ASME IShow – Where Hardware Meets Social Innovation

ASME IShow Innovation Showcase
ISL is excited to work with ASME again this year to put on the Innovation Showcase – a global competition that challenges aspiring hardware engineers to showcase prototypes they’ve designed for social good. Hundreds of engineers have already submitted their prototypes, and we’re expecting many more before the application deadline on March 15th. This year’s showcase boasts an impressive $500K in prizes across the show’s three host countries: the US, India, and Kenya. After an initial round of social voting powered by ISL (and a people’s choice award of $1,000), 30 finalists will be invited to present their prototypes in person to our esteemed panel of judges:
  • Noha El-Ghobashy (@ghobashy), Founding President of Engineering for Change, LLC & Managing Director of Engineering Workforce and Global Development at ASME
  • PR Ganapathy (@prganapathy), President at Villgro Innovations India
  • Bob Hauck, Chief Mechanical Engineer at GE Healthcare
  • Heather Fleming (@heatherfleming), Founder of Catapult Design & Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow
  • Ben Wald, Founder & CEO of Spartan Systems
  • Kamau Gachigi (@KamauFabLab), Executive Director of the Gearbox in Kenya
Three innovators per location will receive a share of $50K in cash in addition to invaluable design and engineering reviews delivered by industry experts. So if you’re an engineer with an innovation to pitch, what are you waiting for?
Here are some examples of past competitor’s prototypes, gif’d out for your viewing pleasure:
Amos Winter’s (@amoswinter) go anywhere wheelchair, the Freedom Chair:
 Josh Kearns’ charcoal-driven water filtration system:
BBOXX’s (@BBOXX_HQ) portable solar powered generator:
We can’t wait to see the amazing concepts engineers from around the world will bring to this year’s IShow! Follow @ASMEIShow on Twitter to keep up with 2015’s mind-blowingly innovative prototypes. Better yet, tell your engineering friends to apply to the IShow by March 15!

iStrategyLabs Opens DUMBO Brooklyn Office and More


Hi All! We’ve got a lot of exciting news over here. I’ll keep it short, so here it goes:

We’re opening an office in Dumbo, Brooklyn, NYC. I’m going to be leading the office and splitting my time between DC & NYC.  View from the ISL NYC roof:

[Read] Kroger has selected ISL as their Social Agency of Record!

[Read] Our Twitter SELFIE mirror went viral. Tweets a pic if you smile.

[Read] The hack above turned into an Twitter Mirror project for E3!

[Read] We’ve grown to 50+ people and are moving the DC office to the old Wonder Bread Factory. 17,000 SF of creative technology!

[Read] We’ve launched the 2nd annual Mobileys. $20,000 up for grabs!

[Read] One of our latest internet connected devices give you real-time train, bike and weather info. We call it Transit.


#IntroFriday Will Change Your Life, And Someone Else’s Too


Perhaps it’s because I can toss a business card across the table with the accuracy of Peyton Manning that I often get asked to speak about the idea of “networking” or how to become a “super-connector.”  That said, the word “networking” often connotes the transactional, disingenuous side of relationship building. At the end of the day, one of the best ways to build & strengthen relationships is to provide selfless value to others. Here’s what you’re doing wrong and what you should be doing instead:

You are Doing it Wrong:  im-late-for-business-roller-blades The business card collecting, name-dropping, sales-driven types might be good at filling out a rolodex, but they’re too quick to ask for value (or simply to try and sell you something) instead of seeking to provide value (an idea, a connection, an opportunity, etc.). Too often are they demanding value in an email exchange (like calendar spamming), rather than simply creating it.

The Right Way: Many have written up great advice on this front, from the likes of Steve Blank on “How To Get Meetings With People Too Busy To See You” , and some even offer actionable recommendations and exercises such as James Altucher — who has a simple list of skills required to become a superconnector. The main message is to  provide real value to build real relationships. Here’s a dead simple way to get started: introduce two people you know to each other via email (two people who you know would both enjoy or find value in connecting with one another). Instead of #FollowFriday, let’s call this approach #IntroFriday.  Here’s an example:


If you’re 100% confident that both parties will indeed be interested in meeting the other, then go ahead and let it rip. If you’re not, send them  individual notes to see if they would in fact be interested in the connection. Through practice, you will sharpen your radar and develop better intuition for future intros.

If you don’t have an intro to make, email someone you know and ask what types of intros would be beneficial to them (an investor? a designer? a plumber?), and remember it for the future. That’s it. I guarantee if you practice this, something positive will come from it… and sooner than you might think.

If it doesn’t, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.  :)

Meet Transit, The Latest In Commuter Technology


Lately, I have been obsessing over the Electric Imp, a small internet connected device that allows makers to do some pretty awesome things. Where it truly excels is pulling in live data from APIs.

With our office located in Dupont Circle, we have easy access to the Metro and Capital Bikeshare Stations.  Since our team is constantly on the go, I thought it would be helpful to manipulate this travel data in a fun way, easily digestible way.  Thus Transit was born.


The first step in building Transit was choosing the hardware. I decided to go with six LED matrices that provided a similar aesthetic to the real metro signs, one Arduino Mega to power the LEDs, and an Electric Imp to collect the desired data. Next I brainstormed how much information I would like to show. I decided to display the next four trains arriving at the Dupont Circle metro, how many Capital Bikeshare bikes were available at the Dupont station, and the current temperature for Washington, DC.


The final unit is mounted on the wall between our two elevators, making it easy for people to see the information they need before they head out of the office. The sign pulls in new data from each of the APIs every 30 seconds.

P.S. I must commend the WMATA’s API for this project. Everything from signing up to embedding their data was extremely well done and easy to use.

The Challenge Festival Arrives!


What happens when you bring tens of thousands of people together in Washington, D.C. to fuse creativity, technology, art, entrepreneurship, and innovation?

DCWEEK (Digital Capital Week) was a weeklong festival — produced by iStrategyLabs and Tech Cocktail with support from hundreds of other organizations & people — which focused on bringing together designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and social innovators of all kinds from every sector. In short, it was a movement to boost the creative economy, bring innovative minds together and shine a spotlight on our nation’s capital in a new way.


DCWEEK was structured as a series of distributed events—powered by the community—and anchored by a core conference, huge parties, and a variety of unique projects. From the first opening party in 2010 to the final closing party 3 years later, DCWEEK connected and united thousands from D.C. and around the world. Although many compared it to an early-SXSW (and we were always hesitant to agree), one of our primary drivers was certainly to create a “moment” for people and organizations to convene and to create things together.

That said, DCWEEK was so much more than panels, workshops, and parties. We helped connect small businesses and nonprofits with strategists, designers, and developers who helped them upgrade their digital presences. We helped early-stage startups raise seed capital. We showcased artists, and got local talent up on stage at a sold-out 9:30 Club. We brought .com, .org, .gov and .edu together on a series of special projects with a mission: making D.C. a better place to live and work.

We also didn’t sleep very much.


Before DCWEEK, there were certainly events, meetups, and happy hours, but most were industry or community specific. Early on at iStrategyLabs, one of our first big events focused on bringing together the technology and art communities for a Halloween throwdown. It generated the type of creative friction that comes from mashing up talented folks from different worlds.

Today, #DCtech has become a dynamic ecosystem of diverse talent, measured by so much more than venture-capital dollars raised. We have one of the biggest tech meetups in the world, a healthy flow of talent from local universities, more global brand headquarters than many realize—and of course, the Fortune 1, the Federal Government.  While it’s not all puppies and rainbows (and speaking of VC cash, Q1 2014 wasn’t as strong as many had hoped), D.C. also offers unique value in the international connections, networks, people, companies, ideas, and venues via the Embassies right in our backyard, built into the fabric of the city itself.

That’s what’s so exciting about the Challenge Festival — it has the power to highlight the burgeoning creative economy on a global scale. We always knew that the next iteration of DCWEEK would have an international focus, and the timing couldn’t be better for Challenge Festival to be exactly that. With a heavy overlap in mission and purpose, Challenge Festival the ideal torchbearer for what DCWEEK started, and will truly become a new “moment” for D.C. to shine. See you out there!