No. 374: On Sully, ‘MacGyver,’ Pluto and Nomorobo … and the Oscars go to New York!

Signature moment: National Handwriting Day is celebrated on Jan. 23 in conjunction with the birthday of John Hancock, remembered for his flamboyant signature on the Declaration of Independence.


Over the hump we go: Welcome to Wednesday, dear readers, and the midpoint of another exciting week of innovative entrepreneurism.

It’s Jan. 23 out there, and to our readers on Pitcairn Island, a safe and joyous Bounty Day to you (celebrated every Jan. 23 to commemorate the burning of the HMS Bounty by her infamous mutineers in 1790).

Write up: To everyone else, please enjoy National Handwriting Day, an actual event that encourages us to quit the keyboard and put pen to paper.

Welcome aboard: Before we dive into your weekly socioeconomic adventure, hello to new newsletter subscribers Alexis, Jaspreet, Dale, Marlow, Dave, Hope, Daniel, Phil, Mim, Kate, Robert, Steve and Ronnie.

We were wondering when you’d get here! Glad you made it, enjoy the show.

Utraque Unum: Georgetown University, the first Catholic college in the United States, was founded on this date in 1789 (that’s “both into one” in Latin, by the way).

Sealed and delivered: A U.S. patent was issued on Jan. 23, 1849, to inventors Jesse Park and Cornelius Watson, who created an envelope-making machine.

Other patents issued on Jan. 23 include one in 1951 for inventor N.W. Roop and his beer-drinking mug and one just last year for inventor Lance Kasper and his “peer-to-peer consensus system and method for achieving consensus in tracking transferrable digital objects” (something to do with blockchain).

Dwarf or not, still cool: Clyde Tombaugh, a young astronomer at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, took pictures on the night of Jan. 23, 1930, of an unknown object – soon named “Pluto” and (temporarily) classified as the Solar System’s ninth planet.

Disc drive: Speaking of Pluto, the “Pluto Platter” – you know it better as the “Frisbee” flying disc, originally invented by UFO enthusiast Walter Morrison – was introduced by the Wham-O toy company on this date in 1957.

Send in the clones: And in a true “Jurassic Park” moment, scientists at Spain’s Center for Agro-Nutrition Research and Technology inserted DNA taken from the last Pyrenean ibex before it died – marking that species’ official extinction – into an egg implanted into a surrogate Spanish ibex, which gave birth on Jan. 23, 2009.

Unfortunately, lung defects killed the clone in just seven minutes – technically, marking the second time the Pyrenean ibex went extinct.

Sign here: American statesman John Hancock, the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, would be 282 years old today.

Other Jan. 23 birthdays include French impressionist painter Edouard Manet (1832-1883), American biochemist Gertrude Elion (1918-1999, developed groundbreaking leukemia and herpes treatments) and Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger (born 1951), the heroic airline pilot behind the stick for 2009’s “Miracle on the Hudson” crash-landing.

You have an answer for everything: On the subject of resourceful heroes, Richard Dean Anderson – TV’s original “MacGyver” – turns 69 today.

Wish all the heroes, real and fictional, a happy birthday at – and save our day with a story tip or calendar suggestion, please and thank you.


About our sponsor: Hofstra University is an engine for research and innovation, combining a Center for Entrepreneurship, a Center for Innovation, the expertise of its faculty, the energy of its students and the state-of-the-art resources of its schools of engineering and applied science, business, law and medicine to drive and transform the region’s economy. Visit us.



The envelope, please: Nominees for the 91st Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards were announced Tuesday, and the Empire State Development Corp. has already rushed the podium to thank the 11 New York-based productions snagging 26 combined Oscar nominations.

Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns” reboot and director Spike Lee’s “Black KkKlansmen” – which earned several prestigious nods – led the stable of New York nominees, among the 203 film and television projects that applied in 2018 for the New York State Film Tax Credit Program.

Created in 2004, Albany’s film-tax effort has incentivized billions of dollars in statewide economic investment, with ESDC estimating those 2018 productions alone generated 211,300 jobs and $3.8 billion in spending. Empire State Development Corp. President and CEO Howard Zemsky was quick to hand out gold statues Tuesday, noting, “The New York productions nominated for Oscars today exemplify the state’s thriving film industry.”

Governor’s reprieve: As the partial shutdown of the federal government drags on, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the State University of New York and City University of New York systems to provide “temporary reprieves” for affected students.

That includes students who are federal employees or dependents of federal employees, or who are dependent on federal loans – all of whom can now have their SUNY and CUNY tuition payments postponed, along with the elimination of certain late fees and penalties and other expense-related reprieves.

Noting a “precarious time” for the nation, and that “New York’s students are among those hit hardest by Washington’s inaction,” Cuomo said Tuesday Albany would “not stand idly by as the federal administration undermines students’ ability to achieve a higher education.”



Heavy lifting: Port Jefferson-based Nomorobo, bane of the auto-dialer, is about to block its one-billionth robocall – and an even better version is on the way.

Light cleaning: A new ultraviolet-light cleaning tech backed by Northwell Health’s investment division comes close to eliminating all hospital-borne pathogens.

“Voices” in your head: Please check out Innovate LI’s newest feature – Voices, a weekly column presenting deep thoughts from the brightest minds behind the regional innovation economy. First up: Political commentator Jeff Guillot ravages the War of the Wall.



Think about it: From Forbes, a Stanford neuroscientist discusses the mind-over-matter secrets of unlocking innovation.

Thinking small: Our friends at StartupNation sit down with author and solopreneur Paul Jarvis, who knows bigger isn’t always better 

Negative thinking: Newsday and friends count up millions of dollars in Long Island economic activity lost each week to the partial federal government shutdown.



+ HyperScience, a New York City-based machine-learning company, raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Stripes Group, with participation from FirstMark Capital and Felicis Ventures, as well as Battery Ventures, Global Founders Fund, TD Ameritrade and QBE.

+ Big Squid, a Utah-based predictive analytics and automated machine-learning software company, raised $9 million in a Series A-1 funding round led by Lewis & Clark Ventures, with participation from Silverton Partners, Signal Peak Ventures and Kickstart Seed Fund.

+ PetDesk, a California-based pet-health management platform for veterinary practices, raised $12 million in funding. Silicon Valley-based firm PeakSpan Capital made the investment.

+ Tyto Care, a New York City-based company enabling live, comprehensive telehealth visits and examinations, raised $9 million in Series C funding. Backers included Sanford Health, Itochu and Shenzhen Capital Group (and its affiliates).

+ Limelight Health, a California-based quoting, underwriting and proposal platform for the employee-benefits industry, raised $33.5 million in series C funding led by Principal Life, with participation from AXA Venture Partners, MassMutual Ventures, Aflac Ventures, Transamerica Ventures, Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, LaunchPad Digital Health and Wanxiang America Healthcare Investments.

+ Outdoorsy, a Texas-based outdoor-recreation marketplace, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from by Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital.



Relax: Our friends at Rave Reviews rank the best massage chairs.

Don’t do it: shares the five easy steps to breaking bad business habits (and starting good ones).

When you want to go to it: Ready to innovate? Not until you finish your customer research, warns online resource hub CustomerThink.

Frankie goes to Hofstra: Please remember to support the great institutions that support Innovate LI, including Hofstra University, where the Frank G. Zarb School of Business is just one of the forward-thinking schools and colleges preparing tomorrow’s leaders.