like us, who are not professional event planners and aren't planning blockbuster events but ordinary stuff like birthday parties and family gatherings. They bring together all the tools you need to plan the perfect event, in one spot. Everything from ideas to cleanup can be created, booked, and bought with a click of a button.
Eventfish Had the Most Colorful Booth
The transaction application from realtycloud makes it easy to make an online offer on a property and close the deal on that transaction.
Checking out realtycloud
The presentation on PhishingGuardian from AstraID made a big impression on the audience, many of whom were unfamiliar with "spear phishing" -- targeted phishing attacks -- as a security threat to enterprises. Their impostor detection technology can distinguish between your real users and hackers impersonating genuine users, something that is becoming increasingly important with the rise of social networking. This is a much needed addition to the anti-cybercrime tool box.
AstraID Booth Had a Longer Line than the Food Table
The fan favorite voting rewarded Lindsay Tia, Howler, and BetrSpot with 2000 American Airlines Business Extra Points and the big winner, Cadenza, with 5000 American Airlines Business Extra Points.

And from the Expert's Corner,  the #MIN68 Expert Looking Expert was Rich from Emmett and Company with his expertise on video production, an increasingly important service in this Kickstarter Indiegogo crowd funding world. It was also a delight to talk with Rich about his work with Hidden Pond Equine Rescue.
Expert Looking Expert

Friday, October 24, 2014

E for All -- All Ideas Pitch Contest Recap

When E for All invites "all ideas" to a pitch contest, the variety is truly amazing. It covered everything from self-heating soap to mobile auto detailing. Plus, there were pink fairies and a live hedgehog!
Suggestion Fairy
You know it's going to be a fun event when the first person you see is wearing pink fairy wings. Usman Mutawakil was there to pitch Suggestion Fairy,  an anonymous suggestion box that allows restaurants to catch potentially negative customer feedback before it gets out to review sites, and to respond directly to the customer as soon as they become disgruntled.

I was eager to see the new second floor space at El Taller and was not disappointed. It's a wonderful space for a pitch contest, a theater performance, or a meeting (maybe for planning a revolution).  El Taller did a great job of hosting, with fabulous snacks and a warm welcome from Mary Guerrero (speaking of women entrepreneurs...).
Sunday Dinner Stories
I had a delightful chat with Michelle of Sunday Dinner Stories about the importance of recording the family stories. Later that segued into a conversation about when and how the "center of the universe" moved from Cambridge to Somerville (oddly, this was just before this Globe story about cities wanting to become the next Somerville came out.)
Connor Miller - The Soap Guy
Connor Miller showed me his heated soap.  It did indeed feel warm when he added water. Basically, H.OAP (Heated Soap)  is a bar of soap that emits heat when it comes in contact with water.  What a great idea for places/situations where there's no hot water! Camping, military deployment, rural areas, I can think of all kinds of applications for this. Connor nailed his pitch. H.OAP won both first prize and fan favorite.
Fresh Beginnings Answering Questions
Tamea Bacon and Sara Calapiz pitched  Fresh Beginnings  -- organic, nutritious and conveniently portioned meals for young children.  Little meals for little kids, but packing loads of nutrition without the additives and processing of commercial purees and kiddie meals. Their excellent pitch earned them third prize money.
Stopping by the Innovation Women Table
Bobbie Carlton and Kristen Avini from Mass Innovation Nights were there to pitch Innovation Women, a much-needed speaker's bureau for women entrepreneurs and techies. There are an amazing number of women innovators and entrepreneurs out there so it ought to be easier to get them onto the stage at conferences and events. Lots of people were stopping by and asking questions. As you would expect from the founder of Mass Innovation Nights, Bobbie nailed the pitch.

BobbieC Pitching Innovation Women
So many excellent pitches. So many excellent ideas. So many photo ops with pink fairy wings...

Sam Antonaccio Pitching Foodventure
Lowell food truck entrepreneur Sam Antonaccio of Spiceventure is launching a new initiative called Foodventure. An online portal linking food trucks throughout Middlesex County to provide information about codes, regulations and permitting processes for food trucks in the different cities and towns, as well as giving users a space to share experiences about best practices for food truck ventures. I enjoyed talking with Sam as always. We had a great conversation about livening up downtown Lowell at night with food trucks.
On The Spot Posing For A Photo-Op
Thomas O’Hearn  pitched On The Spot,  a mobile car detailing business that can come to your home or work.  What a great idea! On The Spot won second prize. Well deserved.

Josue Jerez pitched Invest in Tech,  a business skills education program for Lawrence youth. The idea is to give young people money to  purchase PC/tech products/accessories and have them find ways of selling the products through different channels. What better way to learn business skills than actually doing business?
Josue Jerez Pitching Invest in Tech
The wild card opportunity went to EQUESTrian Cards, quiz card decks for horse lovers. The idea is to make learning equine science fun. I have to say that until I heard this pitch, I had no idea how huge the horse business is in this state.
Pitching EQUESTrian Cards

A Wealth of Equine Info

The official photographer for the night was Nowfal of Lookbug, who got an impromptu opportunity to pitch. He did an excellent job pitching (he's pitched at a previous E for All pitch contest) and a great job of perching on chairs to get the perfect photo angle.  Of course, by getting the perfect photo position he missed getting the pink fairy wings into every shot :-)
Nowfal Pitching Lookbug
And guess who showed up to add ultra-cuteness to the event? That's right, it's Eugene! I met Eugene at MIN67, where he became an instant celebrity. Eugene brought his entrepreneur, Brianna, founder of Meet Eugene, Inc. the purveyor of healthy and affordable hedgehog food.

OMG Eugene is here!
What a fun night!  I was impressed with all the entrepreneurs and I love the new upstairs space at El Taller. I can't resist one more pink fairy picture, so I hereby award Best Costume  of the night to Suggestion Fairy.
Best Costume = Suggestion Fairies

Friday, October 10, 2014

Recap of Mass Innovation Nights #MIN67 - Women Founders

The Crowd Waiting for the Doors to Open at Workbar for MIN67
Women entrepreneurs, huge crowd, a big announcement,  and a live animal! What more could you want in a Mass Innovation Nights event?

Artistic Rendering of the Crowd before It Got Really Dense
Workbar was the gracious host for an evening of women founders and Babson's Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) was a generous sponsor. The Student Startup Spotlight featured startups from the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship. Autodesk was there too, featuring a recruiting table.
Tables on the Second Floor Too
From the crowd lined up on the sidewalk waiting for the doors to open to the jam-packed tables throughout the venue, this was one busy, crowded, loud, huge event. Good on women founders for making some noise! Good on Mass Innovation Nights and BobbieC for providing the megaphone for all this great noise.

Tables were spread out over two floors and tucked away in alcoves. I knew from the get go that I wouldn't make it to every table (usually my goal at MIN) so I tried to get the most out of the ones I could get near :-) I think the only creature shorter than me at this thing was Eugene the hedgehog. :-). Did I mention the first ever live animal at MIN? Yup, Meet Eugene, the purveyor of healthy and affordable hedgehog food, actually had Eugene at the table. Sooooo cute! I learned lots about keeping a pet hedgehog and loved meeting Eugene.
I Met Eugene!
I loved ReFleece's colorful and trendy iPad cases, bags, and other products made from fleece and wool upcycled from your old jacket (recovered garments, collected through Patagonia's Common Threads Program), scraps from the cutting room floor (Woolrich, Polartec), or other odd bits and ends that couldn't be used by one or another of their partners, and, of course, plastic bottles!
On the Dot Books got my attention with a table full of well-curated books, and a wildly ambitious and brilliant plan for using books and  the arts to connect people all over the world. Passepartout is an airport-to-airport, train station-to-train station rental service for books, magazines, games, and toys - operated by local independent bookstores.  From a pop-up bookstore in Dot 2 Dot Cafe to networking the world through books! Using indie bookstores to connect the world! Looking forward to hearing more from them as the network develops.

Books of Dorchester
The team from WeGush was probably the most enthusiastic and assertive group of women in the house. It was impossible to miss them unleashing gratitude all over the place.  How do you productize gratitude? Simply put,  WeGush makes it easy (and fun) for a group to express their appreciation for someone special -- a retiree, a coach, a teacher, a BobbieC -- by posting messages to virtual appreciation wall boards. Yup, they worked a surprise live appreciation of BobbieC into their presentation (confession, I knew about this in advance).

WeGush Team Leaning In
The chosen presenters were WeGush, Booze Epoque, Orora Global, and Secret Ships Caravan, an impressive lineup. Gratitude, craft cocktails from local produce, electricity for rural communities, and a mobile boutique -- a typical MIN lineup if ever there was one.

Orora Global made the biggest impression on me: renewable, off-the-grid, energy solutions for places with unreliable or no power AND empowering women micro-entrepreneurs in those places. Oh yea, state of the art technology too. It was no surprise that they won the American Airlines Business Extra Points fan favorite voting. They'll be using the points for an upcoming trip to India. You go, girls!

The other Business Extra Points winners were Secret Ships Caravan, ReFleece, and BoozeEpoque.  All of them made big impressions with attendees. Booze Epoque served samples of their craft cocktails. Those who partake of such beverages gave good reviews. It is pretty cool that they use beets and other wonderful vegetables from local farms, like my personal favorite Mill City Grows (speaking of women founders -- Yay Lydia and Francey!), to make party beverages.  Secret Ships Caravan added the most color to the presentations with slides of their beautiful textiles from all over the world. They also issued a call to action for the City of Boston to get a permitting process up and running to allow retail trucks. If you want retail trucks like Secret Ships Caravan in Boston, tweet about it with the hashtag  #WeWantRetailTrucks.

Business Extra Points Winners Posing for Photographer
But wait, there's more! MIN Founder Bobbie Carlton announced a new initiative called Innovation Women. It's a much needed solution to the problem of getting more visibility for technical and entrepreneurial women. Innovation Women's speakers bureau will help event managers find awesome panelists and help women entrepreneurs get in front of the right audiences.  Follow @WomenInno on Twitter to watch this develop.

Crowd Listening and Tweeting
Between the crowd and the noise, I was a little overwhelmed so didn't take as many interesting photos as I usually do. I have been working on my crowd photos, but am beginning to think I should get me a drone and a GoPro for that purpose. I did get a couple of shots that convey the density and diversity of the crowd. It was quite an intense, lively, and amazing event.  Another home run by Mass Innovation Nights.

For the closing shot, here's an attempt to convey how loud and crowded it was: