Thursday, June 11, 2015

Another Blockbuster Mass Innovation Night #MIN75

There was a line to get into Google Boston (which is actually in Cambridge -- familiar theme) for civic tech themed MIN75. Either interest in civic tech is booming in the greater Cambridge area or free adult beverages were the big draw. I prefer to think it's the interest in civic tech. Google deserves huge thanks for a spectacular job of hosting such a huge crowd.

The Beverage Line
The product tables were absolutely mobbed. The buzz of people chatting with entrepreneurs and/or networking with each other was the buzziest I've ever seen it and I've been to many a MIN. 
Just a Fraction of the Crowd Checking Out Products
In addition to the four presenters chosen by vote, a Student Startup Spotlight featured two startups from Bentley University (alma mater of my brother and his husband - obviously high quality). Zyp and theScarletH.
Zyp tackles the problem of  getting a cleaning service on demand and for a specific area. Their app brings the sharing economy to cleaning.  The Zyp team had matching T-shirts in a nice blue color, so I hereby designate them "Best Costume of MIN75".

Best Costume of #MIN75
TheScarletH brings personal safety to the dating app space.  Not only does it allow women to review a man's safety score but it also brings together a man's different dating personas. It sounds like a idea whose time has come.
The four chosen presenters were:
  1. WeVote  -making communication with your legislators easier
  2. CampusTap - a private social platform for college career services
  3. Lig - making legal simple
  4. Vocoli - suggestion box that actually works
It was wonderful to hear WeVote's ideas for increasing civic engagement by making government more transparent. I sincerely hope this leads to more people voting in local and midterm elections.
It was great to see Vocoli again. Veterans of MIN62 and PINSMASS001, the pitch keeps getting better and the need for a digital suggestion box with the ability to track your suggestions just keeps growing.

People's enthusiasm for CampusTap generated some of the best auto-correct errors on Twitter: collage for college and underground for undergrad. Hm, I think I will start referring to my "underground" years at Regis. :-)
There was a lot of enthusiasm for Lig too. Who wouldn't seek legal redress for a grievance if hiring a lawyer only took 5 minutes?

Don Letting Someone Try on his Glass
It's always great to run into Don Schwartz of New Hampshire Innovation Nights. He had a crowd gathered around him not just for info on his podcast or NH Innovation Nights, but also for curiosity about his Google Glass.

The prize winners were Bike Beacon, WeVote, CampusTap, and grand prize winner OpportunitySpace. Prizes were donated by Google and by InnovationWomen. The VentureFizz technology prize went to Vocoli. All well deserved.

The public sector - both the Baker administration and the Walsh administration - was well represented in the Experts Corner with Bill Oates, CIO of the Commonwealth, Chris Osgood, Co-Chair of the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, and Harlan Weber, a Commonwealth Innovation Fellow at MassIT.  Secretary Ash took a photo of the crowd and commented on the turnout as well as the ripped jeans. He looked very expert, so he gets to be the closing Expert Looking Expert.

Secretary Ash Looking Expert

Friday, May 15, 2015

a luxurious #MIN74

Our Generous Host - Mercedes Benz of Burlington
The newly opened Mercedes Benz of Burlington provided the most luxurious location for a Mass Innovation Night yet. The bright, open space provided plenty of room for product demo/display tables, refreshments, mingling, and admiring the beautiful cars.

Too Bad This One Is Not in My Budget
From gorgeous handbags to car wash technology and everything in between, the diversity of products at MIN is amazing. I know I say that every month, but it is the best feature of MIN.

Circuit Scribe
It's always hard to choose a favorite, but Circuit Scribe got my vote. This silver conductive ink pen lets you draw circuits on paper and a collection of components snap right in to the circuit, so your circuit diagram becomes an actual circuit. Talk about rapid prototyping! Your engineering notebook becomes the prototype. What  a great way to teach circuits in school!

YoYo Events
I enjoyed talking with the YoYo Events folks about making corporate team building events more fun and more memorable. I also loved their clever display of yo-yos.

Kesi Gibson - Kyu Melange
Kyu Melange not only produces gorgeous accessories like the leather and fabric hand bags that were on display, they also highlight the artisans behind the design and production. Kesi Gibson takes fashion accessories to the level of wearable art.

Gleamfire takes car washing beyond the bucket. This cool device cleans the water and wash material so you use less water and prevent scratches at the same time. Imagine using only a gallon and a half of water to wash your car.  The perfect product to be celebrating at a luxury car dealership too!  I hereby award Gleamfire the Best Prop of #MIN74 award.

"Email My Check" Demo Table

Keeping marketing content on message and coordinated is a challenge. That's where iPositioning comes in. They bring collaboration technology, single sourcing, cloud technology, and social media integration all together to optimize your message.

Think Board
Think Board was wildly popular with their removable panels that turn any surface into a dry erase board.  They were deservedly the top vote getter for the Business Extra Points. I didn't see anybody stick one onto a Mercedes, but I'll bet you could have.

Think Desk
The Sun LifeLight brings all the health benefits of sunlight into your office. Humans were built to be outdoors. We need sunlight. We don't always get enough. Even people who don't suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) benefit from getting the right amount of sunlight. Unlike the bulky light boxes you've seen used to treat SAD, the LifeLight fits easily and unobtrusively on your desk. It's basically a desk lamp with full spectrum light and a mobile app with the smarts to recommend the right amount of sunlight for each individual. And it's cool-looking too.

Sun LifeLight
One of the presentations that generated a lot of tweets was from Woxxer. Their description: "Woxxer is an instant 3-metric evaluation tool for any granular content, embeds anywhere you can touch or click on a screen, and provides immediately useful and sortable data on real-time human subjective thinking, reactions, and judgment." Woxxer wants "woxxing" to be more popular than tweeting.  Hey, if they can help extract more meaning from online interactions, it just may happen.

Woxxer - Beyond Opposable Thumbs
In another one of those moments that makes Mass Innovation Nights an amazing experience,  Nelson DeWitt used his presentation time  to promote the Mama Chila Foundation's first project - to help reunite Salvadoran adoptees Ana and Isabel with their birth mother.  Nelson had initially planned to talk about the Kickstarter campaign to complete Identifying Nelson,  a documentary film about his life as one of El Salvador’s Disappeared.

Nelson DeWitt Presenting
MIN74 was definitely another memorable Mass Innovation Nights event.  Mark your calendars now for the next MIN event (number 75) in June at Google in Cambridge.

For the Experts Looking Expert shot we have Laurie Anglin and Mark DeMello of TriNet, who shared their HR expertise at #MIN74.
Experts Looking Expert

Friday, April 10, 2015

#MIN73 -- Six Years!

Happy Birthday!
Mass Innovation Nights celebrated its 6th birthday on Wednesday with a distributed event hosted at several places in Cambridge -- the hotbed of innovation in Massachusetts.  Big thanks go out to danger!awesome, NGIN Workplace, CIC, and Workbar.

Your correspondent imagined flitting between venues and covering the whole shebang, but instead spent the time helping staff the At-Hand Apps table with our founder, Robert Gray. By the way, if you have an iPhone or iPad and haven't downloaded Massachusetts At-Hand from the app store, what the heck are you waiting for? Get out and explore Massachusetts -- there's way more to do and see than you imagine.

Robert Telling the At-Hand Story

Like other MIN alumni, we were located at NGIN. It was great to see al Freshco again. I love their model of locally sourced food delivered locally by bike. Who needs a "Dash button" when you've got al Freshco?

al Freshco Meal Kits Rule!
Imagine the temptations of having a table situated between al Freshco and Taste of Chocolate. If felt a little like MINFoodie!

Taste of Chocolate
I got a chance to talk to Boston's premier snow as a service innovator, Kyle of  Ship Snow Yo, about shipping the historic Boston snow, about the North Shore's history of shipping ice around the world,  and about why, alas, shipping snow is not a solution to the California drought. Too bad it costs more to clean the snow than to desalinate the ocean. And no, I did not ship Boston to snow to my brother in Dubai, in case you wondered.

Ship Snow Yo!
The guest host at our venue was Dennis Keohane, staff writer for PandoDaily, ably assisted by ace wordsmith Alan Dillingham.

Dennis Keohane Reading the Intro to the Presentations
All the venues were connected in a Google Hangout and each presenter got one minute to tell their story. It was a lot of fun, but the technology really needs to mature some and presenters and hosts need to pay more attention to where the camera is. We got to see lots of presentations by the tops of people's heads.

Top of Ted Chaloner's Head on Screen
Brass  Presenting and Being Visible on Screen
The event was a lot of fun and Founder/Queen/Empress of MIN, BobbieC made it to all the venues.
There were no "experts looking expert" or costumes or props to photograph, so I'll wrap up with the founder herself looking seriously entrepreneurial.

6 Years of MIN is Epic!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

#MINFoodie8 Recap

Still waiting for a new motherboard and new wireless adapter for my main computer, but figured I shouldn't wait any longer to blog about MINFoodie8, so here's a somewhat sketchier than usual blog post.
Wintry Boston Harbor
Mass Innovation Nights managed to find the one gap between storms in the past three weeks to get us out of our snow banks and into some cool foodie innovations for  #8 in the MIN Foodie series. Our generous host for the evening was Nutter McClennen and Fish. Great hosts! Thank you!

I enjoyed tasting Lyndigo Spice's  small batch, locally made, spice rub and chutney, especially the spice rub on the roasted chickpeas. Plus, the Lyndigo Spice team had matching t-shirts and matching scarves so I have to award them Best Costume of MINFoodie8.
Lyndigo Spice Team
Fresh Beginnings makes conveniently portioned, wholesome and nutritious frozen meals for young children  -- I think I saw them at an EforAll event but don't remember which one -- anyway, their samples were delicious.

Fresh Beginnings
Tasty Healthy Treats
Rhode Island Organic Omega-3 makes fantastic salad dressings, marinades and sauces full of healthy Omega-3s. I loved the salad dressing.
Omega-3 Salad Dressing provides information and details on more than 4,150 food trucks and food truck events all in one spot.  And I loved their homage to Haven Brothers Diner. I hereby award them Best Prop of MINFoodie8.
Haven Bros. -- The Original Food Truck?
ScanKart is a hyper-local mobile marketplace to discover artisanal food, wine makers and specialty retail stores in your neighborhood.
al FreshCo has a brilliant idea for  making food grown by great local farmers more accessible. They deliver  "meal kits" with everything  you need to make a delicious locally grown meal. Who can resist local butternut squash already peeled and cut up for you and delivered along with everything you need to turn it into dinner? And they know what to do with that kohlrabi that mystifies you.

Nu3Kidz gourmet pancake mix takes pancakes to a new, healthier, more fabulous level. I mean who can resist quinoa beet pancakes? Not me! (I adore beets and love quinoa.)
Delicious Pancakes

The Wine Sidekick is a wine and beer recommendation kiosk for liquor and grocery stores.
Wine Sidekick

Chirp chips  from SixFoods are  bean-based chips with cricket protein. They have 3x the protein and half the fat of normal potato chips. Insect protein is the next big thing in food circles.

Over in the Experts Corner, I got ace wordsmith Alan Dilingham to ham it up for my traditional "expert looking expert" shot.  If you need help finding the right words to communicate your message, Alan's Verbal Alchemy is your solution. Thanks, Alan for being such a good sport looking expert.

Expert Looking Expert Alan Dilligham

Monday, February 9, 2015

Recap #EforAllPitch16 - EforAll Consumer Product Ideas Pitch Contest

Moon Over Lawrence's Bicknell Clock
The day after the great blizzard of 2015, the intrepid entrepreneurs of EforAll turned out for the Consumer Ideas Pitch Contest at the Lawrence Heritage State Park Visitor Center.  The post-snowpocalypse traffic apocalypse tied up the highways into and out of Boston, but we here in the Merrimack Valley are self-sufficient or something like it.  Anyway, despite a power outage at my house (since when does the power go out after the storm is over and we're plowed out?) there was no way I was going to miss this event, because not only was it minutes from my house, but also it featured my very favorite hedgehog! Yes, folks, Eugene was there!

Scheduled presenters were Cognitea, Demi Hugger, Masela Dental, Meet Eugene, NexVolt, and The Power of Flowers.

Alex Kravets of  CogniTea, in the first scheduled slot, was stuck in the Boston traffic apocalypse, so had to present his "energizing tea" pitch later.  I love the idea of a stimulant that gives you the clarity and focus of a cuppa, without the jitters and subsequent crash or caffeine withdrawal headache. Love the marketing concept of an energy drink targeted for entrepreneurs and innovators. Wish I'd gotten a chance to try some.

Demetra Papas presented  Demi Hugger, her cleverly designed premium luggage strap that stacks all those non-suitcase items like your blanket, backpack, soccer ball, or giant teddy bear onto to your luggage for easier dragging through terminals and lobbies. The match of price point with pain point is just about right. If you travel with kids or with lots of stuff or both,  it's worth checking out.
DemiHugger -- Clever Luggage Strap
Cormac Hondros McCarthy and Casey McRae had clearly researched the market for affordable dentures and figured out how to apply 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) to the problem. They brought a prototype with them and posed for me with it. I enjoyed talking with both of them about how many UML students are working on ways to use additive manufacturing to solve real problems in the real world for real people. We also discussed whether to call it additive manufacturing or 3D printing and decided that more people have heard of 3D printing. Anyway, remind me again why CES and other tech extravaganzas present 3D printing with novelties like custom bobble heads? Low cost dentures -- I mean, we're talking $500 dentures here! That is amazing. We chatted briefly about another of my favorite UML-based companies, Nonspec, which is using 3D printing technology to make low cost  prosthetics.

3D Printed Dentures
Eugene brought his personal entrepreneur, Brianna Stiklickas, to talk about Meet Eugene, Inc. Brianna has a good grip on what the needs of pet hedgehogs are and what the market is for supplies for people who have pet hedgehogs.  Pet hedgehogs are prone to digestive problems and obesity, and Meet Eugene has developed hedgehog-specific pet food to help keep your pet healthy. Eugene looked pretty healthy to me, and he let me stroke his quills this time.  Eugene has been to Lawrence before and has also been to Mass Innovation Night.

Paul Ormond and Paul Russell presented NexVolt, a website that simplifies choosing more efficient home heating systems and getting valuable rebates all in one spot. Their knowledge of the water heater supply chain and how all the parts could be more easily connected was quite impressive. They easily won over the judges. First prize was well-deserved.

Joyce Bellefeuille's  The Power of Flowers Project, which I started calling Flower Power just to see if any hippies noticed, rescues and recycles flowers from funerals, banquets , and weddings and makes them into  small bouquets and delivers them free to senior citizens. What a great idea to recycle perfectly good flowers to bring a little joy and beauty into people's lives.  The Power of Flowers is a non-profit.  Joyce nailed the presentation, presented bouquets to the judges, and won second prize as well as fan favorite.  Anyone who wanted one got to take home a bouquet. Mine brightened up my kitchen for days.

Joyce Showing Flower Bouquet to David

Activity Hub got the wildcard slot. They help you master the skill or activity that matters the most to you -- becoming the best chef, photographer, Ruby on Rails coder, scrum master... whatever. Sorry I didn't get a link.

A couple of other products caught my attention and both of them got to do lightning quick pitches between the main pitches.

The Jafette is a scarf that transforms into a jacket and fits all sizes.  The many configurations make for lots of different looks from the same great looking scarf.

Hangwell is underwear that doesn't bunch up. No wedgies, no riding up, just comfort.

Hangwell Bunch Resistant Underwear

The Lawrence Heritage State Park Visitor Center is a really cool place, by the way. If you've never been there, add it to your must-see list. Besides the two floors of  awesome exhibits about Lawrence's history, there are frequent art exhibits in the the third floor gallery next to the event space where the pitch contest was held. 

Love the Judges in Front of Fasanella Painting