Insights · September 18th, 2009

I had a great time yesterday at the Zino Society Zillionaire Investment Forum, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle. I had the privilege of delivering a brief keynote speech. The Forum was an opportunity for 28 entrepreneurs to present the investment case for their companies, competing for two investment prizes of $50,000, as well as for exposure to an audience of investors.

The Zino Society, brainchild of CEO Cathi Hatch, bills itself as the premier membership, business and social network in the Puget Sound area to connect accredited investors with entrepreneurs seeking funding. After attending this event, their major conference but just one of many events the Zino Society staff delivers annually, it can be said that they live up to their billing.

Each of the 28 companies was well prepared, they represented a surprising variety of market opportunities from deck-rail construction to laser-based materials assessment, to turbine-powered electricity, to several internet plays to organize package delivery, enable better ride sharing, or improve online media.

In my keynote speech, I noted that as a result of hearing these enthusiastic business leaders talk about their dreams, I was feeling much more optimistic about the future. The heart of what I offered was a call for transformative entrepreneurship, that focuses not just on making money but on making a difference. To accomplish that entrepreneurs need to be future oriented, vision driven, collaborative, and strategic. And I noted in closing they need to have fun – the reason most of them began their dream in the first place.

After the presentations a panel retired to select 6 finalists, three technology plays and three non-technology opportunities. These will be subjected to due diligence for the next month or so, at which time the two winners will be announced.

I generally agreed with the top 6 selection, who were:

Technology Finalists…

Photon Machines, Inc.: Laser-based material measurements to speed decision making and analysis from the geochemical lab to material and energy intensive process control. Basically, point a laser tool at any material and in seconds analyze what it is made of.

Enroute Systems Corporation: using Internet and software to ship packages more efficiently. Their systems enables customers and shippers to select the most cost effective method, something you would think is easy now, but is not.

GiftTango Corporation: providing online and retail merchants the ability to offer gift and membership cards to any internet connected device. Buy a gift card online, and it appears as an image on your cell phone, and later show the phone image in a store to make a purchase.

Non-Technology Finalists…

MicroGREEN Polymers, Inc.: giving the plastics industry and the world economically and ecologically viable advanced plastics technology to promote sustainable living. Basically they create plastic with air bubbles, using far less material, encouraging cradle to cradle recycling.

Zero Crossing Engineering: provides integrated tuning solutions for the musical instrument industry. Install their automatic tuner, costing less than $100, on an electric or acoustic guitar, and the musician can quietly and perfectly tune the instrument while on stage.

Harbor Wing Technologies, Inc.: robotic wind-driven unmanned surface vehicles for defense missions, and computerized WingSails for commercial and recreational boating.

Other companies I particularly liked (and I liked every single one to be honest) include:
Ballentine Railing, LLC. – modular steel railing system
CoreWerks – new chairs to resolve low back pain
Drop Station – banks of lockers to receive shipments. My 2009 client Grainger Inc. an early customer
EnergeticX – making ride sharing safe and easy
Grace & Game, LLC – fashionable golf clothing for women
Hydrovolts – a simple rotary turbine placed in irrigation canals to produce electricity – I would have made this one a winner. A really great idea not just in the U.S. but in the developing world.
Journey Gym – briefcase size portable gym, targeted for every hotel room.
Julep Nail Parlor – do we need more nail parlors – yes we need this one from an ex Starbucks exec.
Light-Based Technologies – control systems for LED lights.
Oasis Diagnostics – Using saliva specimens instead of blood samples for diagnostic testing, faster and less painful and complex.

To read about these and other companies in this year’s competition, visit either the Zino site, or a summary at an event co-sponsor, the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet video host and founder of To arrange for a speech contact

Business & Economy
Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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