“Most Entrepreneurs Don’t Think About Their Culture Until It’s on Top of Them”

Robert Stringer, director of the Babson SVP, will discuss 'soft business issues' with student startups
By Lucia Maffei - February 14, 2019

By his own admission, Robert “Bob” Stringer is not “a high-tech guru.” His experience is in what he calls “good-for-you, health and wellness, food and beverage” startups.

Bob Stringer (Photo provided by Babson)

Still, the new director of the Babson Summer Venture program – a 10-week long program that aims at accelerating the development of student ventures from Babson, Olin College of Engineering and Wellesley – knows he’s likely to encounter many tech startups as the new edition of the program prepares to select the final 15.

Stringer took over the position from David Chang, who was the first non-faculty member to hold the role. He’s been long associated with Babson as a lecturer; he was also the founding general partner of Sherbrooke Capital, a $100 million VC firm based in Boston.

We reached out to Stringer to discuss his appointment—plus many other things, such as how early-stage entrepreneurs tend to underestimate the importance of culture building, and the Babson companies in his portfolio.

When did you first hear about the Babson Summer Venture Program?

I have a long relationship with Babson, having taught there in the MBA program. Then, I ran a program during the summer called the “Global Entrepreneurship Program.” So, I was somewhat familiar with the Blank Center, and I know David Chang [former director of the Summer Venture Program, currently CEO of Gradifi since November 2018], and I know Debi Kleiman, who runs the SVP … She reached out to me and I expressed my interest.

Can you describe for me the moment when you thought, “Ok, I want to take over this role”?

I’ve done a lot of different things in my career: venture, investing, angel investing; I’ve started a few businesses; I teach; I’ve consulted; I’ve written some books. But there’s nothing more fun, for me, than hanging out with a bunch of people who are passionate about what they do.

What is your experience about working with companies that are really, really early-stage?

I have a portfolio of, originally, 38 companies, now it’s down to about 30. Included in my investments, there are four companies founded by people who were my actual students at Babson. They started from absolute scratch. So I’m very used to – and enjoy, quite frankly – working with enterprises that haven’t yet been born.

For the full article…

Kenzen wins Judge's Favorite at Google Demo Days

Super proud to see the Kenzen team win in London (we are a Zurich and SF based co) at Google Demo days while I was facilitating a panel at Struktur on the future of Wearables in the Outdoor Industry.

Always a lot of hustle and challenges in changing the face of an industry but so worthwhile!

Highlighting Europe's Best Startups

Over the past five years, Google for Entrepreneurs has brought together a group of top startups from around the world to Silicon Valley to showcase their technology and meet top investors and mentors.

This event will be our first Demo Day outside the U.S., aimed at bringing the best startups from across Europe to London to pitch to investors.

The application period for Demo Day has closed. We'll reach out to all applicants by 29 March with an update about the selected startups.

How This Wearable Smart Patch Analyzes Your Sweat To Monitor Your Body

Jennifer Kite-Powell , Contributor
Image courtesy of Kenzen.

    Professor Wei Gao, a post doctoral fellow at the University of California and recipient of 2016 MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35, spoke in February 2017 at Rice University about bioelectronic devices for personalize and precision medicine. His belief is that wearable biosensors and medical nanorobots combine health monitoring and therapy delivery to take us closer to personalized and precision medicine.

    Research firm Tractica says healthcare is expected to be one of the biggest drivers for body sensors citing connected wearable patches as a key driver. Applications of wearable patches are not just for consumers but will fall into sports, enterprise and industrial markets as well. Tractica forecasts that body sensor shipments are expected to increase to 68 million in 2021 from 2.7 million units in 2015.

    Where to start? Sweat. Monitoring sweat as a key biometric is not new. Sweat contains biomarkers like sodium, glucose and proteins that can be collected and measured non-invasively using sensors. Sweat has been used to monitor other conditions like cystic fibrosis, but now sweat can be used to monitor nutritional deficiencies, ion imbalances, elevated glucose levels and inflammation that industrial workers experience. Sweat can even tell a doctor if your medicines are not working properly....

    Forbes Full Article

    Struktur; the creative conference for active, outdoor and urban design!

    I am so excited to be heading to Portland to participate in Struktur again in two weeks, and cannot recommend this conference enough to any designers in the outdoor, active or urban design space.

    And with the topic of Inflection point this year being spot on, the size of the vibrant super connective event doubling all the more reason to come join the fun festive mind bending event. I am moderating a panel "Reframing Wearables" while there are panels on Female Leadership, Biomimicry, Futurecasting and so much more.  I cannot wait!
    (wow and just found my tall last year, I was a bit under the weather but hey, there it is! ;)

    Here is the topic description for 2017!

    Inflection Point

    Futurists describe an inflection point as a moment when the range of possible futures suddenly shifts. As designers, we must prepare ourselves for success within the context of these new possibilities.

    Against the backdrop of disruptions in climate, trade, and manufacturing, new practices of generative design, bio-materials, and automation are moving into focus. Sustainability and ‘Made in America’ stories are shifting from novelty to necessity. As technical and performance gear continue to merge into the mainstream, the active and outdoor industries are well positioned to be a major influencer in what we wear.

    Struktur Event was founded on the idea that a strong design community is vital for innovation and growth. We are committed to fostering a community where design and industry professionals can share ideas, build relationships, and tackle these important topics with integrity and respect.

    Come to Struktur Event 2017 and position yourself for success."

    The U.S. Military selects winners of THE national challenge to redesign chembio Warfighter suits

    The winners of the US government’s “Chembio Suit Proof Challenge” were announced January 12, 2017.  This was an open design challenge and the first of its kind to source ideas for government innovation from all levels of the public and private sector regardless of funding.

    It was an honor to be a judge in this process to source concepts from the public and help select the 12 concepts which will move on to be developed with funding and collaboration from the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Defense in order to update the chembio suit for the first time in decades. 

    WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 13, 2017) – The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense has awarded 12 prizes to winners of the s Proof Challenge – a chembio suit design challenge that called on the public to submit designs and ideas for a new suit.  Finalists came from a variety of fields that ranged from students to engineers. A total of $250,000 was awarded to 12 participants/teams.

    “We were excited to use the Proof Challenge to reach out to the general public, beyond our military resources and experts, to source ideas and solutions for innovation,” says LeRoy Garey, the Proof Challenge Product Manager.  “The thinking, attention to detail and fresh ideas were astounding, exceeding what we expected.  This type of public collaboration is something we look forward to tapping into in the future – joining forces with the Americans we serve to help protect this country and our Warfighters.”

    Proof Challenge winners include:

    Challenge Finalists

    Idea Name: Increase Dexterity & Tactility ChemBio Suit
    Team Members: Shana Kaplan, Madeline Haas, Itohan Asemota, Nicole Raab, Angela Villanueva, and Jess Roberts

    Idea Name: JSLIST Rapid Cooling System (RCS) & Integrated Cooling Ensemble
    Team Members: Steven Link, Barret Schlegelmilch, Jonathan Lovett, Eric Hinterman, and Phillip Ebben

    Idea Name:  SPIDER© Suit Grey Matter
    Team Members: Thomas Luginbill, Brandy Johnson, Aaron Brauner, Steve Winters, and Steve Luginbill

    Challenge Semifinalists/Runners-Up

    Idea Name: ChemBio Duck Combat Duck Boot
    Team Members: Michele Putko, Robert Putko, Catherine Putko, and Marie Putko

    Idea Name: A More Fitted Hood
    Team Members: William Gabler, Cassandra Kwon, Minyoung Suh, Marc Mathews, Hilary Smith, Caitlin McCall, and Raquel Weis

    Idea Name: Hybrid Glove Concept
    Team Members: Steve Santaniello

    Semifinalists/Second Runners-Up

    Idea Name: Improved Glove Fit
    Team Member: Roland Bruyns

    Idea Name: Custom Articulated Garments for Optimal Dexterity
    Team Members: Leanne Luce, Ryan Brady, Kevin Galloway, Neil Tagner, and Matthew Borgatti

    Idea Name: AgileWear
    Team Members: Brian Kane, Gen Leonard, Karma Malhas, and Catherine Andreozzi

    Idea Name: Closure Control
    Team Members: Devon Willard, Chelsey Pyne, and Keren Espina

    Challenge Side Prize Winners

    Game Changer: Pulse Electric Textile for ChemBio Protection
    Team Members: Francisco J. Martinez, Howard Eglewstein, and Bettina Pasquantonio

    Influencer: Grey Matter
    Team Members: Thomas Luginbill

    Winners will be showcased on the Proof Challenge Facebook page and will work with JPEO-CBD on the next steps of bringing their suit ideas to reality.

    About the Proof Challenge: The Proof Challenge sourced innovative ideas for solutions to increase mobility, dexterity and tactility, allowing the Warfighter to complete all relevant tasks (including running, climbing, etc.) in a fast and comfortable manner.  Also sourced were ideas for heat management that reduce heat burden and actively cool the Warfighter as various physical tasks are conducted.  For more information on the Proof Challenge, please visit www.proofchallenge.com.

    Felischa Marye
    213.341.0171, ext. 750

    Photography Resources to up Your Game

    As I have allowed myself to dive back into one of my oldest loves, photography, and revisit as an art, and not just a design research tool, I have found a lot of great resources to support me in this freedom and journey.  And as I have been sharing them right left and sideways with folks, it became evident, this was worth a quick post.  All approach the goal of improving from different perspectives so pick your poison, or if you are like me go all in!

    If you do nothing else, go to the website of professional photographer Ken Rockwell which is a wealth of knowledge on so many levels.  He has apps in the itunes store which are absolutely worth buying for your camera, you only need to pay the 4.99 for your camera specifically and I am constantly learning new things about my equipment as he cuts through the BS.  If you want to go deeper, he appears to be based in California and does workshops there which I highly recommend (human time is irreplaceable, even with youtube videos) but it is his break down of each type of camera and lense for that camera, cutting through the jargon, and explaining what they actually mean, which is invaluable.  The website is helpful, but the app is the way to go.

    Subscribing to Tobias van Schneider's newsletter and website is a must for any creative.  And although I have a love hate relationship with instagram, it is a reality of our creative world, and his post on "how-i-edit-my-pictures-for-instagram" like all of his writing is very accessible, meticulous and intense, but inspiring.  It will up your game even if you only decide you might start taking your iphone shots in the Cortex Cam app instead of the iphone standard camera app. 

    Improvement is incremental and a practice.

    And last, if this isn't already clear, go find humans.  I highly suggest going to a workshop first.  I like the Boston Photography Workshop for the approachable teaching style, realistic scope of content in each class -- I have real skills to add it to my tool kit, and they will stick, and affordable rates.  I have taken night and editing, to learn the former and spiff up the latter, and am looking forwards to the soon to be added classes in portraiture, landscape and travel.

    From a more theoretical approach to the creative journey, in general, and specifically, written by a deeply thoughtful, humble but talented photographer, I really enjoy David Duchemin's book, Beautiful Anarchy, which you can buy and download here. His website is full of other awesome tools and inspiring resources to up your game from a guy who has been at it for a while and has journeyed through the highs and lows of being a professional creative.

    I think once you have a few workshops under your belt for skill building, then meet ups are a great way to challenge yourself with new styles and situations.  Instagram and google searches bring up loads.


    "As Long as There Are No Capes, Wearables Can Only Improve Human Health"

    Really enjoying this posting from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Blog of President Travis Mcreedy.  We had an amazing meeting last week, and he runs an awesome organization Massachusetts Life Sciences which is well worth checking out as tech, life sciences, the body and designer all increasingly intersect and drive innovation.  But I will let his writing tell you!

    From the Massachusetts Life Sciences Blog
    By Travis Mcreedy.

    "This past week, I met Edna.  Well, in fact, I met four Ednas, and one of them is a man.

    For those of you not familiar with the 2004 Disney animated film The Incredibles, Edna was one of the most memorable characters, responsible for providing all the superheroes with their high-tech kit.  Imagine if Versace and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) could somehow have a child, it would be Edna – designer of high-tech, smart fabrics that functionally enhance human performance that are, equally, human-centered and haute couture.  As someone with children who are equal parts athlete, geek, and fashionista, I am not ashamed to say that meeting four real life Ednas was exceptionally cool.

    Yuly Fuentes-Medel, Julianne Gauron, Yolita Nugent, and Adam Whiton are among the avant-garde of “convergence” innovators – capable scientists on the cutting edge, who mash together computer/data science, biology, engineering, and the arts – targeting wearables as a vector for enhancing human performance.  Between the four, they have worked with organizations such as North Face, New Balance, and TJX.  A latest project for the US Department of Defense was to redesign infantry’s “ballistic combat shirt” with properties that are flame retardant,  withstand small arms fire…and are more comfortable and lighter to wear than a soldier’s current kit.

    Mses. Fuentes-Medel, Gauron, Nugent and Messr. Whiton envision wearables as an extension of the human nervous system – a complex, human-centric technology that senses, takes in data, analyzes that data, then reacts.  This approach requires fundamentally rethinking not only science, but also fashion, textiles and manufacturing.  The possibilities in the health care context are endless…and Massachusetts, with its ‘digital health’, life sciences, and manufacturing expertise, is poised to lead the way.  Local companies like MC10 out of Lexington are recognized leaders in developing flexible electronic fabrics for health care uses, including everything from hydration monitoring and head impact measuring to biodegradable implants.  And the community will only get stronger with this summer’s addition of multibillion dollar wearables giant Flextronics International to the Boston Innovation District.

    “Life sciences” is more than just biotech, pharma and drugs.  At the MLSC, our mandate covers the medical device, diagnostics and bioinformatics sectors as well, and having such subsector diversity contributes to our unique, strong and resilient life sciences ecosystem. It would appear that in this diversity, we have all the ingredients to innovate and lead in medical, human-centric wearables. According to health thinktank Rock Health, Massachusetts has the fourth most vibrant digital health sector in the US. Phillips, and its Internet of Things (IoT)/Wearables division have a large presence in Massachusetts, along with medical device leaders Johnson & Johnson, Boston Scientific, Hologic, and Medtronic and health IT juggernaut IBM Watson Health.  Researchers at our medical institutions like Mass. Eye and Ear, Boston Children’s, and Harvard Medical School are also exploring wearables and how to deliver hard to administer drugs to better ensure patient adherence.  And let’s not forget that this spring, Massachusetts was named as the headquarters for the $317MM public-private Revolutionary Fiber and Textile Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

    As Edna from The Incredibles said, “I never look back, darling.  It distracts from the now.”  And right now, Massachusetts is experiencing a wearable tech moment."

    WT VOX "Top 5 Technologies Transforming The Fashion Industry By 2020"

    Top 5 Technologies Transforming The Fashion Industry By 2020

    By Martin Smith
    Posted on 30th August 2016

    Top 5 Technologies Transforming The Fashion Industry By 2020

    If you look back and carefully, analyse how you have spent your last 6 hours of the day you notice that you have had countless moments of interaction with the internet.

    Quietly, in the background, your life is becoming increasingly connected and dependent on your devices; smartphones, connected objects, IoT architectures and digital platforms that are silently taking over the cities.

    But how are these technological advancements affecting the fashion world? Can technology reach the fashion industry and alter its core and if so, to what extent?

    Already signalling profound shifts in the fashion industry, here is my top 5 technologies transforming the fashion industry, finishing line 2020.

    Read article in full on WT TOX site here

    WT TOX Innovation in Fashion.
    The most trustworthy, authoritative resource in Wearable Tech and Fashion Tech.

    Fast Company "MIT's Next Breakthrough Interface? Temporary Tattoos"

    Super happy to see Cindy Kao of the Media Lab, and our Techstyle wearables group there making huge strides with her awesome work, and in collaboration with our friends at Microsoft too!  Wearables are a small world indeed!  (Fastco Article)

    MIT's Next Breakthrough Interface? Temporary Tattoos

    Inspired by popular gold leaf temporary tattoos, MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research teamed up on a crafty new wearable interface.

    Mark Wilson 08.12.16 7:00 AM

    We’ve seen stick-on circuits capable of putting a phone on your finger, and while they’re certainly incredible to behold, they aren't accessible outside of world-class research labs and production lines.

    But a technology called DuoSkin, by MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research, could enable anyone to create custom, wearable circuits—and apply them as easily as a temporary gold leaf tattoo. And not in 10 or 20 years, but using craft store materials, today. In a new paper being presented at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers next month, the research team details how you can shape circuits using any graphic design software, cut the pattern out of a sandwich of tattoo paper and vinyl, and then coat that vinyl with gold leaf. Not only is gold leaf en vogue, as far as temporary tattoos go; gold leaf also makes the tattoo conductive to electricity, and your touch.


    The result is an impossibly thin temporary tattoo that’s applied to your skin with a wet wash cloth like any other. Once there, it’s capable of adding to your body touch pads, buttons, personal radio IDs, or even glowing LED displays. The DuoSkin tattoo can allow you to swipe and tap around your phone’s music and unlock doors or turnstiles protected by NFC. In one example, a pair of heart tattoos link up, so with the touch a button, you can change the color of the tattoo of your significant other (perhaps to signify if you were in a bad mood in the most passive aggressive way possible).

    Of course, the practical uses of cheap, temporarily wearable technologies seem endless. It’s not hard to imagine the utility of such a tattoo on a patient at the hospital. Your identity could be stuck right to your body thanks to NFC technology. Even something as simple as calling the nurse could be miniaturized from a bulky remote to a thin button on your skin. And given that the team has successfully embedded heat-sensitive pigments, as well as LEDs, these tattoos could be specialized to signal all sorts of issues to health care providers.

    Then again, if the context of health care doesn't sound terribly exciting, there’s always Coachella. Really! Because while that may sound snarky, enabling such a wide swath of use cases is really the point of the whole project.

    "It is our vision that future on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified; but they will converge toward user friendliness, extensibility, and aesthetics of body decorations," the paper concludes, "forming a DuoSkin integrated to an extent it has seemingly disappeared."

    [All Images: courtesy MIT Media Lab]

    Critical Tools for the Tech Enabled Designer

    Tobias van Schneider's Medium article "My Top 11 essential tools I could not live without" is an absolute must read toolkit of efficiency, design, enjoyable and just cool apps and tech tools to make work, particularly remote and online work more enjoyable and fluid. 

    This article "The 5 Best Apps For Freelance Designers; Manage your email, time, money, daily tasks, and legal documents better with these (nicely designed) digital tools" is also great, whether for freelance designers or just those of us seeking more order in the overwhelming noise!

    I highly highly recommend checking out Tobias's site itself as well, van schneider.com where the multi talented self taunt former creative lead of Spotify explores so many ideas which resonant deeply, learned through experience, creative inspiration through audio shows, newsletters, and more.  Awesome multi-hyphenate designer carving his own arc.

    Data Driven Apparel in Rio, New Balance

    As is so often the case with innovation, there is a long (long!) research and development process and sometimes and even longer runway to the public reveal, through the entire duration of which designers and researchers in our field cannot discuss their work, with varying levels of secrecy. 

    So I am thrilled to see the Data Driven Training Knit which we developed and designed back in 2013 appear in preparation for the Olympics in Rio.  The tops are a part the New Balance Elite kit, as well as Team Ireland and New Zealand's kit.  Epic NB sprinter Trayvon Bromell wears it here in Rome.

    We spent hundreds of hours planning & designing, researching the elite body, gathering thermal data, aggregating that data points, and translating them into the round for knit production.  It was an intensive process for an elegant simple looking product, but then that is good design, and it was a pleasure to be a part of a great team.

    To visualize New Balance’s unique “data to design” architecture, Aggressive designed a futuristic test lab, where data-driven runners’ foot-strikes drive the creation of the midsoles in real time. Credits Production Co: Aggressive Client: New Balance Agency: Arnold Worldwide Directors: Alex Topaller, Dan Shapiro Producer: Kelvin Craver Creative Director: Alex Mikhaylov CG Supervisor: Max Chelyadnikov Edit: Alex Mikhaylov, Max Chelyadnikov, Dan Shapiro, Adam Thomson Design: Alex Mikhaylov, Andrey Krasavin 2D Animation: Andrey Krasavin, Federico Gonzalez, Dan Shapiro Modelling: E.D.Satan, Evaldas Cesnavicius Texturing: E.D.Satan, Konstantin Zankov Animation: Dmitriy Paukov, Max Chelyadnikov Simulation: Dmitriy Paukov Rendering: Max Chelyadnikov Compositing: Max Chelyadnikov, Dan Shapiro, Storyboard Artist: Rolo Ledesma Production Manager: Dustin Pownall Sound Design: Wesley Slover

    Tangible Media Teams Biological Actuator for Apparel - Biologic

    I was thrilled bye the final product of the multi year Biologic project run by an extraordinarily talented team of graduates, primarily envisioned by Lining Yao, out of Hiroshi's team at the Media Lab. I had the opportunity to see the project throughout because of my role as New Balance liaison, and ideate together with the team, while working on thermal body mapping and cooling explorations as my own team worked towards the research, development and design of "Data to Design" project for the 2016 Rio Olympic uniforms for New Balance. 
    We also had the pleasure of exhibiting Biologic in the Fashion 4wrd show September 15th at the Boston MFA.

    Congrats to the whole team, I look forwards to seeing where the team takes this brilliant biological actuator next!

    FastCo Design "The Most Important Design Jobs Of The Future"

    This FastCo article compiled by Suzanne LaBarre is a phenomenal call out of the diversity of jobs growing out of the rapidly changing design industry, even now, I would argue.  I feel that the Fusionist Designer Role describes exactly the approach, process and value I bring as a designer.  Thank you!!!!

    Designers at Google, Microsoft, Autodesk, Ideo, Artefact, Teague, Lunar, Huge, New Deal, and fuseproject predict 18 new design jobs.

    Yesterday's graphic designers are today's UX designers. Will tomorrow's UX designers will be avatar programmers, fusionists, and artificial organ designers? Yes, according to the illustrious roster of design leaders we spoke with here.

    Design has matured from a largely stylistic endeavor to a field tasked with solving thorny technological and social problems, an evolution that will accelerate as companies enlist designers for increasingly complex opportunities, from self-driving cars to human biology. "Over the next five years, design as a profession will continue to evolve into a hybrid industry that is considered as much technical as it is creative," says Dave Miller, a recruiter at the design consultancy Artefact. "A new wave of designers formally educated in human-centered design—taught to weave together research, interaction, visual and code to solve incredibly gnarly 21st-century problems—will move into leadership positions. They will push the industry to new heights of sophistication."


    Fusionist - Nominated by Asta Roseway, principal research designer, Microsoft Research
    Early technology was, in its most basic form, like a huge block of ice: not very accessible, clunky, and necessitating specialists to handle. Now as technology melts, it will transform from solid to liquid to gas, permeating almost every aspect of our lives and creating a cross-disciplinary opportunities. Such diffusion will become the foundation for future design jobs. The designer’s role therefore will be to act as the "fusion" between art, engineering, research, and science. Her ability to think critically while working seamlessly across disciplines, blending together their best aspect, is what will make her a "Fusionist."

    While still expertly versed in classical design skills, the fusionist will mix those skills with a "generalist" approach to technology, working across disciplines and interest groups. In many cases, the fusionist may feel like an outlier. The technologies she bridges will require her to expand her own capacities. She’ll need to be an expert collaborator and communicator, extending her vocabulary so that she can reverse engineer her vision into discrete items that specialists can act upon. The Fusionist will remain driven by her passion for the Future and her ability to use Design as the unifying vehicle to drive the best experience.

    The global challenges that lie ahead can only be solved by a collaboration of minds and vocations, and a diversity of views. The challenge and reward for the Fusionist will be in her ability to communicate, comprehend, and connect all parties through design. This is already beginning to happen in the emerging fields of biofabrication and wearable technology. Stemming from biotech, biofabrication is a new cross disciplinary movement between the design and science that is generating the next wave of sustainable materials and solutions for our survival. It is not uncommon to see artists and biologists sitting together tackling the same problem. Additionally, wearable technology will see an influx of fashion designers and artists partnered with engineers, in order to create technologies that will go into our fibers and onto our skin. Fusionists will act as the bridges between emerging fields, and their ability to bring all parties together through communication and design will help bring about the greatest experiences.