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

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