Friday, March 10, 2017

Recapping the EforAll Women in Technology Pitch Contest

UML Innovation Center
EforAll's Women in Technology pitch contest was the perfect way to celebrate International Women's Day.  UMass Lowell's Innovation Hub hosted a wonderful evening that truly celebrated the wide variety of tech innovations that women are involved with and the wide variety of women who are involved with tech. There was a good crowd, including a contingent of students from Middlesex Community College's entrepreneurship program.
Some of the Mentors, Supporters of Lowell Women's Week, Judges, and Entrepreneurial Women
The crowd included young and old, academics and industry types, women and men. Many women were wearing red for International Women's Day. I was also impressed with the number of young men proudly rocking their Lowell Women's Week buttons.
Dynamic Team "Manning" the Registration Desk and Wearing their Lowell Women's Week Buttons
 The scheduled presenters were:

Susu Wong

The Judges were:

Seats Starting to Fill Up for the Presentations
The tables were buzzing with energy and I was excited as soon as I walked in the door. One of the fun parts of EforAll pitch contests is that attendees get to vote for a "Table Favorite" to add to the already selected finalists. I eagerly made the rounds of as many tables as possible. Between catching up with people I've met at previous events and taking in all the new products, I was pretty busy. I have to say that I was bowled over by Readocity. So were a lot of other people because Vidya Joshi's Readocity won the Table Favorite. Kudos to her for tackling the question of how to use technology to tackle the issue of literacy. At its most basic, Readocity is an app that helps nurture young readers by tracking what the kids enjoy reading and curating recommendations based on their reading history, but it takes engagement with kids, educators, and parents to a whole 'nother level with physically getting books into the hands of the young readers and facilitating book conversations between home and school.  Big congrats go to Readocity for the incredibly good pitch on short notice (that's why the Table Favorite is exciting) and for taking Third Prize!

I made sure to catch up with the folks I've been following for awhile too. It was great to see Erin and Jonathan of Nonspec again. Since I last saw them 3 weeks ago, they have added three more people in India walking on their prosthetic legs! That is amazing growth! Mass producible, adjustable limb kits will make prosthetics affordable for amputees all over the world. That's real innovation. Erin nailed the pitch and won over the judges to win first prize. Nonspec also won the Fan Favorite voting, so Erin got to pose with 2 big cardboard checks. Congrats!
Erin Keaney - Nonspec

Judges Presenting the First Prize Check to Erin
Next on my list of people to catch up with were Rajia and Ray of Invisiwear. From the very first time I spoke with them, I loved the idea of  smart jewelry that enables the wearer to contact police and/or  family and  friends  in an emergency. Just push the button on your stylish watch, necklace, bracelet, or key chain and your mobile device sends out an alert with your location. Rajia showed me the new, smaller prototype of the emergency notification device. It fits very nicely into the jewelry -- you'd never know it was a communication device. Great to see the progress they've made on this product.
Rajia and Ray --  Invisiwear
It was great catching up with Esther Ndungu as I hadn't seen her in awhile. Helpfie uses technology to make it easier for bystanders to deliver first aid. Imagine if the location of the nearest defibrillator was at your fingertips along with clear instructions on how to use it. That's what Esther is up to with Helpfie. Check the website for information on how to add the location of a defibrillator to the database and to get notified when the app is ready for launch.
Esther Ndungu -- Helpfie is basically a crowd funding platform for school fundraising. It really does simplify fundraising for the things school budgets don't cover but students and teachers need. No more selling candy bars, hosting bake sales, etc. Your classroom needs a color printer? Start a campaign on  I had to mention the famous "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber" poster created by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom back in the ancient mists of history (1965). (BTW, the WILPF still exists.) But I digress... You'd be amazed at how many classroom expenses fall outside of the school budget. makes it easy for you to create a campaign for your specific need, notify your potential donors, and get your money. Linda summed up the concept of social enterprise with the quote of the night: "We're not in it to drive Lamborghinis."
Linda Curtin
Donna Hunnewelle's Clip Bra is a product I'd buy as soon as it's available. Imagine a bra designed around the actual shape of women's breasts and without hooks!
Donna Hunnewelle -- Clip On Bras
The innovation that struck me as most revolutionary was Cellino's use of nanotechnology to deliver gene therapy to cure blood cancer. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around a small desktop device that combines nanostructures, lasers, and gene-editing molecules. Nabiha's pitch was a big hit and earned a well-deserved giant cardboard check for Second Prize.
Nabiha Saklayen Pitching Nanotechnology for Treating Blood Diseases
Nabiha Posing with the Second Prize Check
Another of my favorites was Womentum, a crowd funding platform that allows anyone to donate to women entrepreneurs in developing countries who need just a bit of funding to expand their businesses. Womentum operates on a pay-it-forward model, so rather than having to pay back loans in the short term, the entrepreneurs can then support each other with donations in the long term. I first met Prabha at a Mass Innovation Nights event (MIN91) during last year's WEBOS Week. I was impressed then and I'm still impressed.
Prabha Dublish Describing Womentum to Allison Lamey (with photobomb by David Parker)
The Wildcard pitch slot went to Price & Beyond, a high-end furniture marketplace that brings price negotiation into the online shopping model.
Wildcard Pitch from Price & Beyond
Chatting with folks afterward about how competitive the pitch contest was and who we had predicted would win prizes vs. who actually won prizes was also fun. It was just a terrifically great night all around. Than you so much EforAll and UML for hosting such a wonderful night.

Readocity Posing with Giant Cardboard Check and Judges -- Shout Out to Senator Donoghue for Wearing Red

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