Monday, March 2, 2009

Next week at the Four Seasons: GoingGreen Boston

AlwaysOn is holding their first GoingGreen conference in Boston next week, after putting on one of the energy/environment-focused events in San Francisco last fall.

Looks like everyone in New England cleantech will be there, from Secretary of Energy/Environment Ian Bowles to the CEOs of 1366 Technologies, Ze-Gen, Mascoma, Oasys Water, and GreatPoint Energy. (Even tech prognosticator George Gilder will be there. Has he turned into a cleantech guru?)

Yes, it's a bit pricey: $1675. But the price goes up the longer you wait...

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Friday, October 31, 2008

MIT VC Conference: December 6th

The MIT Venture Capital club just opened up registration for the 11th annual MIT Venture Capital Conference. It happens on December 6th, and while registration costs $245 for early birds, there's also an entrepreneur showcase in the evening that's free for anyone to attend.

I'll be there, moderating the closing session with Harmonix Music Systems co-founder Eran Egozy. And I'm going to try to arrive early to see Dan Primack's opening session with Paul Maeder and David Fialkow, from Highland Capital Partners and General Catalyst.

More on the event:

    ...Every year, the conference brings together over 400 venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders to discuss current opportunities and challenges in Venture Capital investing.

    This year, the conference theme is Reinventing Venture Capital. A Keynote Panel of founding partners from leading venture capital firms will open the conference with a discussion of evolving strategies of the venture capital community and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the dynamically changing industrial, financial, and economic conditions around the world.

    Dr. Jamshed J. Irani, Director of Tata Sons, one of India’s oldest, largest, and most respected business conglomerates, will deliver lunch keynote address. The conference will close with a fireside chat with Eran Egozy, CTO and Co-Founder of Harmonix, a MIT Media Lab startup which created Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Some Notes from Ideas Boston 2008

I spent the day at the Ideas Boston conference, held every fall at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. It's a really interesting slice of what's happening in our town across the realms of science, technology, the arts, non-profits, and academia.

It's a fun event, in part, because of who you see and meet -- an unusual cross-section of Bostonians. I ran into Bob Krim from the Boston History and Innovation Collaborative, several folks from the Museum of Science, a number of Boston Foundation people, a programmer from Microsoft, the guy who runs the Lemelson-MIT program, Northeastern University roboticist Joseph Ayers, John Lester from Linden Labs, Julie Graham from YPO, Denise DiIanni from WGBH, Joyce Plotkin from the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, and Don McLagan, formerly CEO of EqualLogic.

Some of the talks I enjoyed most were those that had nothing to do with technology... like the artist Paul Goodnight talking about the monument to the Middle Passage he is trying to build in Boston and guy Noah Feldman talking about the future of Iraq and Afghanistan...Paul Watanabe talking about immigration and the way that America has treated Asian-American immigrants specifically (like his own family)...photographer Robin Bowman discussing her travels around the country to talk with and photograph American teens...and Sara Seager of MIT talking about what earth-like planets in other solar systems will be like (and predicting that we'll find one within the next five years.

IBM researcher Martin Wattenberg got the most laughs of the day by showing how he has been trying to create useful and surprising ways to visualize words information, instead of just numbers. He showed how various baby names have waxed and waned in popularity (the 1970s were a great decade for "La" names like LaTonya, LaToya, and Lakeisha.) He analyzed the Presidential candidates' word choice in the debates (not surprisingly, when John McCain uttered the word "my" it was most often followed by "friends.") And, preceded by the disclaimer that this particular Web site was not built using IBM dollars, he talked about a personal project to analyze the body parts most often mentioned in song lyrics. Jazz lyrics tended to focus on "eyes," and gospel lyrics the hand. Hip hop lyrics? Very obsessed with the behind, he found.

Wattenberg was followed by MIT prof Dava Newman, who is designing a next-generation space suit for voyages to Mars and a return to the moon. The suit, she said, was less like putting someone in an air-tight Zip-loc bag and inflating it (that's been the approach thus far with NASA's space missions) and more like "shrink-wrapping someone." It's designed to offer the wearer far more mobility and dexterity than current models -- which will be important when we go prospecting on the red planet. She said that some of the suit's "exoskeleton" features (like helping the wearer move or lift things) might be useful on earth, for people who suffer from diseases like cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis. Newman had one of her grad students model the tight-fitting suit on stage, and on a walk through the audience, and I am sure no one at all was thinking about hip hop lyrics.... at all. At all.

John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, ended the day by talking about simplicity, design, technology, and humanity. He suggested that we've arrived at a moment where we've had a big too much of technology -- like gorging on meatloaf -- and we are ready for more humanity and authenticity. There was a lot of nodding in the audience.

The event was sold out this year, by early October. They'll need a bigger venue for 2009. By way of disclosure, I served on the advisory board, which involved suggesting a few speakers.

The main thing I'd improve for future editions is subtracting one or two speakers and making way for a few questions from the audience and moderator Tom Ashbrook after each presentation. Also, a live Webcast would be great (though I do think the event gets recorded for eventual viewing on WGBH online.)

Update: Here's the Globe's coverage of the event.

[ Photos: At top is John the middle is the spacesuit. ]

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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Future of Mobile: From the Emerging Technologies Conference

Here's some video I shot at last week's Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT. It features two local executives (Google's Rich Miner and Motorola's Liz Altman) talking about where mobile is headed -- especially with regard to open and proprietary operating systems. (This took place a day or two after the official announcement of the first Google/Android phone.)

Some notes from the panel (not direct quotes):

Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch: It's still too expensive to develop an application that runs across a broad range of phones.

Liz Altman: Low-end phones will use proprietary operating systems.

Rich Miner: Agrees with that, but says mid-range phones are getting more capable, and will be compatible with the Android operating system before long.

Miner: Google will try to avoid bloatware - aim for simplicity - even as phones get more capable.

Lynch says that "thought interfaces" will be a promising way to interact with mobile devices in the future. Miner is bullish on speech, and mentions Vlingo, a Cambridge start-up. The idea of scanning barcodes of products to get more info about a product also comes up.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Entrepreneurs: Need Some Expert Advice for Your Start-Up?

Bill Warner, founder of Avid Technology, called this morning with some disappointing news.

Bill asked me to be an "expert" at next month's Innovation UnConference, being organized by MassTLC. He told me that I would be the smartest expert there by far, offering entrepreneurs sage advice about how to work with the media. That was flattering.

But now, Bill has lined up a lot of much smarter people to consult with the entrepreneurs who attend the event. People like Howard Anderson, George Hatsopoulos, Rich Miner from Google, VisiCalc co-founder Dan Bricklin, Vanu Bose, 3Com founder Bob Metcalfe, Russ Wilcox from E Ink, Reed Sturtevant from Microsoft, and James Geshwiler from CommonAngels.

I'm humbled. Looks like it'll be a cool event.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

How Many Mass. Companies in TechCrunch 50?

The TechCrunch 50 starts today out in San Francisco. In its second year, this has become one of the hottest platforms for launching new companies.

How many are from Massachusetts?

Two, by my count: EmergInvest, a Cambridge start-up that aims to help investors put money to work in emerging markets (here's their entry in CrunchBase); and HangOut Industries, the Pano Anthos company that's developing virtual "rooms" for hanging out (and helping advertisers build brand awareness). It's funded by Highland Capital and Polaris, and based in downtown Boston.

Here's a bit more on HangOut from their press release:

    Launched today, at the prestigious TechCrunch50 conference, Hangout gives teens the ability to connect and truly interact with their friends online. On Hangout, teens interact with their friends as they do in the offline world- whether it be watching favorite videos on YouTube, listening to music, sharing Facebook photos, engaging with popular brands and products that they love, playing games or making music, or just chatting “in person”. Kids can now create their own personal 3D rooms leveraging real goods and clothes and hang out with their friends in their own spaces. Hangout combines the immersive nature of the Sims with the personalization of MySpace and the security and privacy of Facebook.

There may be more companies from Massachusetts who'll be appearing in the conference's Demo Pit, but none that I recognize.

Update: Givvy founder John Treadway, a start-up geared to increasing charitable giving, just e-mailed to let me know his company is part of the Pit action.

Update #2: David Beisel of Venrock e-mails to let me know that RaizLabs, Snipd, and Magic & Miracle Ventures (three more Demo Pit companies) also have some Boston roots. Snipd, as far as I know, is a Y Combinator company that was in Boston this summer, but will likely end up elsewhere. (Its founder is from Austin, TX.) Beisel also mentions that you'll be able to see Givvy at the September 15th WebInno meeting, which he organizes.

New Hampshire's own Don Dodge is on the panel of judges that will offer feedback on each of the fifty company presentations. Perhaps he'll post about any other Boston companies he encounters....

What do you think - is there a West Coast selection bias in this group ... or does Massachusetts just not have very many Web 2.0 companies?

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Filling Out Your Fall Calendar: Events Worth Knowing About

Here are a couple events for September, October, and November that I think will be worth going to. I'm planning to be at each of them in some capacity (reporter, moderator, organizer, etc.)

9.23-9.25: Emerging Technologies Conference @ MIT
Werner Vogels from Amazon, Rich Miner from Google, and Craig Mundie from Microsoft top the list of interesting speakers (according to me, at least)

9.25: Tech @ The Movies
This is the first entertainment industry panel that Mass TLC has organized, focusing on the role Massachusetts tech companies are playing in the movie industry. I'm moderating a panel, and giving a short talk about the historical contributions our state has made to the movies, based on my new book Inventing the Movies.

10.2: Mass TLC's Innovation UnConference
Mass TLC is reinventing its big fall event this year (previously known as the investor conference), trying to make it more valuable for entrepreneurs.

10.21 New England Mobile Summit
Part of the Mobile Internet World 2008 trade show, organized by the Yankee Group.

10.30 Ideas Boston
A chance to meet big thinkers like IBM's Martin Wattenberg, Daniel Schrag from Harvard, and John Maeda, the new president of RISD.

11.12 Innovation in Hollywood: Past, Present & Future
I'm giving an illustrated book talk about Inventing the Movies at the Museum of Science... chock full of movie clips, photos, and trivia.

11.15 HBS Cyberposium
Last year's speaker roster included Walt Mossberg, Ray Kurzweil, and Curt Schilling.

11.19 Future Forward 08
A gathering of entrepreneurs, investors, and CIOs/CTOs to explore new directions in technology. Audience limited in size; invite only.

12.6 MIT Venture Capital Conference
No Web site up yet for this year's event... but last year's included Google exec Chris Sacca and VMWare CEO Diane Greene.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

EO University in Boston

The Entrepreneurs' Organization (formerly the Young Entrepreneurs' Organization -- guess they were aging) is holding their annual gathering in Boston this month: EO University. Speakers include Ben Zander of the Boston Philharmonic, George Naddaff of Ufood Grill, Margaret Heffernan, and Jon Luther of Dunkin' Brands.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Advice From the Vineyard

I've been down at the annual Convergence Forum on Martha's Vineyard since Thursday (an event I help organize)... and the audience and the speakers have been great. Yesterday featured Mark Levin of Third Rock Ventures in conversation with Infinity Pharmaceuticals CEO Steve Holtzman (they worked together at Millennium); Alkermes chairman Richard Pops; and Oxford's Jonathan Fleming moderating a panel on "Exit Scenarios."

My favorite quote of the day, though, came from the opening panel. Dicerna CEO James Jenson had been talking about how he pitched 70 VCs on his previous company before getting funding.

"The most important thing for the entrepreneur is, don't die," he said.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Enterprise 2.0 and Enterprise 2Open

Two related events happen in Boston next week, at the Westin Waterfront.

The main show is Enterprise 2.0, which focuses on how Web 2.0 and social networking technologies are being used by companies. The three themes are cloud computing and software-as-a-service, search 2.0, and social networking in the enterprise. Speakers include Rob Carter, chief information officer at FedEx, Rishi Chandra, product manager for Google Enterprise, and local videoblogging guru Chris Brogan.

There's also a free unconference event on Tuesday, where anyone is welcome to present and participate (but you do have to pre-register.)

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Ideas Boston / 10.30.08

Registration just opened for this fall's Ideas Boston conference, on October 30th.

Speakers this year include roboticist Joseph Ayers from Northeastern, information visualization guru Martin Wattenberg of IBM, digital artist John Maeda of MIT/RISD, and climate scientist Daniel Schrag from Harvard.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

ROFLCon Round-Up

Kudos (!) to the MIT and Harvard students who organized ROFLCon, an exploration and celebration of Internet culture and contagious memes, last week. I dropped in Friday afternoon and Saturday morning... and especially enjoyed a ten-minute disquisition by Tron Guy about whether it is appropriate to wear underwear with a skin-tight white 'Tron' costume. (No, is the answer.)

Carolyn Johnson has a great wrap-up piece in the Globe this morning ... Chris Herot has a blog entry about it ... and David Weinberger, who delivered a keynote on Friday morning, has a number of posts, including one on the LOLcats panel. There's also coverage from Wired News, and photos from the excellent San Francisco-based blog Laughing Squid.

The big news, however, was a street fight between Firefox and the TripAdvisor owl, right outside the venerable Media Lab:

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dispatch From Venture Summit East: More Seed Funding in the Works from Kodiak?

Swung by the Four Seasons today to catch a bit of the AlwaysOn Venture Summit East, their first event in New England.

In the halls, I ran into David Andonian from DACE Ventures (who told me his two most recent investments were Howcast in NY and EveryScape here in Mass.) ... Flybridge Capital Partners blogger Jeff Bussgang ... M&A guy Paul Bowen ...former CEO Scott Meyer ... Mr. Punchbowl Matt Douglas ... and Intel Capital's Lucy McQuilken.

My panel was titled "So You Want to be a VC." After a quick, poll, it turned out that only one person in the audience we focused on what the panelists (all representing relatively new VC firms) are doing differently.

One interesting snippet that I wanted to share with you related to seed funding -- especially seed funding of unproven young entrepreneurs.

Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital said his firm had put money into Tumblr, an NYC start-up founded by 22 year-old David Karp. Sabet observed that "seed deals will inevitably have a high mortality rate...and we're not comfortable with that here." (Here presumably meaning Boston/New England.) He mentioned Y Combinator (based in Cambridge & Mountain View) and Tech Stars (Denver) as firms that are trying to build a model around very early, very small seed deals.

Chris Greendale of Kodiak Venture Partners said he thought it'd be smart for VC firms to take a million bucks, and put it into ten ideas. I asked him what would happen if he proposed that at his next Monday morning partners meeting. Greendale said "we're talking about it," and he told me afterward that some news could be forthcoming in the next 90 days. "Why is it such a bloody long process to give away $100,000 to a new company? We can give $100,000 to our existing portfolio companies at the drop of a hat," he mused.

The biggest (and only) applause line of the panel came from Drew Lipsher from Greycroft LLC. Someone in the audience asked about entrepreneurs moving west to find money. Lipsher said something to the effect of, if the entrepreneur doesn't believe in his company enough to believe it can succeed here -- they need to move it to Silicon Valley -- then we don't need to invest.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Future Forward video scrapbook

Just posted the video snippets I shot at Future Forward last Thursday... including some shots from the stage, while I was interviewing Paul Sagan and Art Coviello. That was fun.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Schilling at the Podium

Curt Schilling is keynoting at the Consumer Technology Innovations conference next month, in Silicon Valley. He'll be talking about 38 Studios, his gaming start-up.

My big question: will he be sporting any new jewelry by then?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In Portsmouth Tomorrow: Northeast Regional Angel Investor Conf.

Just learning about this today, but if you're free on Wednesday and interested in the dynamics of angel investing in our region, here's the event for you: The Northeast Regional Angel Investing Conference, at the Sheraton Harborside in Portsmouth, NH.

Speakers include Jeff Sohl from UNH, David Cohen from TechStars, and Tech Coast Angels founder Luis Villalobos. Tickets are $50.

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