Monday, January 30, 2017

Manufacturing Grant Office Hours – January 25, 2017

As part of our Advanced Manufacturing Futures Fund Program grant, we meet with entrepreneurs, startups and scaling companies to offer advice and where to go next as well as personal contact introductions.  Wednesday Peter Russo from MassMEP and Joyce Sidopoulos met with Matt Scheuer from Electrona Robotics. 

Electrona Robotics developed a tough, flexible, affordable miniROV platform. It can shoot HD video, carry sensors, and recover objects under 200 feet of freezing cold water in total darkness, or it can simply help children and students explore under the local dock.

Our goal: to introduce Matt to local manufacturers and supply chain – so his product could ultimately be Made in Massachusetts.

Figure 1  Matt is showing Peter how the system works

Figure 2  Peter takes a closer inspection
We were able to make recommendations to Matt and introduce him to some contacts who will help move his product along. 
Matt will be moving from New York to the Boston area because of the access to incubators like MassRobotics, accelerators like MassChallenge and mentor/connectors like MassMEP.  Matt will be participating in one of our MassDevelopment sponsored Fast Pitch for Solutions panel in the future.


Manufacturing Rocket Pitch for Solutions – January 25, 2017

The MassTLC/MassRobotics/MassMEP team under the Advanced Manufacturing Futures Fund Program grant, funded by MassDevelopment, held our second “Manufacturing Rocket Pitch for Solutions” on 25 January 2017 at MassRobotics in Boston.

Our goal:  to help robotics, IoT and hardware start-ups and scale-ups grow and commercialize their products by connecting them with the local manufacturers and supply chain – turning great ideas into great products Made in Massachusetts.

Our A-Team Expert Panel with over 100 years of experience between them was moderated by Peter Russo from MassMEP and included:

·         Eddie Freitas, Algonquin Industries Inc. / Hi-tech Metals Inc.

·         Harald Quintus-Bosz, Cooper Perkins

·         Steve Graham, Toner/S&E/Modern Mold Plastics

·         Rich Breault, Lightspeed Manufacturing
Figure 1 Peter Russo with panelist Eddie Freitas, Harald Quintus-Bosz, Steve Graham and Rich Breault

Peter provided an introduction to the program and each panelist offered tips to startups about what they should know about manufacturing and offered best practices.
Startup presentations by Mary Ellen Sparrow (Next Shift), Jessy Cusack (Magurobotics, Daniel Ozick (Computing Exportations), Bryanne Leeming (Unruly Studios) and Sampriti Bhattacharyya and Ryan Lacy (Hydroswarm) included discussion on manufacturing challenges.
NextShift Robotics  is a material handling product that increases the productivity and lowers the cost of e-commerce order fulfillment and manufacturing processes.  The product contains an integrated fulfillment and mobile robot system that uses proprietary and intelligent software to direct robot traffic management while automatically loading and unloading the totes to the shipping and storage shelving. By sending robots from location to location instead of people, efficiency is increased and labor is reduced. Plus, NextShift uses your existing facility and infrastructure, adapting to your changing workflows.
Figure 2 Mary Ellen points to the roller that has caused some challenges
Magurobotics has designed and developed a first-of-its-kind robotic fishing lure designed to bring realistic and dependable swimming motion to your dead bait fish.  They are introducing the product Zombait, which is intended for salt water anglers.  Their patent-pending device has been engineered to fit easily inside the bait of your choice and activate when submerged in water.
Figure 3 Jessy Cusack discusses his challenge of needing a water tight product
Computing Explorations, LLC began as the collaboration of a small group of engineers, educators, and artists who believe that learning is fundamentally a creative process.  While the organization has evolved, Computing Explorations continues to represent Daniel Ozick’s expertise in software, embedded systems, robotics, and educational technology, as well as his development of new products.
Zoot™ is a low-cost, wireless, electronic wind instrument that allows anyone to play high-quality synthetic sounds, such as clarinet, saxophone, or trumpet, with full musical expression.  Like a real wind instrument, Zoot responds to the subtleties of breath, while adding the option of motion gestures and other controls. 
To minimize costs and maximize flexibility, Zoot uses a smartphone or laptop for sound production and instrument setup and customization.  With standard recorder fingering by default, Zoot provides an ideal next step for those who play recorder, both children and adults.
Figure 4 Daniel Ozick shows his prototype to the panel
Figure 5  Rich Breault inspects the prototype
Unruly Studios (formerly JumpSmartInc.builds products that combine physical activity with STEM education to exposechildren ages 6-12 to coding in a funengaging, and memorable way.
Unruly Tiles (patent pending), is a gaming system comprised of four interactive floor tiles that light up, make sound, and sense when they are stepped on. Children ages 6-12 can play active games, music, light shows, and dance games on their feet by running to and jumping on the tiles spread across a room. They can also create their own programs for the tiles using a kid-friendly programming language (Scratch) from a wireless device.
Figure 6  Bryanne Leeming and Daniel Ozick show off their tile prototype to the panel
Hydroswarm is the first underwater intelligent micro- drone platform. They use small patented drones to make subsea data collection faster, cheaper, safer, and easier. These swarms of small autonomous drones replace expensive processes that are currently done with large ships and complex robots. They use an integrated platform of patented scalable hardware, software, and data to save our customers money and explore the ocean.
Figure 7  Sampriti explains the challenges of submerging to 250 meters

There was informative and productive discussion between all startups and manufacturers.  A special thanks to Peter Russo from MassMEP and our expert panel for their donated time and expertise!

And to our host:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Future of Talent: Radical Approaches to Onboarding

Tuesday January 24th we had a packed house for the first in a series of partner events with General Assembly on The Future of Talent.

Radical Approaches to Onboarding brought light to Wayfair's Wayfair Labs program which is a part bootcamp, part coaching program to help place L1 Engineers into the right teams by assessing their skills and then filling gaps if possible before determining if or where the best fit at Wayfair is. Rosa Carson, Director of the program gave an overview and then let the audience hear from an alum of the program and an engineering manager who's a beneficiary of getting qualified talent through it.

Matthew Doucette, Director of Global Talent Acquisition at Monster followed up the presentation by engaging the audience in a discussion of how they can implement aspects of a program like this when their company might lack the household name.

See what you missed or get a refresh below:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Robotics Cluster Meeting Hosted at MassRobotics: January 19, 2017

Over 60 attendees gathered during our First Robotics Cluster meeting this year as we celebrated in the accomplishment of new MassRobotics space.  Members of the MassTLC cluster helped develop the initial plan for this space and have promoted its necessity and value since 2014.

MassRobotics Executive Director, Tom Ryden, provided information on the 14,000 square foot space which is able to house 30+ companies and has 4 private offices, conference rooms, private and shared work space as well as a large industrial area with private and shared lab benches and shared resources (electronics lab/machine shop).  Tom also shared information on plans to build out another 25000 square feet on another floor in the building.
Figure 1  Tom Ryden, MassRobotics Executive Director, shows renderings of another 25000 square feet to be built
Short introductions were provided by initial startups who will be residents in the new space:

- Air Force Research Lab, Human Machine Social Systems (HMSS) Program
- American Robotics     
- Brain Robotics Capital
- Hurdler Motors
- Square Robot
- New Valance Robotics
Figure 2  Charlene Stokes describes the AFRL/HMSS mission
Figure 3  Pei Qi from Brain Robotics Capital describes their goals
Howie Porter from Arrow Electronics described the program that Arrow has provided to MassRobotics residents. This not only includes hardware and electronics equipment for the shared lab space, but a private customer portal that will allow residents to compare and evaluate various components along with discount code for ordering items.
To close the meeting, Tom described the recent announcement that Massachusetts will anchor the northeastern node for the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute (ARM).  This was a collaboration of several local universities including MIT/CSAIL, Northeastern University, UMass Lowell and WPI, and private industry partners – as well as MassRobotics!
Thank you to our meeting host:
Beer & Bots Networking
THANK YOU to Arrow Electronics for sponsoring our Beer & Bots Networking event!  It was a great celebration in the new MassRobotics space!
Figure 5 Beer and Bots host, Mike Roan and Alex Wilson
Figure 4  Arrow Electronics Representatives


Thursday, January 19, 2017

MassTLC/MassDevelopment Advanced Manufacturing Futures Program Grant Status and a Visit to WPI

MassTLCs Advanced Manufacturing Futures Fund Program grant work is well underway.  Our goal:  to help robotics, IoT and hardware start-ups and scale-ups grow and commercialize their products by connecting them with the local manufacturers and supply chain.  These grant funds enable us to help our community by providing the knowledge and resources they need to bring great ideas to great products - Made in Massachusetts. 

We held our first in a series of seminars with rocket pitches from startups - receiving instant advice from a diverse manufacturing panel of experts.  Our second event will be held at MassRobotics in Boston on 25 January from 4:00 – 6:00 pm – register <here>. We are working to host additional events in February and March throughout the state – Springfield on March 2nd and WPI on March 16th.  If you are interested in participating – please contact Joyce at

Thanks to Professor Michael Gennert for a terrific visit to the WPI robotics lab at Gateway Park, Worcester:



Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Primer on Civic Tech Context and Trends

By Annmarie Levins, General Manager, Technology & Civic Engagement, Microsoft

What is Civic Tech? 

“Civic Tech” is the use of technology for the public good, with applications designed to address shared problems and opportunities.  The term encompasses the ecosystem of people and organizations working toward this goal, the collaborative and agile development approaches they embrace, and the tech solutions they produce. 

Civic tech responds to and has been shaped by a variety of other movements and trends:
       ·        Release of open data for transparency, collaboration, and economic impact

·        Increasing demand for citizen engagement and involvement (often mediated by IT)

·        Governments and communities being expected to accomplish more with fewer resources

·        Integration of data and data analytics into society, including smart cities efforts

·        Technology workers and companies’ increasing interest in skills-based volunteering and societal impact

·        Open source tools, approaches, communities, and polices

·        Cities’ aspirations to nurture tech-enabled economic development across sectors

The ecosystem of civic tech is broad, encompassing dedicated new groups but also evolving missions and responsibilities within governments at all levels, civic service organizations, innovation incubators, philanthropies, universities, social entrepreneurs, companies of all sizes, and policy makers.  It is also highly-networked, with people moving often, following projects and into newly created jobs and organizations.  For example, within government, the past 5-10 years have seen an explosion of new positions[1]  e.g., Chief Innovation Officers, Chief Data Officers, Chief Digital Officers, Chief Technology Officers – whose mission often include figuring out and interacting with the local civic tech ecosystem.  

These trends and movements are not limited to the U.S.  Many countries are hungry for these new engagement models.  A key attribute of civic tech, however, is the focus on local priorities and communities.  Thus, how civic tech becomes real in different geographies, including the balance between government and community leadership, will depend greatly on local needs and culture. 

Civic Tech’s Importance to the Tech Industry

Civic tech is a new way of developing and deploying solutions that will infiltrate and shape how customers, partners, and stakeholders expect to interact with and use technology.  It is characterized by:
·        User-centric and agile design and development processes, with an emphasis on inclusivity, and

·        Non-hierarchical models – different groups inspire, develop, validate, operate, maintain/improve, use, and pay for civic tech solutions.

Thus, established tech companies need to think not only about how they can engage with civic tech projects within the civic tech ecosystem, but they also need to consider the broader markets in which civic tech-inspired or enabled products and processes are becoming the established norm.  A 2014 IDC study estimated the annual market for government spending on transformation of citizen services and data sharing and analysis within government at $6.4 billion.[2]   

Many services offered by established tech companies are, or can be, particularly relevant to the civic tech community.  Data analytics and visualization technologies are certainly central, and tools that enable collaboration and connections also resonate with the core inclusive engagement principles of civic tech.  But it is not enough for private companies to have products and services that can further the civic tech mission.  Being relevant to this community requires sustained involvement with civic customers in real time as they are considering how to address real challenges and at the incubation stage as new models of partnership and services are being developed.  Authentic, sustained engagement is critical to participate in the ecosystem over the long term.  There are significant parallels here to open source and its technical, legal, and cultural consequences.  Like open source, products and experiences from civic tech will influence government and business customers, and ultimately inform their tech-related processes and choices. 

For government, the experimentation with civic tech is occurring now.  Examples include government-led offices like US Digital Service and 18F and UK Government Digital Services at the national level, and collaborative efforts like the work of New Urban Mechanics, UI LABS, and mySociety at the regional and local levels.[3]  These experiences will drive the formal integration of civic tech models into regulation and practices for procurement, delivery, and partnerships. 

The civic tech community is also now tackling its challenges around scalability and sustainability.  Civic tech leaders have begun to appreciate that established companies can bring the know-how, networks, and technical resources to help address these challenges, and are open to learning and services from them that help develop and extend solutions that operate reliably and securely at scale.

Governments, Civic Tech, and Tech Companies Should Work Together

By participating in the civic tech ecosystem, tech companies will have front row seats to the digital transformation of government and civic services.  They will benefit by learning firsthand the interests and needs of this innovative sector, and can apply this learning to the development of their products and services.  Likewise, civic technologists will benefit from deep engagement by established tech companies, which have experience in developing products and services that are sustainable, scalable, and compliant with regulatory requirements.   Finally, for governments, partnership with the civic tech ecosystem offers a path to deliver 21st century services and to build deeper connections to constituents.

Further Reading

The seminal study on the field of civic tech is The Knight Foundation’s report,  The Emergence of Civic Tech: Investments in a Growing Field (December 2013). The report was the first serious research on the field of civic tech.  It maps the field, identifies trends, studies investment activity and sources of funding, and highlights the strategic implications for potential investors and government.   More current is the excellent work by Micah Sifry, Matt Stempeck, and Erin Simpson, What Is Civic Tech: Toward Finalizing A Basic Framework So That We Can Move On With It Already  (Spring 2016), which provides a comprehensive catalog of “the common functions” of civic tech.

The more recent short articles provide additional background:

·        Towards a Taxonomy of Civic Technology (Microsoft on the Issues, April 2016) This blog describes the results of collaborative research by Microsoft’s Tech & Civic Engagement team and Civic Hall in New York.  The taxonomy consists of four parts: a clear definition of civic tech, a categorical index of civic tech’s technical functions, a study of the social processes in which civic tech engages, and cross-cutting analytical questions.

·        How Civic Interests Are Helping Shape Government Innovation  (Government Technology, July 2016) This article describes how civic tech emerged from passion of individual hackers to more organized movement with government buy-in.  Examples from the City of Seattle, a discussion of the market opportunity, and a review of venture investments.

·        Obama and His Geeks (Fast Company, June 2015) This article provides an in-depth look at how President Obama staffed the US Digital Services and 18f as tech innovation offices within government by drawing employees from major tech companies in Silicon Valley.  It makes clear how a civic tech approach to delivering government services can profoundly change government procurement.

·        Why Civic Tech Is the Next Big Thing (Forbes, June 2015) This piece traces the development of civic tech and discusses the growing investments by venture capital in the area and the opportunities, especially for entrepreneurs, to serve the government market.

·        The CIO Problem Part 1 and The CIO Problem Part 2: Innovation (Code for America blog, May 2016) by Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director of Code for America.  Blogs describe the various tech roles that governments need to fill and how they have evolved.  She distinguishes the role of Chief Information Officers (modernizing government tools and services, transforming them to work as seamlessly consumer digital services) from that of Chief Innovation Officers (cultivating ecosystems to enable new and unanticipated use cases using government data and transactions). 

[1] See blogs by Jen Pahlka in the Additional Information section below. 
[2] Another area where civic tech’s influence can be seen is the evolving effort to assess and implement “smart cities” in more flexible, more inclusive ways than earlier system integrator-driven vison of command and control. 
[3] How governments and civic tech community work together, and who leads at various phases, is still evolving.  Challenges include how external organizations can work collaboratively on development without being precluded from later procurements, how governments can receive services and benefits without providing funding, and how to ensure continuity of services.  There are also internal tensions within governments on the roles and authorities of new governmental offices and these new external organizations. 

New Year, New Leadership: Apperian Welcomes Mark Lorion

After recent acquisition of Boston mobile app management platform, Apperian, by San Franciso based mobile application attack prevention and IoT security company Arxan technologies, Mark Lorion has been named the new leader to the Boston business.

Lorion rang in the New Year next in line to lead, after Apperian’s former CEO, Brian Day, stepped down to pursue new career opportunities at Fuze. . Though parting ways from Apperian, Day has no doubts about the future success of the company. “Apperian is in great Hand’s with Mark,” he said. After all, it was Day himself who recommended Lorion to Arxan CEO Joe Sander.

Lorion’s resume proved him a clearly qualified candidate for the position having been a member of Apperian’s team for over four years. "It’s exciting. I've been in the trenches with these guys for a long time. We have the battle scars and trophies to show it," Mark spoke of Apperian. "I'm happy to be in the trenches with them."

Mark Lorion is a MassTLC Board Member as well as a co-fouder of MassTLC’s signature event: Boston TechJam. 

Given Lorion’s previous experience, Arxan’s consumer focus, and Apperian’s enterprise outlook, both with strong ties to the city, the two companies foresee a strong future with business opportunity to combine selling efforts across diverse markets. "Apperian does a great job at securing apps in the enterprise — apps used by employees, contractors” said Day. "What Arxan does a great job is securing apps that are publicly available.  No one wants their banking app hacked. If you think about it, it’s a pretty good fit."

The possibilities for this new acquisition seem limitless right now. Congratulations and best of luck to Mark Lorion as he takes on this new venture!

Photo and quotes from BostInno