Monday, June 19, 2017

#MIN99 Recap

The #MIN99 Crowd Starting to Fill the Thelma D Burns Building
Mass Innovation Nights #99 was possibly the best MIN ever! The energy and enthusiasm in the Thelma D Burns building was amazing. This was Mass Innovation Nights' first event in Boston's Grove Hall neighborhood. Ed Gaskin,  Executive Director of  Greater Grove Hall Main Streets our host and sponsor for the evening, welcomed us to this African-American and African tech themed event.  The hall was bustling with 14 companies showcasing products and a larger than usual cohort of experts.
Ed Gaskin
Mayor Marty Walsh spoke to the crowd and made it really clear that innovation is everywhere in Boston, not just in the Seaport District. Oh, and the mayor posed for selfies with attendees too. No wonder the #MIN99 hashtag trended on Twitter.
Mayor Marty Walsh
The enthusiasm level was high and ratcheted even higher when Assistant Secretary of Business Development and International Trade, Nam Pham, addressed the crowd and reminded us that Boston is number 1 in innovation.
Nam Pham
I scurried around trying to meet as many of the entrepreneurs as I could, grab some food, and get some good photos before the presentations. I didn't manage to talk to every one of the 14 companies, but I did meet and photograph many of them. Oh, and I did get some of the fried mac and cheese and the samosas. I was seated and tweeting up a storm by the time the presentations started.

Instead of the usual four presenters chosen for the night, this time we had five and I enjoyed all of them. The five companies presenting were:

FabLabs for America's mission is to provide widespread access to advanced means for digital fabrication -- things like laser cutters, precision milling machines, and specialized software for integrated design and project management.  They began as an outreach project from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) and quickly spread from Boston to the rest of the world.
Donzlyn Stephenson FABLabsforAmerica
Pulse24/7 is bringing service businesses into the on-demand economy simply and efficiently. Whether you're an attorney's office or a barbershop, Pulse24/7 provides all the technology to automate booking appointments and handling payments, grow revenue, increase your customer base, and save time all in one mobile app customized and branded just for your service business.  My favorite thing about Pulse24/7 was the capacity for tracking and analyzing trends and visualizing the data so you can easily know what to emphasize or what to change.
Kids in Tech got my vote for audience favorite. Founder Olu Ibrahim is an alum of the EforAll Lowell   Lawrence accelerator. Getting more kids into tech is a subject close to my heart and the first time I heard her pitch Kids in Tech, I knew we were on the same wavelength.  It was a thrill to see her present at #MIN99. The workforce of the future is going to need really tech-savvy young people and Kids in Tech aims to create the next generation of leaders in computer science with real hands-on learning experiences that teach problem solving, logic, creativity and the real world implications of technology. 
Kids in Tech
Donii matches donors to the people who actually need the things they want to donate. The percentage of donated clothing that ends up being resold at high markups in other countries instead of ending up in local thrift shops or going directly to folks near you who need those clothing items is downright shocking. Founder Angie Janssen set out to change that using the power of technology to connect people and nonprofits. Do check out the website to learn more or try it out.
UZURI is creating a network of health and beauty centers. You read that right. UZURI's strategy for improving access to preventive healthcare in Uganda is to bring healthcare to where people already go - the spas and barbershops for beauty services. Come in for a hair cut and get health services like vaccinations and checkups. This really could revolutionize healthcare delivery.
The Audience Choice winners were:
The Winners

Black Girls Nutrition provides a web-based application that tailors nutrition information and messaging around dieting to support the Millennial generation of Women of  Color in adopting a healthy lifestyle that is culturally relevant. It also connects them with other dieters. They aim to make eating and living healthy a social experience that integrates seamlessly into young women's daily lives. When a healthy lifestyle becomes the easy choice, more people choose it.
Black Girls Nutrition
Cede is a  role playing game about "Combat Farming" in a post apocalyptic universe.  In this 3D action game, combatants burst monsters that then turn into seeds that will become plants to take back a barren wasteland of a planet. Cede's booth was very popular and it's no surprise that it got voted one of the audience favorites.
MOON Selfie Light captured the Grand Prize with a small, technologically advanced light that attaches elegantly to your phone or tablet. It gives you amazing control of the lighting for selfies, video calls, and all those apps you want to share your perfect portrait with. It's easy to adjust both brightness and color temperature with intuitive controls.  This is probably the smallest and most advanced selfie light in existence.
MOON Selfie Light
It was quite a night and there are a few other companies that weren't presenters or prize winners that I want to mention.

Once company that made an impression on me was Dolume, a project management consultant group that emphasizes multi-disciplinary collaboration, innovation, creativity, and Agile methods in helping their clients manage projects.
BeautyLynk is a web-based platform for booking salon-quality hair and makeup services to come to you -- at home, at the office, in your hotel, or wherever.
Pitching BeautyLynk
Quality Interactions provides e-learning courses for health care professionals, which emphasize a "person-based" approach to cross-cultural communication.  These courses equip providers to communicate with and care for diverse patients more effectively on a more individual basis instead of relying on broad cultural assumptions.
Quality Interactions
As always, I like to end with a featured expert. This time I decided to feature two amazing experts: Ed Gaskin, Executive Director of Greater Grove Hall Main Streets and our host for the evening and Kevin Wiant, Executive Director of Venture Cafe Boston and a former co-worker a grillion years ago. These guys love Boston to the max!

Experts Looking Expert -- And Loving Boston

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