Friday, March 14, 2014

So Many Clever Ideas at Mass Innovation Night -- #MIN60

Wednesday night was Mass Innovation Night number 60 at Microsoft NERD. Boston looks great from Cambridge, especially from NERD, even with a winter storm coming in. Microsoft is a gracious host.
NERD Shadows Over Boston
Cambridge Trust provided pizza for those who got there early enough. There was a huge crowd of regulars and newcomers and lots of opportunity for networking. There was even a live sighting of Joselin Mane.
Social Media Expert and Well-Dressed Man About Town Joselin Mane
I managed to visit most of the tables and hear about most of the products and take a lot of pictures, all things I love to do.
Tony from KonectIDY
KonectIDY has developed a customizable language of colors that lets you design a color-coded bracelet unique to each individual or cause, so you can share a "Konection" with the world and help support a cause important to you. They're already working with non-profits large and small from national/international organizations like Children's Hospital National Foundation and Pandas International to local organizations like Newburyport's Boat Camp (familiar to me because they're in the same building as Plum Island Coffee

Sprintboards Team - Mike and Chris
Sprintboards has a tool that makes sharing and communicating project status to clients, executives, and teams simple. It currently works with the Asana project management tool. I asked about Basecamp and they do want to support that too. They're in Beta, so now's your chance to take it for a spin (or a sprint). Oh, and they had customized cookies with their logo.

Test My Pitch
Test My Pitch set up a way for us to rate the pitches given by the four chosen presenters.

GammaPix turns your smartphone camera into a radiation detector. How cool is that? You can detect and measure radioactivity wherever you are - with a mobile app.Their table attracted quite a crowd asking good questions.
Artistic Impression of Huge MIN Crowd
The crowd just got bigger and bigger. People crowded around all the tables. I considered hoisting the camera up to the ceiling to get good crowd shots ... hmm, there's an innovation waiting to happen - a way for short people to take crowd photos -- maybe a mini drone?
Daily GC
DailyGC™ specializes in providing experienced General Counsel services to small businesses and startups in Massachusetts. They come to your  business for a full day and help you to solve your most pressing legal-related business problems right there with you. Because it's "One Day and Done™"  you know the full cost in advance and that price is affordable for  small companies and startups.
FitYap is a way for you to find local fitness classes and get trusted recommendations in your area.  For  fitness professionals, it's a great way to schedule clients and grow your business online. And, yeah, it can help you find a snowshoeing meetup or an ice climbing club in your area too.
Yoga by Numbers
Can you innovate in something as ancient and traditional as yoga? Yup. Yoga by Numbers believes yoga should be simple to learn and practice for everyone. They have developed a yoga mat that uses numbered targets so you know where to move, and they have videos  for various levels of ability and that fit your schedule.
Year of Action Books and Some Delicious Looking Fruit
Girlfriend MBA from Year of Action is a new kind of interactive, online business program for women who want to kick their business up a notch and want a new way to learn that makes them feel good, supported and inspired to take action and get results. It combines action-based learning and a supportive motivational network.
Best Costume of #MIN60
Maxwell Health  wants to fix health care in America. What they've built is a paperless, mobile-enabled platform for employee benefits complete with a wellness program, a personal health advocate, and a mobile app so that all benefits info is available at the employee’s fingertips. They also had beautifully designed team T-shirts, not exactly what you'd expect from the health insurance biz, so I declared them winners of Best Costume for #MIN60.
Expert Looking Expert
Basil Dixon of HitBliss agreed to pose for the traditional "Expert Looking Expert" shot.

Merrimack Valley Sandbox Consumer Ideas Pitch Contest

The Merrimack Valley Sandbox Consumer Ideas Pitch Contest that got snowed out in February was rescheduled to Tuesday night, March 11, which provided much better weather. As an extra added networking bonus, this was a combined event with Friends of Kevin so the sandbox space was jam packed. It was a great mix of people. There were folks I know to catch up with and new folks to meet and, of course, lots of opportunity to photograph entrepreneurs and their products.
Lianna and Lucky at the Check-in Desk

Entrepreneurs Setting Up as Early Comers Arrive
Entrepreneurs were still setting up when I arrived. There were crackers and cheese with grapes as well as juice and iced tea for light refreshments. That somehow created a welcoming, down-home, bootstrap feeling conducive to conversation.

Social Pup
I enjoyed talking with Sarah Quigley about Social Pup doggie day care and grooming. She has a very good understanding of her target market. There are a lot of dogs in Lowell.
Concussion Detector Prototype
Matt and Dylan from Pure Innovation, Inc. are engineering students who are working on detecting concussive impacts to make sports safer. I talked with Matt about watching my brother take a high stick to the head in a high school hockey game and wondering how the trainer would know whether he should come out of the game. Turns out Matt had some hockey experience, so we connected around that. Concussions in high school sports are a major problem and these guys are onto solving a real problem.

Nkese with Bra
Great product, great presenter, great pitch all came together with Nkese Applewhite's cleverly and beautifully designed combination pumping and nursing bra. Who says you have to change bras for pumping vs. nursing? And who says a nursing/pumping bra can't be beautiful? Nkese made a big impression with a practical and beautiful product.

Spiceventure is a food truck in the planning stage, getting ready to offer the best authentic Thai, Lao, Khmer, and Indian foods in New England plus some exquisite specialties not found anywhere else. They just successfully funded their Kickstarter campaign. For those who remember the original Southeast Asian Restaurant in Lowell (1985-2006) this is the longed-for return of the Antonaccio family to the  food business. Sam grew up hanging around his parents' restaurant and he'll be managing the Spiceventure operation.  I'm sure the food business is ready for the next generation. 

Weaver Leanne Tremblay of Western Avenue Studios had a colorful array of her handwoven scarfs on display and she had the good luck to be picked as the wildcard presenter.

I enjoyed talking with Gloria about event planning and the endless possibilities of decorating with balloons.
Gracie's Hair Butter
Gracie's Hair Butter started out to solve her husband's hair loss problem. She's built a home grown solution into a business.

Inclusive Toys
The women of Increment have designed these clever stack-able rings to encourage play and help children of all abilities develop spatial reasoning and other important developmental skills through inclusive play. They're already in use at one preschool.

Beautiful Vegetables Go Into Asulia Dumplings
I've been waiting to sample more of  Asulia Foods' dumplings since #MINFoodie6. I love the kale and the taro ones a lot.  It was great to see them again and to resume my tweet campaign to get my local Whole Foods to carry these delicious vegan delectables. (Yeah, I like dumplings, OK :-)).  I can't pass by a beautiful bunch of kale either. Vegetables are just inherently wonderful. I got into a conversation with another veggie dumpling lover and Andover Whole Foods customer, so the demand outside of Boston/Cambridge is growing. That led to discussion of how farming is growing in Massachusetts and how amazing the farms of Essex County are - some in business for hundreds of years, some new, all with great food.
Confidence Covers
Confidence Covers makes beautiful designer help button covers that make it much less clunky and stigmatizing for seniors who need these devices to wear them. You can match the cover to your outfit and fit right in instead of standing out and looking frail and weak.

I kept running into people I know. It was great catching up with Gary Tremblay of Pro Diagrams and hearing how the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Winter Accelerator program has helped him refine and develop his easy to use presentation tool and the business strategy for it.
Entrepreneurs Sharing a Laugh
Cam Preciado of Design 4 Lowell Deep in Conversation about Best of Lowell
Design 4 Lowell has big plans for design and creativity in  Lowell and The Merrimack Valley.  Imagine a creative network designing a beautiful future, a one stop marketing shop featuring local designers, video directors, web developers, artists and other creatives. Design 4 Lowell is already bringing that network to life in Lowell. Cam is one of several entrepreneurs that I heard use the word community repeatedly and mean it!

Asinine Games
I can easily see becoming addicted to Asinine Games' Palindromic Puzzle Game, the latest of his game offerings.
Everybody Photographing Nkese

Not surprisingly, Nkese Applewhite won the fan favorite voting. She also won second prize! The fans and the judges picked up on her knowledge of her market and the brilliance of her product. Congrats to Nkese!

Scarf Lady
Leanne weaves the most beautiful scarves and gave an excellent presentation. Third prize was well deserved.
Social Pup
And the first prize winner was Sarah's Social Pup. Again, well deserved.

This blog post doesn't begin to cover how much fun this event was or the energy of the entrepreneurs, the judges, and the attendees. You have to experience this for yourself, so check out the upcoming events on the Merrimack Valley Sandbox website.