Thursday, September 11, 2014

Entrepreneurship for All Summer Accelerator Awards Recap

A Logo and a Mission Statement in One
Tuesday night's celebration of the summer accelerator program participants was also the official announcement of the name change from Merrimack Valley Sandbox to Entrepreneurship for All so it was a doubly exciting event. The product showcase was a great opportunity to catch up with all the finalists, most of whom I have seen at more than one pitch contest or event. I'm truly impressed with how all of the finalists have benefited from the program and taken their products and their pitches to the next level.

Huge Crowd
There was a huge crowd at the Everett Mill for the event and things were bustling around the product showcase tables and the food table. BTW, the stuffed mushrooms were delicious.

Delicious Appetizers
The new name and logo was everywhere, so by the time David Parker began the opening remarks, he could be sure everyone already knew what the highly anticipated "big announcement" was.  It's an exciting change that really puts the organization's mission and philosophy front and center. Entrepreneurship for All is the heart and soul of what drives the organization.

David Parker Welcoming Us
Marianne Paley, the owner of Everett Mills, welcomed us to the historic building, now a growing business center right in the heart of downtown Lawrence. If the name Everett Mills sounds familiar to you, it's because something really important happened here in 1912. In fact we just had a festival on Campagnone Common on Labor Day to commemorate that event.  It's kind of amazing to think of the changes this old building has witnessed.

Our Host Marianne Paley, Owner of Everett Mills
Deshpande Foundation co-founder, Desh Deshpande, congratulated the finalists and  introduced the keynote speaker, Gerald Chertavian. Deshpande is always inspiring even in short introductory remarks.

Desh Deshpande
Gerald Chertavian spoke passionately about the importance of entrepreneurship to job creation and of social enterprise and shared responsibility. Chertavian grew up in Lowell, graduated from Harvard Business School, and made a career on Wall Street before turning his attention to addressing America's opportunity gap by founding Year Up. Year Up teaches young people the skills they need to move into the professional work force. Poverty to professional career in a year!

Keynote Speaker - Gerald Chertavian, Founder and CEO of Year UP
Veronica Chapman of My Crowning Jewel gave the class address. I'm starting to feel like Veronica is becoming an old friend because I've watched her pitch her stunning head wraps at various events since #MIN46 (that was like 20 Mass Innovation Nights ago!)

Veronica Chapman
Each of the finalists got to do a 1-minute pitch and it was amazing to hear the diversity of their enterprises and the polish of the their pitches. Well done!

EforAll Finalists
This awards celebration featured the first Christina Hamilton Award. I started to tear up when Christina's family came forward to present the award to Michael Bertrand of Edible Land Designs. Christina was the Founder of Delightful Surprise Sweets, a Lowell-based venture that sold delicious fudge in many different flavors. Christina was a participant in the 2014 winter accelerator program , who passed away suddenly in February. Christina was one of the most determined and inspiring entrepreneurs I have met, and it is a wonderful thing that EforAll has established this award in her memory. The Christina Hamilton Award will be presented to one participant in every future accelerator class who exemplifies her characteristics of grit and determination. You can read a bit more about Christina and this award on the EforAll website.

Christina Hamilton's Family Ready to Present the Christina Hamilton Award in Her Memory
Besides giving an inspiring speech, Veronica Chapman was one of the $5000 award winners.

Veronica Chapman
Other winners were Leanne Tremblay of Loomination, Nkese Applewhite of Oshun Undies,  Nareth Muong of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association's (CMAA) translation service,  the UMass Lowell Support our Students program, and Brian Dutton from Asinine Games who won the $1000 MassDiGi award.

Nareth Muong
Mai Le Libman  and Sagi Yaacoby of Savione, a platform that makes it easy to shop local, won the largest prize, $7000.  I remember being impressed with Savione back in April at the all ideas pitch contest.

Mai Le of Savione
It was great to see Sovanna Pouv, the new Executive Director of CMAA and long time supporter of  Entrepreneurship for All. Sovanna and Visal posed with Nareth and his big check.

I ran into so many people I know at this event that I am truly beginning to believe I'm not that bad at networking after all. :-)

Oh, and the moon peeked out from behind the clouds briefly just as I left the Everett Mill. Nice night.

Moon Peeking Through the Clouds over Lawrence

Monday, July 14, 2014

Did you miss last month's Sandbox Summit?

Governor Deval Patrick Conversing with Summit Attendees

Did you miss the the Sandbox Summit? Catch up on what you missed with the official recap from Merrimack Valley Sandbox. You might even spot the back of my head in some of the photos.

You can read my own recap too:
Day 1 Recap
Day 2 Recap Part A

Somehow I haven't gotten to writing "Part B" of Day 2 yet.  The endless waterfall of stuff to do  has a way of taking over the time for multi-part blog posts. :-)

Friday, July 11, 2014

#MIN64 Recap

A health innovation theme and a health innovation oriented host made for a wonderful Mass Innovation Night on Wednesday at athenahealth in the Watertown Arsenal. The crowd was fairly large and the big space accommodated it easily with a central spot for the presentations and "wings" on either side for product tables and experts.
Crowd Listening to Presentations
Highly appropriate to the Watertown location near the River Charles, Charles River Rowing League had a table promoting team-building, networking, and stress reduction through rowing. The Charles River Rowing League (CRRL) brings together expert coaching and world-class equipment to provide local companies with a four-week rowing program. It sounds like a fun way for your work teams to unwind while learning a new sport.
Charles River Rowing League
Old friends from #MIN62 and the recent #PINSMASS01, Gentoo, were there with the Gentoo Vest, a light compression undergarment that helps you manage outpatient infusion equipment and still live your normal life. What else can I say about this that I haven't already said in my previous blog posts? This is a seriously brilliant product. It's several orders of magnitude better than carrying the infusion pump around in a backpack with plastic tubes dangling.
Chris from Gentoo at their Table
Ben from Gentoo Presenting
Know My Patient from Nightingale Apps  helps nurses get to know their patients quickly and  helps them manage info about multiple patients to improve their work flow and deliver safe, efficient,  patient-centered care.
Discussing Know My Patient
Making Care Easier makes it easier for families to manage caring for an elderly family member. It helps everyone take an active part in caring. You can find out how to provide better care for your dad or mom, figure out ways your "care team" can help even if they're in other states. It's all online and you can organize everything from rides to the doctor to buying new shoes from wherever you are - at home, at the office, or on the road.

Making Care Easier

Making Care Easier Presenting
Medstro is a social network for physicians and medical students, giving them a place where they can  interact in a community of their peers. That way they can discuss the latest medical innovations and things they wouldn't want to share with a wider non-specialized network.
Discussing Medstro
It was great to see Cynthia and Maeve from  Increment again.  They were at the Sandbox Summit, at the wonderful Merrimack Valley Sandbox All Ideas Pitch Contest in Lawrence (where kids started spontaneously playing with the O-Rings), and the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Consumer Ideas Pitch Contest in Lowell, to mention a few. They know how to get their O-Rings toys for all kids noticed.  O-Rings are sensory learning playthings that foster developmental skills. Basically, they are four stackable rings of incremental sizes, each with  a different texture, color, density, and filling. This provides opportunities for kids to learn about materials, weights, sounds and colors and stimulate the senses, without even realizing they are learning. Kids just spontaneously start playing with them. Actually, so do adults at Mass Innovation Nights. Increment expects the O-Rings to be in production in December. You can pre-order O-Rings at
Liam Trying Out an O-Ring and Wearing "Best Hat" and "Best Prop" of #MIN64

Increment = Top Vote Getters of #MIN64!
One of the more intriguing innovations was Remembrance - Alzheimer Film Therapy. The films are designed to reduce anxiety levels in dementia patients by creating a relaxing environment using scene selection, music and chronotherapy.
Listening to Remembrance Story
SlingAmp is a non-electronic amplifier stand for iPad and other tablets. The curved shape acts as an amplifier and helps hold up the device. It's a simple and elegant idea.

SlingAmp With A Cool Light Box

ThinLayer dental implant guided surgery system enables dentists to drill an accurate hole for a dental implant.  The system includes protocols, software for planning the implant, and a drill guide.

Thin Layer Dental Implant
There were two Best Props of #MIN64, the O-Rings and the model teeth for the dental implants. Oh, and the O-Rings get Best Hat too :-)
Tied for Best Prop of #MIN64
Athenahealth ruled the Experts Corner (or should I say Experts Wing) with their More Disruption Please (MDP) partnership program.
Experts Looking Expert

Saturday, June 28, 2014

First Ever Pioneer Valley Innovation Night -- #PINSMASS01 Recap

City Hall
The City of Holyoke hosted the first ever Pioneer Valley Innovation Night at the City Hall Auditorium on Thursday night. It's exciting to see the Mass Innovation Nights concept expanding to the Pioneer Valley. It's a great way to showcase innovative products and get entrepreneurs from diverse industries together. It was great to see Marcos Marrero, Director of Planning and Economic Development, again after having met at the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Summit. Marcos introduced me to Jeff Bianchine, the city's creative economy coordinator. Both were excited for the City of Holyoke to be hosting this event.

Getting Ready for the Event
Product innovators came from all over Massachusetts and even from Connecticut to participate, including some Mass Innovation Nights alumni. The auditorium was gorgeous (and huge) with plenty of room for innovators' tables and experts' tables on either side as well as a presentation area. Great venue. Products ranged from a new kind of bookmark (for real paper books) to spherical salt.

A New Kind of Bookmark
Keep Your Place Bookmarks showed off a line of  laminated markers that mark the exact line on a page where you left off reading. Simple and clever at the same time, this struck me as a great idea. I expect to see these in local indie bookstores soon.
Books with Places Carefully Marked
I remembered Vocoli,  the Digital Suggestion Box, from #MIN62. They are onto an excellent way to improve employee engagement by helping your organization actually act on employee ideas.  It was great to hear their story of how one employee idea submitted through Vocoli saved one of their users $100K!
Talking about Vocoli in the Light from Stained Glass Windows
uTHRiV, offers resources for personal development to teach people about "living a more fulfilled life, as well as how to give a positive mindset away." T=Thinking. H=Health. R=Resources. V=Village. Those are the "four core areas of life" that uTHRiV aims to work with.
Light thru Stained Glass Illuminating uTHRiV
The folks from Afar Salt came out from Boston with their pearl-shaped salt (for food and spa products).  The salt comes from Lake Assal in Djibouti, East Africa - the saltiest body of water on earth. The pearls form naturally and grow to various sizes over time. I loved talking with them about how the salt compares to the trendy Himalayan salts and about where exactly Djibouti is.
Team Afar Salt
Different Size Salt Pearls

Jean of Blessed Creek had the most compelling story about her own experience with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis led her to thinking about people's skin, the biggest organ of the human body,  and how what you put on your skin ends up in your system. This led her to begin making her own soap, lip balms, cleaning products, and even dog shampoo without harmful ingredients. She came from Connecticut for this event, and usually sells her wonderful soaps etc. at farmer's markets. She brought her farmer's market tent with her. That definitely cut down on the glare as the late afternoon sun streamed through the stained glass windows.

Jean of Blessed Creek
Also from Connecticut - and Chicopee - were Family Nutrition Consultants, who work with folks with diabetes, weight gain or loss issues, kidney disease,  heart disease, cancer and other conditions who need help with integrating healthy eating habits into their lives.
Family Nutrition Consultants
The coolest product of the night was Crookhook, a device that attaches to the front of a police car and extends out to grab a stopped or moving vehicle. The idea is to avoid  dangerous high-speed pursuits. So many high speed chases start with a vehicle stop that grabbing the car and thus preventing the pursuit in the first place seems like a big win. They brought a car equipped with the hook and demonstrated it for me in the parking lot. Be sure to check out the video on their website for a demo of Crookhook in action.
Team Crookhook

The Crookhook Car - Best Prop of PINS
Crookhook Folded and Ready to Deploy

Crookhook Extended
Another familiar face was #MIN62 alumnus Greg with the Gentoo vest. The vest is designed to make it easier and more comfortable for people who are receiving outpatient treatment with an infusion pump to go about their daily lives. When people are already stressed by illness, the treatment shouldn't add to the stress. The Gentoo vest definitely helps reduce the stress of outpatient chemo.
Greg and the Gentoo Vest
In the Mass Innovation Nights tradition, there was an "Experts Corner." At PINS it was more than a corner, it was a whole array of experts, so many that I think I need to do a separate blog post on the experts. So for now, I'll close with one of the many experts looking very expert.

Expert Looking Expert
Werner of Renaissance Advisory Services Advising Me on my Plan to Retire to a Yurt at Otter River

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mass Innovation Nights #MIN63 Recap

Welcome to MIN @ Autodesk
#MIN63 (63 already?!?) convened at Autodesk in Waltham on Wednesday, June 11. I was still all fired up from the Sandbox Summit and ready to discover, photograph, and write about Massachusetts entrepreneurs. Autodesk was a most generous host. Not only did they provide a wonderful space, but they also provided pizza and the appropriate beverages. Thank you, Autodesk!

And Salad Too!
The crowd started to build early on. I think this is the first MIN in ages where I got to visit every table before the presentations started.
Early Crowd
An extra-added feature of #MIN63 was the Babson Summer Venture Program's student entrepreneur showcase. Babson even brought a busload of program participants to the event.

Bobbie C Greets The Babson Bus
It was a rich and diverse mix covering everything from keeping track of where your family members are to charging your electric vehicle, with humor and outdoor gear rental too.

I loved the idea of dondeEsta, a family safety app that uses cellphones to help you know where your family members are. I definitely could have used that when my mother was out late at night delivering food to food banks.

OktopusInsights had the best prop with their stuffed octopus. Their cloud-based SaaS platform brings together email marketing and unique analytics algorithms to glean multi-dimensional insights about source, response and click-stream data, as well as measure audience interactions and affinity across email campaigns.

Simplifying paying a parking ticket is the next best thing to not getting the ticket in the first place. TicketZen enables you to pay it with your phone. Just scan a ticket's bar code, enter your credit card and submit payment. It would be cooler to invent parking spaces that pay for themselves AND magically get you back to your car before your time expires :-) but until then, at least they're making it easier to pay the ticket.
Oktopus - Best Prop
ViewGuard manufactures accessories for all kinds of screens: smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and TVs. Anything that reduces glare and protects the screen is a good innovation in my book. And they were handing out free ViewGuard Anti-Glare Matte Screen Protectors.

Wellapets uses virtual pet games to teach kids to stay well. The  first game, free on Android and iOS, teaches kids to manage asthma by caring for a lovable pet dragon that has asthma. It is adorably cute and gets its message across. I awarded Wellapets "Best Costume of #MIN63" for the colorful T-shirt, too.

Merrimack Media gives indie authors everything they need to get their work out there: crowdfunding and support, quality book publishing, websites, and social media and promotional campaigns. It's a one-stop shop for self-publishing, and it has a cool name.

Wellapets - Best Costume
GearCommons  brings the sharing economy outdoor gear rental. They connect people who own gear with the people who need it. Kayaks, tent, backpacks, whatever - you can post it on GearCommons and make money by renting it to someone in your neighborhood. Hmm, next winter when I want to try snowshoeing, maybe I'll be able to rent snowshoes from someone nearby.

PowerHydrant is a computer-vision robot that provides a hands-free, automatic, and affordable conductive charging solution for electric vehicles. Each device can charge up to four vehicles simultaneously (time-sharing, an old concept withe a new use). Imagine charging whole fleets of electric vehicles simply and affordably.

TheGahlik delivers a new spin on fake news, way funnier than that other news vegetable.

Explaining PowerHydrant
Merrimack Media
The two companies featured in the Babson Summer Venture Program showcase were Jossle and HigherMe. Jossle takes college student marketing to a new level by empowering students to become leaders by building your brand on campus. HigherMe uses data and video to help retail and service employers find better employees faster.

Team HigherMe Looking Entrepreneurial
Team Jossle Looking Entrepreneurial

Some of the Babson Summer Venture Program Attendees
GearCommons Looking Outdoorsy
I got lots of great photos, so maybe some of them will appear in future blog posts. And finally, since there was no Experts Corner this time, Product Architect (and alum of the Institute at the Center of the Universe), Scott Lawton, agreed to look expert for the closing "looking expert" photo.

Expert Looking Expert