Friday, November 14, 2014

unCon 2014 Session: Reverse Pitches

By: Ellen Askey

We looked into pain points in the private and public sectors that could be addressed by local startups. Below, find a list of each sector’s needs.

Private side:
  • Constant Contact seeks tools for visual design that can keep up with the agile development. Contact Ken Surdan at ksurdan@constantcontact.com
  • Agero, a roadside assistance company responsible for 75M vehicles, is looking to automate their large contact center; the replacement would follow a decision tree using cognitive automation. Contact Julian Bourne at jbourne@agero.com
  • Konica Minolta, which provides digital product solutions and services, has an innovation division that seeks help starting a R&D center in Boston for graphene, 3D printing, and life sciences. Contact Jim Daniell at jdaniell@oxfamerica.org
  • Calling tech start-ups to show their product at the Innovation Showcase of MIT’s CIO Symposium, hosted by the Sloan Alumni Association. It’s an environment with a lot of visibility; the evaluators select startups that would be of interest to CIOs and CEOs there. Those CIOs may also be interested in the state’s innovation projects. To apply for the showcase, visit http://www.mitcio.com/innovation. You may also contact Anton Teodorescu at antont@mitcio.com


Public side:

Guiding questions included: How does Mass become easier to do business with? How can we look to municipal solutions and scale them for the whole state?

Bill Oates, Commonwealth Chief Information Officer, outlined many challenges that MassIT is trying to address:
  • Volume of people receiving health insurance
  • A way to do faster, more iterative projects
  • Education team – trying to improve how the education sector uses technology
  • Digital engagement with MA citizens (a platform over which people can cooperate with the Commonwealth; anyone can provide tech support)
  • IT support for local governments – MassIT can help through municipal services team 
  • Connect state employees to mobile
  • Challenges in procurement and contracting
  • Revamp Mass.gov
  • Take advantage of social platforms; general digital interaction


MassIT’s more specific needs include:
  • Online sign-up system, like for parks (something like Rapid Apps)
  • Platforms to keep track of:
    • Data sets (could Evernote work?)
    • Software inventory of the state’s assets (for example, how many copies of Microsoft Office do we have?). Steven Strassmann envisions a dashboard of the inventory. Contact him at steve.strassmann@state.ma.us
    • Licensing needs (i.e. hairdressing license) through the commonwealth – we need something more interactive. The platform could track different licensing types; users could fill in all applications and track their progress, all in one platform, avoiding the current frustration of filling out PDFs. Contact Kevin Martin at kevin.martin@state.ma.us
  • Leverage open data for businesses (not secure or private data). Contact Mariko Davidson at mariko.davidson@state.ma.us
  • Use different types of data other than state sources. (For example, LinkedIn data cold help map out the business landscape of the state). Contact Christ Scranton at scranton@masstech.org
  • Ideas for how to motivate and attract talent. Contact Steve Strassmann at steve.strassmann@state.ma.us. Luella Wong mentioned the idea of a sabbatical between public and private work, like “public/private cross-pollination.” Contact her at luella.wong@state.ma.us
  • Repository for regulations/permits for large events – something like a state website for event organizers and participants. It could give heads up for traffic; it would integrate municipal/state events, regulations, etc.


A more effective way to track what’s going on in the business process between the business and tech side.  Instead of people communicating what they think is going on, we need a way to map what’s actually going on. We need a more agile, effective way to map out truth/fiction. Contact Joan Matsumoto at joan.matsumoto@state.ma.us

MassIT has team members ready to talk with you about potential solutions. Don’t hesitate to contact them, and be sure to check out the twitter handle @massachusettsIT

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