Tuesday, November 20, 2018

EforAll Summit 2018 -- Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Black Thought
What a privilege it was to attend the 2018 EforAll Summit on Entrepreneurial Ecosystems! This year's lineup of speakers was absolutely amazing. Black Thought (MC of The Roots), Bill Cummings (Cummings Foundation/Cummings Properties), and Brandale Randolph (The 1854 Cycling Company) all delivered inspiration and insight. UTEC did an excellent job hosting. 

As at previous summits, my peak of meeting new people was at breakfast. I always seem to meet people from Holyoke, but this year I also met interesting people from Gardner. Discussing how cities like Gardner have changed through the years over several cups of coffee is a great way to start the day.

The crowd built steadily during breakfast and David Parker's opening remarks outlining the day's program for us. Oh, and he had so much success with his Moana slides last year, that he featured other movie scenes on this year's slides :-)

David Parker -- Opening Remarks
For the first panel session, I chose Leveraging Your Ecosystem to hear how each of  the panelists had benefited from the entrepreneurial ecosystem and what advice they had for other entrepreneurs (and students). Panelists Luis Gonsalves, Dawn Cordeiro, Ray Hamilton, and John Noto had diverse stories about different aspects of their local ecosystem. Luis from Juice'd Cafe mentioned that the SBA is a great place to start.  Dawn from Holyoke Hummus tested out her idea at community events and recommended a strategy of always being out there telling your story. Ray from InvisaWear talked about entering competitions and taking advantage of the UML incubator and the EforAll accelerator program. John of Lowell Makes pointed out that your ecosystem starts with friends and family. The quotes going up on Post-its over my desk are:
"Your ecosystem starts with your friends and family " -- John Noto, Lowell Makes
"You need to be always telling your story" --  Dawn Cordeiro, Holyoke Hummus
"Go for it to start. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice." --  Ray Hamilton, InvisaWear
Leveraging Your Ecosystem Panel Listening to Dawn Talk about Holyoke Hummus
The Pathway to Building Successful Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Maximizing the Entrepreneurial Experience looked good too, but I was very happy with the one I chose and came home with a bunch of notes.
Andy Vargas Facilitated the Leveraging Your Ecosystem Panel
The main hall really filled up for the first keynote, a fireside chat with Black Thought (aka Tarik Trotter) MC of the hip-hop group The Roots, also the official house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. If I had to pick one quote that resonated it would be: "Be brave. You have to take the risk to reap the rewards." Christa Brown did an excellent job of interviewing him and at the end she asked him if he would rap about entrepreneurship for us. And he did! His freestyle was the highlight of the summit. You simply have to check out this video. Needless to say, he got a standing ovation. On top of all that, he also hung out with the young adults at Cafe UTEC.

Christa Brown
"Stay focused. Stick to your dream. Be brave." -- Black Thought

Big Crowd for Black Thought
For the Ecosystem Interactive Session in the main hall attendees grouped themselves around 7 topics: Inclusivity, Collaborative Culture, Shared Vision, Connected Networks, Quantify Methods, Universal Support, and Sustainable Work. Participants brainstormed ideas and goals for what to do next in those areas. I chose Inclusivity and found it a valuable discussion though it was a bit hard to hear with all the ambient noise from the other groups in the main hall.

Interactive Panel Session on Inclusivity
As the interactive session was winding down, copies of Bill Cummings' book Starting Small and Making it Big began to appear on the tables. Time for the next fireside chat/keynote. Desh Deshpande interviewed his fellow philanthropist Bill Cummings. Cummings' personal story is inspiring and packed with lessons for entrepreneurs of all kinds. He told so many great anecdotes that I could barely wait to get home and start reading the book.  Being in Lowell, he naturally brought up the thing he has in common with Jack Kerouac: they both sold Vicks VapoRub. The audience also enjoyed his story of his first meeting with members of the Giving Pledge and being asked "What's your tail number?" (Spoiler, he doesn't have a private jet.) It was great to hear that Cummings Properties provides low-cost rent to early stage entrepreneurs -- another bit of the ecosystem. And yes, Desh did ask if Bill would rap for us but he declined :-)
Fireside Chat: Desh Deshpande Interviews Bill Cummings
 "The most important thing in any negotiation is to listen." - Bill Cummings

Can't Wait to Read It!
I loved the Art of Pitching workshop. It was great to see so many entrepreneurs willing to test out their pitches and so much useful feedback emerging from both audience and judges  Anne Estabrook and Todd Fry. Some of the pitches were from folks I've heard at EforAll pitch contests before, like Nate McNiff's Wandering Stage. It was great to see Reem Yared, founder of Help Around Town, whom I met long ago at a Mass Innovation Nights event  (MIN48  -- wow, that was a long time ago). Some of the entrepreneurs didn't have much pitch experience. We all learned lots of good stuff from Anne and Todd's critique of each one. "Lead with the value proposition" was probably the most important advice.
Help Around Town Pitching
The final fireside chat of the day was with Brandale Randolph, founder of The 1854 Cycling Company, interviewed by Shelley Cardoos. Randolph shared his experience growing his business, brand building, Framingham's entrepreneurial ecosystem, and creating careers for the formerly incarcerated. His emphasis was definitely on the social impact of the business: "It’s not about the bicycles, it’s about a brand that means something." Inspiring and thought-provoking don't even begin to cover the impression he made. I highly recommend  his TEDx talk "Stop throwing breakfast sandwiches at the poor."
Brandale Randolph and Shelley Cardoos

Friday, November 16, 2018

#MIN116 Recap -- Innovation, Palm Trees, and Some Memories

This month's Mass Innovation Night, MIN 116,  took place at Lincoln North in -- you guessed it -- Lincoln, Massachusetts, sponsored by RW Holmes.  Delicious food was catered by Neillios Gourmet Kitchen -- the Swedish meatballs were particularly popular.
Our Host Venue Lincoln North
It was fun getting there through the woods (I always take the back roads to anyplace along 128) as the drive through the whole Virginia Road/Hanscom Air Force Base area brought back many memories ranging from childhood visits to the MIT Flight Facility to my first post-college job at the Air Force Cambridge Research Lab (writing FORTRAN programs to plot data about the Aurora Borealis). I wasn't exactly sure where the old defunct AFCRL was in relation to the part of Hanscom I was driving past. The hangar I remember from when my Dad worked at what was then called the MIT Instrumentation Lab (now Draper Lab) is gone -- replaced with a bigger more modern hangar -- but I did sort of recognize the general area of where his machine shop was in relation to the runways and it brought back wonderful childhood memories of air shows. Funnily enough, when I was talking with Eric Andersen about the woodsy drive to Lincoln North and the history of Hanscom, he brought up the annual air show. I wonder how many other MIN attendees have memories of the air show? Anyway, enough with the personal associations... on to the event ...

The Lincoln North building featured many indoor trees. I imagine working there would be kind of like working in an arboretum.
The Scene
Products ranged from an electric outboard motor to government transparency software. The presenters chosen by the online voting were:
It's not every day you get to listen to the MIN presentations underneath palm trees, so that added a little extra something to the experience. The microphone was a little touchy so it was kind of hard to hear WAVEPulse, but otherwise it was a good venue.
Palm Tree
Skippit uses real time video and voice interaction to create a more authentic online dating experience. A secure 5-minute call with your match eliminates those weeks of messaging leading to an in-person date where you discover within the first 3 minutes that you're not a match.
ClearGov is government transparency at your fingertips. According to the presentation, 1 out of every 3 towns in Massachusetts already uses ClearGov to share town finances and demographics. That's pretty widespread adoption. I love the idea of simplifying the way tax and budget information are presented and the ease of comparing similar towns statistically. I'd love to see my town embed this in their website.
Flux Marine has designed  a zero emissions electric boat motor.  It's kind of the Tesla of outboard motors. It eliminates the large amount of unburned gas that ends up in lakes and rivers every year too. Not only is it clean and sustainable, but it also offers better performance and reliability than gas engines. 
Flux Marine
WAVEPulse Sterilization technology from ONEightyC fragments proteins, providing a high level of sterilization and disinfection of organisms that frequently cause hospital-acquired infections. Sterilization of many surgical instruments like endoscopes poses challenges. WAVEPulse technology addresses some of these challenges with the ability to tackle prions and super bugs. I had trouble hearing the presentation, so I may have missed some things.
WAVEPulse Sterilization
The product showcase tables were filled with even more interesting stuff.  My personal favorite was Quell wearable pain relief. It's a drug free, non-invasive system that uses nerve stimulation to block chronic pain.  It consists of a device, a wearable band, an electrode that attaches to the device, and an app that lets you customize your therapy. It's small and comfortable to wear.
Emotuit provides analytics that measure college student engagement to help instructors better understand their students’ cognitive and emotional states, so they can improve their course to engage students better.
The Bond Box from Bond and Des Voeux welcomes new residents by introducing them to local small businesses. This goes way beyond Welcome Wagon. The box contains hand-picked items such as bath and body supplies, food and drink items, and gift cards – all from local Boston or Massachusetts businesses. The idea is to make moving less stressful by making you feel at home as soon as you land in your new home. It's just one of the services Bond and Des Voeux offers for move management. Do check out their website.

Bond and Des Voeux

NextWave Hire is software that helps companies hire the right people through inbound recruiting -- think inbound marketing but for HR. The software powers customers' employer brand content, social media presence, and career sites so they can connect with passive job seekers as well as active job seekers.
NextWave Hire

Kinima motion capture uses point cloud technology to track the human body in motion, measuring the body's balance, power rhythm and speed captured through marching, squatting, jumping and lateral bounding. Their table was constantly crowded, so I didn't get a chance to talk with them.
The audience choice award winners were Kinima, ClearGov, and WAVEPulse Sterilization with grand prize going to Quell.

The Experts Corner featured sponsor RW Holmes (of course) and McLane Middleton. McLane Middleton's table featured the best pens, so here's a twist on my usual Expert Looking Export photo:
Expert Looking Expert

Thursday, October 18, 2018

#MIN115 Recap -- Women Founders Event

A Windy Night at District Hall
On Monday night, October 15, Mass Innovation Nights once again kicked off #WeBOSWeek with a Women Founders event. The theme was medical devices and digital health products --  areas in which Greater Boston is extraordinarily rich -- and the showcase featured an amazing diversity of products ranging from a device that helps women take their birth control pill on time, to an innovative tympanostomy tube (for draining ears), to a safer device for connecting an IV. Sponsors Boston Scientific and Brownmed were generous and very engaged. Before the event, Brownmed hosted an open house showcasing some of their products that address medical issues. Alas I had to miss it, but judging from the tweets and photos in my social media stream it looked like it was fascinating.
Brownmed Table Showed off Some Cool Devices
The City of Boston's Women Entrepreneurs Boston program was well represented and Tania Del Rio, Executive Director at Mayor's Office of Women's Advancement, spoke inspiringly on behalf of Mayor Walsh about the importance of women in business.
Just Part of the Dynamic WEBos Team!
The featured presenters were:
Folia presented an app for people with chronic diseases and their families to share health information and observations simply and easily. Just a few taps to document even the smallest details and make sure the doctor and the care team get that information can make a big difference in adjusting treatment.
Folia's Table Was Very Busy
Folia Presentation
IV SafeT made a big impression with a new device for connecting and securing IV tubing.  Its smaller size makes it safer for preemies and infants. Other safety and comfort features include a flat surface against the skin and ridges that grip the tubing for a more secure lock.  The founders built on their own nursing experience to come up with this safer design.
IV SafeT Makes IV Connections Safer Especially for Tiny Infants

IV SafeT Founders
Aavia showcased one of the coolest devices at the event: a pocket-sized smart device with sensors that keep track of the both the count and the position of birth control pills in  the pack and sends info to your smart phone. All a woman has to do is store her pill pack in the Aavia device and it senses whether or not she has taken the pill and sends reminders to her phone. The sensor technology seems really clever and I came away wondering if (or how) it could be applied to other types of time-sensitive medication sequences.
Aavia Co-Founder Aya Suzuki

Aavia Presenting
Astarte Medical presented their NICUtrition software tool for optimizing feeding and nutrition for preterm infants. The software automates compliance with NICU feeding protocols, enables bedside data collection, and provides quantitative data about gut health so care can be personalized.
Astarte Medical Table Was Really Busy with Lots of Questions

Astarte Medical Presenting
I managed to make it around to most of the products showcasing in addition to the four chosen presenters, talk to people, and take some photos (a little difficult with the crowds around the tables). This (well, maybe the pizza too) was arguably the most fun part of the event. The ones I didn't manage to talk with were FluidScreen Bacterial Sorter and DocFlight. Fluid-Screen's lab-on-a-chip technology was a hit at MIN104 last year. DocFlight provides a platform for telemedicine connection. The ones I did talk with and photograph are described below.

Allergy Amulet is a small, portable device for people with food allergies to detect food allergens when dining out. It's fast, uses disposable test strips, and you can wear it like a necklace or bracelet or other wearable device or integrate it into some device you already carry with you like a phone case or epinephrine injector. 
Allergy Amulet
The PionEar Tympanostomy Tube impressed me the most and got my audience favorite vote. The PionEar tube is small enough for babies' ears, designed to prevent clogging and minimize damage to the ear drum, and is resistant to the problem of microorganisms that can attach themselves to the surface of inserted devices. Fewer surgeries and fewer repeat infections for children that suffer from ear problems that require tubes can make things easier on the parents too.

The PionEar Table Is Surrounded by Crowds
A Cool Device
CareZooming is a neat online way to connect clinicians to each other to share technical expertise. With innovation happening rapidly all over the place in health care these days, it's important to connect health professionals to share what they've learned so patients get the best care.
Answering Questions about CareZooming
MightyWell's Mighty MedCase organizes the personal medical stuff you often have to carry around with you like diabetic supplies, Epi-Pen®, inhaler, medications, and supplements. It holds seven daily pages to help with tracking and organizing everything too.
Mighty MedCase

MightyWell's Table Showcased Several of Her Products

WatchRx Smartwatch for Seniors manages medication reminders for elders and their caregivers, as well as keeping tabs on users' well-being. It was great to see them again. I remember talking with CEO Jayanthi Narasimhan at MIN101 and being impressed with how comprehensive the system is. It's way more than just a reminder app. The quick status update since last time: WatchRx is currently running a trial with Hackensack Meridian Health system in New Jersey and implementing a telehealth partnership. Check out their website for the latest progress.
WatchRx CEO Jayanthi Narasimhan with Watch in Hand
 The audience choice winners for the night were:
  • PionEar- Grand Prize
  • Allergy Amulet
  • Folia
  • Aavia
Audience Choice Winners
None of the product teams had matching T-shirts or other interesting outfits, so I don't have a "Best Costume" photo for you this time. 

The Experts Corner was buzzing as usual, of course. Industrious, a co-working space provider, is this month's artistically rendered Expert Looking Expert.

Expert Looking Expert

Monday, October 1, 2018

EforAll Lowell-Lawrence Social Impact Pitch Contest Recap

Lowell's PCEA Neema Church hosted EforAll Lowell-Lawrence's social impact pitch contest last Thursday evening. The kinds of  businesses looking to make a social impact on the community participating with tables in the showcase and presenting in the pitch contest ranged from power generation to social services to practice space for musicians to gardening. There was so much to take in that I knew I wouldn't be able to absorb it all, but I spoke with as many entrepreneurs as I could and enjoyed every bit of it.

Rev. Dr. Karimi Mumbui Welcoming EforAll to His Church
The church provided an excellent presentation space with multiple video screens, good sound, and plenty of seats. The pastor, who was also one of the judges, welcomed us warmly. Also, I learned that the word "neema" in the church's name means grace in Swahili. (PCEA is Presbyterian Church of East Africa.)

Seriously Good Space for the Presentations
The judges for the pitch contest were:
  • Rev. Dr. Karimi Mumbui -- Founding Minister, PCEA Neema Church
  • Sophy Theam -- Diversity & Inclusion and Leadership Program Specialist, Enterprise Bank
  • Renay Wolterding -- Chef-Owner, Mill City BBQ and Brew
  • Joe Hungler -- Executive Director, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell
  • Claire Ricker -- Urban Renewal Project Manager, City of Lowell
Judges Getting Ready
Big Checks Just Waiting to be Won
The tables were buzzing. The hallway where they were set up was narrow so it was a challenge to try to check out every table. I made the rounds to talk to as many as possible and use my table favorite voting stickers to help decide who else would get to pitch. Each attendee gets three stickers and it was hard to choose the idea I most wanted to hear. I enjoyed talking to all of these social entrepreneurs and I managed to photograph many of them.

A number of participants were from the UML DifferenceMaker program, including
The scheduled pitchers were:
  • ETRALock
  • Woven Royal
  • Napping House
  • Orvel
  • Playtlist
  • Power Scavengers
I was impressed with ETRALock, a device that attaches to any door in order to help people with disabilities such as arthritis and Parkinson's disease that make it hard to use keys and deadbolts access their homes easily and safely key-free.
ETRALock Table

ETRALock Team Doing Their Pitch
Woven Royal was probably the most surprising of the presenters.  What's surprising about a head wrap? It's made from fabric made out of recycled plastic! Imagine protecting your curls from hat head and helping clean up the beaches of the Dominican Republic at the same time.

Woven Royal
The Woven Royal pitch really captivated the judges and the audience. They're trying to make a social impact in a very unexpected way and it sure seems like they can do it.

Woven Royal Pitch
Napping House pitched a program of accommodations for students with emotional and behavioral disorders.
Napping House Table
Napping House Pitch
A plastic waste theme emerged with Orvel's vision of an ocean free of plastic waste. By organizing cleanup events, harnessing the power of media, and partnering with brands, Orvel intends to change the way we think and act toward the ocean and plastics.
Orvel Table

Orvel Pitch
Playtlist was a big hit with an app for people with dietary restrictions (whether health, cultural or religious) to find nearby restaurants that suit their needs.

Playtlist Table
Power Scavengers came all the way from Burlington, Vermont to tell us about their
wearable device that produces electricity solely from the motion of walking.  It's worn as a belt so it's easy to take along on a hike. They like to hike in the mountains and have used it already for charging their devices while hiking the Green Mountains and even Mount Kilimanjaro. Their enthusiasm and optimism was contagious.
Power Scavengers
They were so energetic that they must have generated a ton of electricity just walking back and forth in the hallway demonstrating it.
Power Scavengers Pitch
The table favorite chosen by the sticker voting was Second Chance, an outreach program for women in Lawrence who need connections to multiple types of social services. 
Second Chance Pitch
The wildcard slot, chosen by pulling a business card out of a basket, went to Elevate Lowell. Elevate Lowell is an artist's collective that brings together young urban artists to put on events that combine performing arts, music, and a marketplace that showcases entrepreneurs and creators in Lowell and the surrounding areas. Elevate aims to create opportunities for artists to promote themselves and network with other artists and businesses.

Elevate Lowell Pitch
The voting for the audience choice award went smoothly (the technology can be finicky sometimes) and we had some time to hear short pitches from some of the other folks who had tables and to grab some more of the excellent food while the judges were out deliberating. The judges took a wee bit longer than usual, but I don't blame them. They had tough choices to make. This was an amazing group of pitchers. Actually, it was an amazing group of table participants too.
Delicious Spread of Food
The winners were:

Fan Favorite: Power Scavengers $500
Power Scavengers Fan Favorite
Third Place: Power Scavengers  $500 (yeah, they get 2 checks!)

Power Scavengers Wins Third Place Too
Second Place: Playtlist $750
Playtlist Wins Second Place
First Place: Woven Royal $1000
First Place Goes to Woven Royal!
Congratulations to the winners and to everyone who pitched or tabled. Your ideas are exciting and made for a great event.

Happy Belly Gardening
Chops - Practice Space for Music Students

Measuring Up App for Getting Your Clothes to Fit Right

PhiLance Platform for Freelance Workers
Adventure Code Academy

HipHop Dance Studio