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Posts Tagged ‘mass challenge’

I got started following @MassChallenge on twitter after Erik won a prize for his startup, and I still see items worth noting. Recently Mass Challenge linked to a Boston magazine article on one of the companies the business incubator helped launch. It unshrinks your ruined sweaters.

Lauren Landry reports, “Two Harvard Business School graduates are determined to unshrink your clothing.

Desiree Stolar and Nate Barbera sold out of their first 200 units of Unshrinkit on the Somerville-based product discovery site The Grommet in one hour. The patent-pending solution interacts with proteins in wool and, with the help of a cold-water rinse, causes them to revert to their original shape. …

“A shrunken cashmere sweater spawned the idea. … Around the same time [it shrank], a team of her Harvard Business School classmates were given $5,000 and told to launch a startup, as part of the school’s FIELD 3 program. … Barbera, with a background in mechanical engineering, set out to try and develop a chemically based solution capable of unshrinking wool clothing. …

“ ‘We tested out at least 20 ideas, one of which happened to work incredibly well—with no side effects and a relatively inexpensive ingredient.’ ”

The startup grew very fast and soon heard from customers that the magic potion didn’t work on very tightly woven wool.

“So, the founders launched into another round of R&D this past February to develop a new solution. Within the next month, the company plans to launch a ‘professional version’ of Unshrinkit, made with the same active ingredients, but with a few additives and a nice, fresh linen scent. …

“Now the team is focused on growing that community of supporters.

‘A lot of people don’t know they can unshrink their clothing,’ Stolar says. ‘We have to disrupt that mental state.’ ”

More here.

For relative beginners, they have a pretty professional ad.

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The big thermometer on the garage may have said 40 degrees when I woke up this morning, but I’m still thinking spring.

My husband has planted an array of annuals and perennials, and both kids are seeding lawns.

Since I am rather a fan of Mass Challenge winners and I also had a heartfelt testimonial from Mimsey, I encouraged both families to try a 2010 Mass Challenge winner, Pearl’s Premium grass seed.

Mimsey said that she had thrown Pearl’s into a wooded area next to her house, expecting nothing. Before she knew it, a lovely velvety carpet had grown there. Sounded to me like the beans Jack’s mother threw away that led to Jack’s adventures at the top of a beanstalk.

And speaking of plants, the plant identification site Mister Smarty Plants, a big supporter of this blog, needs my support tonight. So if you would like to help him get recognition at a Mass Innovation Night on June 10, vote for him here. It took me a while to figure out the voting. You have to vote for four entries in the event and make a comment. But you don’t have to give your name. Thanks!

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The Design Museum Boston — which, like Erik, has participated in the start-up accelerator program called MassChallenge — launched a challenge of its own. The results of the Street Seats Design Challenge are now available to all, and believe me, you have never seen park benches like these.

Each imaginative public outdoor seating creation is harnessed to a kiosk that gives background on the designer, the materials the designer chose, the ideas behind the competition, and the sponsors.

You can go from bench to bench along Fort Point Channel like Goldilocks testing them out (too hard? too soft? ju-ust right?).

Here is a bench I can see from my office, the Wright bench. It is made of a reconstituted wood that lasts for decades without treating and is combined with a bike rack. Designer Eugene Duclos of Appalachian State University in Cary, North Carolina, explains his approach in the video.

Be sure to check out the other benches at the museum’s Street Seats site, here. One bench is made of rope. Another lets you sit on plants. All are beautiful.

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Aren’t inventors great? There certainly seem to be a lot around these days.

Of course, I am still a bit high on the Mass Challenge Awards last night, thrilled about Erik and the other deserving winners, like the nonprofit GRIT (Global Research Innovation and Technology), which makes an inexpensive wheelchair for use in the Third World.

Here’s another cool invention, from Israel: a cardboard bicycle.

Ori Lewis and Lianne Gross write at Reuters, “A bicycle made almost entirely of cardboard has the potential to change transportation habits from the world’s most congested cities to the poorest reaches of Africa, its Israeli inventor says.

“Izhar Gafni, 50, is an expert in designing automated mass-production lines. He is an amateur cycling enthusiast who for years toyed with an idea of making a bicycle from cardboard. …

“Cardboard, made of wood pulp, was invented in the 19th century as sturdy packaging for carrying other more valuable objects, but it has rarely been considered as raw material for things usually made of much stronger materials, such as metal.

“Once the shape [of Gafni’s bicycle] has been formed and cut, the cardboard is treated with a secret concoction made of organic materials to give it its waterproof and fireproof qualities. In the final stage, it is coated with lacquer paint for appearance.

“In testing the durability of the treated cardboard, Gafni said he immersed a cross-section in a water tank for several months and it retained all its hardened characteristics.

“Once ready for production, the bicycle will include no metal parts, even the brake mechanism and the wheel and pedal bearings will be made of recycled substances, although Gafni said he could not yet reveal those details due to pending patent issues.” Read more from Reuters, here.

Check this video posted by Gadizmo.

Baz Ratner /Reuters /Landov

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The Mass Challenge Awards Ceremony takes place tomorrow night at the Boston Convention Center. Erik is one of the 26 entrepreneurs who are finalists in the Class of 2012. He first read about Mass Challenge on this very blog the day before the deadline for applying!

The whole family is excited that Erik has done so well. Suzanne and John (both entrepreneurs) will be sitting at his table at the big event. Erik’s mother, lately arrived from Sweden, will be strolling the baby around South Boston with a little help from yours truly.

The Awards Ceremony includes Governor Deval Patrick. Orlando Jones will moderate. And I am a particular fan of speaker Gerald Chertavian.

A native of Lowell, Chertavian so appreciated the mentoring he received in high school that he served as a Big Brother in college and for years after. Having sold his own entrepreneurial company, he decided to give back by building an organization to give young low-income but motivated people a paid year to prepare for the workforce through internships and training.

For more on the unique approach of Chertavian’s nonprofit YearUp, now in many U.S. cities, look here.

YearUp photograph of Gerald Chertavian

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I came across a nonprofit organization called BUILD on the website of the accelerator incubator MassChallenge (where Erik is among 26 finalists who will be honored at Tuesday’s awards). BUILD helps inspire students to graduate from high school by getting them engaged in an entrepreneurship project.

“MassChallenge Partner BUILD Greater Boston is gathering a select group of entrepreneurs to mentor student business teams in some of the city’s lowest performing high schools.

“BUILD is an exciting 4-year college success program that uses entrepreneurship to motivate disengaged students to excel academically, graduate from high school, and succeed in college. …

“To help students become college-eligible, BUILD also provides tutoring, test prep, mentoring, and college planning advice. Entrepreneurship is the hook — but college is the goal. Over the past 13 years, 95% of BUILD seniors nationally have been accepted to college, with 88% accepted to 4 year colleges and universities.

A student team calling itself “the Dream Team and their mentors, including MassChallenge Alumni Shonak Patel, won 1st place at the Youth Business Plan Competition at Northeastern University on June 2, 2012, receiving $1,500 to start their business.”

According to the Bay State Banner, the Dream Team’s product is an “inspirational iPhone case, made of bamboo and customizable to have the purchaser’s own dream etched into it.” More here.

See video highlights of the competition from the Boston Business Journal.

Being a BUILD mentor gave me the opportunity to use my passion for entrepreneurship to inspire greatness in others.— Shonak Patel, Charlestown Mentor and MassChallenge Alumni. 

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Fun time at Mass Challenge!​

Mass Challenge is an incubator “accelerator” for entrepreneurial companies, perhaps the biggest worldwide. I’ve blogged about it before.

Of the 125 finalists in this year’s challenge, 48 gave one-minute pitches last night to an audience of about 200 friends, family, and investors at 1 Marina Park on the Boston waterfront.

Besides being entertaining, it was inspiring. So many people working hard on so many great ideas!

A couple noteworthy presentations were from MIT people. Helmet_Hub tapped the skills of MIT materials science students to create a helmet-vending machine. They have already partnered with the City of Boston’s Hubway, which lends bikes point to point. Another MIT-based organization, Global Research Innovation & Technology (GRIT), uses bicycle parts to make inexpensive wheelchairs for Third World patients. Very impressive. (More on GRIT here.)

I also wrote down that soundfest has a better kind of hearing aid. Prime Student Loan screens students so banks can make a safe loan even if graduates have no FICO score.

Wanderu was one of the few female-run companies. It does for ground travel what kayak and others do for air. Zoomtilt creates ads that are said to be so funny and entertaining, people actually want to watch them. Guided Surgery Solutions helps oral surgeons drill into the right place.

Roameo helps you find out what’s going on near where you are right now. Newartlove helps artists sell their work. Social Made Simple helps small businesses with social networking. (Check it out, Luna & Stella.) CellanyxDiagnostics has a more precise test for prostate cancer than the PSA.

I will likely follow up on a worthy-cause business called Bootstrap Compost. They teach you to compost, give you the bucket, pick it up, deliver it to farms, and give leftover compost to schools. You can have some, too. Bootstrap is very low-tech, doing most travel on bikes. It is proud of keeping tons of food scraps out of landfills.

I was also impressed at the Mass Challenge diversity — men, women (OK, not many women), old, young, scientists, artists, business types, different races, different nationalities, humorous, solemn.

No need to worry about the economy long term. Not with the joy of invention alive and well.

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John pointed me to an article on the kinds of work environments that encourage innovation.

Aimee Groth at Business Insider writes, “In his article, Groupthink, the New Yorker‘s Jonah Lehrer says there are two types of brainstorming — a free-for-all exchange of ideas in a structured environment, and a random, unplanned debate. Only the second type really works.

“He says M.I.T.’s famous Building 20 … became one of the most innovative spaces in the country because it fostered the best kind of brainstorming.

“The building was created to provide extra room for scientists during WW II, reports Lehrer, and ‘violated the Cambridge fire code, but it was granted an exemption because of its temporary status. … The walls were thin, the roof leaked, and the building was broiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. Nevertheless Building 20 quickly became a center of groundbreaking research, the Los Alamos of the East Coast.’

“It wasn’t demolished after the war because there were too many students and too little space on campus. So the building became a hodgepodge of offices, with professors and students from all different departments squeezed in small spaces and long corridors. …

” ‘Walls were torn down without permission; equipment was stored in the courtyards and bolted to the roof. … The space also forced solitary scientists to mix and mingle.’ ”

More.

Makes me think of the layout at Mass Challenge, the accelerator incubator for entrepreneurs that I blogged about here. (Did I mention that a family member read that post, sent in an application under the wire, powered through layers of screening, and is now working away as part of the class of 2012?)

The Mass Challenge space is not dangerous like Building 20, but the founders probably heard about the benefits of Building 20’s layout through their connection to MIT. The Mass Challenge work space is an unfinished floor in an upscale office building on the waterfront, 1 Marina Park. Everything is open and interactive.

The harbor views are a bonus unknown at Building 20.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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