Insights and Conversation About the Telecom & Technology Industries
Author: Geoff Wilbur
I've spent more than 20 years in the telecom and high tech industries. I'm an "analytical guru, seer of trends and opportunities." In other words, I've been a telco cost/economic/financial analyst. I've also been an industry analyst who has written reports covering several telecom market segments, including some key markets when they were in their early stages (such as fiber-to-the-home and competitive carriers). Beyond telecom, my tech industry coverage has included IT markets from comprehensive to detailed, plus special projects covering industries including such disparate industries as air conditioning, eCommerce, and population migration and remittances. I leverage this background when writing for my Geoff Wilbur's Telecom and Tech Blog.
I was also a widely published music journalist 1989-2003. I then placed my music journalism gig on hiatus... until Fall 2015 with the launch of Geoff Wilbur's Music Blog.
Each BNT Startup Showcase begins with food and networking before turning to the presentations. After the sponsors are introduced and given a couple minutes each to talk about themselves, the seven startup presentations begin. Each startup’s presentation is 5 minutes followed by 5 minutes of Q&A. Following is a brief recap of each of the seven startups’ presentations. Please follow the links to learn more about company/product.
First up was Baby Safety Snap, a product from Loon Ventures LLC that consists of a key (attached to a bright yellow lanyard) snaps into a baby’s car seat buckle and is designed to help prevent parents from leaving babies inside hot cars. The product looked like an inexpensive, effective, efficient way to achieve its goal and may have a bright future. It was one of my favorite presentations of the evening.
The StandingSteps Trainer is a physical platform on which the user exercises to lose weight and improve health. Impressively, to show how easy the product is to use, the presentation was given while using the product.
Zealery Researcher offers companies an easily-affordable opportunity to do automated permutation tests for market research. Zealery allows its clients to test variants of its product and test different price points. It then measures engagement rates across hundreds of thousands of placements. At the moment, Zealery tests reactions to ads on Facebook and Instagram; compatibility with other social media networks is in development.
ITculate allows real-time testing and management of cloud networks. The product allows users to proactively fix and optimize their cloud applications. The BNT presentation included a live demonstration, too.
Meenta allows researchers to book spare capacity on scientific equipment. In areas like Cambridge, Mass., with its many research labs, for example, there is a great deal of unused or underused scientific equipment capacity. Meenta makes it easier to find that available capacity, easing the requirement for researchers to buy expensive equipment.
UOut is an app whose goal is to help friends plan gatherings out. The app allows bars, restaurants, and venues to create dynamic, user-created content and offers real-time promotional opportunities. The app is launching in Boston with plans to expand nationwide.
Paper Airplane is an app that allows people to network and connect with other people within the room and meet in real life. It sure feels like a dating app, though the presentation included some other potential uses. The team plans to roll it out first in South Boston, rightfully noting that its usefulness will be tied to its ubiquity, supporting a geo-by-geo rollout. Though it wasn’t mentioned in the presentation, I’d think this might find a likely audience on and around college campuses, where the app’s whimsical name might help differentiate it, though that’s true everywhere.
I really like the BNT format, with each company getting time for a short presentation. I look forward to the next event. The BNT Meetup group contains a calendar of upcoming recommended events. The next BNT Startup Showcase is scheduled for February 12th, with its Boston location currently listed as TBD.
The “wheel” is a kit that allows purchasers to turn a regular bicycle into an electric bicycle. The company has a YouTube video, in fact, that showcases its 60-second installation.
Recently, GeoOrbital appeared on Shark Tank. When I decided to re-look at GeoOrbital a couple weeks ago, I didn’t know about its Shark Tank appearance; I first learned about it when I visited the company’s website.
GeoOrbital didn’t get an investment on Shark Tank, but the company is currently accepting crowdfunding investments via a GeoOrbital startengine.com page. (At the time of this writing, the startengine.com page has received more than $800,000 in investments.) Since the company’s May 1, 2016 public Kickstarter launch, it has achieved more than $1.8 million in gross sales. Indeed, this cool made-in-the-USA product has captured the public’s imagination. It has come a long way since I first saw the company’s Mass Innovation Nights presentation two years ago.
If you scroll down the aforementioned startengine.com page, you’ll see pictures and descriptions of the technology, a map showing GeoOrbital’s worldwide network of more than 150 ambassadors, and some market projection charts and graphs.
It’s interesting to see the progress of this company and its intriguing product two years after my initial encounter. I’ll be sure to provide additional updates and share more information about GeoOrbital in the coming months and years as the company undoubtedly achieves more milestones.
On Tuesday, November 14th, I attended the Expese.com launch party at WeWork in Cambridge, MA. I found out about the company via a conversation at a local startup event a few months ago. This was a neat way to learn more about the company.
Experience with Ease
Expese’s marketing tagline and, obviously, the source of the company’s name is “experience with ease.” The website is a technology enthusiast’s playground. It allows subscribers to “experience” cutting-edge technology for 21 days before returning it and getting the “experience” the next item on their lists. It’s a “try before you buy” website, and there is an opportunity for subscribers to purchase the items they’re trying out using e-coins. E-coins are earned simply by subscribing; they can also be earned by writing reviews and by referring new subscribers. Of course, you can also buy e-coins to reach the amount required to purchase a product that interests you.
Products currently available through Expese include virtual reality products, drones, smartwatches, gaming systems, and a variety of other gadgets, as listed on this page of the website.
The party itself was an after-work event with snacks, drinks, a quick presentation, and prizes. At the event, virtual reality products were available to try out and a sample table containing some of the technology available through Expese was set up. The attendees were an interesting mix of people in the local technology and start-up communities.
Expese is currently in beta launch, so early subscriber feedback may inform future changes. I actually won a two-month trial of Expese at the event – I told you there were prizes – so I’m going to sign up, try it out, and share my experiences with you at the end of the trial. I’ve always personally been too busy to devote much time to the latest tech, so this will be fun. Either tomorrow or maybe during Thanksgiving weekend I’ll have a little free time to sign up, set up my account, and select items for my queue, and after I’ve tried Expese for a couple months, I’ll write about my experience.
I rarely make it into the city for a technology event – the drive in after work and parking would cause me to arrive late to too many events to make frequent attendance possible, since the events are timed to be convenient for whose jobs are nearby or a subway-ride away to attend after work. But I do make it to a good percentage of the events in the western Boston suburbs, so I may it to my first startup event in several months this week, a Mass Innovation Nights event hosted by Dassault Systemes in Waltham.
This wasn’t a “theme night,” so the companies exhibiting crossed industry boundaries, though as is often the case at Boston-area startup events, all of the companies in attendance at MIN104 could be considered tech.
Every month, Mass Innovation Nights features presentations from the host, the “Expert Corner” experts and exhibitors who win a pre-event vote on the Mass Innovation Nights website. Presenters as a result of the pre-event voting were PeopleProductive, MagniFact’s MoodAnalyzer, Fluid-Screen, and Kaiburr. Awards were also given based on at-event voting. At-event winners were Vocoli, Kaiburr, Obvia, and Fluid-Screen.
Though it was mentioned on the event notice, I had forgotten the host, Dassault Systemes/SOLIDWORKS, was offering tours of its 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, so I didn’t seek it out. I’ll have to be better prepared if there is a “next time.”
Now, I’ll take a quick run through the companies in attendance; you can follow the links for more information about them.
Obvia: Obvia’s wind turbine system is based on innovative rotor blades, which I understood easily based on the explanation I received at Obvia’s table. And, it seems, a semi-shrouded wing; shrouding is explained in a video linked from Obvia’s Mass Innovation Nights profile. If my layman’s description sounds interesting, I’d suggest going to Obvia’s website and/or its MIN profile to learn more.
Fluid-Screen: Some of the medical technology startups prove the most interesting at startup events, and this month’s MIN was no exception. Fluid-Screen’s lab-on-a-chip technology allows doctors’ offices to process tests faster, reducing the time required to test for bacterial contamination from days to thirty minutes. As part of the company’s presentation, it was noted even homes could potentially use it to test food and water, particularly in places (or times) during which contamination is more likely. In addition to the company’s website, there’s information of Fluid-Screen’s Mass Innovation Nights profile, which includes a link to a TEDx presentation.
Coalesce.info: This one’s kind of cool. The Coalesce.Info Virtual Analyst is like an AI search engine that improves responses to decision making questions within a company.
MagniFact: The MagniFact MoodAnalyzer uses predictive analytics and custom algorithms to provide customer sentiment information in real time based on the language used by customers. A young start-up guided by an established technologist, this product could solve a variety of problems, with its direction perhaps guided by the interested parties currently involved with its founder. The video on MagniFact’s MIN profile is also worth viewing.
Kaiburr: A popular product at MIN104, Kaiburr is an application orchestration software billed as “DevOps as a Service.” Kaiburr’s 2-minute promotional YouTube video explains Kaiburr and its product management capabilities probably better than I could in a paragraph.
Vocoli: Vocoli is a sort of a digital suggestion box platform, allowing companies to gain useful new ideas, internally “crowdsource” ideas, and keep tabs on the sentiment within their ranks. And, again, there’s a less-than-two-minute YouTube video that explains some of the details of Vocoli.
PeopleProductive: PeopleProductive is a software platform that helps companies reduce attrition rates, among other things. The three “tracks” detailed on the company’s website are “On-Time Execution & Delivery,” “Employee Retention,” and “Mergers & Acquisitions.” I’d suggest referring to the company’s website for more details.
iseeBell: iseeBell’s table presentation focused on its video doorbell product, which allows people to see who’s at the door via smartphone or tablet from anywhere. The company was also displaying some devices geared more directly toward the security-camera market, as well. As with so many of MIN104’s companies, there’s a two-minute video pitch on YouTube.
Makerchip.com: OK, here I’ll just quote the text directly from the MIN company profile because I couldn’t possibly add something useful: “Makerchip.com is a free cloud-based IDE for digital integrated circuit design aimed at open-source hardware development and academic use.” From standing by and listening in while this product was being shown to interested parties, it looks like it would be a helpful tool, though since this isn’t my area of expertise, I don’t know current alternatives are out there.
Experts included members of the Dassault Systemes team and Jeff Schantz from EYP. Plus, they were joined by Innovation Women, a speakers’ bureau to help connect event managers with women entrepreneurs and women in the technical fields. (I say “joined by” because Innovation Women weren’t listed on the event website or the event handout, but they did have a prime booth location.)
As always with my startup event summaries, I’ve done my best to explain what I saw, drawing upon some promotional material at the event and online, conversations I had with company representatives, and the information available by clicking the “Vote Here” tab of the MIN104 web page. If you find any of the companies or products described above interesting, please follow the links I provided and get in touch with the companies themselves for more information.
That concludes my overview of yet another MIN event. As I attend additional MIN (and other technology industry) events in the coming months, I’ll share what I see with those of you who read my blog.
For a few minutes, there was a post here on the blog complaining about Verizon Wireless customer service difficulties. Then my Tweet was responded to by Verizon customer service, so I took the post down – I reclassified the post from “posted” to “pending” – while I exchanged private messages on Twitter with Verizon’s customer service account. Very quickly and courteously, my problem was completely and satisfactorily resolved.
So the initial post detailing Verizon Wireless’ failings has been replaced with this post. When in-person customer service makes a mistake and over-the-phone customer services claims an inability to fix it, indeed, monitoring social media and responding quickly is a brand’s last line of defense. Tonight, Verizon Wireless’ last line of defense was up to the task.
For a second consecutive night, I attended a technology startup event in the western Boston suburbs. I’ve been to a few Mass Innovation Nights in the last couple years, and they always showcase some intriguing local startups. This month’s Mass Innovation Night was IoT and Robotics themed, featuring local startups related to the Internet of Things and Robotics.
Every month, Mass Innovation Nights features presentations from the host and “Student Spotlight” companies, the “Expert Corner” experts and exhibitors who win a pre-event vote on the Mass Innovation Nights website. Presenters as a result of the pre-event voting were blink’r, WatchRx, Cimetrics, and Powerhouse Dynamics’ SiteSage Smart Kitchen. Student Startup Spotlight representatives were from Bentley University, representing their companies Sales Sparks and SooShay. Awards were also given based on at-event voting. At-event winners were WatchRx, Tive, Blustream, and Andros Robotics.
I’ll take a quick run through the companies in attendance; you can follow the links for more information about them.
WatchRx: I also saw this company at the Boston New Technology showcase the previous evening. Its product is a smartwatch that helps the elderly remember to take their medication on time, monitored by family via a smartphone app.
Senter: Senter was the other showcasing company geared toward elderly healthcare. It focuses on placing sensor technology throughout the home to monitor residents and keep them safe. It employs a two-way voice-activated “assistant” and also alerts family/caretakers if necessary.
AndrosRobotics: The remaining health-focused exhibitor was in the robotics field. The cool demonstration at the AndrosRobotics table allowed attendees to understand how the Robotic Leg-Advancement Device works and how it can help stroke survivors re-learn to walk.
There was actually supposed to be another medically-focused company at the event, Hurt Technologies, which was to be showing its MedKit Electronic Medical Record, but I didn’t run across their table. I’m not sure if I missed their table or if they missed the event.
Tive: In an effort to improve logistics in the supply chain, Tive’s IoT-connected sensors allow companies to better track their shipments. This really is more impressive in an in-person presentation than I can make it sound here. The small sensors that are included in shipments are light, too. That’s one reason I like attending these events rather than simply reading about products online; it was nice to get a chance to handle the sensor box.
blustream: Also a very cool product that showcased well. blustream showcased an Internet-connected sensor product that provides information like temperature and humidity to help monitor the safety of valuables that are sensitive to the elements. Examples of sensor placement shown at the event included a humidor and a guitar case. (The company’s website also includes wine and firearms as other item categories their sensors can help protect.)
SiteSage Smart Kitchen: Powerhouse Dynamics was showcasing it’s SiteSage Smart Kitchen, a system that allows kitchens to get real-time alerts to temperature and other issues, for safety and money-saving reasons. The website gives a nice overview; the live table-side presentation was even more convincing.
CrowdComfort: Also in the building management arena, CrowdComfort allows people to interact with their buildings, allowing building occupants to be the eyes and ears of the building. In its MIN description, the company’s tagline is “Unlocking the Human Sensor Network.” CrowdComfort’s video highlights its features.
Kuvée: Who doesn’t like something that improves the wine experience? Kuvée’s wine system keeps wine fresh for up to 30 days. It also includes IoT features that share information about the wine. Very cool concept for wine-lovers. And, of course, an exhibitor that drew interest. #BecauseWine.
The two “Student Startup Spotlight” companies were from Bentley University. These were Sales Sparks, which creates sales plans for startups, and Sooshay, a fast-casual sushi restaurant featuring customizable sushi rolls and locally-sourced ingredients.
As with other MIN reviews, I’ve done my best to accurately portray the products I saw exhibited based on the literature I read and conversations I had with attendees. Most of what I’ve written could easily enough be found by following this link and then clicking on the “Vote Here” tab of the MIN 98 web page, but hopefully this article serves as a decent introduction.
I always enjoy attending the MIN events, and I’m sure I’ll get to more MIN (and other technology industry) events in the coming months. I will, of course, share what I discover in this blog.
I’ve been following the Boston New Technology Startup Showcases for quite a while now via the BNT Meetup group, but the meetings are almost always in Boston. This time, however, the showcase was held out in the suburbs where I could more easily get to it, so I jumped at the chance. As those of you who have read the Blog may know, I regularly attended technology and technology startup events when I lived in Houston. I’m not as conveniently located to make it to Boston area events as regularly, but I enjoy keeping up with the tech and startup communities when I can.
This event begins with food and networking before turning to the presentations. Each startup’s presentation is 5 minutes followed by 5 minutes of Q&A. Seven companies presented. Here’s a brief recap of each:
MatterVest: First up was MatterVest, a site that’s geared toward the equity crowdfunding trend. MatterVest provides tools for investors to analyze the various investment opportunities all on one site in a standardized format, rather than forcing investors to navigate the twenty-plus equity crowdfunding sites, which may have different formats and varying types of information at the potential investors’ disposal. MatterVest is currently a live beta site.
DiscoverText: DiscoverText does text, survey, and Twitter data analytics. The company demonstrated its Twitter analytics during the presentation. A quick poke around its website is likely necessary for a fuller understanding of the software and how it works, as it’s a bit detailed for a five-minute presentation.
SlapFive: SlapFive is software that aggregates customer views in a different way. The company noted during its presentation that, rather than asking for testimonials or recommendations from its clients’ customers, SlapFive asks for knowledge, experience, feedback, or advice. This information is then captured in a way that can be shared. The company uses a SaaS business model with monthly subscriptions and tiered pricing.
TabCoinClub: This business allows customers to try out new electronics before buying. For a monthly fee, subscribers can create a queue, get items in the queue, and keep the items for as long as they like. When one item is returned, a different item is sent. Subscribers also get “coins” for maintaining their subscriptions. (In response to a question, it was mentioned that referrals are another way to earn “coins.”) These coins can then, in turn, be “spent” to be able to keep products the subscribers like.
WatchRx: This is a smartwatch with phone and GPS that helps seniors remember to take medication. It comes with a caregiver app for the family member (or other caregiver) to monitor the senior’s progress. Other features also help the caregivers monitor the seniors’ well-being. During its presentation, WatchRx even showed part of this YouTube video demo, which does a great job of showcasing the watch’s features.
BEEP: BEEP is an app from Beantown Beacons geared toward tradeshows and conferences. It allows tracking of interactions and other visitor information of interest to exhibitors and conference organizers, such as entry/exit and dwell time. For the attendee, it can cater content to enhance the conference experience. Yes, I know my description is vague. The BEEP team did a great job explaining it at BNT; hopefully any details I haven’t fully explained can be discovered via a visit to BEEP’s website.
Virtualphysio: This app provides reminders for patients to complete the at-home portions of their physical therapy. In addition to improving patient compliance via its timed text messages, Virtualphysio provides a link with exercise instructions to help ensure the therapy is done properly. Virtualphysio says its business model includes SaaS for practioners, clinical trials, and partnering with health insurance providers.
It was an interesting batch of product presentations. I’ve done my best to capture the essence of the products and the presentations in this article, but please do visit the product websites and contact the companies to ensure you get a complete, correct view of the the BNT #77 products.
The two products that were probably best-suited to this presentation format were WatchRx and Virtualphysio, whose utility and underserved consumer markets are the most obvious. Whether serving underserved niche or new markets or trying to succeed in a competitive market with a superior product, though, all of the products at this showcase appear to have a possible path to success, which is nice to be able to say.
After finally getting to a BNT startup showcase, I see that I really do like the quick-presentation format. Certainly, whenever the showcase is back in the ‘burbs (or if there’s a rare occasion I can get into the city after work), I look forward to attending a future event.