Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mass Innovation Nights #MIN85 Recap

Mass Innovation Nights celebrated its 7th birthday with another wonderful product launch event at MITRE in Bedford. This was the second time MITRE sponsored and hosted a Mass Innovation Nights event. Last time was back in July of 2015. They provided food too -- everybody was talking about the Philly cheese steak egg rolls. Oh, and Suja was there handing out free juice again - always welcome.
deepSQL
This month's event had a security, big data/big cloud, and health theme. All the tables were busy with people checking out products ranging from graphical interfaces for analytics to a device to assess coughing via telemedicine and so much more. As is my usual lately, I didn't manage to talk to or photograph every exhibitor.  I did see lots of interesting stuff that I liked, though.
Security Innovation -- Best Costume
The four chosen presenters were:

The student startup showcase included Medley and closeFriends from the Accelerate program at Wentworth and CoughCounter from Tufts. The student startups also presented.
Rulex
I liked Rulex's approach to simplifying configuration for analytics processes using a graphical UI. Making it easier to seek answers in big data seemed to be a theme within a theme, as Podium and deepSQL also tackled getting the most out of big data.
WindTalker Security
WindTalker Security offers an innovative way of managing security for patient information. You can make certain information available only to defined roles. I was calling it "differential security" but I'm not sure that fully captures it.  Imagine that your doctor can see patient names, but researchers can't or the billing office can see social security numbers, but telemetry can't. This makes it a whole lot easier to transmit medical forms and documents, x-rays, and telemetry feeds securely over both public and private networks without compromising patient confidentiality. This got my vote for favorite.
Kyrus Mobile
Kyrus Mobile offers a solution for distracted driving safety in the corporate fleet environment. They make it possible to enforce a "no cellphone" policy and collect the data to prove compliance. Kyrus was very popular with the audience.

Podium Data Presentation
Podium Data  simplifies enterprise data management with an integrated platform that harnesses the power of Hadoop and makes it easy to deploy.
Cough Counter
Cough Counter, one of the student startups, is developing a low-cost system to monitor and measure how many times a patient coughs, upload the data to a server, and analyze that data to assess the recovery of patients suffering from respiratory illness like TB. They've been collaborating with a group in Lima, Peru and with Johns Hopkins University.
People Hedge Presenting
PeopleHedge is a one stop shop for international commerce: find your international customers, manage global payments, and connect to capital all in one spot.

Security Innovation did a demo of  CMD+CTRL Hackathon, a simulation to train developers in identifying security vulnerabilities and deal with them.

Security Innovation Presenting
Ethoswell helps manage the connection to complementary healthcare providers like chiropractors, dietitians, and acupuncturists. (No photo - camera glitched on it.)

In the  fan voting, the grand prize winner was Kyrus Mobile and the other favorites were WindTalker Security, Podium Data, and People Hedge.

There were a ton of experts including folks from MITRE available to discuss cyber security and intellectual property rights. Other experts in business insurance, venture capital and internet policy rounded out the Experts Corner.  The wonderful people from the Bedford Chamber of Commerce and from the Advanced Cyber Security Center provided their expertise as well.  The Bedford Chamber of Commerce folks graciously agreed to pose for the "Experts Looking Expert" photo (with their free Suja juices).
Bedford Chamber of Commerce Looking Expert and Enjoying Free Suja Juices

Monday, March 21, 2016

EforAll Winter Accelerator Awards Recap

Welcome to E for All
Last Wednesday night, the Everett Mill hosted the festivities celebrating the latest class of entrepreneurs to complete EforAll's accelerator program. It was a good crowd (I'm told there were over 100 people in attendance).  Thank you to Everett Mills Real Estate for welcoming entrepreneurs to this historic space and thank you to all the local businesses who provided delicious food.
History -- Yup, this is the place.
The EforAll accelerator is a 12-week intensive program where entrepreneurs work with mentors, attend workshops, network with experts, and compete for cash prizes to bring their business or non-profit ventures to the next level.  Passion for their ideas is a requirement for participation in the accelerator, and that passion was definitely on display with all of the entrepreneurs at the event.
Lawrence at Dusk through the Window
The variety of ideas/businesses amazed me: robots,  LGBTQ history content, quilting kits for the visually impaired, legal services, websites for conservation trusts, bread baking, personal styling, and more and more and more.

I really enjoyed meeting the founders of History UnErased, whose mission is to "unerase" the stories and history of LGBTQ people by providing educational content and training for educators so that young people in grades K-12 will have a more positive and inclusive experience of history.  They got my vote for fan favorite.

History UnErased
Mitsy Kit's sewing and quilting kit impressed me with clever adaptations that enable blind people to sew and quilt using their sense of touch. The creative use of burlap to help blind people locate the edges of quilt squares struck me as brilliant.
Mitsy Kit
I chatted with Nicole of Lynx Investigations about support services for attorneys, private investigators, corporations, and ordinary people involved in legal issues. She works with locating and retrieving documents from all the relevant databases quickly and accurately, whether it's government documents, court records, or other things.
Lynx Investigations
Crowd
Franklin Robotics develops robots for agriculture so I was eager to check it out. Rory had worked at Harvest Robotics, but it turns out he didn't know my girl scientist nieces. I guess his time there didn't overlap with either of theirs, but it was still cool to share stories.  Franklin's weeding robot is intended for home gardens. It takes care of the unpleasant part of keeping your garden weed-free. It’s solar powered too. Anything that relieves gardening of back-breaking weed-pulling and/or spraying nasty herbicides, is a great innovation.
Franklin Robotics
Purple Carrot Bread Co.  bakes high quality artisan breads and sells them at the Farm Market at Mill No. 5 in Lowell and other farmer's markets.  Their goal is to have their own storefront that serves lunch featuring their high quality breads made from scratch.
Purple Carrot
Trail Websites does web design, development, hosting, and other services for Conservation and Land Trusts needing to boost their engagement with the public, and thus improve fundraising, with better websites. We had a great chat about some of the local trails and organizations and how few people know there are over 100 miles of trails in Boxford alone (hey, Boxford is not that far from Lawrence at all, check it out).

Trail Websites
Milling around in the crowd, sampling delicious sandwiches from Purple Carrot, networking, and tweeting frequently in hopes of winning the social media prize (a signed copy of Desh Deshpande's book) meant I didn't get to photograph every entrepreneur at his or her table before the speeches, pitches, and awards.

Mayor Dan Rivera welcomed us to Lawrence and inspired us with his story of a mayoral campaign as startup. I always get inspired listening to Mayor Rivera. This man clearly loves Lawrence.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera
Raj Melville, Executive Director of the Deshpande Foundation, filled in for Desh Deshpande who was unable to give the keynote because of illness. Raj told us about EforAll, about this accelerator class, about the challenges of entrepreneurship and about the importance of local entrepreneurs in stimulating the economy.
Raj Melville Filling in for Desh Deshpande
Class speaker Cristina Pimentel of The Fuschia Files spoke about her experience of the accelerator and her vision for personalizing style. After Cristina's talk, each of the entrepreneurs in the class gave a 1-minute pitch and the audience texted in their votes for their favorite.
Cristina Pimentel
Time for the One Minute Pitches
With a prize pool of $15,500 to be handed out and so many talented entrepreneurs in this class, there was plenty of excitement in the room as the prizes were awarded. The Christina Hamilton Award for grit and overcoming obstacles went to Lynx Investigations. The fan favorite voting ended in a tie between Jerez Electronics and Franklin Robotics, who each got $250.

The winners in order by prize money were:
  • Mitsy Kit $5,000
  • History UnErased $3,000
  • Purple Carrot Bread Co. $2,500
  • Cognate $2,000
  • Jerez Electronics $1,500
  • The Fuschia Files $750
  • Lynx Investigations $500

Lynx Investigations Won the Christina Hamilton Award
Congratulations to everyone who participated in the Winter 2016 Accelerator Class! Continue with the passion for your enterprises!

Monday, March 7, 2016

out and about in the creative economy


Saturday was a treat! There's no other way to describe it. With so many artsy events to choose from, I chose to focus on spoken word and books -- words still matter, will always matter.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend a FreeVerse! workshop led by Elmer Martinez, one of many talented young poets to come out of Lowell. Workshopping  poems with other poets yields new ways of looking at the work and the exercise that Elmer gave us really helped. We met in the studio at unchARTed, up above the new unchARTed gallery, performance space, and fantastic restaurant. The visual surroundings of being in a studio were inspiring for the poetry and for the improv exercises. Poetry, art, and pizza are plenty to boost one's energy level. Thank you to unchARTed for the pizza. Thank you to Elmer for coming back to Lowell from your freshman year in progress at Emerson to share poetry and insight with your homies.

The next stop on my itinerary was Mill No. 5 for the Pulp & Press bazaar and the Author Round-Up that was part of it. I somehow imagined that I'd also manage to fit in a quick stop at Western Avenue Studios and maybe some photography around town too, but as is emblazoned on many T-shirts "So many books, so little time!"  Pulp & Paper  is basically a  paper-themed market place full of vendors  selling art, prints, books, and even artistic little boxes and other objects made of paper.

Roofscape
On my way over to Mill No. 5, I started noticing afternoon light on red brick, one of my favorite photo subjects, so I got diverted off into taking a few pics. I caught up with my FreeVerse! folks just as they arrived at Mill No. 5 so we got to all ride the elevator up to the enchanted 4th floor together along with Andy Jacobson, our host for the Untitled Open Mic series. I tried to check out as many of the tables as possible on my way to a small corridor off of the main corridor to find the local small press book fair tables and the author performance space -- a smallish but decent sized room kind of hidden near Luna Theater. The first local author I ran into was Hyperlocal Man himself, Richard Howe. (Someday I am going to write a comic strip about the adventures of Hyperlocal Man and the Lowell Connectah -- two crime-fighting, problem-solving, history-preserving supeheroes about town -- if I ever learn to draw.) He informed me that Paul Marion (the Lowell Connectah) was in the performance space, so I headed on in.

In the performance space, Matt Miller was reading, nearing the end of his time slot. I was glad I caught some of his extraordinary poems. It is amazing how many writers there are in the greater Lowell area. Or maybe it's not so amazing, as the Merrimack Valley and the NH Seacoast have always been hotbeds of literary endeavor.  I was thrilled to hear Michael Casey, whom I haven't heard in nearly 20 years, do some of his most iconic poems. Paul Marion wowed the crowd as usual. Sarah Masse and Madison Brown repped FreeVerse! awesomely, and Masada Jones -- one of the three amazing founders of FreeVerse! --  was on point with her poems. I did not get to hear as much of Al Bouchard's new stuff as I would have liked, but did appreciate what I heard before I had to duck out of the performance space.

I hit the Boostrap Press/FreeVerse! table for a copy of Masada's book -- graciously signed of course -- and a copy of Princess Moon's beautiful new book. At the Loom Press table, I had a chance to chat with Paul Marion and ask him for more information on a Lowell/Mike Dukakis  story that I'd recently heard from a friend. Paul was able to correct/clarify/and amplify the story for me. There's always a Lowell connection, just ask Paul!

I stopped in at Iron Tree Furnishings to say hi to my cousin Leanne who was in the middle of installing some vintage-style light bulbs. Alas, our conversation resulted in just enough distraction to result in a shattered bulb. Fortunately, no humans or dogs were hurt.

Sir Guinness of Lowell, the canine ambassador of Mill No. 5, intercepted me with a need for some petting outside Serpentine Books as I made my way toward Vinyl Destination.  Catching up with Dave Perry is always great, even when I'm not searching for records. We chatted, I scanned the new arrivals bin, and decided I was wicked hungry and needed some dinner. I announced my intention to finally try 1981 Ramen, but alas when I got there the line was too long. I continued down the block to Bishop's Legacy and feasted on the fasoulia of my dreams.

There was lots more to do in Lowell, in Lawrence, and all over the valley, but sometimes one just has to go home and curl up with newly purchased poetry books.

For further reading on what a great day it was at Mill No. 5, Paul Marion's post, @ Book Mill, on Richard Howe's hyperlocal blog talks about the Author Round-Up organized by Sean Thibodeau of the Pollard Memorial Library and Richard Howe's  weekly Lowell Week in Review  also mentions his experience at the book fair and author round-up event among other significant news of the week. If that's not enough, here's a wonderful account of Saturday's events at Mill No. 5 on Patrick Cook's Wicked Good Blog:Milling About on a Saturday Afternoon.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

#MINFoodie10 Recap



Welcome to Hatch Fenway
This month's Mass Innovation Nights host, Hatch Fenway, provided not only a huge space but also great views and a swing set. Despite the huge space, the event was jam-packed. It was quite a crowd.  Glad I grabbed a quick sip of green juice from the juice-support provider, Suja, on the way in the door.
Suja Providing Juice Support for the Event
With 11 companies displaying products plus a full Expert Corner, there was a lot to see and taste. Products ranged from fantastic Vietnamese juices to a soup CSA.

XOI Juices
My first stop was for more juice. I tasted two flavors of the Gac juice from XOI. Wow! What great tastes! They explained to me that Gac, a fruit I had not heard of before, has more beta-carotene than carrots and more lycopene than tomatoes. I really enjoyed both flavors that I tasted, and I signed up for their email list.

Realizing that I wouldn't be able to check out everything, I prioritized and went in search of the four chosen presenters: Vera Roasting, Stuffed Cookies, Banana Samba, and ShotCakes.


Delicious Coffee with Resveratrol
Imagine the much-publicized health benefits of red wine in a cup of coffee! CoffVee from Vera Roasters is infused with resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skins of red grapes, which is responsible for the so-called French Paradox. The French eat lots of cheese and butter and other fatty foods and yet have less cardiovascular disease because they get resveratrol from drinking red wine. I had a nice hot cup of CoffVee dark roast and enjoyed the taste as much as many another dark roast blend I've tasted.
Sara Serving Awesome Cookies
Sara's "Stuffed Cookies" are so good that I had a hard time choosing whether to vote for Sara Ran Away with the Spoon or XOI Juices. The cookies got my vote, but it was really close. The mint chocolate chip cookie I tried had a scrumptious peppermint inside.


Banana Samba

Banana Samba is a Brazilian treat made from banana, pure cane sugar, and lime juice, or in the "no sugar added" version just banana and lime juice. I tried the no sugar added version. It's chewy and satisfyingly sweet.
Team ShotCakes
Who could pass up a fresh-baked cupcake with ice cream inside? ShotCakes takes "cake and ice cream" to a new level. I tried a "Birthday Cake" one and I hereby give it my seal of approval.
Maca-Nut
Maca-Nut tasted much like other chocolate peanut butters that I've tasted but with a little more depth and a smoother, more robust mouth feel. The essential ingredient in Maca-Nut is Peruvian maca flavored with 100% cocoa liquor. The only sweetener is unrefined brown Coconut Palm sugar.
Raduno Soups

Raduno Soup CSA is monthly soup service. All soups are made with homemade from scratch stock and fresh ingredients. Because I'm vegetarian, I didn't sample the beef-based soup but I heard other attendees saying "Mmmmmmmm" so I'm guessing it was good.

TBD Foods - Best Costume

TBD Foods  caters farm to table dinner parties for small groups. You can even host the dinner party in your home.  With so many teams rocking matching T-shirts, it was difficult to choose a Best Costume of MINFoodie10, but I thought team TBD's shirts were the most "foodie" so I hereby award them Best Costume.

In the fan voting,  the grand prize winner was Vera Roasting, with runners up ShotCakes, What's Good, and Omega Oil.
Vera Roasting's CoffVee Collecting the Well-Deserved Prizes
The Expert Corner was buzzing all evening. The folks from Toast, a restaurant technology platform,  posed for the traditional Experts Looking Expert photo.
Experts Looking Expert

Friday, January 15, 2016

#MIN82 Recap

Mass Innovation Nights started the year off right showcasing a variety of  local innovation at MIN82 hosted by Endurance International Group in Burlington. Endurance provided a great space, food, and beverages as well as decor that evoked Antarctic expeditions of bygone days.
Endurance
The products on display were diverse as usual. The four products chosen to present by the pre-event voting were: Sonzia, TripBuddy, WeGush, and Pavlok.
Presenters Waiting to Be Introduced
Sonzia brings affordable large scale touch screen technology to classrooms and workplaces for people of all abilities with TouchEasel and Ualli. The demo presentation was impressive with good contrast, responsiveness, and sheer size. Very cool. I can imagine big touchscreens in all sorts of applications.

The TouchEasel Screen
Pavlok's demo table was drawing big crowds well before the presentations began. It's a wearable device that helps reduce cravings and break bad habits with mild electrical zaps (and/or buzzes, beeps, vibrations) that are supposed to retrain your brain to stop liking the habit.
Crowd Around Pavlok's Table
Gratitude feels awesome! The WeGush Gratitude App for iOS and Android makes it really easy to  express your gratitude to others anytime, anywhere right from your smart phone (or as my friend Douglas calls it, your digital extension of consciousness). It's integrated with your social media and messaging apps and provides fun messages of appreciation for you. It couldn't be easier to thank someone. The app is an even better and more convenient way to spread gratitude around than the web site that WeGush presented at MIN67.
Martha Huntley - WeGush Founder
Does the world need another "ride sharing" app what with Uber and Lyft and all? You bet it does! tripBuddy is a ride sharing platform that connect students without cars with students who have cars on campus who happen to be heading to the same destination. That's right, it's real ride sharing, not a glorified taxi service. The tripBuddy team was very enthusiastic and showed off their matching T-shirts, so I hereby award them Best Costume of MIN82.
TripBuddy Team in Matching T-shirts

VQL is data analysis made simple. With VQL, even non-techies can query the database and get answers simply and quickly. Everybody on your team can get  answers, not just those who know how to write complicated SQL queries. There's no coding involved.
Answering Questions about VQL
College admissions website Admitster attracted a lot of attention. Billing themselves as "the world's most useful college admissions website" is not much of an exaggeration. They've figured out how to use data analytics to predict your  chances of being accepted by any of the colleges or universities in the United States, and they offer solutions for improving your chances.

Needless to say, Admitster ended up being the grand winner in the favorites voting. The other three winners (who got cool Endurance gym bags) were VQL, Sonzia, and WeGush. All well-deserved.

I didn't get a chance to talk with or photograph Impress.ly, metacog, GemShelf,, or SnapScreen, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't check them out online.

There were plenty of experts in the house. In addition to the traditional Expert Corner, our hosts offered some experts as well.

Business On Tapp  was one of the featured experts/companies from Endurance International Group. Got questions about your entrepreneurial ideas? Need answers, solutions, connections? No matter who you are Business On Tapp provides real business guidance for you. It's like having the Expert Corner in your pocket all the time.
Business On Tapp Team
In the Expert Corner. besides dispensing HR expertise, Mark DeMello of TriNet struck a humorous pose for the traditional Expert Looking Expert photo.
Expert Looking Expert