Sunday, September 23, 2007

Announcing...Power, Drugs & Money

No, this is not the name of our annual Red Cross fundraiser. (But now that you mention it, pencil it in for December 4th at the Doubletree Waltham.)

And it's not the name for our non-tech practice group, although it's pretty apt.

It's the moniker for the Cambridge MIT Enterprise Forum's annual winter Innovation Summit, tentatively slated for Feb. 7, 2008. (Watch this space for the confirmation of the date.) The conference committee, which I'm honored to serve on for the third year in a row, is aiming to focus on local innovation in three key sectors -- energy, life sciences and financial services -- and how these industries affect the global economy. We'll try to build on the success of last year's Brave New Web conference, which was sold out at just over 400 attendees.

Kudos to our own Veep Kevin Kosh for blurting out this name at an internal brainstorming. Kudos to the conference organizers for having the sisu to bless it.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

CNNMoney: Boston is the New Silicon Valley

It's the headline that us New Englanders have been dreaming about for years. We are bone weary of defending our fair region, with its Valley obsession. Finally, our moment in the sun. (Thanks to Scott Kirsner for posting on this, as that's how I first found out about it.)

CNNMoney covered the most recent Dow Jones VentureOne/Ernst & Young report, which focuses on investing in Web 2.0 deals. The report recaps the key information that the U.S. region with the biggest pick-up in Web 2.0 was New England, at the expense of the Bay area. New England saw $102 million invested in 10 Web 2.0 deals -- 65% more than the amount invested in 12 New England Web 2.0 deals in all of 2006, and slightly more than what was invested in Bay Area companies in the first half of the year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Web Innovators Group Rocks the Royal Sonesta

Remember those college ride boards?

Senior driving to Ocean City, NJ this weekend, leaving Friday night at 5:30 p.m. returning Sunday around 4 p.m. Looking for 3 riders. No smokers.

Little did we know we were reducing our carbon footprints. We were just broke and a ride was a ride.

GoLoco is the Facebook-fueled equivalent. The service helps people arrange rides with friends and friends of friends in their network. Destinations might be sporting events, conferences, concerts or shopping trips - anything for which the user wants to collect riders. GoLoco charges a 10% transaction fee (via PayPal) to the rider. The concept certainly appeals to my ecofreakiness.

GoLoco (mentioned in Scott Kirsner's recent blog post and Sunday Globe column) was one of the Main Dishes (five-minute presentation) at last night's jam-packed Web Innovators Group meeting. Refreshed by some beach time this summer, it appeared that local entrepreneurs and groupies were ready to get back to business. The last one of these I attended early in the year had around 200 people; this room must have easily held 400. The room was buzzing with energy and ideas. Kudos to Venrock's David Beisel for cooking up these dishes and keeping them on a high simmer.

DesignMyRoom was another fun Main Dish. This is not your typical startup, since it's a spinout of Westborough-Mass. based Swatchbox Technologies. (The precise relationship between the two companies is not spelled out on their sites, so I'm making some assumptions.) At any rate, Swatchbox makes virtual design tools for the home. The Swatchbox customer list is none too shabby: Ace, Alcoa, Armstrong, Bennie Moore, Dupont, Lowe’s, Mohawk, Pittsburgh Paints, Sherwin Williams, Time Warner and True Value.

DesignMyRoom uses the Swatchbox rendering engine to do just what you'd expect based on its name. You can pick a room that approximates your space, and add paint, flooring, area rugs, lighting and even window treatments. For the non-professional designer, it looks like great fun, with an easy to use interface. The site is an advertiser's dream, since designers can translate their selections into purchases. Sponsors (this is just the beta mind you) include Armstrong, Bennie Moore, Kohler, Smith & Noble and Whirlpool. Yowza.

Meanwhile, in the "I'm just not hip enough for this" category comes FrameChannel. This Main Dish lets users select and manage image content for wireless picture frames or desktops. The site features over 200 channels of dynamic content, so users can easily combine their own photos with others from news or entertainment channels and feeds from photo sharing sites like Flickr or Picasa. The site supports text channels as well, so you can get news feeds or weather, for example.

The WebInno events always feature the chosen three stars of the evening, which warrant the five-minute presos, as well as around six Side Dishes. The Side Dishes simply demo around the sides of the room. Last night they got one minute to describe their concept at the opening of the meeting.

Last night's Sides:

Fafarazzi - My favorite of the Sides. Fantasy Football meets celebrity rankings. You create or join a league, draft your favorite celebs (or the most notorious if you want to win) and watch them garner points for their antics. What team would be complete without Britney?

Oncero - An online referral recruiting platform designed to help employers leverage their networks to find job seekers.

AdME - A platform for the "promotion and distribution of branded content and consumer products". The company was demo'ing its music-driven mobile entertainment technology.

Mobleo - Building a collaborative repository of mobile-related info, driven by personal interests.

SNIFLabs - This is the one demo that I really wanted to check out that I missed. The Labs develop interactive technologies to improve the lives of pets and their owners. The company's new product is the SNIF Tag, a reportedly stylish tag that attaches to Moose's collar. It records and uploads to the Web a pet's daily moments and encounters with other dogs wearing SNIF Tags. Hmm....

The Updown - Last but not least - An online social network for investors using virtual portfolios. Pick your pals' brains for their successful investment strategies. More Fantasy Football, this time with stocks.

All in all, a vibrant room packed with interesting folks.

Addendum: Here's the GigaOM post on the event, for another view.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007 Embraces Romance Genre

Those wacky folks at are at it again -- this time with a competition to find the best romance novels (proving once again, that you can find a definition for anything at Wikipedia).

A few months back, I wrote about their "First Chapters Writing Competition," where community members posted first chapters of fiction works and folks got to vote for the best. Ultimately, two authors got book contracts with Simon and Schuster. Cool beans.

Now, authors have outdone themselves, with 299 eligible manuscripts received during the entry period, according to the Globe. Without further ado, a smattering of some of the more -- errr -- enlightening titles:
  • aDORKable
  • Beauty and the Geek
  • Me, Myself and Murphy's Law
  • Murder under the Mistletoe
  • Not at the Office
  • Operation Escape Goat
  • Ovarian Warrior
  • Painting Naked
  • Peace, Love and Chocolate
  • Even Hippos can Drown
  • Fifty is Nifty
  • Safe Sex and Home Repair
And my personal favorite: Yours 'til Niagara Falls!