30 April 2008

IdeaStream 2008 ~ MIT Deshpande Center Celebration of Innovation

Very interesting to be at MIT's IdeaStream 2008, the Deshpande Center annual conference. (An event I helped create with Bob Metcalfe and Mark Gorenberg back in 2001, it turns out). It was nice to see both Desh and Jaishree Deshpande as well, since it was their vision and generosity which made things possible.

Several excellent morning speakers, including industrial electrochemistry rockstar Professor Don Sadoway who discussed his building-sized battery ideas -- basically learning-lessons from aluminum smelting and looking at less popular parts of the periodic table! Solar manufacturing rockstar Professor Ely Sachs discussed his new 1366 startup company dedicated to making solar competitive with coal. (I finally now understand that 1366 is the solar constant, the number of watts per square meter incident on Earth!) Finally, MIT alumnus entrepreneur Kailas Narendran gave a progress report on his neurorobotics stroke-rehab venture Myomo, born of Deshpande-financed research back in the first year, 2002.

Deshpande Executive Director Leon Sandler put the shout out to Stan Reiss of Matrix, Lori Pressman with Harris & Harris, and Jamie Goldstein of NorthBridge as representative members of our entrepreneurship ecosystem. The panel discussion was kind of a waste of time, too much high-level pontification about either obvious things or stuff we can't change easily. The innovation showcase was great, on the other hand, featuring both Deshpande-funded projects and emergent ventures from the greater MIT-landscape, including my Developmental Entrepreneurship class spinout company ClickDiagnostics!

The finale keynote by astronaut superwoman Suni Williams was rockin cool. Turns out she and Jim Matheson from Flagship has been Annapolis plebes back in the day. Anyways, Suni shared with us some of the fantastic experiences she's had in space and exposed us to some of the unique technical challenges we need to overcome.

In the reception afterwards -- in a dungeon-esque venue, alas, nothing like the Spinnaker Room at the old Hyatt venue -- I had a nice chat with Aleks Franz co-founder of Lilliputian and Matt Trevithick from Venrock. Turns out I knew Matt at a distance from his co-founding Flash Communications in mid-1990's. We discussed several things, including my Howtoons and educating kids generally, as well as venture opportunities in the hybrid-electric vehicle sector.

No comments: