Friday, November 13, 2015

from wireless charging to the bike bus at #MIN80

As soon as I pulled into the parking lot at Autodesk in Waltham for Mass Innovation Nights MIN80, I spotted one of the evening's innovative products: the BikeBus. It's not every day you see a bus full of people working out on stationary bikes.

BikeBus in the Autodesk Parking Lot
Autodesk is a great host. Besides pizza and salads -- really good salads -- they provided a space big enough for the crowd. The turnout was amazing.  Every table had a knot of people at least three deep asking questions about the products. The four presenters BikeBus, QuikForce Movers, Stack AI, and Greenlight Technologies, chosen by online voting before the event, were already generating a lot of buzz before the presentations even started.
By far my favorite product was the GreenTech Charge wireless charging network from Greenlight Technologies. Imagine being able to charge your mobile device at a coffee shop, bar, restaurant, or event venue without having to remember to lug a cable around with you, find a power outlet, or carry a spare battery pack. GreenTech makes it easy for coffee shops, restaurants, and other public places to become wireless charging stations. Their app helps you find places that have these wireless charging systems installed. It's a win for both the venues and the users: more customers for the venue and convenience for the user. You can charge more than one device at a time too! GreenTech's software platform provides added value for the venue with advertising opportunities and customer data.  It was no surprise that GreenTech Charge won the grand prize in the audience choice voting. Well deserved!
Chris from Greenlight Technologies
Another crowd favorite in the audience voting was the BikeBus. Taking a spin class on a bus during your commute may not be exactly as much fun as riding your bike to work, but it is a novel idea for making good use of commute time to get in your workout if you don't have the opportunity to bike to work. It's essentially a mobile exercise studio. You can book a private trip for an event, a tour of Boston, or a company rush hour ride. Say you have a group of workers in Billerica who want to get home to Somerville, if there are at least 6 of them you can book the BikeBus to drive them home while they work out. I'm not sure how this would scale, but it does open up interesting possibilities. Lots of MIN80 attendees tried it out and experienced what BikeBus was calling the BikeBus afterglow. Since it's hard to ignore a bus in the parking lot, I hereby award BikeBus Best Prop of MIN80.
Chatting about BikeBus
How about a data-driven approach to moving? QuikForce simplifies moving using a machine learning algorithm to match you with the best moving company for your needs.  Their presentation generated a bit of buzz on Twitter and definitely got people talking.  I was kind of surprised they didn't place in the crowd favorite voting. I wonder if they use their data and algorithms to solve the problem of the annual student migration in Boston on Labor Day. :-)
The other crowd favorite winners were Happening and Animatron. Happening is an app that helps you find things to do and organize your friends to go with you. Animatron helps you create mobile-friendly HTML5 animations without coding. The crowd made it a little difficult for me to get to their tables, so no pics.
The Crowd
I had a great conversation with the team from Nabi Music Center about finding the right music instructors for kids. They have an online marketplace to connect students and music instructors for private lessons locally. I loved the idea of easily finding teachers by zip code and instrument, and being able to read reviews. It simplifies the decision-making process for parents (or aunties :-)) and gives them the confidence in their choices.  The team rocked matching T-shirts with their logo so well that I hereby award them Best Costume of MIN80.
Nabi Music - Great Idea and Best Costume of MIN80
Fuzzy Compass was attracting a fair number of visitors to their table for demos of their SaaS platform/tool suite for providing top travel influencers like food bloggers and travel writers with a way to turn their destination knowledge into a trip planning service for consumers by providing personalized one-on-one trip planning help for a fee.
Fuzzy Compass
The Student Startup Spotlight this month featured two companies from the Wentworth Institute's Accelerate Innovation +  Entrepreneurship Center: ESI Devices and Organic Connections.

ESI Devices
Catheter Port from ESI Devices makes it easier for patients to deal with catheters and prevent infection.
Organic Connections
Organic Connections' wooden construction toys are creative fun for small children. The abstract shapes and the ability to reconfigure your creation without having to change any connection points stimulates the imagination and encourages role playing.

Over in the Expert Corner we had wordsmith Alan Dillingham providing information about the 1776 Challenge Cup. Judging by the number of people surrounding his table, expertise on the Challenge Cup was in demand.