Monthly Archive for June, 2010

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Tools to fund your project in the crowd

Crowdfunding is an excellent way to raise start-up cash the way most entrepreneurs do – from friends, fools and family. What is crowdfunding?  In a nutshell, raising sizable, useful sums of money in small amounts from many people. It’s an ancient tradition that has achieved some great results – its even gotten many Presidents elected.

What makes crowdfunding so relevant to today’s start-up environment is that the tools have never been so powerful. From simple donation buttons created through financial services sites like Paypal to robust “package” sites like Crowdrise that enable you to build a campaign, crowdfunding sites have exploded in the last decade. Many of them now have their own publicity machinery and are a great way for you to attract new eyes and hearts to your project. Here, we offer just a few to get you started.

Continue reading ‘Tools to fund your project in the crowd’

MIT Inventors Win Top Two Spots at ASME iShow

Congratulations to the MIT students behind 6Dot Braille Labeler and Leveraged Freedom Chair for winning second and first place respectively at the 2010 ASME Innovation Showcase!

6Dot was awarded a $7500 IDEAS Health Innovation award in 2009 sponsored by Aleksander and Anna Anita Leyfell. In 2008 Leveraged Freedom Chair won a $7500 IDEAS Award for International Technology sponsored by the Lemelson-MIT Program.

Both teams have used their award to further test and refine their prototypes as well as seek out new funding sources and partnerships. Congratulations on all your hard work – its terrific to see you thrive!

See the ASME announcement here.

Can Information Improve Aid Effectiveness?

In 2009 Oxfam America published a brief on “smart development,” in which the authors advocate for increased transparency and predictability in US overseas assistance (ODA). In defining the challenge and the opportunity, Oxfam America identifies three reforms central to their strategy: provide increased access to information to recipient countries; build capacity and help countries lead their own development; and finally let countries lead by opening control.

In making the case for reform 1 (increasing access to information), Oxfam America gives three examples of the information entanglements that arise from massive aid programs that lack effective information sharing regimes:

For years, Afghans have heard about billions of dollars being promised by foreign  donors, yet they have no way to find out where that money is going. Even their  government does not know how one-third of all aid (some $5 billion) has been  spent since 2001.13 In Uganda, a mapping exercise in 2005 found twice as much  aid being spent than what the government was told.14 In Sierra Leone, the government knows little of the 265 different aid projects that donors are funding.15 And
in Malawi, there was a $119 million difference in what donors reported they were  providing to the government of Malawi and what donors reported to the OECD.16

“How” the authors ask, “can recipient governments use donor aid to plan in such circumstances?”

In reading the report, which is a sleek 40 pages, I realize there is a tremendous innovation opportunity here – which is to develop better tools, standards, and administrative reforms that will lead to the kind of information coherence across ODA actors necessary for effective development planning. In a sense, a GPRA for aid that harnesses the open data reforms of the last decade and the flexibility of information sharing tools available on the web.

A problem with enough technical challenges to be of interest to MIT management and programming talent?

Why social entrepreneurs do what they do

A recent article in Stanford’s Business Magazine profiled the social enterprise D.light, which delivers affordable LED lighting to rural, off-grid communities. A powerful quote caught my eye, one that really threw into sharp relief the power of what students everywhere are doing to change the world:

“Chaudhary purchased a light for about $30 and soon noticed that his family’s eyes no longer burned and their chests no longer hurt. Even better, they could see at night. His sister, Rama, was able to stay up late knitting sweaters. His father, Gajinder, could read without straining his eyesight. His aunt, Suman, stopped charring the flat chapati bread she baked over the wood stove.”

All these benefits from a light? Its almost inconveivable in our comfortable lifestyles. To communities with less, simple, smart changes add up to significant quality of life improvements.

Read the complete Stanford article here.

MSU Spartans Channel Change

Great clip communicating energy that can be drawn from a worldwide alumni base. Props to Tom G. for spotting this in Tuesday’s NYTimes.

The MIT Global Challenge Sneakpeak

Its June already. Less than 5 months to get the MIT Global Challenge platform in shape for launch to MIT’s alumni leaders at the annual ALC October 22-23 here on campus.

Most of the big hurdles are behind us. Who knew optimization could be such a bear?? Key features to complete build are:

  • Splash page and data visualization
  • Community choice award voting engine
  • Moderator and volunteer panel
  • Location-based user interaction

We’re also working on a student-centered video pitch contest – stay tuned!