Friday, March 14, 2014

So Many Clever Ideas at Mass Innovation Night -- #MIN60

Wednesday night was Mass Innovation Night number 60 at Microsoft NERD. Boston looks great from Cambridge, especially from NERD, even with a winter storm coming in. Microsoft is a gracious host.
NERD Shadows Over Boston
Cambridge Trust provided pizza for those who got there early enough. There was a huge crowd of regulars and newcomers and lots of opportunity for networking. There was even a live sighting of Joselin Mane.
Social Media Expert and Well-Dressed Man About Town Joselin Mane
I managed to visit most of the tables and hear about most of the products and take a lot of pictures, all things I love to do.
Tony from KonectIDY
KonectIDY has developed a customizable language of colors that lets you design a color-coded bracelet unique to each individual or cause, so you can share a "Konection" with the world and help support a cause important to you. They're already working with non-profits large and small from national/international organizations like Children's Hospital National Foundation and Pandas International to local organizations like Newburyport's Boat Camp (familiar to me because they're in the same building as Plum Island Coffee
Roasters).

Sprintboards Team - Mike and Chris
Sprintboards has a tool that makes sharing and communicating project status to clients, executives, and teams simple. It currently works with the Asana project management tool. I asked about Basecamp and they do want to support that too. They're in Beta, so now's your chance to take it for a spin (or a sprint). Oh, and they had customized cookies with their logo.

Test My Pitch
Test My Pitch set up a way for us to rate the pitches given by the four chosen presenters.

GammaPix
GammaPix turns your smartphone camera into a radiation detector. How cool is that? You can detect and measure radioactivity wherever you are - with a mobile app.Their table attracted quite a crowd asking good questions.
Artistic Impression of Huge MIN Crowd
The crowd just got bigger and bigger. People crowded around all the tables. I considered hoisting the camera up to the ceiling to get good crowd shots ... hmm, there's an innovation waiting to happen - a way for short people to take crowd photos -- maybe a mini drone?
Daily GC
DailyGC™ specializes in providing experienced General Counsel services to small businesses and startups in Massachusetts. They come to your  business for a full day and help you to solve your most pressing legal-related business problems right there with you. Because it's "One Day and Done™"  you know the full cost in advance and that price is affordable for  small companies and startups.
FitYap
FitYap is a way for you to find local fitness classes and get trusted recommendations in your area.  For  fitness professionals, it's a great way to schedule clients and grow your business online. And, yeah, it can help you find a snowshoeing meetup or an ice climbing club in your area too.
Yoga by Numbers
Can you innovate in something as ancient and traditional as yoga? Yup. Yoga by Numbers believes yoga should be simple to learn and practice for everyone. They have developed a yoga mat that uses numbered targets so you know where to move, and they have videos  for various levels of ability and that fit your schedule.
Year of Action Books and Some Delicious Looking Fruit
Girlfriend MBA from Year of Action is a new kind of interactive, online business program for women who want to kick their business up a notch and want a new way to learn that makes them feel good, supported and inspired to take action and get results. It combines action-based learning and a supportive motivational network.
Best Costume of #MIN60
Maxwell Health  wants to fix health care in America. What they've built is a paperless, mobile-enabled platform for employee benefits complete with a wellness program, a personal health advocate, and a mobile app so that all benefits info is available at the employee’s fingertips. They also had beautifully designed team T-shirts, not exactly what you'd expect from the health insurance biz, so I declared them winners of Best Costume for #MIN60.
Expert Looking Expert
Basil Dixon of HitBliss agreed to pose for the traditional "Expert Looking Expert" shot.

Merrimack Valley Sandbox Consumer Ideas Pitch Contest

The Merrimack Valley Sandbox Consumer Ideas Pitch Contest that got snowed out in February was rescheduled to Tuesday night, March 11, which provided much better weather. As an extra added networking bonus, this was a combined event with Friends of Kevin so the sandbox space was jam packed. It was a great mix of people. There were folks I know to catch up with and new folks to meet and, of course, lots of opportunity to photograph entrepreneurs and their products.
Lianna and Lucky at the Check-in Desk

Entrepreneurs Setting Up as Early Comers Arrive
Entrepreneurs were still setting up when I arrived. There were crackers and cheese with grapes as well as juice and iced tea for light refreshments. That somehow created a welcoming, down-home, bootstrap feeling conducive to conversation.

Social Pup
I enjoyed talking with Sarah Quigley about Social Pup doggie day care and grooming. She has a very good understanding of her target market. There are a lot of dogs in Lowell.
Concussion Detector Prototype
Matt and Dylan from Pure Innovation, Inc. are engineering students who are working on detecting concussive impacts to make sports safer. I talked with Matt about watching my brother take a high stick to the head in a high school hockey game and wondering how the trainer would know whether he should come out of the game. Turns out Matt had some hockey experience, so we connected around that. Concussions in high school sports are a major problem and these guys are onto solving a real problem.

Nkese with Bra
Great product, great presenter, great pitch all came together with Nkese Applewhite's cleverly and beautifully designed combination pumping and nursing bra. Who says you have to change bras for pumping vs. nursing? And who says a nursing/pumping bra can't be beautiful? Nkese made a big impression with a practical and beautiful product.

Spiceventure
Spiceventure is a food truck in the planning stage, getting ready to offer the best authentic Thai, Lao, Khmer, and Indian foods in New England plus some exquisite specialties not found anywhere else. They just successfully funded their Kickstarter campaign. For those who remember the original Southeast Asian Restaurant in Lowell (1985-2006) this is the longed-for return of the Antonaccio family to the  food business. Sam grew up hanging around his parents' restaurant and he'll be managing the Spiceventure operation.  I'm sure the food business is ready for the next generation. 

Scarves
Weaver Leanne Tremblay of Western Avenue Studios had a colorful array of her handwoven scarfs on display and she had the good luck to be picked as the wildcard presenter.

Events
I enjoyed talking with Gloria about event planning and the endless possibilities of decorating with balloons.
Gracie's Hair Butter
Gracie's Hair Butter started out to solve her husband's hair loss problem. She's built a home grown solution into a business.

Inclusive Toys
The women of Increment have designed these clever stack-able rings to encourage play and help children of all abilities develop spatial reasoning and other important developmental skills through inclusive play. They're already in use at one preschool.

Beautiful Vegetables Go Into Asulia Dumplings
I've been waiting to sample more of  Asulia Foods' dumplings since #MINFoodie6. I love the kale and the taro ones a lot.  It was great to see them again and to resume my tweet campaign to get my local Whole Foods to carry these delicious vegan delectables. (Yeah, I like dumplings, OK :-)).  I can't pass by a beautiful bunch of kale either. Vegetables are just inherently wonderful. I got into a conversation with another veggie dumpling lover and Andover Whole Foods customer, so the demand outside of Boston/Cambridge is growing. That led to discussion of how farming is growing in Massachusetts and how amazing the farms of Essex County are - some in business for hundreds of years, some new, all with great food.
Confidence Covers
Confidence Covers makes beautiful designer help button covers that make it much less clunky and stigmatizing for seniors who need these devices to wear them. You can match the cover to your outfit and fit right in instead of standing out and looking frail and weak.

Crowd
I kept running into people I know. It was great catching up with Gary Tremblay of Pro Diagrams and hearing how the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Winter Accelerator program has helped him refine and develop his easy to use presentation tool and the business strategy for it.
Entrepreneurs Sharing a Laugh
Cam Preciado of Design 4 Lowell Deep in Conversation about Best of Lowell
Design 4 Lowell has big plans for design and creativity in  Lowell and The Merrimack Valley.  Imagine a creative network designing a beautiful future, a one stop marketing shop featuring local designers, video directors, web developers, artists and other creatives. Design 4 Lowell is already bringing that network to life in Lowell. Cam is one of several entrepreneurs that I heard use the word community repeatedly and mean it!

Asinine Games
I can easily see becoming addicted to Asinine Games' Palindromic Puzzle Game, the latest of his game offerings.
Everybody Photographing Nkese




Not surprisingly, Nkese Applewhite won the fan favorite voting. She also won second prize! The fans and the judges picked up on her knowledge of her market and the brilliance of her product. Congrats to Nkese!

Scarf Lady
Leanne weaves the most beautiful scarves and gave an excellent presentation. Third prize was well deserved.
Social Pup
And the first prize winner was Sarah's Social Pup. Again, well deserved.

This blog post doesn't begin to cover how much fun this event was or the energy of the entrepreneurs, the judges, and the attendees. You have to experience this for yourself, so check out the upcoming events on the Merrimack Valley Sandbox website.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dumplings, Coffee, Choffy...#MINFoodie6

Asulia Foods Vegan Dumplings
Last night's Mass Innovation Night, Foodie Edition, was jam-packed. The Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Boston hosted us along with the Consulate General of Canada in Boston. Big big big thanks to both of them. The folks at Le Cordon Bleu know how to put on a food event, with wine, fancy hors d'oeuvres, and a chocolate fountain.
Chocolate Fountain
There was so much to see and taste! The vegan dumplings from Asulia were generating a lot of buzz, as were Choffy, Boston Brewin, and Dot Ale.

Team Asulia
Asulia makes all natural, handcrafted foods in Boston. Their newest product line is fusion vegan dumplings: Chickpea, Kale, and Taro Root. The kale dumplings were especially delicious. Chatting with them, I learned of their commitment to social responsibility. Not only are they big veggie advocates, but they are also interested in helping lift girls out of poverty all over the world. They donate a percentage of their profits to Room to Read. And not only that, their packaging is printed using wind power. I hope my local Whole Foods carries Asulia dumplings soon.

Boston Brewin
Boston Brewin what can I say? Tom and Danny take social enterprise to a new level. Starting out with a love of Boston and for creating change, Boston Brewin serves 100% organic, fairly-traded coffee and local food including Haley House pastries, and they pay every one of their team members a living wage.  Boston Brewin announced their new Pay It 4Ward business model, a radically new vision of building a coffee community, modeling the best of crowd funding, social enterprise and small business. Danny was by far the best presenter. He nailed it.

Team Choffy
Choffy is brewed chocolate. Yes, brewed chocolate. Their table was by far the most popular, edging out even the dumplings. People were lined up 3 deep to taste Choffy.  It tastes so great that I bought some to brew at home. Simply described it's premium cac√£o (cocoa) beans, roasted and ground: no sugar, no dairy, no chemicals, just cocoa. It's richer and more flavorful than hot chocolate, brews just like coffee, and gives you a lift without the buzz (and subsequent crash). We've all heard that chocolate is good for you, and this is the perfect way to get that benefit. It tastes awesome!
Checking Out Foodicine
Foodicine may be the first TV show to pitch at a Mass Innovation Nights event.  It sounds like a great idea. Basically it will be at “food-makeover” show that focuses on healthy eating for people who require special diets. Who wouldn't want help from celebrity chefs and world class doctors when learning to live with diagnoses that require special diets?
Percival Brewing Team
The folks from Percival Beer Company greeted people in the lobby with a chance to enter to win some of their Dot Ale 1630.  They're a craft brewer that develops and self-distributes beers that celebrate the diversity of Dorchester. I know nothing about beer, so all I can say is that they were definitely getting some attention.
Planning a Foodie Trip?
Also in the lobby, I had a great talk with Cristiano from Food.Stories.Travel. I was attracted by his display of root vegetables. Food.Stories.Travel is a small  tour operator organizing travels to learn the stories behind local food makers and tasting and supporting their work. I'll certainly call him when I get some time to do an agricultural tour of Italy. Meanwhile, I think I need to get the Essex National Heritage Area folks to look into this kind of tourism for our Essex County farms. (Hm, I feel a blog post coming on come spring.)

GUD Stuff
Speaking of local farms and food producers, the good folks at Something GUD have developed a network of local food producers (farms, fishermen, bakers, etc) and a platform that allows you to buy online and have fresh local foods delivered to your home, sort of a digital farmer's market. They deliver to the Boston area and the North Shore and don't charge delivery fees.  They know the farmers, the fishermen, the fish, the cows... order a steak from them and they can tell you the name of the cow.  I recognized a lot of the farms they work with, but was surprised that they didn't know about Appleton Farms cheeses and Ingaldsby's honey (where you can see the bees that are making your honey and the crops they're pollinating). (I definitely feel an Essex County farming post coming on.)
Best Costume of MINFoodie6
The innovative spelling of good, the cool t-shirt, and the trendy beanie hat earned Something GUD the award for Best Costume of MINFoodie6.

The Caviar of Vegan Treats
DOOS P.K. calls his sauces  "The Caviar Of Vegan Treats!" We're definitely talking innovation in condiments here. It's a multipurpose flavor-enhancing dip, sweet and spicy and full of fruit and vegetable goodness.He's also got a great origin story.

Re:Covers from MyRecovers
When not running Mass Innovation Nights, Bobbie C moonlights as a model for MIN alum, re:covers, fashionable covers for casts and walking boots. If you have to suffer a broken leg, you might as well be stylin' while you recover.

The Experts Corner was busy as usual. Rachel was being very expert and Scott was taking it all in so they're both "Experts Looking Expert."
Experts Looking Expert

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mass Innovation Nights Kicks Off 2014 #MIN58

Great Crowd for #MIN58
Progress Software in Bedford hosted the first Mass Innovation Night of 2014 in fine style with a great space, food, and a good crowd. Thank you, Progress Software!
Just Some of the Delicious Food our Hosts Provided

The Crowd Networking, Checking Out the Products, Tweeting

The product mix at MIN is always eclectic and MIN58 was no exception with everything from beer pong tables to motivational cards for health.

Beer pong tables? Yup. Pro Pong Tables from BeerPongDepot.com are designed to be convenient and portable.
Beer Pong Table from Beer Pong Depot

It was great to see Gary from ProDiagrams again. I met him at a Merrimack Valley Sandbox event last fall. He's fine tuned his pitch and the product looks way more mature. Oh, and he gave away boxes of chocolate covered cherries to anyone who tweeted about ProDiagrams!

ProDiagrams Gave Chocolate Covered Cherries to Anyone Who Tweeted about Them

A ProDiagram for How to Get Chocolates!
It was a tight competition for Best Prop between ProDiagrams' chocolates and HomeBinder's stack of papers, but chocolate won out.

Best Prop of #MIN58
HomeBinder is a great way to organize all that home owner info like contractors, paint colors, expense receipts, appliance warranties and manuals, and so on. No giant mountain of paper, only some of which is still relevant. With HomeBinder's software you'll never lose important household information again.

Those Papers Are Heavy! You Need HomeBinder
Cognii did a great job presenting their intelligent learning assessment tool -- kind of a "Siri for Education" as they described it. They use natural language processing technology to assess students' essay type answers to questions, which makes learning more active for the students and saves time for the teachers who don't have to spend so much time grading papers and quizzes.
Checking Out Cognii
The team from ArtistBomb rocked matching shirts and cool pennants to promote their cool service that connects fans of live music with bands they'll love at no cost to either. It simplifies booking and promotion for the venues and the band. Oh yeah, they totally won Best Costume.
Team ArtistBomb Wins Best Costume of #MIN58
Health Axioms is a deck of cards from Involution Studios. The beautifully designed cards present practical and inspiring tips to improve your health and well-being.The poster sized versions at their table were attracting a good crowd.

Health Axioms
The folks from projectLUCE showcased their QT1 table lamp, part of the Qubit line of products, with a beautiful table scape. Their light fixtures are gorgeously designed and live up to the "designer's manifesto" as units of design.
ProjectLUCE with Merrimack Valley Sandbox
Gopinion makes it easy for businesses to get customer feedback with their simple mobile application. Give feedback, earn rewards. That's it!

gopinion
I had a great conversation about optimizing office space with Michael from Rifiniti. Knowing which space is really being used and which isn't could definitely reduce facilities costs. Rifiniti Optimo is software as a service that gives you real time insight into space usage.
Rifiniti
The Experts Corner was buzzing. It was nice to see folks taking advantage of all the expertise. Marina from Vision Framework took a moment to pose for my traditional Expert Looking Expert shot. Thank you, Marina!

Expert Looking Expert