Saturday, June 28, 2014

First Ever Pioneer Valley Innovation Night -- #PINSMASS01 Recap

City Hall
The City of Holyoke hosted the first ever Pioneer Valley Innovation Night at the City Hall Auditorium on Thursday night. It's exciting to see the Mass Innovation Nights concept expanding to the Pioneer Valley. It's a great way to showcase innovative products and get entrepreneurs from diverse industries together. It was great to see Marcos Marrero, Director of Planning and Economic Development, again after having met at the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Summit. Marcos introduced me to Jeff Bianchine, the city's creative economy coordinator. Both were excited for the City of Holyoke to be hosting this event.

Getting Ready for the Event
Product innovators came from all over Massachusetts and even from Connecticut to participate, including some Mass Innovation Nights alumni. The auditorium was gorgeous (and huge) with plenty of room for innovators' tables and experts' tables on either side as well as a presentation area. Great venue. Products ranged from a new kind of bookmark (for real paper books) to spherical salt.

A New Kind of Bookmark
Keep Your Place Bookmarks showed off a line of  laminated markers that mark the exact line on a page where you left off reading. Simple and clever at the same time, this struck me as a great idea. I expect to see these in local indie bookstores soon.
Books with Places Carefully Marked
I remembered Vocoli,  the Digital Suggestion Box, from #MIN62. They are onto an excellent way to improve employee engagement by helping your organization actually act on employee ideas.  It was great to hear their story of how one employee idea submitted through Vocoli saved one of their users $100K!
Talking about Vocoli in the Light from Stained Glass Windows
uTHRiV, offers resources for personal development to teach people about "living a more fulfilled life, as well as how to give a positive mindset away." T=Thinking. H=Health. R=Resources. V=Village. Those are the "four core areas of life" that uTHRiV aims to work with.
Light thru Stained Glass Illuminating uTHRiV
The folks from Afar Salt came out from Boston with their pearl-shaped salt (for food and spa products).  The salt comes from Lake Assal in Djibouti, East Africa - the saltiest body of water on earth. The pearls form naturally and grow to various sizes over time. I loved talking with them about how the salt compares to the trendy Himalayan salts and about where exactly Djibouti is.
Team Afar Salt
Different Size Salt Pearls

Jean of Blessed Creek had the most compelling story about her own experience with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis led her to thinking about people's skin, the biggest organ of the human body,  and how what you put on your skin ends up in your system. This led her to begin making her own soap, lip balms, cleaning products, and even dog shampoo without harmful ingredients. She came from Connecticut for this event, and usually sells her wonderful soaps etc. at farmer's markets. She brought her farmer's market tent with her. That definitely cut down on the glare as the late afternoon sun streamed through the stained glass windows.

Jean of Blessed Creek
Also from Connecticut - and Chicopee - were Family Nutrition Consultants, who work with folks with diabetes, weight gain or loss issues, kidney disease,  heart disease, cancer and other conditions who need help with integrating healthy eating habits into their lives.
Family Nutrition Consultants
The coolest product of the night was Crookhook, a device that attaches to the front of a police car and extends out to grab a stopped or moving vehicle. The idea is to avoid  dangerous high-speed pursuits. So many high speed chases start with a vehicle stop that grabbing the car and thus preventing the pursuit in the first place seems like a big win. They brought a car equipped with the hook and demonstrated it for me in the parking lot. Be sure to check out the video on their website for a demo of Crookhook in action.
Team Crookhook

The Crookhook Car - Best Prop of PINS
Crookhook Folded and Ready to Deploy

Crookhook Extended
Another familiar face was #MIN62 alumnus Greg with the Gentoo vest. The vest is designed to make it easier and more comfortable for people who are receiving outpatient treatment with an infusion pump to go about their daily lives. When people are already stressed by illness, the treatment shouldn't add to the stress. The Gentoo vest definitely helps reduce the stress of outpatient chemo.
Greg and the Gentoo Vest
In the Mass Innovation Nights tradition, there was an "Experts Corner." At PINS it was more than a corner, it was a whole array of experts, so many that I think I need to do a separate blog post on the experts. So for now, I'll close with one of the many experts looking very expert.

Expert Looking Expert
Werner of Renaissance Advisory Services Advising Me on my Plan to Retire to a Yurt at Otter River


  1. Great-looking hall. Also the stained-glass theme. How do you use the salt?

    PS - I don't fit any of your categories. Tom Parmenter

    1. Tom, I grind the salt in a grinder. The Afar people also suggested using a mortar and pestle to crush it. It goes great on fresh sliced heirloom tomatoes. Some folks have also suggested shaving the large salt pearls and mixing the shavings with shavings of dark chocolate.