Thursday, October 10, 2013

#MIN55 Recap

Mass Innovation Nights held yet another wonderful monthly event on Wednesday at WMware in Kendall Square. Thanks, VMware for great hospitality.
Boston Always Looks Great From Cambridge
The crowd took awhile to build, but things were definitely buzzing by the time the presentations started.

The MIN Crowd Checking Out Cool Products
It's about time school field trip planning moved into the 21st century. With EdTrips teachers can plan and manage the whole school travel process from sharing the info with parents to collecting the permission slips and payments. It definitely sounds like it will help get kids out into the real world for some memorable experiences. EdTrips gave an excellent presentation and the audience asked great questions, and they had paper airplanes.
Up until now the only colorful thing on the golf course has been the pants. Now colorful, personalized golf putters from Gift Putter bring golf into the technicolor age.   Jack Pregent and his team produce colorful putters in Massachusetts and can engrave them with your company name, your anniversary date, or some other  message. And yes, they do come in pink.

Pink Putter, the Online Subscription Marketplace,  makes it easy for any merchant to sell products or services by subscription. This is such a brilliant idea for ensuring repeat business and customer engagement. It's a radically different approach from those daily deal sites. As a cool touch, they were giving away a subscription to Biena Snacks, tasty chickpea provider and a Mass Innovation Nights alum.

It was great to see Patrick Houwer and  Joshua Goldberg of BeeInPlay again. Met them last week at the Merrimack Valley Sandbox All Ideas Pitch Contest. is a website that enables users to find and book their favorite sports fields, courts, ice-rinks, turfs and classes in real-time and coordinate pickup games.  They harness the power of the web to get people together to play. What could be better than that? (Well, besides a pink putter :-))
Janji apparel had a room to themselves to showcase their running apparel. Their mission is to extend the charitable aspect of running beyond race day. Each piece of Janji apparel helps provide clean water or proper nutrition to a country in need, and its design is inspired by the country that it supports.
Over in one of the Experts Corners, Barton Fiske of  zSpace , offered his expertise in 3D graphics, virtual reality and computer gaming with a stunning interactive demo that was packing people in. Everybody wanted their chance to assemble and disassemble a skull in 3D.

In the other Experts Corner, Denise Noble, the HR Engineer, was handing out Twizzlers and giving advice on HR subjects for small companies. She also had some toy gears for us to play with -- featuring little tiny toy experts mounted on the gears!
Experts Looking Expert (Or At Least Busy :-))

Saturday, October 5, 2013

All Ideas Pitch Contest Recap

The Bicknell Clock at LHSP Visitor Center
Thursday night's Merrimack Valley Sandbox All Ideas Pitch Contest featured a beautiful setting and inspiring entrepreneurs.  The Lawrence Heritage State Park visitor center is in a great spot near the north canal  and given the current situation in Washington we were very glad to be in a state park and not a national park. BTW, if you are in the Lawrence area, visit the visitor center. You will be surprised at the great stuff they have there. I'm sooooo looking forward to the Fasanella's Lawrence exhibit opening October 12.

All Ideas Pitch Contest This Way!
The event  started with a diverse crowd checking out the display tables showcasing all kinds of business and non-profit ideas from local entrepreneurs. Lots of exchanging of ideas, advice, and offers of help along with the munching of chocolate chip cookies provided by Deb Gurry of Clock Tower Cafe, one of the judges, filled the room with palpable energy.

The Crowd Begins To Assemble -- Nice To See Kids
It was great to see so many kids. The age range of the audiences (and the entrepreneurs) at these Sandbox events always amazes me.  Many of Thursday's attendees were at their first Sandbox event. Organizers had to scramble to find more chairs for all the folks who turned out to support their favorite entrepreneurs.

I chatted with Christina Hamilton of  Delightful Surprise Sweets and sampled some delicious fudge in several flavors. Loved the chocolate pretzel mint flavor. I remembered Christina from a previous event and was happy to see that she was one of the chosen presenters. Christina's sweet treats are delicious and customized and her business provides opportunity for people with disabilities. Christina was inspired to create her business out of her own experience as a disabled person.  Her personal story and the delicious fudge she handed out to the judges made for a great presentation.

Christina with Delightful Surprise Sweets

Orlando Torres pitched his The Best Part of Planet Earth school gardening program. Talking with Orlando about organic raised bed gardening and nutrition for urban kids was a true joy. It has always bothered me that good, healthy vegetables are so expensive and so hard to come by in cities. It's inspiring to talk to a teacher who cares so much about his students, the community they live in, and the beautiful planet we all share.

Orlando with His School-Grown Veggies

Hector Arce and Brian Mohika  presented Drainage Partner,  a concealed and comfortable reusable undergarment for patients who need to use catheters that deposit bodily fluids into a drainage bag. Their design is so clever and thoughtful that patients can even wear shorts, something impossible with current solutions.  They already have patented the technology. They were the runaway fan favorite and the first prize winners.

Drainage Partner
Lianna Presenting Giant Check to Brian and Hector for Drainage Partner

The Crowd Gave Drainage Partner A Huge Ovation
By far the most emotional pitch was from Catie's Closet. Mickey Cockrell described the non-profit, which provides clothing to homeless and poverty-stricken students to help them stay in school.  That's a real need in these times. She teared up as she talked about Catie,w ho inspired the project. Catie was a student at Lowell High School, who always donated whatever she had to those in need. As the saying goes, she would give away the clothes off her back to help others. Catie passed away in 2010. The audience began to tear up too as Mickey spoke.

Lining Up The Catie's Closet Team for the Photo with the Giant Check

The youngest entrepreneur ever to pitch at a Sandbox event, 14 year old Sahil Belgaonkar, impressed the audience with his poise and the app he pitched. Chum helps users find pets in any shelter in the U.S. I met Sahil at the Sandbox Summit this summer and was highly impressed with both his technical skills and his commitment to saving animals from being euthanized at shelters. It was a thrill to see him present and to be part of the loud ovation he got.

Sahil (Right) Networking with another Entrepreneur
Patrick Houwer and  Joshua Goldberg pitched  BeeInPlay, a website that allows you to view availabilities and book sports fields, courts, rinks, classes, and activities in real-time. In these days when a pickup hockey game on the Charles River (like we had in my childhood) is quaint anachronism, it's a good thing to harness the power of the web to get people together to play.
Alexander Ryu pitched Lifeguard Games, virtual pet apps to help kids learn to manage health conditions such as asthma and food allergies. Here's another instance of using technology to make a real difference in real people's lives.

The Crowd Networking While The Judges Were Out Deliberating
Crowd Listening To The Pitches
It was great to see James Ostis, one of the stalwarts of the Lowell creative economy, at the event and it was even better that he got to do the wildcard pitch, so I'll close with a creative watercolor rendition of James giving his pitch.

James Pitching