Friday, October 20, 2017

Women Entrepreneurs Night at #MIN103 Recap

WeWork South Station -- Our Hosts for #MIN103
This month's Mass Innovation Night  focused on women founders and was once again the kick-off event for WEBos Week. Our host for the night, WeWork South Station,  a coworking space had a bit of a -- dare I say it?--  hipster vibe. The decor in the networking areas and common spaces was mad cute as my poetry slam buddies would call it. Besides the cool venue, we also had a cool surprise
special guest, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Nuala McAllister, in Boston for WEBos Week gave the opening remarks. Even cooler, she told us the entire Belfast city council is made up of women.
Hip Decor at WeWork
The event was spread out over several floors, with the product showcase on floors 2,3, and 4 organized by theme. The three floor themes were Assistive Technologies, Apps, and Lifestyle & Fashion. The presentations took place on the 8th floor and the Experts Corner was on that floor too. Getting to all the exhibitors was like a combination of a scavenger hunt and trick or treat. We each got a map at the check-in desk and set off in search of entrepreneurs. Each product had a room to itself. Some of the rooms were quite cozy.  It was a bit of a challenge to photograph all the product teams in close quarters. Somehow, I did manage to find all of the products and make it to the 8th floor in time for the presentations.
More Interesting Decor
The four chosen presenters were:
Coeo Fitness

The audience choice prize winners were:
Own the Boardroom
All Set - Grand Prize Winner

My scavenger hunt started floor 2 and I worked my way up.

Puffin, a Mass Challenge Finalist, is working on an assistive technology device that adapts to the user, instead of the other way around. Their aim is to provide the same level of access to computers and mobile devices that most folks take for granted to people with significant disabilities. They want to see how far they can go towards making interfaces that not only adapt to the user's needs, but also to advance user abilities by furthering opportunities. It was fun talking to these women co-founders.
Team Puffin -- Founder Adriana Mallozi (R) and Co-Founder Shana Penna (L)
I remembered will-it from last month's MIN102 Fintech Their collaborative estate planning tool is the perfect solution to cataloguing those sentimental items -- and their stories -- so you make sure your "stuff" goes to the folks you want to have it and who want it.
Team Will-It
Own the Board Room bills itself as a professional closet. They offer men's suits and women's professional dress+blazer outfits for rent to wear to interviews. With clothes from Own the Board Room you can make a great first impression without having to buy an expensive outfit that you probably won't need once you're hired. They ship within the continental US, and all outfits arrive ready to wear. Simply wear the outfit to the interview and send it back in the same packaging. The return label and dry cleaning between rentals is included.
Own the Boardroom
FriendlyU is a mobile app for high school students to find out more about the colleges they are considering. It allows you to connect to colleges and their students for information and advice to help determine the right fit academically, socially and emotionally.
Henry from FriendlyU
AllSet  connects you with the local house cleaners that your neighbors already use and trust. The All Set platform is available both on their website and as a mobile app and handles every step of the housecleaning process, from choosing your professional house cleaner through scheduling and paying them. And because the team had matching orange T-shirts that matched their orange tablecloth, I hereby declare them winners of Best Costume for MIN103.
AllSet -- Best Costume of MIN103
Simone Simon designs and produces stylish women's clothing at the cutting edge of technology and fashion. Their bold black and white patterns were attracting quite a crowd at MIN103. Their use of 3D CAD software to visualize and test patterns before actually cutting fabric eliminates waste. The virtual fashion animations also lets them visualize and refine the pattern, the cut, and the thickness of the dress for any body type.
Simone Simon

Coeo Fitness connects fitness instructors, clients, and studios to create a streamlined and integrated fitness experience.
invisaWear got my audience choice vote. It's always great to catch up with Rajia and Ray to see the progress they've made with invisaWear. Ever since I first met them at an EforAll event about a year ago, I've been impressed with the idea of  smart jewelry that enables the wearer to contact police and/or family and friends in an emergency. Being equipped to get help quickly in a life-threatening emergency is simple, discreet, and stylish.  Seriously, check out their website for information on when the devices will go on sale.
Rajia Answering Questions about InvisaWear
Aste describes itself as "a full service team of digital investigators leading the fight against online dating fraud to keep you safe in your search for love." That says it all. Aste does the online background check on your online date so you can feel safer. Aste's table was very popular and I am not surprised that they won an audience choice award.
Oze is a  mobile app -- kind of a complete data-driven business advisor in your phone -- that provides African small business owners with the data they need to make decisions. It collects, aggregates, and analyzes financial data and makes recommendations for growing the business. Their passion is enabling small local businesses in emerging markets to grow with technology. Hence the initial focus on Africa.

Veripad uses a combination of a mobile app and a paper card that carries several chemical tests to identify counterfeit medications. It's a really clever system to screen for falsified medicines.
It was an amazing night with a packed house. I didn't get much chance to talk to the experts this month, but I'll close with an Expert Looking Expert photo of the one expert I did talk to from MassTLC.
Expert Looking Expert
The next Mass Innovation Nights event is MIN104 at Dassault Systemes in Waltham on November 8. I've heard there will be robots and 3D printers to check out in addition to all the innovative products that will be showcasing.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Recap -- EforAll Lowell Lawrence All Ideas Pitch Contest

Last week's EforAll All Ideas Pitch Contest (Thursday, October 12) was a collaboration between EforAll Lowell Lawrence and CMAA held at Glory Buddhist Temple in Lowell. It was a unique event as it was EforAll's  first ever outdoor pitch contest and first ever pitch contest at a temple. The number of entrepreneurs showcasing their ventures at tables was small, so there was no "table favorite" voting this time. Everyone got to pitch. And, as advertised, it really was all ideas. The variety of ideas was impressive.
Sovanna Pouv Welcoming Us on Behalf of CMAA
Cool autumn weather suddenly arrived in Lowell, but that wasn't going to stop either the participants or the audience.  A large group of students from Middlesex Community College was in attendance, making for an attentive and engaged crowd.
EforAll's Joey Banh Explaining the Rules for the Pitch Contest
From the first presenter to the last, the pitches were interesting and worth hearing.
Jewell by BC
Jewell by BC aims to reduce textile waste and keep customers looking good for events and occasions with a boutique that will buy, exchange, and rent high end cocktail dresses, evening gowns, Khmer traditional dresses and accessories. Instead of buying a fancy outfit for one-time use and then stuffing it in a closet or throwing it away, Jewell by BC offers customers a buy, sell, rent approach. The audience loved this idea and Jewell by  BC won the fan favorite voting.
Reduce Textile Waste
Lowell Organics pitched an indoor vertical farm growing organic lettuce, basil, and microgreens in unused industrial space in Lowell. This reminded me of Lowell Lettuce, which started last year and uses the Freight Farms system. Hydroponic urban farming is the in thing lately, so I expect to see more of these types of pitches.
Lowell Organics
Nom Nom Banchok pitched serving a traditional Cambodian noodle dish, Nom Banchok, at farmer's markets, bringing together the current "eat local" movement and a dish with a long history.  The noodles are traditionally served in a green curry fish soup with seasonal greens, sprouts, and blossoms. Founder Eden Chorm mentioned that she had not encountered this dish at any of the Khmer restaurants in Lowell. It sounded tasty, and many of us were curious about it. I think if she'd had some soup with her, we all would have tried it -- especially as the night got colder -- but alas she didn't have samples.
Nom Nom Banchok Answering Judge's Questions
Homegrown Tours pitched Wheelchair Accessible Tours of Martha's Vineyard as an addition to her established tour business. Her approach made lots of sense and her business plan was clearly well-thought-through. I was not at all surprised when Wheelchair Accessible Tours won first prize.
Homegrown Tours -- Wheelchair Accessible Tours
My absolute favorite idea was Mobile Entertainment Theater's plan to convert a box truck into a mobile stage that would bring theater and cultural events to places that don't have brick and mortar theaters of their own. It would host a traveling theater company and also be available for rental to other performing artists.The plan seemed complete and well thought out, and the idea just seemed flat out cool. MET got my vote for fan favorite. I guess the judges liked it too, because it won second prize.
Mobile Entertainment Theater
Kenko Protein Bars identified a need for protein bars that are nut-free and egg-free. For people with nut allergies it can be hard to find a protein-filled snack to fuel up for that after school soccer game. Most protein bars on the market today either contain nuts or are made on equipment that comes in contact with nuts.
Kenko Protein Bars
Each bar contains 18 grams of protein and has no added sugar or preservatives. Sounds like a good idea.
Kenko Protein Bars
REALToDo  is a customer relationship management (CRM) software-as-a-service tool for real estate agents.  It's an easy-to-use, cloud-based CRM system that helps agents keep track of their properties, clients, and schedules. A simple tool for real estate pros seems particularly timely given today's real estate market.  Third prize was well-deserved.
One last pitch that impressed me was Second Chance USA. They had already won previously so weren't eligible for prizes, but got to pitch because there was room on the schedule. Second Chance USA trains the incarcerated for middle skilled job openings and partners with companies that need those skills to guarantee employment for people once they are released. Talk about addressing two problems at once!
Second Chance Mission Statement
Making the Case for Second Chance
The winners and the judges posed for photos with the giant checks and most people took off for warmer quarters as it had gotten really most sincerely cold. Quite a night.
First Prize Winner Wheelchair Accessible Tours

Monday, September 18, 2017

Recapping #MIN102 -- Cool #FinTech

District Hall is a Great Spot for MIN Events
Mass Innovation Nights returned to District Hall in the Seaport District on Wednesday night for a fintech themed event. The crowd was huge! I'm told there were over 300 attendees there checking out 13 fintech startups and consulting an unusually large contingent of experts. The Experts Corner was more like an Experts Wing.

A Glimpse of the Crowd
State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg  kicked off the presentations and really got people excited about fintech and about the Office of Economic Empowerment. The standing room only crowd was really into fintech and seemed even more attentive than usual to both Treasurer Goldberg's talk and the four chosen presenters' pitches.
State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg

Beautiful Boston
The four chosen presenters for the night were StackUP, RateGravity, will-it, and FutureFuel.

StackUP is an online platform to analyze and rate the performance of your financial advisers. If you want to know if your advisers are doing a good job managing your financial future or if/when you need to find a new financial advisor, StackUp does the comparisons for you so you can make a smart choice.
will-it got my vote for favorite. It's a great estate planning tool with a collaborative approach to 'who gets what'. All those personal and sentimental items, like my Nana's Belleek swan or that bookcase that's in all the family photos, are usually left for family members to sort and divide.  will-it helps catalogue those items and the stories and history that go with them. You can invite friends and family  to join and request the things they want.  It's a great way to get the dialogue about your stuff  to happen and to pass on your "stuff" in a meaningful way – rather then just leaving it behind.

RateGravity had the most memorable line of the night, presenting after will-it: The only thing worse than death is mortgages. That got a good laugh as many people know the pain of mortgages. RateGravity uses technology to save you tens of thousands of dollars when financing your home. They make it easy to figure out whether you'll be approved for financing and how much you can afford to borrow. RateGravity shows you the range of interest rates available for your particular needs and connects you to a network of fully vetted lenders that offer preferential terms. You save a ton of money when you find exactly the right mortgage for you.
People in the crowd were getting particularly excited about FutureFuel's technology-driven solutions to the student debt crisis. Need to refinance at a lower rate or lower your monthly payments or both? FutureFuel's marketplace offers lots of lenders who compete to refinance your student loans with no impact on your credit score. Does your company want to attract and retain your future work force?  The FutureFuel platform makes it possible for employers and other partners to "turn on" student loan repayment as an employee benefit.  Their tools make it possible to crush student debt instead of student debt crushing you.
It was impossible for me to talk to every one of the startups, let alone the legion of experts, but I did enjoy meeting everyone I did talk to. The buzzing intensity of the event reminded me of a slogan I saw on a building down the street from District Hall: Boston is on the move. You should be too.

LearnLux is on a mission to empower you to take control of your personal finances. The online education hub puts it within your reach to master the whole personal finance thing from basic banking, to retirement planning, to building credit. You can even learn about insurance. Teach yourself with LearnLux and start making financial decisions with confidence.
So many teams had matching T-shirts that it was hard to pick a Best Costume of MIN102. Since will-it and RateGravity both had blue shirts with sans serif fonts and cool logos, I declare them to be co-winners of Best Costume :-)
Venky from Keel Networking with David from Awesome Videomakers
Pyggly is a gamified savings app that makes it way less complicated to achieve financial goals. The team was fun to chat with and the piggy banks on their table were cute. I hereby award them Best Prop of MIN102.
Pyggly -- Best Prop of MIN102


Audience Choice Winners were:
Audience Choice Winners in Pink Backlight

As I mentioned there were a ton of experts, they included:
FactSet had cool sportsballs decorating their table. Habitude Warrior had a table full of books, DCU seemed to be everywhere, and all the experts were getting plenty of traffic to their tables.
Team FactSet
Erik Swanson posed for the traditional Expert Looking Expert shot with his classic Habitude Warrior  flair.

Expert Looking Expert -- Habitude Warrior

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Six Reasons to Visit Lawrence this Labor Day Weekend

Monument to the 1912 Strikers
Is there a better place to celebrate Labor Day than Lawrence, Massachusetts? I doubt it. Why? Because Lawrence actually celebrates labor on Labor Day. The textile workers strike of 1912, often referred to as the Bread and Roses Strike, changed labor history in the USA. That's reason enough to visit Lawrence on Labor Day Weekend, but there's so much more! With the Festival of the Three Saints, the Mahrajan, and the Bread and Roses Festival you can celebrate Italian culture, Lebanese culture, and labor history from Friday evening through Monday.

Lawrence City Hall
Here six reasons (among many) that you will want to come to Lawrence this weekend:

1. The Bread and Roses Heritage Festival

On Labor Day from 11:30 AM - 6:00PM the festival centered around Campagnone Common features:
  • live music on multiple stages celebrating a variety of traditions -- bachata, jazz, rock n' roll, folk, progressive hip hop, you name it!
  • a live history stage  where you can learn about Lawrence's history and its present from  historians, writers, union representatives, and community activists -- and be sure to check out the community corner and soapbox
  • kids' activities including pony rides, face painting, and arts activities
  • tours -- both trolley tours and historic walking tours take you to sites related to the 1912 strike and other aspects of this historic mill city
  • a variety of tables with vendors and non-profit organizations -- everything from food to labor organizing 
 2. Giant Puppets

Again this year the giant puppets from Vermont's famed Bread and Puppet Theater will bring their unique approach to both puppetry and politics to Lawrence. Their performances always tell a story we need to see and hear.  And the puppets really are huge. Is it my imagination or do the puppets get bigger every year? Come find out.

Circus Ring Awaits the Giant Puppets
Costume Heads for Giant Puppets
3. Extraordinary Rendition Band

This year's Bread and Roses festival is a great chance to experience this popular Providence, Rhode Island activist street band right here in Lawrence.  ERB is a "honk band" of brass, reeds and percussion who play at the annual Honk! festival in Somerville and Cambridge, the Pronk festival in Providence and other events across the country. They harness the power of music to promote peace and civic engagement. They'll be roaming the lawn on Campagnone Common starting at 5:15 PM.
Extraordinary Rendition Band at Honk! (2013)
4. Feast of the Three Saints

From Friday evening at 6:00 thru Sunday evening Common Street becomes Italian heritage central. This is the 94th year that  Lawrence's Italian community has honored the three martyrs: Saints Alfio, Filadelfo, and Cirino.  Free music on multiple stages, great food, a torchlight procession, fireworks, confetti, and people yelling "Viva Sant Alfio" bring people to Lawrence to reunite with old friends and celebrate all that the Italian immigrants brought to the Immigrant City.

The Italian Serenaders Performing on Common Street (2016)
If you're craving cannoli or arancini  or some other kind of Italian treat, you'll find it all here.  Be sure to catch the First Annual Youth Battle of the Bands on Sunday afternoon at 1PM outdoors on the
Tripoli Stage, right across the street from Tripoli Bakery (which, by the way, makes the best scala bread anywhere). Just stroll down Common Street and you're sure to encounter fun.
The Saturday Night Crowd at Three Saints (2016)
5. Lebanese Mahrajan Festival
Get a taste of Lebanese culture at the 43rd Mahrajan at St. Anthony's Maronite Church. Three days of music, dancing and plenty of  Lebanese (and American) food starts Friday evening, Sept. 1. There's plenty of time to enjoy the food, music, dancing, hookah, games, and even cooking classes. Stop by  Friday 6PM-Midnight,  Saturday 5PM- Midnight, and Sunday Noon-Midnight.

Crowds Starting to Build at Saint Anthony's for Mahrajan
This is your chance to sample the wide variety of tasty Lebanese pastries while listening to live music, buy some souvenirs from unique vendors, and maybe even take a belly dancing lesson.
The Pastry Tent is Three Tables Long!
6. Robert Frost Grew Up Here
One of the stages at Bread and Roses is named for famous Lawrencian, Robert Frost. Frost discovered his talent and passion for poetry at Lawrence High and his work was first published in the Lawrence High newspaper. The Robert Frost Foundation aims to connect contemporary poets with Frost's legacy and his connection with Lawrence. Monday's 2017 Bread and Roses festival will remember longtime Robert Frost Foundation executive director and accomplished poet, Mark Schorr,who passed away earlier this year. Stop by the Robert Frost Stage at 1:15PM for a poetry tribute to Schorr.

There are way more than 6 reasons to come to Lawrence. Just come and you'll find out why "the whole world has come to Lawrence."

Sign Commemorating the 1912 Strike in the Everett Mill