They used to call me Robot Girl

They used to call me Robot Girl

I haven’t blogged for a while. Yeah, I know.

I was uninspired, and didn’t want to just subject all two of my readers to my ramblings. Plus, I was looking for an actual day job.

Well, I found one. It’s a temping gig for a large financial services company which shall remain nameless. I am a Financial Analyst, preparing and running database reports. The job is rather similar to several other gigs I’ve held. And then I will be back in Social Media full time.

In the meantime, the Bot Boys are not forgotten, and I actually blog more for them that I had been. The need for Social Media exposure does not diminish just because I’ve got a new gig.

But I wanted to reach out, on this blog, for the first time in quite a while, to offer up some of the things I’ve learned along the way. So gather ’round, and hopefully I can help someone else to navigate the wild world of startups.

  1. The best gift that anyone can offer startups is money. Advice and expertise are great, and they are helpful, but it all pales in the face of do-re-mi. And while startup competitions may not want (or, truly, be able) to part with too much of it, it is money that is most needed because, to truly succeed, someone has to quit their day job. You know, the thing I just got a few weeks ago? Yeah. Someone has to take a flying leap into outer space – but that person still needs to be able to afford ramen and a futon.
  2. Speaking of ramen and futons, the startup game is, often, played by the young. This is not to say that those of us who were born during the Kennedy Administration have naught to offer. Rather, it is that we have mortgages. We may have children. We have lives that often require more than minimal Connector-style health insurance. We may have aging parents, credit card debt or any number of things that make living off ramen, on a futon, nigh impossible.
  3. However, this does not mean that the not-so-young do not have a place in the land of startups. But that place is often a different one. The enthusiastic feel of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey ...
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney from the trailer for the film Love Finds Andy Hardy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    (now I’m really dating myself) yelling, “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show! We can get the barn!” is replaced with “Let’s see if we can get this thing to work before defaulting on the mortgage/Junior needs braces/gall bladder surgery is required/etc.” Our needs are different, and we may be more patient with setbacks. This does not necessarily spell being less hungry but, perhaps, less able to truly go for broke. The not-so-young person’s role in a startup is often more advisory. We are the ones who can’t quit day jobs until the salaries are decent. And that day may never come.

  4. Startup events are best when they have a focus. Mass Innovation Nights, I feel, is something of a Gold Standard. There is a coherent beginning, middle and end to each event. It’s not just a lot of business card trading. The participants and the audience get good conversational hooks. Making contacts is vital – I hooked up with the Bot Boys at an event like that – but it can’t just be “Hey, let’s get a bunch of startups together, eat pizza and trade business cards!” The startups that are succeeding are too busy for such activities. And those that aren’t ….
  5. Cloud computing, apps and software companies are everywhere in the startup space. With the Bot Boys, we can stand out a bit as we are a hardware company. Having a product that people can see and feel is valuable amidst a sea of virtual stuff.
  6. The downside to that is that hardware companies have spinup problems that cloud computing companies just don’t have – app companies do not have to worry about shipping and packaging. They do not have to perform quality control checks on shipments. They do not have to work on product safety.
  7. No one wants to talk to the job seeker, but everyone wants to talk to the entrepreneur – and those are often the same person! Human nature is a bit odd in this area, but I have seen people who are barely past the “I’ve got this great idea I’ve sketched on the back of a napkin” stage where there is a flock of interested people swarming around, whereas a person honest about looking for work is often overlooked.
  8. Charisma counts. While one founder is going to be the inventor or the developer (the idea person), the other pretty much must be the socializer. Otherwise, even the best ideas are all too often buried. Someone must be willing and able to do public speaking, elevator pitching and sales. This need not be an experienced sales person, but that person has got to be a lot friendlier and a lot more fearless than most.
  9. Most startups and most entrepreneur groupings will fail, morph, coalesce or break apart before succeeding. And perhaps that is as it should be, for being nimble is one of the characteristics of a successful startup. If the product sells when it’s colored blue, but not when it’s colored green, dip it in dye, fer chrissakes!
  10. We all work for startups, or former startups. Even the large financial services firm was, once, a gleam in someone’s eye. Every invention started off as an idea. Even day jobs were, at one time, in places where the founders were living off that generation’s equivalent of ramen and sleeping in that era’s analogue to a futon. Yet somehow, against the odds, they made it.

And a lot of today’s startups can, too.

See you ’round the scene.

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Mass Innovation September 15

My company, Neuron Robotics is in the running to present at Mass Innovation! If you’ll be in the Cambridge area on September 15th from 6-9pm, come on down to #MIN18. It’s at the Microsoft NERD Center. RSVP on the Mass Inno site to save a seat.

What is Mass Innovation Night like?

If you haven’t been to a Mass Innovation Nights event before, here’s how it works. You vote on this page to determine which companies get five minutes to present their story. However, everyone gets a table to demonstrate their product. On the night of the event, make some noise on their behalf! Blog, tweet, take pictures or video, post them online, mention and link to them from your LinkedIn status or Facebook, or, just tell someone. Together you can support local innovation.

Location

The event will be at the Microsoft NERD Center located at:
1 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02142


View Larger Map

See you there — but before you go, please vote for us to present at Mass Innovation in September. The race is exciting — we really need your vote. Thanks!

Mass Innovation #16

Neuron Robotics President Robert Breznak and I attended Mass Inno together again, and it was a blast as usual. Thank you again to our wonderful hostess, Bobbie Carlton. How does she do it?

We got to talk about our TEDxBoston pre-adventure, of course.

I’ve been coming since December of 2009, so it’s often an opportunity to see old friends, and meet new ones. #MIN16 was no exception.

We met the following people:

  • Joe Baz of Above the Fold – he is a User Experience Designer – I should’ve talked to him about Ultimate Frisbee!
  • Kristin Brenna of 603 Clothing – they make environmentally friendly custom tee shirts, etc.
  • James Brennan – he gave us some great quick business advice
  • John Hopkins – he gave us some terrific fast financial words of wisdom
  • Jonathan Margalit of Innocentive – they work with around the globe brainpower to solve problems
  • Stephen Potischman of Real Cool TV Productions – they make beautiful web videos
  • Lalitha Ramakrishnan of LSR Associates – they are a translating service, both written and spoken, and
  • Christopher Temper of Baystate Financial Services – he of course provides financial services advice.

Mass Inno would not be complete without its presentations.

First up was Stephen Potischman of Real Cool TV Productions, which I’ve mentioned above. Second was Acquia Drupal Gardens – they help make the Open Source community software, Drupal, easier and better to use. Third was Episend – they make it easy to send nontext messages through Twitter and Facebook, etc. E. g. you can send images, files, mp3s and the like. Last was Pietzo Electric Bicycles – the presenter even rode in on one! They are a way to be green and bike to work without one major complaint people have: breaking a sweat in their nice work clothes on a super-hot day (this was the middle of a heat wave, so it was a rather timely presentation).

Mass Inno is also an occasion to see familiar faces. We saw:

  • Cynthia André of The Founder Institute and Greenhorn Connect
  • Eric Braun of TeamShare Solutions – they are opening up a South Short Innovation space
  • Braulio Carreno – he is a part of the Anything Goes Lab within the Cambridge Innovation Center
  • Danielle Galmore of Steelcase/Turnstone Furniture – they make (among many other things) funky modular work furniture
  • Dave Fogel of Swifton CFOs – they outsource the senior financial level for emerging businesses
  • Allison Friedman of Rate it Green, a service whereby you can check whether a company’s claims of being environmentally friendly are really the case
  • Paul Geffen of The Founder Institute – they provide a means for company founders to get together and exchange equity
  • Ben Hron of VC Ready Law – I’m sure Mike Cohen was around somewhere, too
  • Rama Nandiwada of IT Shore, her company provides scalable software solutions. She’s been an expert at Mass Inno!
  • Rich Sands of R Sands Consulting – he provides strategic marketing for platform adoption
  • Masoud Shadravan – he’s a software engineer looking for a new gig – Hire him!
  • Christine Sierra of Lexalytics – they provide sentiment and text analysis solutions, and
  • Marcia Weiss of Collaborative Partners in Leadership – they work with executives to improve their leadership skills, communication and relationship strengths and teamwork capacity.

Whew! I think I covered everyone. It was an unexpectedly busy evening; you would think that people would be away for the Summer. Instead, we found a ready audience for showing off the DyIO and talking about our event, #NRBR.

We always have fun at Mass Inno. I hope we can present there ourselves one day!

May 12, 2010 Mass Innovation Night (#MIN14)

On May 12, 2010, I attended the 14th Mass. Innovation Night.

As always, the night was hosted by Bobbie Carlton and Dan Englander, with Joe Perry of IBM graciously offering the IBM Innovation space in Waltham for the event.

The following companies had booths:

  • buckts – They make a Firefox add-on to aggregate together shopping, Google search, Facebook updates and the like.
  • Mystery Meet – Boston Foodies discover new restaurants by enjoying a special prix fixe menu at a new Boston restaurant on the second Tuesday of every month.
  • Pearl’s Premium Grass Seed – low maintenance grass seed that grows slowly and seldom needs cutting or watering.
  • Reinforced Care – reducing hospital readmissions by focusing on patient aftercare.
  • Software Horizons – ‘Design Once, Deploy Anywhere’ HMI Technology and
  • WOW Mobile – unlimited US calling, texting, Internet and email
  • .

The following experts offered their services:

Bobbie confessed that Mass. Innovation Nights is one small step to world domination. In Innovation Nights, that is. Hence there is now an effort underway to expand a little. The first expansion is set for Portland, Maine. Stacie Andrews presented about MEInno (Maine Innovation) and MeetImpact. MEInno will have their first event on Friday, August 13th, 2010. Stacie also runs Meet Impact, a calendar for New England events. She took names and websites and/or blogs and promised to create an interactive calendar whereby everyone could share upcoming events.

The following companies had a chance to present:

The presentations were all interesting although I have to give props to Boomerang for including smiling Buddha in their slideshow. For me, the single most useful items seem to be Webinar Listings (I love webinars and they are great for filling scheduling holes but I can’t always find them, so it’s a joy to see them all listed together) and Meet Impact (to eliminate as many scheduling holes as possible).

Oh, and contrary to perhaps popular Tweet, I did not clonk Josh in the head with a mug.

Thanks again to Bobbie, Dan and Joe — looking forward to the next one, which is going to be Thursday, June 3rd, 2010.

Happy Birthday Mass Innovation!

One of the best events I go to these days is Mass Innovation.

This event has been running for a year now, and it showcases startups all over the Bay State. These startups need not be in the technical area (although they often are). Plus it’s a great chance to network and meet others in not only the Social Media field but in any number of related fields. After all, most companies could use a Social Media Specialist, so why not spread the business cards around to them as well?

Bobbie Carlton does a fine job in getting the evening rolling. Competitors are encouraged to submit their ideas. Five are selected by the attendees’ votes and are given a short period of time (5 or 10 minutes) to present their ideas to the assembled guests. But all is not lost for those who weren’t voted a presentation slot. They are still invited to come in and man a booth. Often the booths hold better presentations than the actual Powerpoint shows.

The idea behind the event is to showcase up and coming entrepreneurs and offer support to them. Is anyone hired through this event? Hard to say. But awareness is raised, and attendees get to meet and bond. The best part of the event is that it’s completely portable — it could (and should!) happen in any city.

After all, there’s innovation going on all over the globe.