Connect at Venture Café Mini-Conferences

If you’re from the Boston/Cambridge area and in the innovation community, it’s very likely that you’ve found yourself at Venture Café Kendall recently, hosted every Thursday at CIC Cambridge. These events are inarguably the preeminent networking gathering in the area. As a matter of fact, several hundred people attend each week.

We’re going to highlight one of Venture Café Kendall’s rarer events, Mini-Conferences.  

The most recent one was hosted in August, centering around financial technologies and coinciding with FinTech Connect 2017 which “seeks to bring together the brightest minds who are building, funding, and innovating in the Greater Boston area’s FinTech Community.”

Mini-Conferences still offer the ample opportunity to make connections and check out what’s new in the innovation scene, but feature additional programming such as Flash Talks, which are 30-minute in-depth conversations about particular subfields. FinTech Connect 2017 had Flash Talks which were very wide in scope. One, for example, talked about how robo-advisors are disrupting the everyday of Wall Street, while another enabled its audience to understand personal data as its own asset that could be bought and sold. Moreover, all of the night’s events culminated in an entrepreneurs’ panel (including some CICers) of whom had already navigated the choppy waters of creating a FinTech startup.

Brian Axline, founder and CEO of Lucro (second from left) demos the product to FinTech Connect attendees.

Brian Axline, founder and CEO of Lucro (second from left) demos the product to FinTech Connect attendees.

One CIC member, Lucro, had a booth at Venture Café that evening. We chatted with them to learn more about their FinTech start up and reflections on their experience at the Thursday Gathering. Lucro’s platform enables “real estate investors and professionals [to] securely create and share institutional-grade financial models in minutes [by consolidating] all deal functions into a single, industry-standard platform, ensuring consistency across organizations and the industry in general.” That’s a lot! But imagine, if you will, a platform that brings together every possible piece of financial information for any given property! Lucro came to CIC Cambridge for the sake of practicality and their ability to scale and grow with us. They have also found that the benefits of being at CIC are pretty great (e.g. getting to be in featured in blog posts).

The team at Lucro said this was the biggest event they’d seen at Venture Café Kendall! They reveled in the opportunity to “speak with a number of VCs and get valuable feedback. [They] talked with a company (RateGravity) that offers a complementary service who is also in the real-estate space, and traded tech thoughts.” Interestingly enough, RateGravity also has a CIC connection as they were a TechStars company when the accelerator was housed at CIC Boston.

Now that you’ve seen the potential of one of these events, join the Venture Café folks at the next one! The next Mini-Conference will be Robotics Connect on Thursday, September 28.

 

Can tools for innovation help achieve racial equity?

Today, we feature a post from a Guest Blogger; it was written by CIC St. Louis's Ian Reed.

At CIC, we tend to use lofty language. We talk about “fixing the world through innovation” and improving the human condition. Our goal is to create communities that connect resources, talent, and ideas in order to speed progress, and we came to St. Louis to do just that. But in light of recent events, I’ve found myself wondering: how do those ideas play out on the ground? How do concepts that serve innovation and design thinking improve people’s lives?

I’ve observed something while working at CIC St. Louis: innovation is iterative. It’s impossible to launch a company, product, or service that’s fully formed, and continued edits and re-imaginings are essential to staying relevant and effective. This principle applies as broadly as you’d like to look, all the way up to society itself. Our nation has gone through many iterations and disruptions to arrive at the present version, and there were serious bugs in the system along the way.

Major injustices took place throughout the founding of the US, and are still ingrained in its DNA. Millions of people were abducted in the Atlantic Slave Trade and brought to a new land against their will. About a hundred years after our founding, we recognized that this violated one of our core principles, equality, and legally ended slavery. This updated America was more in line with our ideals, but did not fully solve the problem.

Immigrants have been legally excluded or had their numbers limited due to suspicion and fear, a bug that is creeping back into our system now. Japanese citizens have been held in internment camps. Jim Crow laws and legal segregation, designed to maintain the established social order, began to be slowly addressed and dismantled. These “glitches” in society span from papal declarations in 1452 to realities we continue to face, like redlining or the racial wealth gap.

Like many cities, St. Louis is being called to actively fix these errors. They’re being addressed in the streets as I write.

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Anthony Lamar Smith is the latest in a long line of people who did not receive the justice our country promised them. The Fifth Amendment of our constitution is meant to guarantee that no one will “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Fourteenth adds that the state cannot “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” These amendments neither create a moral threshold to earn these protections, nor allow public servants to dissolve them at will.

This is how Anthony was failed. His death represents the injustice that’s brought me and thousands of others off of the sidewalks and into the streets over the past few days. This particular case, regardless of its specifics, reiterates a long history of oppression, and any choice that bypasses due process shows us, once again, how broken and unbalanced our justice system can be. These protests are a disruption created to call attention to this ongoing systemic racism, one of the deadliest (and most costly) bugs in the system.

It is possible to value policing and the lives of officers while expecting consistently excellent conduct. When done well, it’s a service that strengthens our communities and protects lives. Perhaps as policing continues to iterate, departments will innovatively incorporate cognitive science to address unconscious racial bias.

It’s also possible to support and take part in protests while expecting skillful organization and a lack of violence. May our efforts for racial equity be iterative and innovative as well.

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The situation we find ourselves in is complex, but beginning where things are messy often leads us to the best outcomes. In the same ways an early startup needs the most attention (the most love, if you will) during its messy phase, so too do we need to meet this city and these protestors with compassion and attention.

When we don’t know where the answer lies, all we can do is start with an informed view and begin to walk toward our best available option. Then we take stock of what we learn, adjust, and start out again. I hope we will all take on the challenge to create innovative, iterative solutions for the problems facing our city and country today. Together we can create the best possible version of America.


CIC is always working to better live out our values and mission. Our St. Louis staff recently formed an internal Racial Equity Team to address the ways racism and white supremacy affect the community we’re building. We’re committed to continual learning and assessment of our spaces and policies to ensure they serve all people well.  As our CEO and Founder Tim Rowe stated in response to the events in Charlottesville,  “there is no place at CIC for racism.  There is no place for discrimination against women, against the members of any religion, against our the LGBTQ+ community at CIC, or against any other group.  Each of these groups has been and continues to be marginalized in our society.  Let’s be a place where that is not true.”

The Racial Equity Team holds a session at Venture Cafe on the third Thursday of each month to open space for ongoing dialogue on these topics, and we hope you’ll join us at 5:30, or in upcoming months. We’ll be in the Chuck Berry conference room at 4240 Duncan Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110.

CIC Takes the North Shore

Today, we feature a post from a Guest Blogger; it was written by CIC Boston's Shellie Cohen.

Often, when I wander through our floors here at CIC, I find myself passing offices and becoming suddenly struck by the thought, “I wonder what they do?” Recently, I was lucky enough to get the most detailed answer to that question ever, and went on a trip to Saugus with the irreplaceable Bill Scott and Sam Linehan of Scitus Engineering on the 11th floor here at CIC Boston. Bill, Sam, and Kevin Baker are the members of the software team who build mobile apps, analytical dashboards, connected device software, and much more.

CIC Staffers Shellie Cohen (left) and Julia Hansen (center) watch CCG's Mark Flannigan (right) demonstrate on a milling machine.

CIC Staffers Shellie Cohen (left) and Julia Hansen (center) watch CCG's Mark Flannigan (right) demonstrate on a milling machine.

On this amazing mid-day field trip to Saugus I was introduced to the hardware side of Scitus Engineering, including their parent company CCG (Central Centerless Grinding), Mark Flanagan (CEO) and James Paolino (CTO). These two are the perfect pair: the smartest guy in science class and the best guy in shop class became best friends and great partners with Scitus when their interests crossed paths at their mutual passion for engineering. Each device that they pulled out to show us had a story behind it, and the work that was put into every single piece of machinery was evident as they walked us through their processes,trials, and errors with their projects.

Scitus and CCG split up their operations between Boston and Saugus, using CIC Boston as a place for the software team to work because it houses classier meeting space and an easy location to meet with representatives from outside companies. During the tour of their shop in Saugus–which was very interesting to walk through, especially from the point of view of someone who knows nothing about how machine shops work–I learned about some of the projects that they have taken on and their process for finding and working with clients. While CCG has worked with companies as large and well renowned as NASA and Phillips, both Scitus and CCG aren’t above helping out anyone with any of their engineering questions. They have had people come in at every stage of the idea process–from just an inkling of an idea all the way to a finished product that must run more efficiently–and they seem to be genuinely excited about the prospect of new challenges. CCG and Scitus mainly focus on medical devices, and although they showed us endoscopes, blood testing machines, and a handheld vision testing device which uses a reconfigured iPhone, they also showed us some work they had done for an orange grove: a simple patented blade that increases juice production by up to 8%, as well as a headphone cord management project they had worked on with a couple of college students.

Scitus, here at their office in Boston, welcomes the opportunity to review concepts and can provide fully confidential and legal measures to protect the ownership of any ideas that CIC members may have! Their team, including Bill, Sam, and Kevin here, and also Mark and James in Saugus, can offer expert insight into software architecture and development to high level product design for better manufacturability and assembly. CCG also runs eight-week training sessions in Saugus that anyone can participate in, to learn how to use milling machines, perfect design, and optimize their product for the task at hand. If you have any questions, want to work with them, or are interested to know more, contact them at engineering@scitusengineering.com or (781) 233-5229.

Connecting entrepreneurship & art in Miami

CIC Miami's general manager, Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, just published a piece in Huffington Post about their awesome arts efforts! Click to read more, or check out the excerpt below:

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"At CIC Miami, our mission is to change the world through innovation by developing ecosystems that allow exceptional entrepreneurs to create new products and companies better and faster. We enable startups to connect, collaborate and grow by building resource-rich communities. Since opening in Miami in October 2016 as part of the Converge Miami innovation district, we have tried to not only become a center of entrepreneurial and innovative activity in our city, but also to reflect the artistic personality and dynamism that Miami is known for. As such, we have worked with numerous local craftsmen, artists, and designers for both permanent installations and temporary activations of our space."

The Buried Treasures of Form 1040

Today, we feature a post from a Guest Contributor. It was written by Robert Traester, CPA, of WithumSmith+Brown, a current member at CIC Cambridge. 

For many taxpayers, the Form 1040 consists of just a few important lines of information: Demographic information, a W-2 (or a few), maybe a couple of 1099s, and most importantly the lines at the end that show if you owe money or can expect a nice refund. However, if you look closely at the form, you may notice some buried treasures that get you asking, “what exactly is this and who does this apply to?”

1.     Presidential Election Campaign Fund

Hidden amongst all of the demographic detail, you might notice a box for the presidential election campaign. This may present some questions to both the novice and even the more experienced taxpayer. Aren’t all candidates rich these days? Aren’t they all funded by Super PACs? Why do they need any more of my money? Why is the amount three dollars?

One important concept to point out right away is that this box does not impact your tax liability, it simply dictates if you want three dollars of the taxes you’ve paid to go to this designated public fund. Many are guilty of quickly reading the bold print and moving on, but the details inside the box make note of this important concept.

The fund was originally established as a checkbox on Form 1040 in an effort to encourage presidential candidates to receive funds from the public, rather than from special interest groups. While many lobbyists still push for this checkbox to remain on the return, candidates who choose to receive money from the public fund are limited in their total spending making this notion not a realistic possibility. With so much money coming through private contributions these days and rising campaign expenses, the choice has been clear for most candidates to not take the public funds. No major-party presidential nominee has accepted the primary matching funds since Al Gore in 2000 and no nominee has accepted public funding for the general election since John McCain in 2008. In the meantime over $250 million dollars is sitting idle in a public fund. The lack of fund use has been mirrored on actual taxpayer participation, with 2015 participation down to 5.4%, a drastic change from its high of roughly 30% in 1977. While the amount did increase from $1 to $3 in 1994, many argue that the amount still remains too small to make a difference. Additionally, some have pushed to raise the spending limits for those using the fund in order to become more competitive with the amount candidates can raise privately.

The presidential election campaign line has been on Form 1040 for years and while it seems underutilized by today’s candidates, the option still remains for the public to donate three dollars of their already paid taxes to this designated fund. This is only one of the hidden treasures that exist on Form 1040.

2.     Line 24 - Certain business expenses of reservists, performing artists, and fee-basis government officials

Another buried treasure can be found on Line 24 of the form titled, “Certain business expenses of reservists, performing artists, and fee-basis government officials”.  Once again, this form item presents some questions. Why are these selected industries given a separate expense category? Who qualifies as a fee-basis government official? What’s so special about deducting the expenses here? It becomes clear why so many taxpayers just skip over this line.

First it may help to define what exactly some of these groups are. Internal Revenue Code Section 62 classifies an eligible “reservist” as a member of the National Guard or reserve members who traveled more than 100 miles from home to perform services as a National Guard or reserve member. A qualified performing artist must perform services as an artist for at least two employers, be compensated at least $200 by two or more employers, have expenses greater than 10% of this income, and have total adjusted gross income (AGI) of $16,000 or less. There are some other formalities for this one, but the overall theme is that it is meant to benefit the classic “struggling artist.” A fee-basis state or local government official applies to those employed by a state or political subdivision of a state and are compensated at least partially on a fee basis.

While one can infer how fee basis employees of the government and members of the National Guard were given this special treatment, one might wonder how jugglers were lumped into the same category. The story involves Sandra Karas who lobbied during the 1980s for this deduction, arguing that artists were an important part of the American culture and should be granted incentives, since so many financially struggle.

The benefit of this deduction is that it allows members of these select occupations to deduct eligible business expenses without the need to list them as an itemized deduction. This is particularly helpful for those taxpayers that don’t have enough other expenses to itemize and those that do itemize but are restricted by their need to exceed the “2% floor” that is often required for employee business expenses to become deductible.

One interesting piece of history regarding this deduction is the $16,000 maximum AGI that is allowed for performing artists. This figure has been fixed since 1986 and has not kept pace with inflation or even with the filing requirement threshold which has continued to increase. In 2015, single taxpayers under 65 did not have to file unless their gross income exceeded $10,300. The taxpayers for which this particular deduction applies continues to shrink with each passing year.

3.     Line 21 – “Other Income”

Line 21 has become a catch-all line that basically collects all income that doesn’t fall into another section of a taxpayer’s return. The IRS provides examples such as, prizes, jury duty pay, recapture of amounts previously deducted, taxable distributions from an HSA, etc. However, one particular type of income does stand out and presents some interesting dialogue: income from illegal activities. Once again this presents some interesting questions. Why would I tell the government about illegal activities? Can I deduct associated expenses? What are the consequences of not including this income?

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of illegal activities and failing to report associated income is one of history’s most notorious criminals; Al Capone. Al Capone was convicted of income tax evasion in 1931. Not that I condone Mr. Capone’s activities, but when you’re talking about illegal drugs, murder, and other heinous crimes, do you really want tax evasion to be the crime that puts you away?

Now in practice most criminals only report their income after they’ve already been charged for their income producing crimes. The mentality is that these individuals have already been discovered by law enforcement, why tack on another charge at that point. However, the IRS is actually legally required to not disclose confidential information unless subject to a court order. This obligation is spelled out in the IRS Publication 4639: Disclosure and Privacy Law Reference Guide and can be found under Internal Revenue Code Section 6103.

With respect to the deductibility of expenses incurred with the connection of illegal activities, the answer is every tax person’s favorite, “it depends”. For example, under 280E of the IRC, no expenses are allowed if they are associated with carrying on the trade or business of trafficking controlled substances.  More recently, this code section has been extracted to include marijuana businesses that are conducted in states where the sale of marijuana has become legal. Although marijuana sales have become legal on many state levels, the business remains illegal at a federal level and thus still falls victim to this IRC section as it’s federal law. On the other hand, court cases such as Commissioner v. Tellier do allow for the deduction of business expenses associated with an illegal activity. In this court case the defendant was allowed to deduct his legal expenses that were incurred while defending his illegal business in court, arguing that they were ordinary and necessary and that the tax should be on net income, rather than gross. As you can see, the rules can be a bit complicated, so if you’re a criminal it might be best to start talking to a CPA to figure out your best tax approach.

Conclusion

Form 1040 is full of underlying history, political compromises, and even some outdated practices. On the surface much of this may never apply to you, but next time you’re filling one out it might not hurt to take a closer look.

About the Author

Robert Traester, CPA is a Senior Tax Associate at WithumSmith+Brown. Robert can be reached at rtraester@withum.com or at 617.849.6166.

 

About Withum

WithumSmith+Brown, PC (Withum) is a full service accounting, tax and advisory firm with more than 40 years of experience. Withum works with clients ranging from startups and emerging growth companies to large public organizations across the country. Ranked in the top 30 firms in the nation, with has the experience and expertise to put you in a position of strength.

Hatred Has No Place at CIC

To the global CIC community,

The world is going through a particularly difficult period right now, characterized by hatred, fear, and division.

In the last week we have been witness to extremist/terrorist attacks in Charlottesville, Spain, Burkina Faso, and Finland.  There have been demonstrations in various cities, notably those of white supremacists in Charlottesville.  Their rhetoric and actions demand that we think carefully about who we are and what matters to us in our society.

"Our society" is not something simply given to us.  It is something that we create for each other, every day, in our actions, words, and the other ways that we express our values in our home and work lives.

At CIC we strive to create a platform where bright minds of all origins can work together to change the world for the better. Our job is to facilitate great ideas by removing obstacles from entrepreneurs and innovators. To actualize possibility. We would be mistaken if we thought that racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia are not barriers to this.

Here in the U.S. we have faced many conflicts, including conflicts of the same nature as those that have occurred last week.  We as a nation have not always agreed with one another.  Even the concept of "America" is multi-faceted and ever-changing, a living document.  Much like CIC, our great American experiment will only work if we engage with it. Let’s draw hope from this because it means we have opportunities to act upon the values we care most about. 

There will always be setbacks, but what matters is our reaction to those setbacks. We can stand up for our values and continue to define what we wish to be our American experience.  Some would say that it is not inevitable that we will create a better world.  I believe it is.  It is because I believe, as President Obama recently said, that it is more natural to love than to hate.  In the end, love will win, if we make it so.

The values I express here are the values of CIC as well, and we are not afraid to espouse them in the world.  There is no place at CIC for racism.  There is no place for discrimination against women, against members of any religion, against the LGBTQ+ community, or against any other group.

We will not take for granted that we are part of the conversation and we will never stop showing up for what we believe in.

Thank you for being part of the CIC experiment.

Tim Rowe, CIC Founder and CEO

CIC Miami strengthens relations with Chile to promote entrepreneurial exchange, innovation, and collaboration

As we at CIC Miami prepared to open last year, we worked to identify key areas of strategic and programmatic focus to guide our efforts. We fundamentally believe that our success is defined by the value we add to the entrepreneurial communities we expand to, and a large part of that value lies in identifying the unique gaps in that specific city and doing our part - mindfully, collaboratively, inclusively, excitedly - to address them.

In Miami, one such gap lay in contributing to make South Florida a more effective isthmus between Latin America and North America - a promise our city is perfectly positioned to keep, but only if we work to create tangible and bidirectional bridges between us and the region’s main innovation hubs.

In this context, Chile was a natural ally. Distinguished as one of the most robust and stable innovation engines in the continent, Chile’s startup scene has been praised as “magical” by Bloomberg News. The Chilean tech ecosystem has aggressively expanded during the last six years, primarily through various incentives spearheaded by the Chilean government through the National Development Corporation (CORFO for its acronym in Spanish). In fact, Chile was highlighted by Gust as the Nº1 country in Latam in terms of public investment.

As such, we are thrilled to announce the four inaugural agreements CIC Miami has signed with Chilean partners. These organizations represent various perspectives, stakeholders, and approaches, but stand united in their desire to foment their local ecosystem and help connect it to the U.S. via Miami. CIC Miami will be a key partner to the incubators/accelerators which receive CORFO’s Scaleup/Expansion funding, aimed at  supporting startups to increase their revenues, receive more funding, and internationalize. CORFO is also incentivizing venture capital  investment via a tax benefit for international investors that invest in a public fund based in Chile (dividend distributions and capital gains on the sale of quotas from the this fund are subject to a 10% withholding tax, instead of a tax rate of 35%).

As CIC Miami, we have been fortunate to find not just willing, but experienced and seasoned partners to sign agreements with as we set out to map out new directions from collaboration and bidirectional engagement. It is our hope that these relationships will allow entrepreneurs and innovators in Chile and Miami to access valuable information about each respective market, provide strategic connections with clients, peers, investment capital, talent, et al. Ultimately, we believe this is the first step in promoting new investment and business opportunities in both markets and look forward to working together.

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Start-up Chile - This well-known –government sponsored– public accelerator awards selected startups with up to $45,000 in non-equity funding, along with a four or six-month residency in Santiago. For their role in boosting and enlivening Chile’s economy, Fast Company named Start-Up Chile the most innovative company in Latin America in 2017.

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Chilean Association of Venture Capital -  The ACVC seeks to promote the venture capital industry in Chile by communicating the positive role of VC industry in the Chilean economy and promoting the Chilean industry to local and international entrepreneurs and investors, government, press/media and civil society. Currently composed of 12 member entities, ACVC seeks to increase capital deployments to $100 million/year, focused mainly in Pre-Series A or Series A rounds of $500.000 to $3 million.

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Endeavor Chile - Endeavor Chile seeks, selects and delivers strategic support to entrepreneurs who have the potential to become high-impact entrepreneurs. Endeavor's goal is to catalyze economic and social development through the impulse to entrepreneurship in the countries where it operates.

Endeavor helps entrepreneurs achieve the economic sustainability of their companies, generate growth and employment, become role models and foster an entrepreneurial culture that motivates more people to think big.

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Fundación Chile -  is a private non-profit organization that fosters innovation and its partners are the State of Chile and BHP-Billiton-Minera Escondida, one of the largest mining companies in the world. FCh develops local and international networks, delivering high impact solutions in areas such as sustainability, human capital development, education, aquaculture, entrepreneurship and foods.

 

Interested in learning more? Email us at space@miami.cic.us

Medellin and Miami are strengthening relations to promote innovation and bilateral cooperation

Medellin and Miami are strengthening relations to promote innovation and bilateral cooperation

A Memorandum of Understanding signed between Medellin's Ruta N and the Cambridge Innovation Center Miami (CIC Miami) will create a connection between the companies located in The Sun City and the capital of Antioquia to exchange experiences, practices, resources and knowledge and to facilitate the expansion and growth of entrepreneurship linked to both institutions.

Babson College plans to launch Miami presence within CIC Miami

Babson College plans to launch Miami presence within CIC Miami

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Babson College plans to announce Monday that it is expanding to Miami, where it will begin offering some of its top-ranked graduate programs in the fall of 2018.

Babson’s newest hub, which will be located at the Cambridge Innovation Center at 1951 NW 7th Ave., will build on its base of 1,300 area alumni, the institution’s fourth largest alumni group, and a growing relationship in Miami’s entrepreneurship community. Miami will be Babson’s third location outside its main campus in Wellesley, Mass. It also has campuses in Boston and San Francisco."

"How CIC Miami dominated Miami’s startup ecosystem in less than a year"

"How CIC Miami dominated Miami’s startup ecosystem in less than a year"

"As with any good metropolis, Miami’s startup success is scattered across a couple key neighborhoods, like Wynwood, Brickell, and Lincoln Road. But a focal point has emerged inside a single building on the border of Overtown and Allapattah.

In less than a year, Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) Miami, located in the old UM Life Science & Technology Park building off I-95, has grown into a launch pad for some of the city’s most promising startups."

CIC Client Brickell Energy and Carnival debut EV charging stations at Cruise Line’s corporate offices

CIC Client Brickell Energy and Carnival debut EV charging stations at Cruise Line’s corporate offices

Brickell Energy celebrated with Carnival on June 8 as they introduced innovative new electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations at the cruise line’s corporate office in Doral.

REVITALIZING MAKING PANEL: RECAPPING THE BUZZ

Product designers from four Boston-area startups recently met up at Fab@CIC to talk about the role prototyping plays in their process. Up front on the panel were Mariya Sitnova from Emulate (organs on chips), Josh Forman from Confer Health (at-home diagnostic kits), Nick Lancaster from Ecovent (room by room temperature control), and Jason Ray of Paperless Parts (“Kayak for manufacturers”).

The panelists represented startups with sophisticated technologies, all of which are pushing our expectations of what’s possible in our physical world, and thus have a case to build each time they put their product in front of a new audience. Emulate and Confer Health build vessels for cells and chemicals to be handled and analyzed by regular consumers. Ecovent produces add-ons for your house’s intimidating HVAC system that actually look good in your living room. Paperless Parts is building a platform that would allow each of these companies, and any other product designer, to quickly and transparently determine options and pricing for manufacturing. For companies like these, getting from novel idea to compelling product while using time and money efficiently greatly increases the odds of success.

Compared to software’s instantaneous updates and fixes, hardware’s longer product cycles can make or break a company. Where a physical product is involved, size, fit, and feel can matter as much for its success as its function. When do you decide to step away from continuous reiteration based on tester feedback and pull the trigger on a first production run? The panelists agreed that it’s essential to figure out the manufacturing options early on and design for those realities. Still, Ecovent and Emulate had started their prototyping on cardboard. It turns out that prototyping even at this basic level mitigates some of the risks of product development down the line.

So, what do the panelists think about when they think about prototyping? 3D printing is often top-of-mind for at least some part of the prototyping process. Fab@CIC staff can confirm this – we’ve seen members 3D print to check the size and fit of components, or printing an entire customer-facing prototype. 3D printing is really useful for making the digital-to-physical leap for your design. However, it can take several hours to print even a small piece, and false starts due to temperature and leveling details are common (making a successful print all the more satisfying ;). If you need to make more than a few identical items, it’s probably not the best method. For that, 3D printed molds could be the way to go – yes, let 3D printing kill your 3D prints!

At this point in the technology’s development arc, Jason, of Paperless Parts, thinks 3D printing delivers the most value when it allows for component integration, meaning that a product can be built with fewer pieces that have to connect perfectly. 3D printing is also becoming powerful solution for product maintenance and replacing broken components – imagine trying to find a replacement for the cracked dial on your vintage radio that isn’t sold anymore. Consumer product companies are already developing digital inventories so that customers can print out the file for a replacement piece instead of manufacturing and storing parts ahead of timed.

While 3D printing is currently inefficient for producing many units of the same item, it has high potential for things that need customization, such as perfectly fitted sunglasses or a prosthetic arm (if you’re interested in applications for medical devices, come to the 3D printing seminar on June 7!). The space industry is an example of where these strengths are at a premium. As the technology matures, we may soon arrive at a time when 3D printing will be the fastest way to build large things on Earth, too, such as houses, with the extrusion of concrete happening more precisely, quickly, and safely from a print head.

In the future, could every office or home have a 3D printer, allowing people to print customized versions of what they need instead of going to the store or ordering from Amazon? This kind of hype reached a peak a few years ago, but the panelists recognize that we’re a few structural pieces away from a 3D printing economy. Even though plastic and resin 3D printers are getting cheaper by the day and the variety of materials is increasing (think concrete, metal, ceramics, and cells!), the quality of 3D printed items doesn’t yet match what we, as consumers, are used to. And yet, the biggest barrier to “3D printing for all” might be familiarity with design software. Even the the relatively simple and free programs, such as Fusion360 from Autodesk, take some investment in time to learn. As our distinguished panel noted, complexity is neither free nor easy. This is a challenge to our education system, and one that Fab@CIC’s partner, Fab Foundation, is rising to meet by setting up fablabs around the world.

The Revitalizing Making panel provided a glimpse into the future of how things will be made. 3D printing is currently just one method for prototyping, but the advances underway for this technology, and the changing societal structures that would permit its widespread use, could bring forth a revolution of things. The very first question this panel answered was “Why do you make?” The answers included “it’s what humans do” and “to become more comfortable and expend less energy” and “the surprises in discovering are addicting”. Imagine what we as a species could make if more of us had more input at various points of a product’s development, from conceptualization, to testing, production, maintenance, and recycling.

Fab@CIC will host more riveting conversations like this one. Stay tuned, and check out the events calendar to sign up for the next one or for our next 3D printing training!

CIC Alum Spotlight: Daniel Faggella

For the first time, we’re not featuring a current member or client as a part of our CIC Spotlight series. We focus today on one of our alums! Daniel Faggella started one of his many ventures, Science of Skill, many years ago in C3 at CIC Cambridge, and was profiled in Forbes Magazine this past month for having successfully grown and sold that business. We sat down to ask him about what he’s been up to and to share a bit about his early days with CIC.

CIC alumnus Daniel Faggella


You’re a CIC alumnus but you just sold the project you were working on while at C3. Tell us about it!
“Science of Skill was built explicitly in order to fund my larger venture in artificial intelligence, which today is TechEmergence.com. My life purpose since the age of 24 has been to influence or encourage a global conversation around AI and neurotechnology policy and innovation, and the beginning of that mission is to build a business that informs business and government leaders about the applications and implications of AI, which is what TechEmergence does today. I knew when I moved to Silicon Valley I’d have two options:

  • Show up with little money and immediately give away a huge amount of equity for a small amount of cash, or
  • Make a substantial sum of money with a more immediately lucrative business (such as subscription eCommerce) and use those funds to carry the growth of my bigger venture

I decided to go with the latter option, and Science of Skill (my eCommerce business) was focused on selling martial arts and self-protection gear and instructional courses – via an online subscription – to tens of thousands of customers per year. At CIC we had barely hit $45,000 per month in revenues, but at the time of sale (two years after leaving CIC) we were doing well over $200k/mo in sales. Because of the systems I’d put in at the state, and my hands-off approach to management, the business was sold with 90% cash down, and with very little time commitment from me (the previous owner) – so I now have the time and resources to pursue what I care most about. Explaining the impact of AI on society and our species is a bit far-out for a business blog of this kind, but my last TEDx talk was on this topic and this might be a good start.”


How’d you hear about CIC back in the day?
“Google and Quora. I heard it was the single greatest density of startups in Boston, and that it was by MIT’s campus. That was enough to let me know that I should start my company there.”


You mentioned that a good part of your success was due to your time with us. How so?
“At CIC I was able to meet people with experience working in bigger businesses, and they brought ideas about (a) business processes, (b) project management software, and (c) analytics – and these ideas helped organize our erratic activities into a more organized effort. I met a fellow named Vlad Antohi at CIC who worked with us for 3-4 months, and who helped bring his experience from bigger software businesses into our business processes. That’s one example of the kind of outside influence we had in CIC. We met a data scientist (Mike Shewmake) at CIC who helped us assess our email marketing campaigns to determine the best subject lines and keywords that drive the best results. We met many other great folks at CIC who helped us mold the business for the better.”


What was your favorite thing about CIC? It’s okay to say avocados.
“…How did… you know… I was going to say ‘avocados’? I also miss the cheddar Sun Chips. In all seriousness the best part for me was being around other smart people working on exciting projects. I met some people there who I am good friends with to this day, and I may never have met such an eclectic crowd if I was at a regular ‘co-working’ space.”


What have been your biggest milestones? And, your biggest ‘learning opportunities?’
“Our biggest milestones were: (a) Breaking $2MM in annual sales, (b) Getting my time [as owner] to under 20 hours per week, (c) Getting a sales price of over $1MM.

Biggest learning opportunities were: (a) Learning the hard way that brokers, banks, and buyers will all want and need completely clean, clear, organized financial records, and a seller [like myself] should know his books inside and out. Eight months into the business I definitely did NOT – I was focused only on sales – but for the last three years of running the company we were able to have extremely clean financials that helped us make smarter business decisions and double the business year-over-year for three years straight.”


What advice can you offer entrepreneurial millennials?
“Nothing specific to millennials, but in today’s day and age it’s so much easier to get started in a business with limited upfront investment.

The articles that might be MOST helpful for other entrepreneurs would be from Business Insider and TechEmergence. The Business Insider one focuses on how we got the company started and profitable, and the second article talks about the details around selling a company and preparing for an exit, which was a BIG learning curve for me and I hope is really useful for other entrepreneurs at the CIC.”

It's Hip to Be Fab

Alan Fein, COO of CIC, welcomes the community to Fab@CIC.

Alan Fein, COO of CIC, welcomes the community to Fab@CIC.

Thirty years ago, the great musical innovator Huey Lewis loudly proclaimed that it was hip to be square. Lewis (and the News, of course) invented music that took audiences from 1985 to 1955, and brought them right back. This year, CIC looks toward the future and proclaims a new revolution in hipness. It’s hip to be FAB!

You’re probably asking yourself why I capitalized Fab. Fab Labs – ‘Fab’ being short for ‘fabrication’ – have popped up all across the world over the last few years. In essence, they’re community spaces designed to enable digital fabrication. They’re meant to enable makers and innovators to quickly and efficiently produce goods, prototypes, and models. In the spirit of DIY, you could potentially prototype the flux capacitor for your very own DeLorean time machine within a few minutes.

CIC has Doc’s spirit of creativity; we partnered with the Fab Foundation and the wonderful staff at Render Coffee to make this spirit come to life. We figured that a café and a makerspace would be the ultimate combination of community building. Imagine the great ideas that people come up with over coffee followed by the ability to instantly make prototypes within that same space! So, we set out to do exactly that. It was a journey that took quite a long time, many revisions, and finally launched in early May.

Fab@CIC Grand Opening attendee 3D prints on an Ultimaker.

Fab@CIC Grand Opening attendee 3D prints on an Ultimaker.

Capping off our Arts Week celebration was the best and most fitting way to welcome Fab@CIC to the Boston community. Over 450 people RSVPed and we’d reckon to say it was one of the fabbest events in recent memory. We even had the opportunity to showcase a few very cutting-edge virtual reality platforms and local robotics developers, MassRobotics and Franklin Robotics.

Fab@CIC will permanently feature 3D printers, laser cutters, large format printers, and will also be open to non-CIC members starting at $75 per month. There is a special early-bird deal, too! If you’re new to the world of Fab, rest assured we welcome all levels of dreamers and makers.

If you’re still on the fence after my encouragement, visit Fab Fourth Fridays on the fourth Friday of every month at 5pm in Render Coffee. These are celebrations of everything Fab and will offer the opportunity to network with local makers. Moreover, Fab Fourth Fridays feature demos of the very crafts made in-house. You have nothing to lose and a whole Fab side of you to gain. Be there, or be square! I know Huey said it was hip to be square, but it’s no longer 1987. It’s hip to be Fab!

NEW STARTUP INSTITUTE PERKS FOR CIC MEMBERS

In addition to pretty sweet office space, CIC members have access to more avocados and orange juice than they know what to do with. However, we’ve come to know that CIC’s biggest asset is the broad network of innovators and creators that call CIC their home.

In an effort to enhance our community of innovators and help each other out with a bit of professional development, we are ecstatic to announce a new benefit to CIC members! Startup Institute has partnered up with CIC to provide all CIC members reduced rates to their training programs, access to private student profiles, and invitations to networking events. We’re very pleased that Startup Institute has chosen CIC Boston as their current home. They were even kind enough to participate in one of our client spotlights last year!

Startup Institute has had incredible success placing alums throughout the Boston area, a few of them even securing jobs with CIC companies. One even landed a role at CIC itself! We reached out to them to glean a bit of insight into how they’ve been able to apply their Startup Institute skills to their new careers.

Dan William, a technical associate for Techstars Boston (based out of CIC), enrolled at Startup Institute due to the “quality of the education and courses” at the behest of a dear peer. Dan mentioned that “it certainly helped that [the staff] were not just awesome people, but that we also saw eye-to-eye on the important issues.” He was connected to TechStars via another Startup Institute alum, and has found that the “enthusiastic chaos” of working for his new company has been made easier by his ability to “understand how a startup needs to run” and how to diagnose issues within larger projects.

On the other hand, Amelia Wellers worked in art management for a few years before realizing she wanted to make a career switch into a more exciting, flexible, and innovative industry. When she joined CIC, there was  no sort of formal – or informal, for that matter – marketing team. Amelia, now a Marketing Lead at CIC, shared, “Startup Institute provided me with the baseline knowledge and skills to begin leading auxiliary marketing teams of talented and passionate CIC staffers, and to eventually advocate for my current marketing role.”

Dan and Amelia participated in the full-time Startup Institute program, though Startup Institute has since built out  a wide selection of part-time, weekend and nighttime programs. If you’re worried about having to give up your day job for the sake of developing your professional skills, worry not!  You can most definitely have the best of both worlds. Check out the CIC/Startup Institute member benefits page for you program guide!