Thursday, May 27, 2010

Harvest Automation Cuts Ribbon at New Headquarters

I had the fortune of participating in a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new headquarters of Harvest Automation, a Billerica-based materials handling robotics company. Pictured here are Fouad Azzam, General Partner of Life Sciences Partners, Billerica Town Manager John Curran, State Representative Bill Green, Charles Grinnell, Founder and CEO of Harvest Automation, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Gregory Bialecki, Andy Ziolkowski, Partner at Midpoint Food and Agriculture, me (Tom Hopcroft, President & CEO, Mass Technology Leadership Council) and Dina Routhier, Principat at MTDC.

The company was founded by ex-iRobot and ex-DEKA executives and recently funded to the tune of $4M by MTDC, Life Sciences Partners, and Midpoint Food and Agriculture. Harvest Automation has ambitious plans and expects to grow from 10 to 25 employees this year. In fact, they hired one person they met at MassTLC's RoboTuesday: Hiring Here event just last month.
Harvest Automation is representative of a cluster of about 100 robotics companies in Massachusetts that employs over 2500 people (90% local hires) and generates close to a Billion in revenue annually.

Earlier this year, MassTLC issued a Challenge to the broader technology community to create 100,000 new jobs in the coming decade. Harvest Automation is part of a trend in recent weeks towards investing and growing in Massachusetts. Some other recent examples include: Verizon breaking ground on a new Technology Innovation Center in Waltham, Microsoft announcing significant expansion of their New England Research and Development (NERD) center in Cambridge, Mass-based Constant Contact’s acquisition of CA-based NutshellMail, and IBM’s forthcoming opening of their largest software lab in North America right here in (Littleton) MA.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Grand Opening of IBM's Largest Software Lab in North America -- Right Here in Massachusetts

On June 16, IBM will open the doors of the new IBM Mass Lab -- IBM's largest Software Lab in North America. For 96 years, IBM has been a key economic contributor to the state of Massachusetts. Currently, IBM is the second largest technology employer in Massachusetts.

The IBM Mass Lab is home to some of the best and brightest minds in the industry. While its the largest in North America, the IBM Mass Lab is one of 70 Software Labs IBM has around the globe.

The IBM Mass Lab is exclusively focused on the design and development of software to respond to customers’ computing challenges. For example, IBM offers software that manages IT infrastructures and applications more effectively, helps people collaborate, reduces IT costs, and makes smarter decisions to optimize business performance.

The IBM Mass Lab is also developing software for the new era of enterprise mobile computing. The explosion and sophistication of devices have generated a mountain of data, countless transactions, and increased complexity leading to a convergence of IT and mobility.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Microsoft Expands Presence in Cambridge

Microsoft's plan to expand its formidable research and development footprint in Massachusetts is a huge boost to our tech community and the state's economy. Since the company's Northeast Research and Development Center opened, it has become a central gathering place for the Commonwealth's technology ecosystem hosting events and driving initiatives in multiple sectors ranging from mobile to social media to robotics.

Microsoft's commitment to expansion in our community will add jobs to the local economy, while also adding to the region's cache thus helping to attract and retain entrepreneurs and innovators, who themselves are creating new companies and new jobs for the Greater Boston area. I am pleased to share with you some thoughts about the expansion from Gus Weber, Business Development and Community Relations Manager, Microsoft.

It's All About the Community!
When I'm asked what is so special about being a technologist in Boston -- my answer is always simple: It's the community. But more than that, it's the way that the community comes together, often fostered by a fantastic champion. Here in Boston, we're lucky that the Mass Technology Leadership Council, with its deep roots in the industry is that ardent champion. The work that MassTLC has done to increase the visibility of the industry locally and nationally, to inspire young entrepreneurs, to provide a forum with our elected officials, and to create opportunities for the industry to collaborate are key reasons why the greater Boston tech community is one of the most vibrant in the country, and in turn a big reason why Microsoft has laid down roots in Kendall Square.

It's an honor to have the opportunity to partner with an organization as tireless as MassTLC. Our partnership with them goes back many years (and through many renditions of the council), and as we look ahead to next year -- we're excited to see so many new opportunities to do more for the community. A core part of our mission at NERD is to be a great supporter and enabler of the tech ecosystem in Boston -- and we're proud of the work we have done with MassTLC and the community since we first opened our doors two years ago!

Today, we're thrilled to announce that we are expanding NERD and further deepening our community roots. We are leasing and renovating 113,000 sq. ft. of office space at One Cambridge Center in the heart of Kendall Square in order to accommodate our growing R&D presence. This expansion represents our continued commitment to and investment in the greater Boston technology ecosystem. You can learn more about our expansion by visiting our NERD blog.

We're excited about continuing our mission to enable the technology ecosystem in Boston and to work with great partners, like MassTLC. Hopefully we'll see you at an upcoming MassTLC Tech Tuesday event at NERD, or at one of the many other great tech events in the community.

Contributed by Gus Weber, Business Development and Community Relations Manager, Microsoft

Monday, May 24, 2010

Constant Contact Acquires California-based Nutshell Mail; Let's Celebrate!

Waltham-based Constant Contact today announced that it acquired Menlo Park-based NutshellMail, adding a new social media offering to complement its email marketing, event marketing and online survey tool for its 350,000 small business and nonprofit customers. Read more about the announcement.

Every time a local company gets acquired we hear a collective moan from the tech community while acquisitions by local companies often slip by unnoticed. I think its time we took a page out of Bill Warner's Play Big Play Book and start celebrating our local successes. As a channel to the SMB market, Constant Contact was a success before the acquisition. With today's news, its time to celebrate!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

MassChallenge Global Start-up Competition

MassChallenge is launching a global startup competition with $1M in awards to accelerate the launch and success of high-growth, high-impact new businesses. Anyone can enter, with any idea, from anywhere in the world. Physical activities will take place in Massachusetts where innovation resources are highly concentrated, and entrants will gain unprecedented access to the world's best mentors, advisors and investors.

Learn more about this excellent opportunity for up and coming entrepreneurs: and enter online here: http://www.masschallenge.org/

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Entrepreneurship & the Cloud

We had a great discussion and good showing at MassTLC's Entrepreneurship & The Cloud event the British Consulate in Cambridge. As moderated by Gene Landy, Attorney, Chair of Technology Business Group @ Ruberto, Israel and Weiner and Cory Von Wallenstein, VP, Product Management @ Dyn, Inc. . Gene guided the business and legal related aspects to the conversation whereas Cory handled the tech side.

The panel consisted of four entrepreneurs from a pretty diverse set of young companies:
- Matthew R. Grace, Co-Founder & CTO, Objective Logistics, LLC, www.objectivelogistics.com (B-to-B services for restaurants created on Microsoft Azure)
- Ariel Jatib, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, RocketMatter, www.rocketmatter.com, (Online legal practice management, time and billing software - legal SaaS.)
- Adam Kocoloski, Founder & CTO, Cloudant, Inc. www.cloudant.com (Cloud based high performance database services)
- James D. St. Jean, CTO, JitterJam.com (Marketing services that taps into social networks)

While everyone had found very impressive and unique uses of technologies from MS/Azure, Google, Amazon and Rackspace (to name a few,) much of the conversation centered around some of the more yet-standardized aspects of basing a business on the cloud. Everyone seemed to have some experience, knowledge and questions regarding PCI compliance (credit card data security) and extremely sensitive data in general. In Matt from Objective Logistics case, the fact that his software/service integrates with POS systems in restaurants presented his team with a variety of considerations -- even though his company isn't even handling credit card data. Ariel from RocketMatter spoke more to the handling of very sensitive documents like legal forms and client data that is a core component of providing legal SaaS. James D. St. Jean pointed out that JitterJam has been able to bypass many of the issues with PCI compliance by embedding another vendors billing interface within his site, thus passing the traffic right through and never really touching it.

While cost is often one of the first things people look at when evaluating a cloud/hosting vendor (or anything for that matter) -- several other considerations were noted. Matt from OL spoke to the fact that Azure offers a variety of nice features... from a tight integration with VB, to adaptable billing models, and on potentially more optic level - the fact that almost everyone in the restaurant business is using one core Microsoft OS or another. Adam from Cloudant has some insights to share regarding vendor consideration with regard to specific utilization/technology -- as well as some of the things to consider if anyone should look to migrate or cloud hop.

Of particular note was a question asked from the audience at the end of the event. Someone asked the panel to define "the difference between the public and enterprise cloud." While there were some similarities in response from the panel, it was clear that there's not one definition the industry agrees upon just yet... and that to a large extent the flexibility and adaptability of cloud computing/hosting really makes it a "user defined" technology. Cory wrapped things up by saying a definition that he's heard that covers it all is "outsourced IT done the right way."

Don't miss our event this coming Tuesday, May 11th -- a panel of experts are providing their advice on building revenue momentum in a SaaS business. Event details and registration.

Thanks to our panel, UKTI for hosting the event and Cloud Cluster sponsors Hosted Solutions, IBM, Iron Mountain, Navisite, Ruberto, Israel & Weiner and UKTI.


Post contributed by Christine Nolan, Director of Communities, MassTLC