Most of us either have that one secret recipe, or know a master home chef that has that amazing recipe, that everyone covets. They are constantly being asked to bring that cake, guacamole, or in my case, grits to the parties and barbeques. “This is so good, you should sell this!” is the frequent refrain until one day, you just have to take the plunge and try out your food passion as a business. Massachusetts has a growing artisan community on all fronts, but especially food. Our numerous farmer’s markets, specialty shops (both brick and mortar and online), and incubators are paving the way for local entrepreneurs to take their products to market and connect with consumers in new ways.
Four Questions to Ask Yourself When Seeking an IT Partner
Bootstrapping a startup from scratch requires a lot of time and energy. An often overlooked, but critically important component to any organization’s success begins with information technology management. Whether you’re getting a company off the ground or running an established enterprise, clear communication and integrated IT operations are essential.
We all get plenty of messages in our inboxes about some new free offer or another. Of course, lots of them are junk or are loaded with so many strings you'd have to question if it really should be considered "free" at all. But after hearing about 2 recent offerings that crossed my desk, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get the word out about these programs set up to help startups and nonprofits...
[Editor's Note: This week we are featuring MassChallenge startups as the anticipation builds towards next week's MassChallenge Awards Ceremony]
Another installment in our ongoing series to help innovative MassChallenge companies get the word out about what they offer and get connected with what they need to thrive.
With the 2013 MassChallenge Awards Ceremony coming up on October 30, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on one of MassChallenge’s major initiatives in 2013: MassChallenge Israel.
In 2009, John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam founded MassChallenge with a vision to catalyze a global startup renaissance - a rebirth of inspired, creative innovators who strive to create new value for the world. In our first year, MassChallenge saw applications from over 35 countries, but the idea of a global renaissance extended beyond application interest. Geographic expansion has long been a part of the MassChallenge vision and Israel was identified as the first node for that international expansion outside of Boston.
[Editor's Note: This week we are featuring MassChallenge startups as the anticipation builds towards next week's MassChallenge Awards Ceremony]
Another installment in our ongoing series to help innovative MassChallenge companies get the word out about what they offer and get connected with what they need to thrive.
Cape Commons Brewing Company is a social impact craft brewery that has a dual mission: to brew great craft beer and to invest in communities without access to clean drinking water. We do this through what we call our ‘batch-for-project’ model, which is our take on the popular ‘one-for-one’ model employed by various other social impact companies.
[Editor's Note: This week we are featuring MassChallenge startups as the anticipation builds towards next week's MassChallenge Awards Ceremony]
Another installment in our ongoing series to help innovative MassChallenge companies get the word out about what they offer and get connected with what they need to thrive.
What does A Little Easier Recovery do?
A Little Easier Recovery pioneered addressing the many pitfalls advanced breast cancer patients endure following extensive surgery (mastectomy, dissection and reconstruction) typically followed by chemotherapy and radiation at a devastating time both physically and emotionally. The 501(c)3 non-profit was founded in 2006 by a stage II breast cancer patient who quickly realized all the key components that must be addressed when enduring treatment from both a patient’s needs as well as the hospital oncology caregiver’s needs.
As we wind down MassChallenge in anticipation of the October 30th Awards Ceremony, I have time to reflect on how the program helped our company, ViralGains, thrive in Boston’s vibrant innovation economy.
"Silverside Detectors Inc. has developed a new kind of nuclear bomb detector to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism."
When we open a conversation with that bombshell (so to speak), the most typical reaction is a stunned expression. It’s not easy to focus on a problem that most people understand only in an abstract way, but choose not to think too much about.
Having spent time in Portugal this summer I was encouraged by the early signs of its recovery with a strong future for startups. So when I heard that André Leonardo was readying to embark on an around-the-world journey, by himself for several months, to meet the entrepreneurial ecosystem I had to find out more...FULL ENTRY
September 18, 2013 marked an important occasion in Boston: the emergence of an education technology cluster. Two hundred investors and strategic partners convened at District Hall, a government-sponsored community space in the Seaport, to hear seven ed tech startups pitch their ideas at a Demo Day. Governor Deval Patrick and Nigel Jacob of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics joined in the festivities. Each startup had 10 minutes to describe their product, team, and how much money they are raising to enable them to grow their companies.
More than once, a successful entrepreneur has told me: “If I knew how hard it was going to be to start a business I would have never done it.” Consequently, when aspiring entrepreneurs ask what the key thing is when starting a company, I don’t tell them how hard it is, but do tell them that there is one big decision they need to make right up front: decide whether to “be a business” or “run a business.”
To be a business doesn’t mean you work by yourself, but it does lend itself to those who want to be in control, be hands-on and involved in day-to-day tasks. Most importantly, being a business is for those who get great satisfaction from serving customers and seek a great quality of life.
Accelerate Boston 2013 will run from August to December and will focus on three core areas of development: Strategic mentorships with business leaders, bi-monthly classes based on a traditional MBA-curriculum taught through storytelling and first-hand experiences; and "Brown Bag Lunches," casual, interactive sessions focusing on specific aspects of building a business led by experts of industry, including Bill Warner (Avid Technology), Greg Selkoe (Karmaloop.com) and Vicky Wu Davis (Youth CITIES). At the end of the six-month program, each company will pitch their business plan in an Investor showcase for the opportunity to receive funding from the panel of judges. Winners will also receive one year of incubation space at Karmaloop's headquarters in Back Bay.
To be blunt. I want to start a food truck.
Having lived in LA years ago, catching whiffs and nibbles of such institutions as the Grilled Cheese Truck or the all-bacon all-day Lardon (yes, like hard-on but greasier…probably) the idea seemed prime. Fast-forward to the present and not only have I moved east but so has the mobile food trend. Now Boston is flooded with options from Vietnamese to vegan, Portsmouth’s fleet is growing, and most recently Portland, ME has opened the f(l)oodgates. Hell, even the Vineyard has a food truck. So it’s clear I am not alone in my ambitions. And to no surprise. These trucks are a young entrepreneur’s or budding chef's dream business. Low startup costs, creative freedom, cross-promotions around every corner, and, of course, food.
Disclaimer: In order to access most of the hyperlinks in the article, you will need to be 21 or older. Sorry, folks. Those damn lawyers really screw everything up.
As a trademark attorney, I deal with a lot of interesting situations (at least, I think they’re interesting) surrounding brand names. Many times business owners will come to me with what they believe is a simple question: Can I use this brand name? Unfortunately it’s rarely that simple, especially in industries that have seen a recent surge in popularity such as the craft beer industry.
By Melissa Massello
When Collaboratory founder Kit Murray Maloney moved back to Boston from New York and London last year, she called up her friend Devin Cole to ask for his top three local co-working spaces that supported women in business. He couldn't name one, because there weren't any. So Maloney turned to her parents, owners of 40 Berkeley in the South End, with a proposition to turn an under-utilized Internet cafe and reading room on the budget hotel's mezzanine level into a co-working space, supporting the numerous female entrepreneurs in Greater Boston as well as the innovators traveling to Boston on business and staying at 40 Berkeley. Less than a month later, Kit and I were working from the space daily, soon joined by more than a dozen other entrepreneurs, their teams, and interns.FULL ENTRY
Massachusetts appears to be emerging as a hub of web and mobile optimization, with several testing and targeting companies making their home here. Digital marketing optimization grows out of the science of A/B testing in direct marketing – if you’ve been in marketing long enough like me, you remember testing different versions of postcards to a segmented audience list and tracking which one converted best. It’s the same thing with online optimization.
Do you want to increase your conversion rate by seeing if a change in your current web site can improve your results? In A/B testing, one or more new versions of a page or single site element known as a factor compete against the original (control) version. For example, two new versions of a headline might compete against the original headline. You can test any factor, such as a call-to-action button or a hero shot, against one or more variations to see which is most persuasive.
[Editor's Note: ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) from our archives, originally running March 1, 2012]
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, Paul Revere is the ultimate connector, a man with the requisite respect, intelligence and social network to efficiently spread ideas about the oncoming British. The historical legend says he rode quickly but more importantly, he talked to other connectors who considered him a credible source of information. Since then, small business owners have studied Paul Revere in an effort to replicate his success as a connector and influencer.
Not everyone realizes it, but it’s much easier to spread messages now. When someone clicks a sharing button - a “like”, “retweet”, “+”, “share” or “repin” - they endorse and broadcast the message to their followers, friends, connections and other constituents. When the information continues to get shared repeatedly, the message spreads throughout social networks in a self-replicating process that mimics a virus.
Effectively spreading ideas among prospects and customers is so much easier now than it was in 1775 because of communication technology and word-of-mouth marketing.FULL ENTRY
When Communispace designed our new headquarters at Atlantic Wharf during 2010, we deliberately included expansion space that we could grow into. At our former office in Watertown, we had always grown quickly. As a result, our space was discontinuous and extremely cramped with people sitting at makeshift desks often located in hallways. In the new Boston location, we wanted to spread out and have plenty of room to expand into as the company grew.FULL ENTRY
The City of Boston's Department of New Urban Mechanics through the Office of Business Development is looking for a software solution to showcase purchases made at neighborhood stores in real-time, as well as display this information in public platforms in order to impact local businesses in a measurable/data driven way.
The City is seeking startups willing to form a long-term partnership to develop a solution in large scale.
The numbers tell their own story. Immigrant entrepreneurs now make up nearly 1 out of 5 of all business owners in the Commonwealth, from shopkeepers that root and revive urban main streets to biotech startups chasing the next cancer cure. Some have called the risky gesture of hope and self-reinvention that is immigration an entrepreneurial act in itself! No wonder then that immigrants in the U.S. start businesses at twice the rate of natives, or that 60 percent of new business owners in Massachusetts in 2012 were foreign born. In the Boston area alone more than 8,800 immigrant small businesses employ 18,500 people and generate $3.6 billion in regional GDP. These entrepreneurs are in fact twice global—first by virtue of their origins, second by the heightened role they play in our international trade balance, exporting goods at a 40 percent higher rate than native born business owners.FULL ENTRY
[Editor's Note: Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino have created The One Fund for programs assisting victims of the Boston Marathon attacks. Learn more and donate here.]
What lessons can start-ups and early stage companies learn from an aging rock band?
On March 12, 2013, a federal district court judge in Massachusetts declined to dismiss a lawsuit filed by J. Geils against his former bandmates and management company.
The primary dispute centers on which party has the commercial rights to use the trademarks “J. Geils” and “The J. Geils Band.” Is it J. Geils himself? Or is it the other bandmates and management company?FULL ENTRY
Business owners innovate when it comes to their products, company culture, and business models. Good entrepreneurs are constantly looking for the next big thing, the pioneering idea that will help grow their businesses and establish them as visionaries. But a much overlooked element of every business, which is desperately in need of innovation, is customer communication.
Another installment in our ongoing series to help innovative MassChallenge companies get the word out about what they offer and get connected with what they need to thrive. The MassChallenge 2013 application deadline is April 3 - get started on your application or send top entrepreneurs here: masschallenge.org/apply
How did Biba Beverages get started?
Biba Beverages is a line of all natural sparkling hydration beverages designed for everyday "off the field" hydration issues. It is loaded with electrolytes and vitamins and has no caffeine or preservatives. I [founder David Paquette] came up with the idea for Biba after surviving the Boston Marathon in 85 degree heat. I was severely dehydrated and ended up in the medical tent where I was given an IV of fluids. I felt so good afterwards that I was ready to run home! It really impressed on me the power and value of hydration. At this time the vodka market was just starting to take off and I wondered why there was no product on the market that could be mixed with alcohol and could be as powerful as the hydration effects I had at the marathon, so I decided to make my own. Everyone knows alcohol dehydrates you! I worked with a beverage developer and researched all of our ingredients and came up with a secret blend that not only tasted amazing and light, but was truly functional.
A few weeks back our Help a MassChallenge Startup series featured NBA Math Hoops. [The MassChallenge 2013 application deadline is April 3 - get started on your application or send top entrepreneurs here: masschallenge.org/apply]
Well our colleagues at The Hive and our friends at REEL Entrepreneurs [who bring you the REEL Innovators series and who are casting this weekend for a new series featuring startups - make sure to apply by Wednesday 3/20!] recently collaborated on a great video that showcases NBA Math Hoops in action. Check it out here!FULL ENTRY
[The We are the Creative Industries series: The Creative Industries - video game companies, design, marketing and architecture firms, and talented people who write books, design houses, shoot movies, make art and record music, just to name a few examples - are an important part of Massachusetts' economy, with $1 billion statewide impact and over 100,000 workers. Click here to learn more.]FULL ENTRY
One thing innovators love to talk about is disruption - that one single advancement that will burst onto the scene and change for the better how everything is done. But innovators need markets to improve, and when seeking out the next big thing, not all markets are created equal. The challenges associated with groundbreaking innovations in say, the mobile field, are very different from changes in markets that are more traditional in nature.
We take a slight deviation from our regular Help a MassChallenge Startup series this week to talk about an exciting new international partnership for MassChallenge in Mexico.
How did Nordic Technology Group get started?
“Like many people, I live far away from my aging parents,” says Erik Wernevi, Founder and CEO of Nordic Technology Group. “I got the idea for our service after a serious fall in my family. As I spoke to others, I realized that our family was not alone. In fact, many people have experienced incidents where a loved one has not been helped by existing technologies.” He adds, “With our unique sensors and software, we are able to detect more urgent health problems, giving people the freedom to live longer at home.”
How did Guided Surgery Solutions get started?
Dr. Jerome Haber is a Wellesley-based periodontist and award-winning researcher who has placed dental implants for much of his 36-year career. He invented the products behind Guided Surgery Solutions in his clinical practice, out of a desire to provide his patients with the best possible care, and a dissatisfaction with currently available products.
How did Off the Cob get started?
Off the Cob Founder Cameron Sheldrake, age 22, had a great appreciation for natural food. However his began at the age of 6 working on his parent’s vegetable and flower farm in Ithaca, NY. While purchasing snacks for late night studying at Babson he noticed that all the chips on the shelf were made from dry field corn that is high in starch. The majority use GMO grain and copy each other’s flavors of black bean, lime, sweet potato and multi-grain. None were made with sweet corn. Here was something different that could appeal to American’s love of snacks and sweet palate. In his third year at Babson, Cameron began experimenting with recipes to see which expressed the fullest flavor of sweet corn.
Struggling with your website’s organic rankings on Google keyword searches?
Last year, Google rolled out approximately 500 search algorithm updates, designed to improve the quality of their search engine result pages, and in doing so, turned search engine optimization on its head. Countless businesses have gone bankrupt or now find themselves in a panic, starved of traffic – the lifeblood of Web commerce.
The upshot is that over the last year, while organic search has dwindled, paid search advertising costs have fallen on average by 15%, and ads on Google have become more prominent and effective than ever. It is estimated that every day, the paid search advertising options offered by Google AdWords drive over 13 million completed actions – including completed sales, or valuable leads generated.
How did NBA Math Hoops get started?
Our country is facing a crisis. Nationally, 65% of Eighth Grade students are not proficient in math, and that number jumps to 83% among lower-income students. There is a strong correlation between failing a math class in middle school and dropping out of high school, which leads to a lifetime of struggle. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives are becoming increasingly important on the national stage. NBA Math Hoops’ mission is to improve math literacy by creating and distributing innovative, fun, effective educational tools that harness the power of basketball.
[Editor's note: I recently had the pleasure of attending a Youth CITIES Monthly Mini-Hack where the serendipity of the Greater Boston innovation ecosystem was on full display. Hosted at the Cambridge Innovation Center just down the hall from the regular Thursday Venture Cafe, it was amazing to watch entrepreneurs of all backgrounds come through the room to observe presentations from kids, asking smart questions and offering gentle guidance and encouragement to the youngest of entrepreneurs. I asked some follow up questions of Youth CITIES founder Vicky Wu Davis to get the rest of the story.]
While New England froze over the weekend in some of the coldest temperatures of the year, a group of Massachusetts leaders were fired up with ideas for making the local economy stronger, more innovative, and inclusive.
The World Class Cities Partnership (WCCP) hosted its annual Chatham Forum to make some big announcements and to highlight lessons learned from the group’s October Policy Exchange Mission to Lisbon and the Azores, Portugal: a Mission so successful and bonding that the Vice Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Lisbon joined the Chatham group for the weekend, following their time in Boston and Cambridge as the first participants in the WCCP’s Municipal Leadership Exchange Program.
UKTI (UK Trade & Investment) is not your parents' consulate, as you'll hear in this first part of a 3 part series. The British Consulate in Boston is focused on helping local businesses set up offices in the UK. They got the local Boston business community excited about bringing their businesses to the UK by creating a Business Competition that would send 3 winners from 3 different sectors of business to the UK for tours, introductions and ultimately offices.FULL ENTRY
The “Help a MassChallenge” Biz Hub series aims to connect individual startups with whatever they need to continue to grow. With MassChallenge 2013 applications opening in February, this week we’ll take a broader scope, asking why and how we should help entrepreneurs now:
In August, Future Boston Alliance (FBA), announced the 25 businesses that were selected to participate in its inaugural accelerator program, Accelerate Boston. As a non-profit with the goal of improving the cultural and entrepreneurial environment by making Boston a hub for collaboration and innovation, Accelerate Boston catered specifically to entrepreneurs looking to build creative economy focused businesses.
On January 15th at the Revere Hotel, FBA held their first business pitch competition and chose the winners of the 2012 Accelerate Boston Program. The event was attended by over 85 close friends & supporters and ended with a lively award ceremony event with food and drinks.
How did Native Brain get started?
The two Native Brain co-founders, Michael Connell and Jeff Durso, met as undergraduates at MIT. After earning a Master’s degree in Computer Science there, Michael went deep into education – eventually earning a Doctorate in Education at Harvard - while Jeff completed a degree at MIT’s Sloan School and went on to become a serial entrepreneur.
Don’t be fooled: The United States is still the Land of Opportunity. There are few countries in the world that provide this type of positive landscape to grow a business. Its high-tech minded, entrepreneurial spirit is what originally drew me away from my home in Sweden more than a decade ago. And Boston, recently named North America’s smartest city in Fast Company, is one of the best places to build strategic long-term business partnerships.
Yet despite the U.S.’ pioneer spirit and the strong prospects here in the northeast, it’s surprising how many small business owners buy into the negative myths about growing their companies.
How did Lovin’ Spoonfuls get started?
In early 2010, Lovin’ Spoonfuls founder Ashley Stanley recognized a need for food rescue in Boston. Stanley witnessed the amount of food that was being thrown away by local food service establishments and questioned why so much food was going to waste when the number of hungry and homeless individuals in Massachusetts continued to increase. After some initial research, Stanley was shocked by the statistics she found: 40% of all food produced in the US goes to waste every year, while 49 million Americans are classified as food insecure. Inspired to take action, Stanley initially used her own car to pick up unsold food and deliver it to local soup kitchens and shelters in need. She has since acquired two food delivery vehicles and the Lovin’ Spoonfuls team has distributed almost 200,000 pounds of fresh, healthy food to meal assistance programs across Greater Boston.
As an avid cyclist, I was excited to have the opportunity to interview Kathy Bechtel, owner of Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine. Kathy’s company is based in the Boston area, but focuses on personalized bike tours of Italy. Kathy had some great insights on the travel industry, and how to run a global business from right here in Boston.
How did Roammeo get started?
Roammeo is a web and mobile search engine made for the moments when people know that something good must be going on in their area, but they don’t know what that “something” is.
It began with Roammeo’s co-founder and CEO, Jessica Cole falling in love with her college city of New Haven. She read newsletter subscriptions, walked from bulletin board to bulletin board, and created a Field Trip Society list to discover and share everything that was going on. Meanwhile, as an urban studies major and Urban Fellow, Jessica saw the other side of the story: local event hosts were still having to rely on expensive print advertising or ineffective online marketing to let their events be found. She and her teammates knew there had to be a way to save their peers time and organizations money.
How did Calcbench get started?
Calcbench is a unique, next generation financial data provider. We operate in an unusual place, at the intersection of two very disparate fields: one very cutting edge (big data + artificial intelligence), and the other slow moving and old fashioned (accounting).
In short, we provide our customers financial information for about 8,500 companies listed on US based stock exchanges. And we are able to do this with more detail, faster, and at a much better value than other financial data providers because we are the first company to fully harness the power of a new, government mandated data reporting standard called XBRL. Therefore we are not constrained by the often very manual data collection process that has traditionally been used.
When you’re ranked #1 in the country for entrepreneurship, have the third-largest percentage increase in entrepreneurial activity rate over the past decade and just placed second in the number of patents per capita, it would be easy to rest on those accolades. But the latest splash in the Boston startup scene last Tuesday night confirms that our environment is constantly evolving.
40Berkeley, a hostel in the South End, hosted the dual launch of two game changers: New York Times best seller business book Custom Nation and Greater Boston’s newest co-working space Collaboratory4.0. While Charles Darwin may have never actually have said this, it is nevertheless true and relevant to innovation today: “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
How did Ubiqi Health get started?
Prior to founding Ubiqi Health, CEO Jacqueline Thong worked in the clinical research field implementing hand-held patient data collection systems for pharmaceutical phase II and III studies. Through that experience, she saw how patients seemed to gain more control over their conditions by regularly reporting their symptoms. Even more interesting was that some patients asked if they could have access to the summary reports that were provided to their physicians. Unfortunately, in a controlled clinical trial setting, Jacqueline and her colleagues were unable to oblige with this request, but that got her thinking about how patient self-reporting tools could be adapted for a consumer market to help people manage their chronic conditions.
How did ZoomTilt get started?
For as far back as we can remember, audiences skipped over boring branded video commercials while talented filmmakers submitted engaging work to film festivals hoping to be discovered. ZoomTilt was founded in 2012 in order to connect the world of video marketing and filmmaking to make great, original stories and solve the problems on both sides.
Ross, my business partner (his title is CEO), and I were laughing as we stuffed t-shirt scraps into trash bags.
"Imagine if we wrote this in our job description: Cut thousands of t-shirts into square one foot by one foot pieces, and then wait until t-shirt scrap pile took over too much space in office, and then drive dozens of gallon trash bags to Worcester to get them recycled so that Millbury Recycling can break them down into particles that can be stuffed into car seats.”
A potential investor recently told us we had to be more realistic about our job duties, and as an exercise, write down what our duties consist of during the week. This seemed crazy at the time, but as I gave it some more thought, while typing USPS delivery confirmation codes, ‘3432 2134...” into shopify, I thought about how it could be useful.
Boston has a national reputation as a hub for start-up companies. Boston’s vast resources and highly-educated workforce make start-ups a huge part of what keeps Boston growing and flourishing.
By their very nature, start-ups are often short on personnel, time, and money in their formative days (and even years). Planning and executing a public relations campaign is a daunting and seemingly expensive endeavor.
But fear not, start-ups. While you may not be able to achieve the national coverage that a seasoned publicist would garner, there are steps that you can take to create a presence in the media and get a head start on your overall public relations goals. Here are some tips on how to hit the ground running.FULL ENTRY
How did RallyPoint get started?
RallyPoint’s founders first met in the Baghdad Province of Iraq in 2008. Yinon Weiss was serving as a Special Forces commander, while Aaron Kletzing was a Company Fire Support officer. But, as is so often the case, the two lost contact when they were deployed in different directions. Three years later, they reunited at Harvard Business School. They shared similar interests, backgrounds and ultimately the same career path. If the military was a private business, they’d have been professional contacts that could have helped each other along the way. But, unlike the private sector, there was no practical way in the military for the two to stay connected on a professional level. RallyPoint was therefore born out of the desire to help others stay connected and gain greater control over their military careers.
RallyPoint finished as runner-up in the 2012 Harvard Business School Business Plan Competition and won this year’s MassChallenge. RallyPoint’s Board of Advisors includes General (Retired) George Casey, who most recently served as the US Army Chief of Staff – the most senior ranking member of the US Army. Prior to that position, Casey commanded all forces in Iraq.FULL ENTRY
I'm going to get some nasty emails from my friends in SF for this post, but Boston has it. To me, SF is a colossal blob of entrepreneurs and disjointed efforts (this doesn’t mean that I am not still interested in moving to SF someday) while Boston's startup community is still navigable.
After being here for more than a month, repeatedly I’ve been urged to talk to the same handful of folks by just about everyone I've connected with here. At first this may be disconcerting—there is a lack of human capital in the space. But let’s be honest, we have heaps of human capital in Boston. What these conferring referrals tell me is that the systems in place are functional and that new initiatives are building on previous efforts instead of competing.
Have you ever thought about opening your own restaurant and want to know what is involved? Perhaps you are a foodie and are curious to know what goes on behind the scenes. I interviewed Paul Turano, Chef/Owner of Tryst, to learn the real deal!
It was a pretty special week around here as Governor Patrick declared Innovation Week in Massachusetts, highlighting the dizzying array of innovation themed events that were happening with 8 conferences and showcases going simultaneously. Thankfully there was an awesome site set up at AwesomeBoston.org and #InnoWeekMA conversation on Twitter just to help people keep track of it all!
One of the big events of the week was the MassChallenge Awards Ceremony, bringing out a large and enthusiastic crowd to support some amazing startups that were eligible for some sizable cash prizes. Our friends at REEL Entrepreneurs were there to capture it.
During a crucial time in America when we urgently need innovative contributors to our economy, we fail to utilize one of our most valuable demographic groups: high school students.
My name is Ingrid Li, a Senior at Winchester High School, and Founder and Chair of the Entrepreneurial Youth Society (EYS). I founded EYS during my sophomore year to engage entrepreneurship among high school students and create jobs for future America.
High school students are creative and capable individuals whose abilities need to be amplified by our communities and challenged as entrepreneurs.
[Editor's Note: Attend the MassChallenge Awards Ceremony to celebrate startups on October 23rd, 2012. The event is part of Innovation Week in Massachusetts during which time 8 conferences are happening simultaneously. Join the conversation on Twitter #InnoWeekMA]
When did you start Cellanyx and what got you all together to work on this?
Cellanyx Diagnostics is a development stage company innovating in-vitro tissue and cell culturing techniques for use in research and in-vitro diagnostics. Leveraging a novel suite of biomarkers, microfluidic technology and computational techniques, Cellanyx Diagnostics will offer a quantitative and objective diagnostic for prostate cancer.
Cellanyx's technology has been under development since 2009. After placing first-runner up at the 2011 MIT 100K in the life science's category, Cellanyx's team has been steadily growing and now consists of 5 full-time and 7 part-time employees. Cellanyx's team is passionate about the solution and technology it is applying to the growing need for more quantitative and sensitive cancer diagnostic tests, particularly in prostate cancer.
To succeed, everyone has to sell.
As an entrepreneur and salesperson, I have often laughed when I have heard people who are technically on the “non-sales” side of a business talk about how they aren’t involved in sales or building revenue. This is particularly funny when I hear team members at a small company or start up say it. I have even heard a sales manager say that now that they are in management and don’t sell, that they aren’t the best person to speak with because they aren’t doing day to day sales anymore. Say what?!
The truth is, everyone in an organization is one way or another involved in selling. That’s because everyone in your organization has an impact on your customers or clients. However team members go by such titles as “Business Development Managers” or “Relationship Builders” or a number of other creative titles to help feed the denial that they are indeed in sales. Then there are the people on the team that do research or develop the product itself. No way they are in sales right? Wrong. Everyone is in sales. Sales are what take a product to market. It is what makes a product viable and profitable and pays everyone’s salaries. Sales are the life blood of a company.
Are you looking to amplify your career path? Perhaps you are looking for new business. Perhaps you just want to give back to our great city. No matter the reason, Boston is a hub of companies looking for great leaders and fresh faces to help guide their business to success. Board position opportunities are out there and here is why you should consider searching:
Service on a Board of Directors can provide and fine-tune invaluable professional development skills that can advance your professional career, such as public speaking, networking and leadership experience. It also provides exposure to other disciplines that you may not encounter in your day job, such as financial reporting, strategic planning, or market analyses, to name a few.
Many professionals view board service as a rewarding way to share their skill sets and talents with non-profits that serve a particular mission that they feel passionately about. You might follow or contribute to a charity that serves local residents in your community, or maybe you have a cause that is close to your heart. Your help and guidance will only help that charity or foundation raise further funds toward your favorite causes.
Working on boards gives executives unique access to business leaders across the region and provides the opportunity to demonstrate professional value through meaningful participation in board meetings. As a result, you might secure several new business leads and/or networking opportunities that will help further your current career.
Heading into Labor Day weekend I did a long drive out to Big Indian, NY to speak at and attend the Women’s Music Summit organized by Laura B. Whitmore of Mad Sun Marketing. I didn’t know too much about what to expect but I did know that I would be asked to talk about publicity for musicians from the perspective of one of my clients, Indaba Media, the music technology and marketing platform that allows over 750,000 musicians to share their work and support one another within brand and major artist opportunities. Deep in the woods, with no cell service, I came upon the Full Moon Resort and immediately saw small groups of women clustered together, singing, practicing, writing and collaborating.
The Republicans and Democrats can agree on at least one thing—that the key to job creation and economic recovery sits firmly with American entrepreneurs and business owners. It’s true. Perhaps more than ever, it’s time to stop looking to big corporations and government programs to get people back to work. It’s time to give the new engines of the American economy all of the tools they need to succeed. But who would have thought these businesses would ever need a doctor? And why not?
Healthy people exercise, brush their teeth and eat right. They get enough sleep, try to reduce stress in their lives and check-in with their doctor at least once a year to make sure their fluids are in check and their gears are still working. And if a healthy person gets, well, less healthy, they have a doctor in place where they can go to get help.
Businesses, like people, need to maintain their health. And keeping your business healthy isn’t that different from keeping your body healthy. The key is staying aware of the inner workings of your organization and knowing when it’s time to take action. Like with biological health, you don’t want find out too late that you have inoperable cancer.
So what kind of “business doctor” do you need? And what perspective could this doctor give you that will help your business not only survive, but thrive?
We at FreeCause love the city of Boston. It’s where we’ve called home for the past 3 years (having moved from Cambridge) and to us there’s no better city to operate out of. Everything about the city – its history, culture, food, pool of creative and talented workers, ease of getting around, individual neighborhoods – all gel to help give the city an incredibly vibrant atmosphere.
Boston is also a strong hub for businesses in general. Due to the heavy concentration of top academic institutions and a robust VC and incubator community, Boston enjoys a rich technology community spanning across every imaginable industry. The city has certainly worked out quite well for us, allowing us to recruit top technical and business talent to lead in the development our award-winning rewards technology. Thousands of other companies have been just as fortunate to live, work, and thrive in in the city of Boston. Many you may know of, others you may not.
Here are just a handful of other innovative B2B technology companies that call Boston home.
Technology has been blamed for making us more like the beings on Wall-E than healthy, active humans – but a few Boston tech startups are determined to change all that. Their “fitTech” tools connect us to the athletic community, help us find experts and offer advanced self-monitoring tools to help us get and stay healthy.FULL ENTRY
Recently Out in the Ecosystem talked to Andrew Yu, CEO of Modo Labs. Andrew is a seasoned entrepreneur and software, mobile, and Web executive. I caught up with him around his rapidly scaling Cambridge based-startup Modo Labs, a technology platform provider facilitating rapid deployment and cross-device functionality in enterprises, health care and EdTech.
Boston is a technology hotbed right now, ripe with startups, innovative technologies, and a deep pool of engineering talent. With a healthy local VC community, an expanded presence of tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook , and a consistent stream of startups being pumped out from some of the brightest minds the Hub has to offer, it’s a competitive race for who can best attract and retain superior technology talent. It’s also an issue that could cause any CEO or hiring manager to lay awake at night pondering what to do. So how does a company stand out when trying to retain and keep the sought after engineers and developers of the area?FULL ENTRY
If you were to transport an office worker from the 1970s, even the 1980s, into an office environment today, they wouldn’t recognize it. Forget about the dazzling new technology we all take for granted; this time traveler wouldn’t be able to comprehend the amount of flexibility we have today. Gone are the days of the 9-5 work schedule, where employees all came into the office, worked for eight hours and then went home to their families, leaving their work behind.
Businesses are realizing that when they embrace flexible schedules and enable remote working, employees are more productive. Mobile devices and smartphones, inexpensive laptops, and remote connectivity solutions are aiding in the attitude shift, as they make it possible for employees to connect regardless of location or time of day, allowing them to work anywhere, anytime.FULL ENTRY
Capital Market Exchange (CMX) has built the investment industry's first analytic product to use market perspectives to price bonds.
The size of the global stock is estimated to be close to $40 trillion. The value of assets outstanding in the global credit market is north of $90 trillion, or 2.5 times that of the stock market. Bonds are also more complex financial instruments than stocks, often necessitating more research into the unique differences. Asset managers have historically relied on rating agencies such as Standard & Poor or Moody's to assist with the valuation of bonds, often at their peril.
Photo courtesy http://www.jessechannorris.com/
The Awesome Summit occurred for the very first time at the end of last month. Aside from a great name, the AweSummit is the culmination of years of work by the Awesome Foundation, which gives $1,000 micro-grants to awesome ideas once a month in each of its many chapters. Seriously awesome. Not knowing what to expect when I arrived at the MIT Media Lab, I went with some mild expectations for the talks around micro-giving, crowdsourced funding and investing, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, collaboration, branding and more. I got significantly more than I bargained for.
As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time on the Internet I can safely say I still only know a tiny fraction of the epic ideas and programs being organized online. I thought I’d share some of the ideas and companies that others may too be unaware of and interested in.FULL ENTRY
Ask yourself these questions as you start to think about how to pitch a project:
• What is my ultimate goal in pitching this to them? Be specific! What is it that I want THEM to think, feel or do differently when I am finished with my pitch?
• Why would THEY want to listen to me pitch this? Are these the right people to pitch the project to?
• What’s a good title that will pique the listener’s curiosity?
Okay, we all know there’s an entrepreneurship and startup frenzy going on in the country. It seems that being an entrepreneur has, once again, gone mainstream. However, many people believe or are made to believe the glamour and success of a few, like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, is indicative of what startups should strive for.
The reality is that entrepreneurs are rarely driven by glamour, fame or power. Most successful entrepreneurs I have met were compelled to start because they wanted to offer society something new, different, better or cheaper. They often experienced a deeply personal “aha” moment that convinced them to explore and pursue a real business opportunity.
Being an entrepreneur in Boston is hard, and being successful at it is even harder. Over the years I have been lucky to count on great advisors and mentors who have selflessly supported me and my ventures. However, as a participant in the local startup scene, I have heard many myths about the startup process:FULL ENTRY
It is a challenging time for business. There is lots of competition for every opportunity, making it more difficult for businesses to drive financial success. Therefore, it is advantageous - and arguably necessary - for professionals and organizations to differentiate themselves from others. You have likely heard this before, but it is always good to be reminded that a strong focus on client service will set you apart. Clients will appreciate the attention to their needs, and if you do it right, you will build relationships, loyalty, and enjoy greater wallet and market share.
Clients expect a certain level of service from their service providers. If one can exceed those expectations, it is a win/win situation. There are numerous ways to do so.
This wouldn’t be such a challenging reality if most of us weren’t raised to believe something wholly different. I grew up hearing that rewarding professional opportunities came as a result of hard work and merit. There were rules to the game and we needed to learn how to play. Learning how to play meant believing in the rules. First and foremost, we were to have faith in the integrity of the design of our educational and economic institutions, not the people and communities who made up those institutions.
As a blue collar kid growing up in small town Maine, I received the message “just get to college and it will all flow from there.” It wasn’t entirely false, but it was incomplete. From what I’ve heard from my middle and upper class peers, the message they received was something closer to “get your foot in the door of a good company, pay your dues, work your way up that ascending ladder.” Both of these messages/stories involved a ladder.
When I look back at the past 5 months since founding my startup in Cambridge, I realize the old saying about “it takes a village to raise a child” is as true to a startup, it takes a community!
It is amazing for me to look at the kaleidoscope of people, including my supportive mother and founding teammate and brother, Joe, organizations, and angel investors such as Joe Caruso and Jean Hammond who have been supportive of my educational technology startup BE, an incentivized quiz technology platform for high school and college students. BE started under the guidance of Professor Fernando Reimers at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and now operating from the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square under the guidance of New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA) mentors. These three main pillars of support have opened a world of opportunity from refining the business model, to promoting BE at Microsoft, to connecting me to relevant networks and people in the educational technology space.
But – and this is a big but! – over-extended small business owners often don’t have the time to explore new products, and they don’t have the staff to whom they can delegate this task. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of some companies in the Boston startup scene that small businesses may want to be aware of.FULL ENTRY
When we launched on Kickstarter, the pledge rate was high. Amazingly high. We raised about half of our requested funds in 2 days. This didn’t last though.
Last week I boarded an overnight flight to Dublin. It’s a trip I’ve made dozens of times and was excited for a few hours with little to do but chat with my seatmate (yes I’m that person!) and catch up on all the back issues of Vanity Fair on my iPad. Little did I know my seatmate’s first question was going to be: “Do you think I’ll be able to find people who speak English in Ireland?” I looked at her for a moment before my manners kicked in and I answered with a smile that everyone speaks English and it actually might be tougher to track down a fluent Irish speaker.FULL ENTRY
Is your organization considering forming an Advisory Board?
It’s a step that many organizations are taking on a daily basis in order to fortify their leadership teams and propel business growth with executive counsel.
Whether you are a nonprofit, a private or a public company, the need is there. An Advisory board has the ability to provide strategic counsel from an industry and competitive perspective on various topics of expertise. The time and money invested in your advisory board members should be far outweighed by the counsel and strategic value they impart on your organization.
Now, how can you build the best advisory board and make the most of this investment?
The current economic environment demands that organizations leverage all possible resources in order to survive. And doing so only cultivates a culture of resourcefulness that catapults organizations beyond their competitors. It is imperative that your advisory board become a critical resource with the skills, expertise, or contacts needed to move your business forward.FULL ENTRY
When you have a car as I do it's a constant game of rationalizations: Should I drive into the city tonight or take the T from the burbs? How bad will the traffic/construction be getting in there? What are the odds I'll find a metered spot and not have to pay more for a garage? Am I going anywhere near Fenway/The Garden on a game night when I'd have to pay even more?
The other week I was in Philadelphia for a Boston sportsgasm weekend (Celtics were at 76ers and Red Sox were at Phillies; let's say the results were mixed, to be kind). I was mortified to see parking meters going until midnight! It makes an 8 p.m. meter with more quarters per hour in recent years seem like a downright bargain. In actuality, it is a bargain. The questions then become: 1. How much less of a bargain could on-street parking be without hurting businesses? 2. What would a market-based meter system do for parking problems and congestion? and 3. Would these changes help to alleviate the "mobile truck" bans that are in place?FULL ENTRY
With its myriad of restaurant options, Boston is a destination for dining. Whether in a casual or formal setting, it is crucial for a restaurant to do whatever it can to ensure an excellent dining experience. After all, restaurants are in the hospitality business. Proper service is a must and is a reasonable expectation for a guest dining in a restaurant. The experience starts the moment a guest arrives and does not end until they are out the door; even a valet can influence the overall dining experience.
I interviewed several chefs and restaurant managers at successful Boston restaurants that I have found to provide top-notch dining experiences to hear what they have to say about best practices and what goes on behind the scenes. Restaurants that act on these tips will only benefit, as they set the stage to exceed guests’ expectations, increase the likelihood of a return visit, and minimize the risk of dissemination of bad reviews via word of mouth or social media.
Both the experts and diners agree that food and service are critical to a successful dining experience regardless of the type of restaurant. Neither food nor service should be compromised, but many actually say service is even more important than the food, because poor service can ruin the whole dining experience even more so than mediocre food.
Good service starts with hiring and training the right servers and continues with constant oversight. A restaurant’s staff is the face of the restaurant, should fit with its culture, and always have a welcoming attitude. Mark D'Alessandro, General Manager of Columbus Hospitality Group’s Mistral, said “You can train someone to be good but you can’t train sincerity and personality.” According to D’Alessandro, hospitality is an important component of a restaurant’s success, and it involves attention to detail and awareness of what is going on from the dining room to the valet.
Michael Schlow, Executive Chef and Owner of Radius, Via Matta, Alta Strada, and Tico restaurants said “Servers and managers should be able to read guests and adapt to the guests’ situations whether it is a business meeting, a date, or an anniversary. They are there to enhance the guests’ experience and transport them to a different place. Servers should be informed and knowledgeable and be given the opportunity to have a voice and be a part of the restaurant’s state of affairs,” said Schlow.
At Columbus Hospitality Group, new staff are required to complete a 2-week intensive training program when hired. According to The Langham Hotel’s Food & Beverage Director, Gaylord Lamy, and Executive Chef, Mark Sapienza, advanced training is necessary, and the Langham’s restaurant staff role play as guests during off hours so they can better appreciate their guests’ dining experience.
Frank McClelland, Chef and Proprietor of restaurant group New France, LLC, whose restaurants include L’Espalier and Sel de la Terre, said “In addition to training, we also have a testing program on four levels of knowledge - food and beverages, ingredients, techniques, and pairings such as wine and cheese.” New France also offers a mentoring program for its staff.
From the restaurant’s perspective, it’s about working as a team to ensure consistency from the kitchen, the wait staff, and the front of the house. The Langham, Columbus Hospitality Group, New France, and Schlow’s restaurants all hold daily staff meetings to review things such as the guests that are scheduled to dine that evening, menu items, and evening events.
Customer feedback cards are used to learn about guests’ experiences and preferences, and restaurants often keep a database of this information for future visits. If a guest had a previous bad dining experience, it provides an opportunity to make sure everything is done well on a return visit. In addition to soliciting customer feedback, the Langham hires mystery shoppers to review its restaurants and give reports on a quarterly basis. It also does internal audits, including manager assessments.
“When guests provide information, whether they have an allergy or anniversary, it is the server and restaurant manager's responsibility to pay attention to this information and act on it,” said Schlow. Special touches such as writing 'Happy Birthday' on a dessert plate in chocolate, giving a complimentary dessert or glass of champagne, or printing a pre-planned special menu with a name and date for a keepsake are impressive gestures that guests tend to appreciate.
Sapienza and Lamy said at the Langham, “we like to surprise and delight guests and give them more than expected. The Langham’s mission is to know the guest and build great memories. If a guest has a special request, it is fine to say how long it might take or what it might cost but you never want to say no.” Schlow said, “If we don’t have a great reason to say no to a guest, you have to say yes.”
Restaurants should always look for opportunities to improve and find ways to set the restaurant apart from other restaurants. D'Alessandro, Schlow, Lamy, Sapienza, and McClelland all agree that it is important to stay current with food and beverage trends, and try other restaurants to see what they are doing. New France takes trends into consideration and even employs a design expert to make sure uniforms are modern and stylish. Schlow said “Never rest and let your head down. Always have a fresh approach and focus on surpassing expectations. Never assume because you were good six years ago you are good now.”
It is good for all involved when restaurants take steps to ensure excellent guest service and focus on oversight. Excellent dining experiences create lasting positive impressions and that is always good for business!
The following are some additional tips that restaurants should consider:
What Not To Do:
What To Do:
Ellen Keiley is President of the MBA Women International Boston Chapter Board of Directors (formerly the National Association of Women MBAs) and is a Boston World Partnerships Connector. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
He sees many startups in different stages and he ponders the impact that location has. His advice for startup companies is a mixture of the conventional and the more existential.
Go where you can:
- Recruit the talent you need
- Minimize hassle and free up head space
- Figure out who you are!
Everyone in the startup world knows that recruiting people is of prime importance and also excruciatingly hard. A startup needs a team of people whose skills complement each other. We tend to know people like us, not people with complementary skills. A startup needs people with drive and enthusiasm, an understanding of product development and the many iterations it has to go through with feedback from potential consumers, people skills, market savvy, fundraising, legal and accounting, technology and so on.
The list is very long, which is why only a very few places on the planet have produced successful startup companies. Putting it starkly, only Silicon Valley and Boston have the critical mass of people with different skills to routinely put together successful teams. But even within those cities, you want to be where you can meet people, preferably on a daily basis. In Boston, for example, you may want to be on the Red Line, because many of the young people you want to recruit do not want to drive cars and sit in traffic.FULL ENTRY
Why are we still having this conversation? That was the theme of the Bentley University Center for Women and Business Inaugural forum that took place on April 27, 2012. The Center is working on initiatives relating to advancing women in the workplace and moving from conversation to action. Energetic as always, Bentley University President Gloria Larson kicked off the forum that over 700 people had signed up to attend. Bentley University’s Toni Wolfman said “the Center provides a framework to develop effective solutions to challenges faced by women in the workplace.”
Betsy Myers was appointed as the Center’s Founding Director. Myers is an authority on leadership and author of the book Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You. She has deep experience in the corporate, political and higher education arenas and served as Chief Operating Officer of Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign. Myers also served in the Clinton Administration as an adviser on women’s issues.
Recently The Capital Network presented its Venture Fast Track program, a one-day “boot camp” to prepare startups for success with venture capitalists and angel investors. So often I find that people with great ideas might be a little bit unsure whether they’re a good fit to plug into all the resources offered by organizations like The Capital Network, Mass Challenge, Boston World Partnerships, Venture Café, and so many more. It’s important that people understand just how open this community is. If you have a hunger to start and grow something, just show up! You’ll be welcome.
At the Venture Fast Track, people commented on two big buckets of value: the info and the people.
Veronique Le Melle, Executive Director at Boston Center for the Arts welcomed guests to the First Annual Arts Professionals' Breakfast featuring presentations on new technologies and cutting edge practices in the administrative side of the art world. This year's juried presenters were ArtsBoston, Boston Dance Alliance and Cambridge Community Foundation.
The keynote presenter Kara Miller, who hosts the Innovation Hub on WGBH Radio Boston, focused on where ideas come from and addressed three trends shaping our future in the era of the crowd. Through crowd sourcing, crowd funding and mobile technologies, tapping the wisdom of the crowd, telling your story and getting the word out will be an integral part of these democratizing technologies.
John Beck, Deputy Director of ArtsBoston, discussed market knowledge programs. Arts Boston launched an audience initiative which takes the data of an organization’s membership, overlays it with demographic information and outputs it back to the organization to turn research into action. It works within a city or regional community to build capacity and assist audience development by defining patron behavior. By working with cultural nonprofits in a region to share this information with each other, they create a culture of collaboration and advocacy for the arts.FULL ENTRY
How does one make a successful product such as an iPad, an app, a drug, or a widget?
You might think that companies start with an idea about a product, something that seems cool or somehow promising. They then build a prototype to prove the concept – that the product can indeed be built or made. And then they make more products and sell them.
If only it were that easy!
Unfortunately, products need a lot of work before they actually sell. The expected demand may turn out to not be there; the price might be too high; the product might be clunky; or there might be regulatory hurdles Much of that work is done in product development. Because product development is underestimated, most people think that the most important part of innovation is invention – the glamorous moment where a genius thinks of something new in a flash. But in reality ideas are a dime a dozen whereas product development is the hard slog that really makes a difference.FULL ENTRY
Do you wish your network provided you with new ideas, greater intelligence and more money? Are you searching for a job without realizing that it's a permanent campaign rather than a job search? Or, are you just trying to find the people who are willing and able to refer business to you? It’s crucial that your network help you encounter new ideas, learn new skills and regain your sense of purpose.The problem is that relatively isolated, homogeneous networks - consisting of people like yourself who live nearby - are unlikely to produce positive outcomes.
I’ve been there - after reading Harvard Business Review’s How to Build Your Network, in 2006, and taking the article’s diagnostic test, my network was revealed to be full of connections made in school and the workplace. It was even bold enough to suggest my network of 90 people was inbred.
Frankly, I liked my network just the way it was because there were very few dissenting views, everyone lived within an hour of me, and I didn’t have to put in any ‘leg-work’ to build the connections. It was comfortable and fun. I wouldn’t have changed anything about it except my network was not producing much business. In fact, it mainly produced beer, wine, food and redundant information. Yet in a fast-changing world, I perceived a credible threat that I could get left behind. I felt compelled to change.
Homogenous groups are very comfortable. They tend to share your interests, opinions and profession and they rarely challenge you or your thinking. But your network should cut across geographies, functions and specialties because that’s where the magic happens! It’s time to let new people into your “circle of trust” and explore ideas that differ from your own.
Start networking outside your comfort zone!FULL ENTRY
Given what we have been seeing lately in the Boston-area commercial leasing market, I'd like to share some recommendations to consider before entering into your next lease:
- Use a reputable commercial leasing broker
I am always surprised whenever a CEO or CFO asks whether it’s worth having a broker on the team. The answer is yes! The best brokers know the market and your industry. They can save you time by guiding you away from locations that are poor matches for your needs. They can save you money by providing intelligence on key market prices, terms, and trends.
Perhaps past experience of using a headhunter to hire employees has unduly influenced these decision-makers. In the HR scenario, a company almost always pays an additional premium when it hires a candidate found by a headhunter. This is not the case with commercial leases. The landlord does not charge more for your lease if a broker is involved; there is no discount on rent if a broker is not involved.
- Let your lawyer help you before you sign the letter of intent
I know this sounds self-serving coming from lawyers, but a company often will want to try to sign the Letter of Intent (LOI) before starting the meter on a lawyer. The real risk, however, is that you may be forfeiting leverage that you have prior to signing the LOI. After signing an LOI, landlords often respond to a lawyer’s request for a material provision with a comment such as “This request should have been made as part of the LOI because the rental rate was priced without that provision.” The proverbial ship has sailed.
Remember, in most cases, the most affection you will ever receive from a landlord is as a prospective tenant when your company is the “buyer” and can choose from among many locations.
If there is concern over the cost of the lawyer at the LOI stage, have your lawyer agree to a fixed fee or a cap on the project that includes both the LOI and the lease.
- Fix the Assignment language!
For venture-backed companies in particular (or those with aspirations towards VC or private equity funding), insist on acceptable Assignment language within the LOI. Many leases will have language such as “a change of control of more than 50% of the equity ownership of the Tenant constitutes an Assignment and requires the prior written approval of the Landlord.” This is not acceptable for a company that may have one or more rounds of equity financing. Nor is it acceptable for a science-based company with valuable, customized laboratory space, who would risk losing that space based on a change of control triggered by substantial VC funding.
- Do not prematurely make operational decisions on moving into a location if the lease is not finalized
Your company has been looking at space for a long time. When you signed the LOI, it had a move-in date that was two months away. Now, because of delays/lack of responsiveness/holidays/whatever, you are two weeks away from the original move-in date, tired and frustrated, and the lease is still not signed. Your company is still trying to negotiate important terms while facing a fast-approaching occupancy date. At the same time, your operations people have been coordinating logistics with the landlord’s representatives, and you have been losing negotiating leverage daily. Try to avoid creating a scenario where it is economically impossible or not feasible for your company to go any place else.
- Learn the prior use of the space
If any portion of the space that your company is taking was previously used as laboratory space, make sure that you have received and reviewed carefully the evidence that the space has been remediated and that it has been appropriately certified as clean.
All businesses need to worry about finances, but entrepreneurs and start-up firms especially need to worry about the cost of everything. The expenses associated with leasing office or lab space can represent some of the highest fixed costs borne by a small company. Do your firm a favor and proactively obtain value for each leasing dollar spent. Focusing on the tips mentioned above will at least put you on the right path.
Peter Cahill of Cahill Law Group is a corporate lawyer with significant transactional and general corporate experience representing start-ups and small and mid-sized companies. His experience encompasses debt and equity offerings, drafting a variety of corporate contracts, and negotiating commercial real estate transactions.
I run a startup, so the pressure to save money and maximize value is extra intense. These services are truly changing how we take care of the basic needs for business travel, saving us money and increasing our ability to navigate unfamiliar cities and get the most return on our spend.
For starters, we used AirBNB to book an apartment. The place we got was huge and clean and sunny, and the woman who owned it left us a bag of bagels & cream cheese on the kitchen table as a welcome. The last night we were there, the apartment wasn’t available so I booked a night at the Westin. It was 50% more expensive than the massive, sunny apartment.
For transportation, we used Uber. For a pretty small cost markup, we had immaculate Towncars picking us up within minutes of us notifying them, anywhere in San Francisco. I think the cost of taking an Uber car to the airport was actually the same as taking a taxi.FULL ENTRY
As someone who teaches college students, I am reminded daily of the importance of helping them find meaningful work with internships, co-ops and jobs. I gather whatever info I can and pass the opportunities along to my current and former students. Thankfully, there are some other people in Boston who have been focusing on this critical problem too...
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are hosting a gathering of business and academic leaders on Monday March 19th to discuss the benefits and best practices of student internships. Remarks will be made by Governor Deval Patrick; Kenneth Montgomery, First VP/COO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; and Paul Guzzi, President/CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce also is offering Chamber Intern Connect to connect area employers with college students throughout the region. No matter the specific internship, industry, or paid vs. unpaid opportunity, Chamber members post summer internships to a high-traffic database as well as the Commonwealth’s statewide Mass Stay Here internship site.FULL ENTRY
Elln Hagney has worked with many notable organizations in the course of her 20 year career but none has so clearly allowed her to demonstrate her gifts and talents as the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation (CRMII) in Waltham. Through her many creative outreach efforts and diverse community collaborations, she has positioned the museum at the center of the community, by acting as a governor herself. "A centrifugal governor is a specific type of governor that controls the speed of an engine by regulating the amount of fuel admitted, so as to maintain a near constant speed whatever the load or fuel supply conditions." One could very well say the balancing act she has managed to perform since she joined the museum in 2008 has prepared the institution to move full speed ahead into the future.
One of the oldest and largest community events is Open Studios, which is run by the Waltham Mills Artists Association. It has enjoyed a vibrant 35 year history, drawing an estimated 5,000 visitors over the course of the weekend. The Museum is located in one of the mill buildings that houses artist studios, and it has become an important community partner to the event. Since all 80 artists who participate in the event open their studios at no charge to visitors, last year the museum offered free admission all weekend long to draw crowds into its exhibitions.This year, the museum will be increasing its role by providing space for artists to exhibit their work.
Business to Business
The Waltham Food & Wine Festival has been running for 20 years. The museum used to host the festival but the event has outgrown its capacity of 180 guests and in more recent years, the CRMII has turned to the Waltham Westin Hotel to play host to its over 600 attendees. The event is designed as a fundraiser for the museum but the festival itself celebrates Waltham’s culinary businesses by offering samples of fare prepared by some of the city’s most popular restaurants.
Back to its Roots
The last and perhaps most important civic group that calls the museum home, is the New England Model Engineering Society. This ‘group for those who enjoy metal working and machining’ has been meeting monthly at the museum for over 15 years. It recently held its annual show at the museum in February which used to draw crowds of 500 people to find out ‘What trains, flutes, and clocks all have in common?’ Under Ms. Hagney’s direction the model engineering show has more than doubled its attendance to attracting over 1200 visitors this year.FULL ENTRY
NEFA’s study also demonstrates that direct spending results in significant indirect and induced impact on the region’s economy. ‘Nearly every dollar spent becomes sales to suppliers and income to employees. These businesses and employees, in turn, spend that money to buy goods and services to meet their own needs.’ Therefore, the $3.7 billion of art and culture spending has an indirect impact of $2.2 billion and an induced impact of $2.5 billion, providing a total of $8.4 billion in the New England economy. Within the workforce, the 53, 270 individuals employed by art and culture industries result in an additional 12,960 jobs as an indirect impact and an additional 17,000 jobs as an induced impact for a total of 83,330 jobs.
The last and perhaps the most important impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organization is ‘more than economic.’ The NEFA study highlights ‘visitor attraction impact’ where those who come to an art museum, historic site or cultural festival spend money on food, lodging, shopping, etc. in the local economy. These nonprofits also help ‘attract new residents and new businesses’ by providing key dollars and vitality to a community. The Fenway district in Boston exemplifies this where key cultural institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, are accompanied by teaching institutions like The Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts that jointly bring visitors and students to Boston, provide key jobs across economic spectrums and greatly add to the vitality of Boston. This pattern is repeated across New England where museums, historic organizations, art and performance centers, gallery districts, artist’s housing, art schools and community centers contribute to the human capital of the region. The impact of this on the economy is significant and far reaching.
An interesting case study of the economic impact of art is told through a 17-year effort to bring public art to Edward Everett Square, in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. Organized in 1995 by historian and archivist John McColgan with a network of dedicated residents, civic associations and historic organizations, the group advocated for public art to celebrate the historic legacy of the community. Recognizing the importance of urban planning and design, the community successfully enjoined the city of Boston to provide $2.2 million in public works capital funding to redesign and renovate Edward Everett Square, transforming traffic and pedestrian safety, green space and creating a pedestrian plaza for public art.FULL ENTRY
As the Chatham Forum continued, the second panel of the day (See last week's intro post) – Greg Selkoe, Vicky Wu Davis, Travis McCready, Helena Fruscio and Frederick Kramer – convened later that morning to discuss strengthening Greater Boston’s global presence. A key theme the panel kept coming back to was changing the way we think about barriers geographically. One dysfunctional example that gained many nodding heads of support was discussion of taxi pickup regulations that prevent Boston cabs from picking up in Cambridge and vice versa. Not only is it frustrating to people who live in the Boston area, but it is frustrating and bewildering to out-of–towners who will remember such anecdotal encounters.
The taxi example seemed to represent the desire of the panel to see more cooperation between the region’s cities, minimizing regulation and bureaucracy that stifles business and detracts from a positive experience in Greater Boston. Heather Fruscio neatly summarized the problem by noting that “A brand is only as good as it functions” – harkening back to the earlier panel’s praise of Barcelonactiva for integrating processes that help business permitting go smoothly. Healthy competition between cities, emphasizing real differences, is okay; unhealthy competition with a winner take all mentality will not help Greater Boston as a whole. One panelist even noted that districts within a city, sometimes blocks apart, can get into unhealthy competition that loses sight of the bigger benefit.FULL ENTRY
Super Bowl weekend kicked off with a star-studded retreat focusing on Boston’s future. World Class Cities Partnership (WCCP), in collaboration with City to City Boston and Boston World Partnerships, planned the 2012 Chatham Forum for engaged Greater Boston citizens to learn, discuss, renew friendships and expand networks. To quote from WCCP Executive Director Mike Lake’s invitation, the Forum sought to update everyone about “opportunities for the Boston region in relation to innovation, entrepreneurship and adapting best practices from around the world to strengthen economic development in our region.” In addition, attendees participated in Massachusetts’ first Urban Excellence unConference with “Solution Sessions” to share ideas and projects on economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Insightful content and action opportunities were in abundance. A Friday night cocktail reception and dinner with opening keynote from Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson set the tone for an ambitious agenda. Jackson stressed the importance of getting the youth of Greater Boston civically engaged, something that starts with a strong public education system.
On Saturday morning everyone reconvened with a heart-felt montage tribute to the recently deceased former Boston Mayor Kevin White. [As a sad epilogue, Lowell Richards of Massport, a former deputy mayor to White, who was at the Chatham Forum unexpectedly died on Sunday. Condolences go out to his family and friends. He spent the better portion of his last weekend with us doing what he did best: working behind the scenes on making Greater Boston better.]FULL ENTRY
Different co-working spaces in Boston have a different feel and tailor to different types of companies. Given we are young and have a fairly informal culture, WorkBar’s laid back environment works really well for us. Many of my friends from MIT have had success working out of the Cambridge Innovation Center. Having spent much time hanging out there as well, it has a great tech/start-up vibe.
Why has co-working been the right move for us?FULL ENTRY
I am a fan of the web service Survey Monkey. But for about a half-hour last week I was a hater. Now I am a fan again. And in the fluctuations of my fandom lies a key lesson for all of us in business.
In short, the lesson is this: the customer drives your offense. In fact, at my company we’ve actually given our customer a name.
We call him Tom Brady.FULL ENTRY
Global reach of New England art Galleries creates meaningful dialogue and collaboration across cultures
Gallery Ehva in Provincetown is owned and operated by a visionary artist, Ewa Nogiec. She threatens to leave the USA and go back to her home in Poland if the gallery business doesn’t work out for her. Art is her whole life. In preparation for my recent show, Birds of a Feather, she made an unusual request. She asked me to make a stork, because they are very special to her. They breed in Poland and remind her of home. They are born with black legs and beaks, but when they reach sexual maturity, their beaks and legs turn bright red. Their bodies are white except for the brush of black that remains on the wingtips. As I developed a wood sculpture, White Stork, this bird took flight in my mind.FULL ENTRY
After the holidays, the intrepid among us look at the remains of our respective feasts and see opportunity. That turkey bone can flavor a soup. Those leftover veggies would taste great in a stew. That untouched pie should be sent to a shelter.
Making the most of the feast, during and after the meal, is smart, sensible and doable.
Companies and organizations can similarly extend the life of their feast. Companies are realizing the power of creating and sharing "unedited" messages through channels that more directly reach their consumers. Content marketing is having a renaissance, in large part due to Boston-area companies and thought leaders who have revived it as a vibrant part of building a brand and communicating corporate stories.
Those who eat from the content marketing plate should pay attention to the following trends in 2012:FULL ENTRY
New city, INC recently helped design the experience for the Colorado Chapter of WPO’ers (World Presidents’ Organization) visit to Boston. A global organization of more than 4,600 business leaders who are or have been chief executive officers of major companies and who are “graduates” of YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), WPO is dedicated to the mission it shares with YPO: "Better leaders through education and idea exchange."
As we start 2012, it's great to be able to reflect. What better city to visit to learn, network and see how we utilize our resources, than Boston?
We showcased our city of firsts, (first public high school, first university, first public library) that serves as a model for the future, (the Big Dig, Innovation District, areas of sustainability, high tech, education, start ups, etc).
WPO members experienced rowing on the Charles; a class at Harvard University; a behind the scenes tour of Fenway Park; a curated tour of the MFA's New Art of the America's Wing; the nuts and bolts of successful local designer, Sarah Campbell’s business; and a dinner with Boston philanthropist, Bobby Segar, who shared his view on poverty in the world while discussing his foundation. The group got to see first hand the contrast and local color of our diverse and varied neighborhoods.
The former president of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Dr. Bill Fowler, charmed them with our rich history through his eyes; and managing director of Citizen Schools, John Werner, shared how his organization partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities across the country, perhaps paving the groundwork for expansion to Colorado.
Jennifer Hopkins, a member of WPO, who attended and helped organize the program, said: "The weekend was a wonderful opportunity to truly explore and experience Boston from a historical and current business perspective. We all left with positive thoughts and new ideas from this amazing city".
Boston is truly a treasure – our treasure. Happy New Year everyone!
Boston is the backdrop for some of the most prestigious financial companies in the world. The attractive demographics of Boston are based on the elite institutions that employ and educate Boston residents. Boston banks have seen a high level of customer turnover due to consumer dissatisfaction with fees and an overall impersonal banking experience. As a result, the onus is on Boston-area banks to respond to the needs of a highly educated populace.
In 2012, banks and consumers will be faced with:
- Vanishing bank branches;
- Increased online banking; and
- The ongoing battle of fees versus convenience.
These days there seems to be a million-and-one blogs out there pitching the latest tips, tricks, and techniques for how to optimize your business website to make more money. Harder to find, however, is conversation around the simplest, most basic principles of website design that many small businesses continue to get wrong over and over again. Principals that, when ignored, can render a business website ineffective at best and totally useless at worst.
That's why we've decided to highlight 5 of the most fatal mistakes that small businesses make when building a new website. We've also included practical advice on how to avoid them, so that you can ensure your business's new website will be well-equipped to provide the value you intend.
1) Not providing a clear call to action
One of the most common mistakes that businesses make with their websites is not accounting for how short people's attention spans are on the web. In many cases, companies provide too much non-essential information on their homepage, overwhelming the user with too much text and providing little to no direction for what to do next.
THE PROBLEM: Consumers who search for products and services online want to find what they need FAST, which means you have a very small window of opportunity to get your message across to a first-time visitor of your website.
WHAT TO DO: When designing your company's website, think about the most important action you want people to take when they visit. Maybe it's to buy a product, subscribe to a newsletter, or request more information. Whatever that action may be, make sure you provide a clear and obvious path to it on your website such as a button, form or link. If getting to the desired next step requires digging through endless paragraphs of text or a cluttered navigation menu, most of your visitors will immediately move on. After all, your competition is just a click away.FULL ENTRY
Today despite a devalued US dollar, only a minimal fraction of US businesses actually conduct business overseas and an even smaller percentage in more than one country. With slow growth on the horizon, exporting is no longer a luxury but a necessity if American businesses aim to grow.
The vast size of the US economy and relatively strong economic growth have largely shielded most American companies from the need to export that virtually all other industrialized economies have faced. Smaller countries by default must look abroad as domestic markets are often too small. Startlingly only 4% of US companies actually export at all, and less than 0.5% of US companies export to more than one country- yes- Canada included.FULL ENTRY
When walking the owner of Mehak through the chart below, he was immediately blown away by how we “knew how many people were checking him out.” The secret? We didn’t. That’s Google Analytics. Its extremely easy to use, and most importantly free. Once you have your website set up just go to www.google.com/analytics and from there Google will do an excellent job of walking you through the process. Once you have it set up you will not only be able to see how many people come to your webpage, what pages were the ones they stayed on the longest, but also HOW are they finding you.
In our last post we hammered home just how important it is for every small business to have a website. So important that it bears repeating: Every business MUST have a website.
So now your website is done, it looks great…why aren’t people visiting?
Well, your site is one of the over 350,000,000 websites that exist. With that much out there, people are going to need a little help finding yours.
So how do you do it?
By thinking like a babysitter. It sounds crazy, but think about how babysitters (or at least my little sister) gets customers. She makes a flyer and posts it everywhere she thinks people will bring their kids. Your website is your flyer, and the internet is filled with places you can post it.FULL ENTRY
Recently, Brown Rudnick organized a seminar at their offices in downtown Boston entitled “Navigating the Intersection of the Utility Sector, Venture Capital Funding, and Energy Policy”. The advantage of the seminar lay in having the differing perspectives alluded to in the title represented on the panel: three utilities, a company seeking to enable large electricity customers to react to price fluctuations, a VC investing in new energy technologies, and finally the government of Massachusetts represented by two bodies: the Energy and Telecommunications Division of the Massachusetts Office of the General Attorney, and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.
It is fairly easy to articulate the problem with electricity distribution. The electrical grid was constructed 100 years ago and its structure reflects that. The agents of change consist of deregulation and new technologies. The former has broken up vertically integrated industries, and the latter consists of decentralized energy production (e.g. wind, solar) and measurement of the flow of electricity throughout the grid. The result is aged equipment, obsolete system layouts, and, one might argue, outmoded concepts and procedures. Articulating the problem may be easy, but the solution to the problem is exceedingly complex.FULL ENTRY
This summer Main Street Partners worked with a small business whose story seems to be all too common for today’s small business.
The situation: the owner of a small Pakistani and Indian restaurant in East Boston was starting to become very concerned that the business wasn’t growing as fast as he would like and he couldn’t pinpoint why. The restaurant (Mehak) makes exceptional food (the Chicken Tikka Masala is as good as it gets) and their customers spoke very highly of the restaurant to their peers and online. Nevertheless, business seemed to have plateaued and without more revenue the business wouldn’t be able to survive.
Sound familiar? Having spoken with dozens of small business owners this story seems to be a reoccurring theme. The good news is there are some very easy ways to break out of this pattern. The key is to understand that even if you have THE BEST product or service available, you cannot count on your potential customers to do all of your marketing for you. They will not embark on an hour-long search to find you – on foot or online. You have to go to them and make their search easy.
This process can have many components but if you are a restaurant, grocery store, or service provider, the following posts include three steps to optimizing low cost, high impact tools that we have found to be great engines for driving new business.
1. Your Website Is Where It All Starts
The first and most important piece of helping customers find you is developing a website. For those who think this is a “nice to have” but not a “must have”, consider the following: if I were a customer who really wanted to buy your product, how would I find you? Would it be the Yellow Book? I’d first have to go out of my way to even find one. SuperMedia Inc., the company that makes Super Pages, saw a 61% decrease in revenues from 2009 to 2010. The reason isn’t that people are searching for businesses anymore, it’s that they are doing so elsewhere.FULL ENTRY
The Greater Boston area continues to shine in the housing market as numerous banks and countless borrowers bicker about the housing crisis at the national level. The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price data shows that housing is flat in Boston, which is far superior to the housing markets in other parts of the country. One of the reasons for the cushion enjoyed by Boston homeowners is the city's array of customer-friendly resources.
Housing fuels the economy and we will not see an improved U.S. economy until the national housing market is restored to health. In order for our economy to heal, banks must be willing to lend. Banks will play a crucial role in the U.S. recovery by providing the capital for homebuyers to buy and construction companies to build. Boston is a prime example of an economic environment that allows companies to provide flexible solutions to consumer needs.
According to Chris Teachout, a Business Development Officer for Needham Bank, “One thing many community banks look for within their communities is the relationships they can build with the residents and businesses of their town, as opposed to fee income. We are not dependent on the fee income as a way to stay in business. We are looking for customers who will be banking with us for years to come. That, to us, is far more important than whatever fees we can collect from those customers. “
As the years pass by, the Boston community will continue to enjoy the benefits of its proximity to world-class universities, hospitals, and companies. Consequently, the incentive for banks to form long lasting relationships with customers is at hand for customer-friendly lenders that are ready to form a long-term relationship. Going steady pays dividends in the long-term for both borrowers and banks.
Not all business-to-business (B2B) technology marketers have to contend with an 800-pound gorilla in their market. In segments with a number of smaller, nimbler companies, there can be quite an interesting competitive dynamic as they each fight to get their message heard. To lead the way, companies have to work to keep up with the technology and innovate. In this kind of rapidly changing environment, one of the most important things a marketer can do is focus on the basics—segmenting the market and finding their position and message.
Mike Braatz is Senior Vice President and General Manager at Memento, Inc., a Burlington-based company that provides fraud prevention solutions to the financial industry. This is the fourth early-stage B2B technology company he has worked with in the Boston area in the past eleven years. Even with his experience in business development and product management, Mike is a marketer at heart. He shares his thoughts with Manya Chylinski about industry trends, what technology marketers struggle with, and his vision of the future of marketing.
What works for marketing in the technology space today?
Two things are working really well for us. One is that we have effectively become our own content publishers. Because of consolidation of media and analyst outlets across the B2B and technology landscape, there are fewer opportunities for us to get our message in front of customers. Rather than bemoan this change, we take it upon ourselves to hire subject matter experts to create interesting and compelling thought leadership.
Candice Cabe tells us how she came to make her famous shoes and here come the lads from Pure Pest Management, Brian and Trevor!
Please excuse the tough cuts between 8 and 9. Sometimes the product isn't perfect and, as all entrepreneurs know, you can't let perfect be the enemy of good!
Reel College Ventures followed three startups through all of their trials and tribulations and made a show out of it. You've seen the first 4 clips. Now we bring you Candice's story.
Candice Cabe is an innovator in the fashion world. Here she is showing it!
The Economics of Social Capital: Common goals, transformative ideas and yield significant social value
In today’s global economy, businesses in knowledge and innovation sectors must provide more than efficient transportation for people and products. Their infrastructure must also support the flow of transformative ideas. Economies with rich human capital thrive when fostered by a robust and cooperative social framework.
Sociologists call this social capital, or the intrinsic worth of social networks and their potential to bring about action.
Social capital places high value on the collaboration between entities working towards a common goal. It stands for solidarity among like-minded groups and underpins the sense of mutual trust that is critical to any healthy business relationship. The hallmark of effective social capital in business is when the open and equal exchange of ideas yields significant value for companies.FULL ENTRY
I play on a summer Ultimate Frisbee team. Mostly, it’s made up of Tufts Alumni who played Ultimate as undergrads. Each year, we get some young blood joining the team from the graduating class. This year, I noticed that we had no new recruits. When I asked our team captain why, he told me that the seniors this year had such a hard time finding jobs in Boston, that they either moved wherever they could find work or, mostly, they moved back home to live for free, due to a lack of employment.
Little known secret: There are lots of great jobs in Boston that need filling.
We posted the first section of episode #1 of ReelCollegeVentures' series on three great Boston entrepreneurs. Here are the next three shorts from the first episode. We hope you enjoy them!
Episode 1, Cut 2:
We love small businesses here at Global Business Hub and we love to hear about all the craziness that they go through. We're pretty excited about Reel College Ventures, who followed three Boston based companies as they worked through the daily pressures of running a small business.
We have the first part of their first episode for you here:
Come on later this week as we feature more from Episode 1!
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