The Grove at Startup Weekend New Haven 2015

collageThe new face you see at The Grove over the next few weeks may be one of the winners of the Startup Weekend New Haven competition that The Grove and Yale University organized and hosted on November 13 – 15. Opening welcoming presentations, initial pitches and formation of competing teams, and final pitches and awards presentations were held at Yale’s School of Management, Evans Hall, but the hard work was accomplished here at The Grove. Christina Kane and Tambira Armmand led the Grove’s organizing effort and Oneyka Obiocha cofounder of the Happiness Lab, and Grover Elinor Slomba of Arts Interstices served as coaches to the various teams. The Happiness Lab also stayed open for the complete 54 hour cycle to provide caffeine to those in need.

global eventStartup Weekend New Haven was one of a global network of Startup Weekends happening that weekend.


As attendees filed into Rm 2100 at Evans hall to kick off the 54 hour marathon session, the Eurthymics Sweet Dreams (“Sweet Dreams are made of this. Who am I to disagree?”) played overhead. Krishna Sampath, who many of you may know from The Grove as the Program Director of Apprentice100, Independent Software, gave the Welcome address. The energy in the room was palpable as he laid out the format for the weekend, introduced the criteria

Krishna Sampath delivers sage advice

Krishna Sampath delivers sage advice

competitors would need to meet, and doled out sage advice. Although individuals would be pitching their unique ideas for a service or product, every idea that was chosen to go forward had to be represented by a team created from attendees Sampath stressed the importance of teams in developing an idea and as a way to inspire other people and grow communities and advised participants to create their teams with diverse skills and to be agile in their decision process when they ran into problems. “Generally, if you can’t solve something in 15 minutes, it’s better to make a decision and move on,” he counseled. Among the criteria the teams were required to meet was getting out and talking to potential customers. “You’re not here just to pitch an idea but to take action,” Sampath reminded them.

Seventeen hopefuls line up to pitch

Seventeen hopefuls line up to pitch

Sampath’s address was followed by seventeen potential entrepreneurs, a number from out of state and all with dreams and varying states of jitters, giving 60-second pitches to the assembled crowd. Once all the pitches were given, the first cut was made as attendees voted on their favorite pitches. time to pitchEight of the pitches survived the cut and teams were created. Although there must have been some very disappointed individuals, the mood remained festive and many of those eliminated in the first round lent their support by joining teams.

Potential team members discuss the project

Potential team members discuss the project

Sampath stressed that because an idea was not chosen to proceed, it did not mean the idea was a bad one; only that it was a good match for this particular audience.
Once teams were chosen and the energy settled down a bit, Kyle Jensen, associate Dean Yale and Shanna and Eric Bass ’05 Director of Entrepreneurship & Lecturer in Entrepreneurship gave a presentation on the Lean Startup, an approach Jensen defined as “evidence-based entrepreneurship.” This approach, discussed in The Lean Startup: The Movement that is Transforming How New Products are Built and Launched, by Eric Ries, runs contrary to the traditional business school model  // and is the one competitors would be following throughout the weekend. Teams started working together right after Jensen’s presentation.

Saturday morning the teams met at The Grove for breakfast and to resume work.

Team members discuss a point

Team members discuss a point

Team members crowded into conference rooms, papered the walls with large post-its, wrote on white boards, typed on laptops, spoke on cell phones and gorged on the incredible amount of food and beverages available till mandatory check-in in the Clubhouse where each team reported on their progress and sought out whatever help they needed.
The high spirits of the previous evening before were being replaced by an intense focus evident in a muted noise level and the occasional solitary figure hold up with a laptop. The optional happy hour at the Trinity Bar and Restaurant was well attended but ended early as people went back to The Grove for another long night of work.
Sunday was wrap-up day with all team members assembling at Evans Hall for tech checks in late afternoon. As each group came forward to give their presentation it was obvious that the nervousness of the original pitches had been replaced by confidence (and maybe a bit of exhaustion?) not only in the project, but in the team’s ability to manifest the original idea into an actual entity.
Winners were selected by a panel of judges, all with impressive entrepreneurial, academic and publishing backgrounds in business. The audience was also invited to choose one team as their favorite.

The winning teams

The winning teams

The winners were:
• First prize: Consensus an app to increase efficiency in project management and avoid projects running over budget
• Second Prize: Looper: an app to match caddies with golfers
• Third Prize: Green Fuel: a method convert dry trash into fuel pellets with less pollution than any existing methods
• Audience choice: Green Fuel
As part of their prize each winning company received a membership to the Grove for varying lengths of time, so you can expect to see some new entrepreneurs here. When you do, be sure to say hello.

Christina Kane: Director of Culture

Christina provides a warm welcome to The Grove Photo by Rachel Liu Ballard

When Christina Kane was eight years old, she became fascinated with wallpapering. She asked her mother to show her how to do it, and her mother showed her on a small section of wall. Within a week, Christina had single-handedly wallpapered the entire living room, matching the pattern up and smoothing out the bubbles.

“I think I’ve always enjoyed finding out how to do something and do it well,” Christina Kane, Director of Culture at The Grove, told me recently. Finding out how to do something and mastering it has been a consistent theme in Christina’s life. She was hired on the spot by Arthur Murry Dance Studios when she was spotted by studio instructors at a party. “I actually never got to be a student,” she laughed. At The Grove Christina’s mastery of details is evident in a variety of ways, from the meticulously handwritten notices to the choice of wines and her vibrant hosting at the weekly Wine Down sessions.

Originally from the Pittsburgh area, Christina started honing her appreciation of various aspects of what constitutes a culture at an early age. “I had very brave parents,” Christina said. “They let me travel overseas at fourteen.” Her first adventure abroad was with a group that went to Mumbai, India. The experience was so positive that she decided to register for home schooling and take courses at a community college, allowing her to complete her high school accreditation early and free up time for more travel overseas. She returned to India a number of times, as well as travelling to Norway, Columbia, and South Africa on mission trips and doing humanitarian efforts.

Asked what she wanted had to be when she grew up, she replied, “I wanted to be an adult and have my own apartment and my own bills. Because, what do adults talk about? They talk about their place and they talk about paying their bills.” A successful career in healthcare provided Christina with the ability to have her own bills, as well as a large two-family house where she was able to develop a dynamic creative culture with the young artists and professionals who lived there with her. Unfortunately, the economy took a downturn, forcing Christina into a different direction. “[I] had a house full of brilliant people as I slowly and painstakingly remodeled it, only to have my career change at 27-28.” It was a disillusioning experience. “You’re in a system where it’s not designed for freelancers, freethinkers and problem solvers,” she said, ruminating on the effect of the crash on the housing market. “To overcome injustice like that, I think was really hard. Hard on my identity and I think it’s hard on society. Not the job, but the home – that’s a big part of how I expressed my creativity and my offering. . . To have that loss. I think, was harder than switching jobs and being creative with finances.”

Typically, Christina rebounded. She enrolled at Southern Connecticut State University, where she majored in psychology and fine arts and ultimately found her way to The Grove. Christina is often the first person new members or visitors to The Grove encounter. Along with providing a welcoming presence, Christina shapes the daily culture by, as

she puts it, “providing definitions for people to get immersed in our Grove Collaborative culture; to really celebrate the milestones that can go unnoticed as you build a business; as you build a dream. The happiest part, I think, is the privilege of knowing so many passionate people who are filled with purpose and are pursuing it every single day. I love discovering those ah-ha moments that make people come alive and if at all possible, to facilitate that.”

Proof: She doesn’t always smile! Photo by Rachel Liu Ballard

View From the Desk

Diana in conversation edit (3)

Grovers who have been here for a while may recall that in the past this site included a regularly updated blog. Starting with this entry, that featured blog is being revived. Current plans are for entries twice a month.

At the moment, plans are to spotlight a member in one entry and provide information on happenings at The Grove, co-working, the greater New Haven community and other information that may be of interest to the Grove community on the other blog post.  Our first spotlighted member is  none other than  . . . Ms Christina Kane!

While you may already know what type of business a particular member is engaged in, you may not know much about that member as a person. Spotlight pieces will provide a glimpse into the less obvious side of that person sharing a power strip across the table with you.

I’ve chosen to call this blog View From the Desk because, as the current (sometimes not very animated) Thursday Animator I enjoy a unique overview of daily life at The Grove. One of my fantasies has been to bring in my academic gown, snazz it up with a lace collar a la Judge Judy and wear it while officiating over room reservations and issuing notices of Big Mail. Maybe even use the stapler as a gavel . . .

Which brings us to a few points: Please remember when reserving rooms for meetings or conference calls, not all the rooms have walls that reach the ceiling. Therefore, what you say may be heard outside that room. If you and your clients will be discussing delicate business matters it would be better to book a room with complete walls. Along with the Murtha Cullina Room in the Happiness Lab, there are also two smaller rooms that may provide more privacy. Similarly, if scheduling a meeting that you anticipate being somewhat raucous but where confidentiality won’t be an issue, consider meeting in the Clubhouse where others won’t be disturbed.

I hope you all have had a wonderful summer and am looking forward to throwing the spotlight on each of you and bringing you lots of interesting news in the months to come.

Dancing, Dead Sea Gulls, Nights, Baby Food and Pancakes

What do dancing, dead sea gulls, knights, baby food and pancakes have in common? According to Bill Kenney, from Test My Pitch, who presented at Workbench this April, they are essential elements for a successful pitch.
As you may have guessed, he was speaking metaphorically. Dancing describes the preparedness needed so when you get before the individual(s) you’ll be delivering your pitch to, you can gracefully lead your partners taking in their needs and responses as opposed to be distracted and self-absorbed while you set up the slides, get the audio-visual to work, etc.

The dead sea gull, well . . . I’ll bet that one jumped out at you and you’re still visualizing a dead bird and wondering how you’re going to use this to pitch your plan for a more efficient data collection system to a group of harried CEOs. And that’s exactly how it works: give them a strong graphic representation – one that identifies the problem from your prospect’s perspective – and demonstrates the situation as it exists without your solution. A graphic that stays with them .
By now you’ve probably caught on that you (or your company/product) is the knight. Take that graphic and show how, like St. George, you’re going to slay that dragon (or , to stick with seagulls, clean the oil off the seagull’s feathers and bring it back to life).
Now the baby food. Well, once you and your prospect are happily moving in harmony, and you’ve reviewed the horrors of their current situation and introduced an efficient solution, take the time to present it all in nice, digestible bits. Simple thoughts; short sentences. The measure of a good pitch is if someone can repeat it someone to else.

And the pancakes? Well, in a way, the entire pitch is the pancake. Pitches are like pancakes in that often the first one is the worst of the batch. “You have to pitch badly to pitch well,” Kenney said. It takes time to learn to and hone the combination of skills required for a good pitch, and often the feedback on how a pitch can be improved, or where it went wrong, isn’t given till it’s too late. That’s why Kenney and his company developed a product, Test My Pitch, that allows you to get feedback from neutral coaches before you find yourself in front of a group of potential clients. Click for more information on Test My Pitch .


Purpose & Painting

Friday, June 12, Dr. Ivan Tirado and Elinor Slomba will present Painting Party!, a BYOB Evening of Relaxing, Creative Fun at The Grove from 6:30-9:00pm.  Recently they were both invited to share their views as creative entrepreneurs.  Here is a recap of the original interview with Zef Zen and her team at Creative Chat Cafe:


Ivan Tirado on his teaching approach: My favorite theory in education is social cognitive theory for the fact that we are not born in isolation and we don’t learn in isolation. We learn in society.


You cannot let what other people told you define you and what you think of yourself. I learned this working with a student who had disabilities. Art was the tool that afforded us a breakthrough to seeing what he could do, and he became an excellent artist!  Ever since I’ve been interested in learning psychology and mixing with art.


One of the things that I attempt to understand is how being aware of environmental responses can help you develop and what you’re going to become. When I was 4, I wanted to be a  serious Oscar-worthy drama actor…so I had my first chance as one of the wise men for the school play for Christmas. I practiced, got into character and I’m ready. And I go up there, and I forget my lines…and people started laughing.


So I had to make a switch in my mind and go, “well, maybe I cannot be an actor, but I can be a comedian.” Which led to me to start doing comedy for many years in school and when I went into college, I started working as a radio announcer. I started doing comedy on radio and end p doing stand up comedy for 14 years. So if we are not aware of the responses from the environment, we might misinterpret what is going on. And in many cases, that’s what happens to people. They are not aware of those environmental responses and they try to follow a path that is not theirs. However, this can be an opportunity to discover something else.


Ivan on positive mindset: This starts way before you are born because the baby can perceive the environmental response. The baby can tell if he is accepted or not even before he is out. Then when he is out, there is a direct contact with this environment and he can perceive that support; he can perceive the love. And interestingly, for many of us, the welcome that we got to this world was a smack in the butt…I have seen people at the sculpting and painting parties that we host go from “I can’t do it” to “I made it myself.”

Elinor Slomba on why she founded Arts Interstices: My background is in arts management and I’m interested in how arts and culture can strengthen and empower groups, how groups can find sustenance and meaning by working directly with artists. My services make it easier for groups to tap into artists’ intelligence, their ways of working and their models.


Right after college, I got into arts administration and for about 15 years, I did grant writing and fundraising in pretty traditional ways. Cultivating relationships with foundations, government funders…and inside those organizations I functioned mostly as a facilitator trying to bring the right people into the conversations…so all those pieces will line up correctly. What I found was that across many media, people were stressed and there was competition between fewer resources…it started to feel like fighting for crumbs. I thought: I rather build bakeries!

See more from Ivan and Elinor’s joint interview on Creative Chat Cafe 

Join the party by signing up for Painting on Friday June 12 or Sculpture on Friday, July 10 . Grove Members (and their Families & Significant Others) receive special discounts!