Altaeros Energies worked on the world’s first airborne wind turbine at Greentown Labs in Somerville, MA, just outside of Boston. Autonomous Marine Systems used the Labs’ shop to work on its sailing drones, fleets of which now collect data on our oceans. Accion Systems set up shop there to ready its smaller, safer, and less expensive ion-based propulsion system for satellites. Between its founding in 2011 and the end of 2015, Greentown Labs has been home to 103 small businesses.
Today, roughly 50 companies pay rent in exchange for access to desks, lab space, equipment, and software. All of those startups are developing hardware-based clean technologies to solve the world’s largest energy and environmental challenges. Greentown Lab provides the resources startups need to help launch their companies quickly — not just tools but also education programs and access to investors.
The FDA’s new food labels catch up to reality — and will drive the biggest shift the industry has seen in recent history
It could save the US economy tens of billions of dollars a year, and its proponents claim it will save or extend millions of lives. The Wall Street Journal called it “radical.” Major industry giants lobbied against its implementation and warned of mass consumer confusion and uncertain scientific validity. It took years to crawl through one of the largest bureaucracies in the US government, and represents the largest update to that department’s public policy in more than two decades.
The subject at hand? A new version of the familiar Nutrition Facts label, which sits on every packaged food product sold in the US. Late last week the FDA finally announced a new food labeling regime, and it takes aim squarely at a new public enemy #1: Sugar.
Austin-based 121Giving uses its ecommerce and crowdfunding platform to help charities get the goods they need to do good. Partnering with brands lets 121Giving sell its inventory of furniture, medical equipment, food, and more to charities at discount. Charities use the platform to crowdfund those purchases. Donors can see what charities spend donations on, and brands can incorporate philanthropy into their supply chains.
Cincinnati-based accelerator First Batch isn’t helping companies develop apps, platforms, or services. It’s focusing exclusively on startups that want to scale the production of physical products. They want to make things. Companies with a prototype can apply to the 20-week program to learn how to navigate the manufacturing, branding, and marketing resources Cincinnati offers. Why Cincinnati? Ohio ranks third in the nation in manufacturing, and the Cincinnati metro area is second in the state.
First Batch is part of Cincinnati Made, a platform for makers to share knowledge and leverage resources to grow Cincinnati-based businesses. Up to eight startups receive a maximum of $10,000 per founder, space in the Losantiville Design Collective, mentorship, and free legal services from University of Cincinnati’s College of Law.
Preterm and underweight babies who survive their first month can still suffer severe long-term health problems — diabetes, heart disease, developmental delay. Keeping them warm can help prevent those problems. Founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, Embrace Innovations has done just that for more than 200,000 babies across 14 countries with its simple, cost-effective infant warmers. It hopes to help even more babies in the developing world with an assist from its first commercial products.
Jane Chen, Embrace Innovations’ CEO and co-founder, tells NewCo that over the next few years the company wants to help one million babies. It’s created a consumer-facing product — Little Lotus. For every Little Lotus product purchased in the U.S., $25 goes toward the purchase of an Embrace infant warmer for use in the developing world. In the U.S., traditional incubators cost about $20,000; Embrace’s infant warmer costs just one percent of that.
Alta Motors didn’t develop its electric drivetrain technology because it had green ambitions. The electric-vehicle startup, based in San Francisco, wanted to build motorcycles that go fast. Fast enough so that riders could beat their gas-guzzling friends on the course. Fast enough to turn battery-powered skeptics into customers. When Marc Fenigstein, Alta Motors CEO and co-founder, says the company’s motorcycles are “directly competitive or even superior to their closest gas equivalents,” he’s not just referring to emissions, maintenance, or noise. He’s talking about the metrics that customers traditionally care about: performance, safety, control — and speed.
Alta Motors’ Redshift SM won the first two pro Supermoto races it entered. The company’s engineers have designed a drivetrain that’s much smaller and lighter than gas equivalents — typically by a factor of 50 percent, according to Fenigstein. Part of that is due to its battery pack technology, which is already hitting 2020 industry yields in energy density and power. Alta Motors believes that its tech will one day have applications across all vehicles. For now, the company is focusing on gaining more traction in the dirt. It delivered its first electric motocross bike in December 2015. Here are some surprising nuggets we learned from talking with Fenigstein …
Roughly 60 percent of the energy we produce in this country gets wasted. Sure, thermodynamics play a role, but we can increase efficiency through better infrastructure and better energy management. Walker-Miller Energy Services is helping businesses and people in Detroit do the later.
The company provides a broad range of services to help buildings reduce energy usage. By conducting energy audits, it can suggest infrastructure upgrades, design sustainability programs, and provide training to help reduce energy usage.
But Did You Know It Books 2,000 Local Bands Each Year?
A city’s public spaces define its character. When underutilized, public spaces can become eyesores, but mostly they represent wasted opportunities. Off the Grid is focused on identifying those spaces and organizing events, in partnership with food vendors, at underutilized spaces throughout the Bay Area.
Matt Cohen, who founded the Off the Grid in 2010, sees it as a logistics company, one that utilizes what it’s learned about permitting and working with small businesses to put our cities’ underutilized spaces to better use, making them better for everyone. Here are some surprising nuggets from our talk with Cohen …
American schools have been failing students for decades now, and bolting technology on the side of a bad product isn’t going to fix the problem. Technology may not be a silver bullet, but intelligently applied, it can act as a force multiplier, particularly if it’s part of a complete reboot of how schools are run. San Francisco-based AltSchool is rethinking education from the ground up, and hoping its early learnings will eventually create a platform from which all schools can learn.
Max Ventilla, AltSchool’s CEO, says he founded the company “self-servingly.” His daughter will start at AltSchool in the fall and his son will join in a few years. “I wanted an education for them that got better and better, and that prepared them for the future,” he says. “And I wanted to be able to work with the amazing people that were my colleagues at places like Google, and build an amazing experience not just for my children but for all children,” Ventilla tells NewCo.
We want to know where our food comes from. The evidence is seen on foods labeled organic, in the rise of farmer’s markets, even in Ikea products. Our shifting attitudes are reshaping the business of growing food, and Freight Farms is rethinking the way we produce our produce. Founder Brad McNamara and Jon Friedman are selling hydroponics farms built from old shipping containers that growers can monitor through an app. They want to provide communities, neighborhoods, and schools an alternative way to grow food and know where it comes from.
Founded in 2011, Freight Farms has sold roughly 60 farms worldwide, 20 in the United States. Of those, McNamara says nearly 30 have been sold to food startups. At Stony Brook University in Long Island, NY, students use a freight farm to produce food for roughly 1,000 students at least once a week. A Boston husband-wife team purchased four freight farms in 2013, and now sell produce at local farmer markets for a living.
For $82,000, plus another $20,000 of annual operating costs, a freight farm can grow up to 800 heads of lettuce at a time. The 40-foot long, eight-foot wide containers, dubbed “Leafy Green Machines,” are essentially year-round farms capable of producing the same amount of produce as an acre of farmland on just 10 gallons of water a day. The company claims its mobile farms can create access to food in areas where the climate cannot support traditional farming methods. “When you start to look at the food system as a whole,” McNamara says, “there’s just so much to it. There are so many different ways to attack this problem. It’s an exciting space between technology, design, community, and empowerment.”