Posts Tagged ‘startup’

Photo: L’Artisan Café and Bakery
This Providence eatery, founded by immigrants, has created jobs in two Rhode Island cities. I especially love the tea at l’Artisan and the takeout food.

The idea that most immigrants take jobs away from other people in this country makes no sense to me. Some immigrants may take some jobs, but when you consider all the immigrant-founded companies, large and small, that create jobs for Americans, there is no comparison.

Here is an op-ed from an immigrant who, as an economist, has studied the issue in depth.

Dany Bahar writes at The Hill that calling the thousands of immigrants who, like him, have come here via the diversity visa lottery “the worst of the worst” shows a lack of understanding of the facts.

“I’ve been privileged enough to have accomplished many things since winning a green card, such as having completed doctoral studies at Harvard and joining a highly respected think tank. I did all of this while paying my fair share of taxes.

“My story is not unique, and, as a researcher on the economics benefits of migration, I can say that most other migrants actually are good people, work hard, pay taxes and often create jobs even at a higher rate than natives.

“Take David Tran, who in 1978 arrived in California as a refugee from Vietnam. Two years later, he founded Huy Fong, a company that produces and exports a highly popular version of Sriracha sauce.

“Huy Fong, named after the refugee vessel on which Tran came to the U.S., earns millions in sales year and employs hundreds. Tran’s tale is just one of many that illustrate how first- or second-generation migrants have shaped the U.S. economy. …

“For the most part, migrants (low- and high-skilled) compete with other incumbent migrants, not with natives. In fact, [one] study shows that, between 1990 and 2006, immigration had a small positive effect on the wages of American-born workers, as the presence of migrants encourage natives to specialize in better jobs. …

“Migrants are highly entrepreneurial and create jobs. While immigrants represent about 15 percent of the general U.S. workforce, they account for around a quarter of this country’s entrepreneurs and a quarter of inventors. …

“Immigration and diversity foster economic growth. More diverse countries perform better economically and migrants create business networks with their home countries that foster trade and investment. …

“Subsequent generations of migrants contribute considerably to the economy, thus offsetting the cost of absorbing first-time migrants. While the average fiscal burden of each immigrant is about $1,600, second- and third-generation migrants create a net positive fiscal contribution of $1,700 and $1,300, respectively.

“In addition, migrants and their families also eat, wear clothes, consume housing and all sorts of other goods and services, which contributes to economic growth.”

I know I’m biased. My daughter-in-law’s parents were immigrants from Egypt years ago, and my son-in-law is an immigrant who now holds citizenship in both the United States and his home country, Sweden. My husband and I feel lucky.

More at The Hill.

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Sometimes I get blog ideas from Facebook, which is one reason I can’t see myself pulling out despite all the irrelevant, unwanted clutter there.

Former colleague Scott G. recently posted a curious item on Facebook about turning pineapple waste into leather — real leather, not “fruit leather.” It’s much better for the environment than animal-based leathers and more appealing to sustainability-conscious consumers than petroleum-based ones.

Adele Peters at FastCoexist says that Carmen Hijosa got the idea for a new, sustainable industry on a visit to the Philippines years ago. But first she needed a PhD.

“When leather expert Carmen Hijosa visited the Philippines to consult with the leather industry there, she discovered two big problems: The leather was poor quality, and producing it was bad both for the local environment and the people involved.

“But as she traveled around the country, she had an epiphany. The Philippines grows a lot of pineapples — and ends up with a lot of wasted pineapple leaves. The leaves, she realized, had certain features that might make it possible to turn them into a plant-based leather alternative. …

“She also looked at other local plants, such as banana fibers and sisal. But only pineapple fibers were strong and flexible enough to handle the manufacturing process she had in mind.

“Hijosa left her work in the traditional leather industry and spent the next seven years at the Royal College of Art in London, developing the material into a patented product while she earned a PhD. Now running a startup — at age 63 — she’s ramping up manufacturing of her pineapple-based leather, called Piñatex. …

“Her startup, Ananas Anam, has built its production from 500 meters to 2,000 meters, and [by August], she expects the next batch to be around 8,000 meters. But as the company’s capacity grows, demand is already outpacing supply. Companies like Puma and Camper have made prototypes with the material, and others are already using it.”

What an impressive woman! More here.

Photo: FastCoexist
Because pineapple leaves would normally be wasted, turning them into leather, is an extra source of income for farmers.

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Rupa Shenoy had an interesting story on WGBH radio recently. It was about local startups interested in urban farming. I wrote previously about Higher Ground Farm, situated on top of the Design Center in South Boston, but Grove Labs, with its use of LED lighting for indoor gardening, was new to me.

Shenoy says, “Some of these new entrepreneurs are thinking big. Jamie Byron and Gabe Blanchet graduated from MIT and started Grove Labs two years ago with the idea to make every living room a potential growing space. …

“Their product is a cabinet that allows people to grow fruits and vegetables year-round in the home. It’s connected to the internet, controlled by an app on your phone, and designed to make urban farming easy and engaging.

“There are a few models set up in a space at Greentown Labs in Somerville, which they share with other startups. Each wooden cabinet, with several components, is about the size of an entertainment center.

“At the heart of the cabinet system is a fish swimming in a tank. The waste from that fish is sucked into tubes and converted into nitrate fertilizer. The fertilizer is pumped around the cabinet to trays filled with brown clay pebbles. That’s where the fruits and vegetables grow, with the pebbles serving as soil. Byron says once you get the system up and running, you can harvest enough for about two small salads everyday.” More at WGBH.

For more on using fish to fertilize your produce, see my recent post about an experiment in Duluth, here.

Photo: Rupa Shenoy / WGBH News
Somerville startup Grove Labs plans to sell cabinets for growing produce in your home.

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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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Here’s a story about venture capital with a do-good focus.

Sacha Pfeiffer writes at the Boston Globe, “Among entrepreneurs, there’s a dreaded place called the Valley of Death. That’s where startup companies go when they run out of funding before making money on their own, and it’s an especially common fate for clean-energy startups, like manufacturers of solar panels and wind turbines. …

“But what if that early-stage, high-risk financing could instead come from philanthropists, who aren’t driven by profit? Later, traditional investors could step in and supply continued funding.

“That’s the concept behind PRIME Coalition, a year-old Cambridge nonprofit that has pooled $1 million from wealthy donors, including Hollywood actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, as seed money for its first investment: an energy storage startup company. …

“PRIME rethinks the traditional definition of charitable work and charitable giving. Its founder, 30-year-old MIT graduate Sarah Kearney, argues that companies whose products or services reduce greenhouse gases are doing a social good, just like soup kitchens and homeless shelters, so they should be able to receive philanthropic funding. In this case, the social benefits include conserving the environment and fighting climate change.

“The group searches for early-stage alternative energy companies … then locates philanthropists or socially minded for-profit investors to fund them. Those could include charitable foundations, investment offices of wealthy families, and donor-advised funds. …

“Peter Rothstein, president of the New England Clean Energy Council, said philanthropic funding ‘can make a significant dent’ in filling the need for early-stage capital for clean-tech companies.” More here.

It is not unheard of for philanthropy to put its investment dollars into companies that provide a social good. Read about the Heron Foundation’s decision to do so some years back in “Expanding Philanthropy’s Reach: Mission-Related Investing,” here.

Photo: Lane Turner/Globe Staff
PRIME Coalition founder Sarah Kearney says that companies whose products or services reduce greenhouse gases are doing a social good and should be able to receive philanthropic funding.

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Now, here’s an idea. You’ve heard of Uber-type services that you contact when you need a ride and that charge on the basis of demand?

Well, according to Patrick Clark at Bloomberg, the time may have arrived for calling a snowplow just when you need a snowplow.

“With a blizzard gathering over the ocean,” he reports, “J and R Lawn and Landscape decided to send part of its snowplow fleet on a 300-mile drive. The landscaping company operates 20 snowplows in and around Cicero, N.Y. A tech startup called Plows and Mowz—sort of an Uber for snowplows—had promised there would be lucrative work in Boston. ‘It only snows where it snows,’ says Ted Hoffman, who handles sales and marketing for J and R. His small company was willing to bet four plows, eight workers, and money for gas and hotel rooms on a faraway post-blizzard boom. …

“Plowz and Mowz caters to homeowners who don’t pay for a regular service but want occasional help clearing a driveway. To meet customer demand, the startup uses software to assign new jobs to drivers who are already planning to be in the area. …

“Plowz isn’t the only entrepreneur with a vision for the future of snow removal. ‘On-demand is cute, but it’s not snowplowing,’ says Yeh Diab, co-founder of Boston-based PlowMe, a second startup trying to using technology to improve an age-old business. The snowplow, as he sees it, is less like a taxi (seeking customers, wherever they might be) and more like a bus (serving customers along a set path). …

“Plow drivers needed to improve their efficiency with regular customers along set routes, he determined, while an on-demand system offered a succession of one-time customers. PlowMe is designed to be a route-management tool and a marketplace in which drivers can trade or sell parts of their routes to others.”

My grandchildren know that in Geopolis, a really big snow calls for bringing out the supremely competent, cool, and collected truck called Katy (see Virginia Lee Burton’s classic Katy and the Big Snow), but if you don’t live in Geopolis, other options do exist.

Lots more snowplowing angles here.


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Here’s an interesting start-up by a couple of entrepreneurs who love to eat. The two women decided to build a business around helping travelers find truly authentic cooking.

According to Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence’s website, “Traveling Spoon believes in creating meaningful travel. We are passionate about food, and believe that by connecting people with authentic food experiences in people’s homes around the world we can help facilitate meaningful travel experiences for travelers and hosts worldwide.

“To help you experience local cuisine while traveling, Traveling Spoon offers in-home meals with our hosts. In addition, we also offer in-home cooking classes as well as market tours as an extra add-on to many of the meal experiences. All of our hosts have been vetted to ensure a safe and delightful culinary experience.

“Traveling Spoon currently offers home dining experiences in over 35 cities throughout Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, and more countries are coming soon!” More here.

I have no doubt that Traveling Spoon is also boosting international understanding. What a good way to use an MBA! Business school is not all about becoming an investment banker, as Suzanne and Erik would tell you.

Photo: Traveling Spoon
Traveling Spoon founders Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence met at the Haas School of Business.

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