Friday, October 24, 2014

E for All -- All Ideas Pitch Contest Recap

When E for All invites "all ideas" to a pitch contest, the variety is truly amazing. It covered everything from self-heating soap to mobile auto detailing. Plus, there were pink fairies and a live hedgehog!
Suggestion Fairy
You know it's going to be a fun event when the first person you see is wearing pink fairy wings. Usman Mutawakil was there to pitch Suggestion Fairy,  an anonymous suggestion box that allows restaurants to catch potentially negative customer feedback before it gets out to review sites, and to respond directly to the customer as soon as they become disgruntled.

I was eager to see the new second floor space at El Taller and was not disappointed. It's a wonderful space for a pitch contest, a theater performance, or a meeting (maybe for planning a revolution).  El Taller did a great job of hosting, with fabulous snacks and a warm welcome from Mary Guerrero (speaking of women entrepreneurs...).
Sunday Dinner Stories
I had a delightful chat with Michelle of Sunday Dinner Stories about the importance of recording the family stories. Later that segued into a conversation about when and how the "center of the universe" moved from Cambridge to Somerville (oddly, this was just before this Globe story about cities wanting to become the next Somerville came out.)
Connor Miller - The Soap Guy
Connor Miller showed me his heated soap.  It did indeed feel warm when he added water. Basically, H.OAP (Heated Soap)  is a bar of soap that emits heat when it comes in contact with water.  What a great idea for places/situations where there's no hot water! Camping, military deployment, rural areas, I can think of all kinds of applications for this. Connor nailed his pitch. H.OAP won both first prize and fan favorite.
Fresh Beginnings Answering Questions
Tamea Bacon and Sara Calapiz pitched  Fresh Beginnings  -- organic, nutritious and conveniently portioned meals for young children.  Little meals for little kids, but packing loads of nutrition without the additives and processing of commercial purees and kiddie meals. Their excellent pitch earned them third prize money.
Stopping by the Innovation Women Table
Bobbie Carlton and Kristen Avini from Mass Innovation Nights were there to pitch Innovation Women, a much-needed speaker's bureau for women entrepreneurs and techies. There are an amazing number of women innovators and entrepreneurs out there so it ought to be easier to get them onto the stage at conferences and events. Lots of people were stopping by and asking questions. As you would expect from the founder of Mass Innovation Nights, Bobbie nailed the pitch.

BobbieC Pitching Innovation Women
So many excellent pitches. So many excellent ideas. So many photo ops with pink fairy wings...

Sam Antonaccio Pitching Foodventure
Lowell food truck entrepreneur Sam Antonaccio of Spiceventure is launching a new initiative called Foodventure. An online portal linking food trucks throughout Middlesex County to provide information about codes, regulations and permitting processes for food trucks in the different cities and towns, as well as giving users a space to share experiences about best practices for food truck ventures. I enjoyed talking with Sam as always. We had a great conversation about livening up downtown Lowell at night with food trucks.
On The Spot Posing For A Photo-Op
Thomas O’Hearn  pitched On The Spot,  a mobile car detailing business that can come to your home or work.  What a great idea! On The Spot won second prize. Well deserved.

Josue Jerez pitched Invest in Tech,  a business skills education program for Lawrence youth. The idea is to give young people money to  purchase PC/tech products/accessories and have them find ways of selling the products through different channels. What better way to learn business skills than actually doing business?
Josue Jerez Pitching Invest in Tech
The wild card opportunity went to EQUESTrian Cards, quiz card decks for horse lovers. The idea is to make learning equine science fun. I have to say that until I heard this pitch, I had no idea how huge the horse business is in this state.
Pitching EQUESTrian Cards

A Wealth of Equine Info

The official photographer for the night was Nowfal of Lookbug, who got an impromptu opportunity to pitch. He did an excellent job pitching (he's pitched at a previous E for All pitch contest) and a great job of perching on chairs to get the perfect photo angle.  Of course, by getting the perfect photo position he missed getting the pink fairy wings into every shot :-)
Nowfal Pitching Lookbug
And guess who showed up to add ultra-cuteness to the event? That's right, it's Eugene! I met Eugene at MIN67, where he became an instant celebrity. Eugene brought his entrepreneur, Brianna, founder of Meet Eugene, Inc. the purveyor of healthy and affordable hedgehog food.

OMG Eugene is here!
What a fun night!  I was impressed with all the entrepreneurs and I love the new upstairs space at El Taller. I can't resist one more pink fairy picture, so I hereby award Best Costume  of the night to Suggestion Fairy.
Best Costume = Suggestion Fairies

Friday, October 10, 2014

Recap of Mass Innovation Nights #MIN67 - Women Founders

The Crowd Waiting for the Doors to Open at Workbar for MIN67
Women entrepreneurs, huge crowd, a big announcement,  and a live animal! What more could you want in a Mass Innovation Nights event?

Artistic Rendering of the Crowd before It Got Really Dense
Workbar was the gracious host for an evening of women founders and Babson's Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) was a generous sponsor. The Student Startup Spotlight featured startups from the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship. Autodesk was there too, featuring a recruiting table.
Tables on the Second Floor Too
From the crowd lined up on the sidewalk waiting for the doors to open to the jam-packed tables throughout the venue, this was one busy, crowded, loud, huge event. Good on women founders for making some noise! Good on Mass Innovation Nights and BobbieC for providing the megaphone for all this great noise.

Tables were spread out over two floors and tucked away in alcoves. I knew from the get go that I wouldn't make it to every table (usually my goal at MIN) so I tried to get the most out of the ones I could get near :-) I think the only creature shorter than me at this thing was Eugene the hedgehog. :-). Did I mention the first ever live animal at MIN? Yup, Meet Eugene, the purveyor of healthy and affordable hedgehog food, actually had Eugene at the table. Sooooo cute! I learned lots about keeping a pet hedgehog and loved meeting Eugene.
I Met Eugene!
I loved ReFleece's colorful and trendy iPad cases, bags, and other products made from fleece and wool upcycled from your old jacket (recovered garments, collected through Patagonia's Common Threads Program), scraps from the cutting room floor (Woolrich, Polartec), or other odd bits and ends that couldn't be used by one or another of their partners, and, of course, plastic bottles!
On the Dot Books got my attention with a table full of well-curated books, and a wildly ambitious and brilliant plan for using books and  the arts to connect people all over the world. Passepartout is an airport-to-airport, train station-to-train station rental service for books, magazines, games, and toys - operated by local independent bookstores.  From a pop-up bookstore in Dot 2 Dot Cafe to networking the world through books! Using indie bookstores to connect the world! Looking forward to hearing more from them as the network develops.

Books of Dorchester
The team from WeGush was probably the most enthusiastic and assertive group of women in the house. It was impossible to miss them unleashing gratitude all over the place.  How do you productize gratitude? Simply put,  WeGush makes it easy (and fun) for a group to express their appreciation for someone special -- a retiree, a coach, a teacher, a BobbieC -- by posting messages to virtual appreciation wall boards. Yup, they worked a surprise live appreciation of BobbieC into their presentation (confession, I knew about this in advance).

WeGush Team Leaning In
The chosen presenters were WeGush, Booze Epoque, Orora Global, and Secret Ships Caravan, an impressive lineup. Gratitude, craft cocktails from local produce, electricity for rural communities, and a mobile boutique -- a typical MIN lineup if ever there was one.

Orora Global made the biggest impression on me: renewable, off-the-grid, energy solutions for places with unreliable or no power AND empowering women micro-entrepreneurs in those places. Oh yea, state of the art technology too. It was no surprise that they won the American Airlines Business Extra Points fan favorite voting. They'll be using the points for an upcoming trip to India. You go, girls!

The other Business Extra Points winners were Secret Ships Caravan, ReFleece, and BoozeEpoque.  All of them made big impressions with attendees. Booze Epoque served samples of their craft cocktails. Those who partake of such beverages gave good reviews. It is pretty cool that they use beets and other wonderful vegetables from local farms, like my personal favorite Mill City Grows (speaking of women founders -- Yay Lydia and Francey!), to make party beverages.  Secret Ships Caravan added the most color to the presentations with slides of their beautiful textiles from all over the world. They also issued a call to action for the City of Boston to get a permitting process up and running to allow retail trucks. If you want retail trucks like Secret Ships Caravan in Boston, tweet about it with the hashtag  #WeWantRetailTrucks.

Business Extra Points Winners Posing for Photographer
But wait, there's more! MIN Founder Bobbie Carlton announced a new initiative called Innovation Women. It's a much needed solution to the problem of getting more visibility for technical and entrepreneurial women. Innovation Women's speakers bureau will help event managers find awesome panelists and help women entrepreneurs get in front of the right audiences.  Follow @WomenInno on Twitter to watch this develop.

Crowd Listening and Tweeting
Between the crowd and the noise, I was a little overwhelmed so didn't take as many interesting photos as I usually do. I have been working on my crowd photos, but am beginning to think I should get me a drone and a GoPro for that purpose. I did get a couple of shots that convey the density and diversity of the crowd. It was quite an intense, lively, and amazing event.  Another home run by Mass Innovation Nights.

For the closing shot, here's an attempt to convey how loud and crowded it was: