No. 484: We do the twist, the bump and the IDA shuffle – all from the comfort of home!

Howdy, stranger: Known best for his writing and fearless forays into sport, "Paper Lion" George Plimpton (most likely, the one you don't recognize) also enjoyed a moderately successful acting career. The multitalented man was born March 18, 1927.


It could be worse: A lot worse, dear readers, as we hunker down, suck it up and otherwise follow sage advice designed to save lives.

It’s Wednesday out there, March 18 to be precise, and as everyone readjusts to the new normal, we acknowledge National Supreme Sacrifice Day – and remember there’s plenty of real estate between inconvenience and true sacrifice.

Discomfort zone: Well, that’s awkward.

Too close for comfort: Another natural for a coast-to-coast lockdown, today is also National Awkward Moments Day.

Light at the end of the tunnel: Today’s ray of hope comes courtesy of Rhode Island innovator David Melville, who patented his “apparatus for making coal gas” – leading directly to his invention of the gas streetlamp – on March 18, 1813.

Tunnel with a light at the end: The Staple Bend Tunnel – the first U.S. railroad tunnel and a key stretch of the historically critical Alleghany Portage Railroad – opened in Pennsylvania on this date in 1834.

All’s Wells (and Fargo): Frequent business associates Henry Wells and William Fargo launched their first joint venture on March 18, 1850 – a Buffalo-based express-mail business they dubbed American Express.

The partners would team up again two years later on another moderately successful startup, this known as Wells Fargo & Co.

Twisted logic: The famous but now-defunct Quinlan Pretzel Co. patented a unique pretzel-twisting machine on this date in 1947.

On that same day – March 18, 1947 – Indiana inventor Stanley Hayes filed to patent his new-and improved bumping posts, those end-of-the-line blockers standing where railroad tracks end (he earned his patent five years later).

Out-standing: Leonov, first floater.

Comrades in spaaace: And humanity’s first spacewalk occurred on this date in 1965, when tethered Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov stepped out of his Voskhod 2 space capsule and floated around the void for about 10 minutes.

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was thrilled. But Leonov’s family was not amused.

Young at heart: English zoologist and neurophysiologist John Young (1907-1997) – one of the 20th century’s most influential biologists, credited with founding modern neurobiology – would be 113 years old today.

Once and future queen: Williams, crowned and un-crowned and still reigning.

Also born on March 18 were 22nd (and 24th) U.S. President Grover Cleveland (1837-1908); German engineer Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913), who invented the internal-combustion engine bearing his name; American agricultural engineer Wesley Buchele (1920-2017), whose contraptions changed farming and the world; American editor, actor and acclaimed sportswriter George “The Paper Lion” Plimpton (1927-2003); and German-born entrepreneur Lillian Vernon (1927-2015), founder and CEO of the Lillian Vernon Corp., the first woman-founded company listed on a U.S. stock exchange.

Miss and hits: And take a bow, Vanessa Lynn Williams – the American singer, actress and fashion designer, who gained acclaim in 1983 as the first African American Miss America, turns 57 years old today.

Wish the pageant-winning actress-turned-singer-turned-fashionista and all the other March 18 innovators well at – and dress it up with a story tip or calendar suggestion, please and thank you.


About our sponsor: Farrell Fritz, a full-service law firm with 15 practice groups, advises startups on entity formation, founder and shareholder agreements, funding, executive compensation and benefits, licensing and technology transfer, mergers and acquisitions and other strategic transactions. The firm’s blog, New York Venture Hub, discusses legal and business issues facing entrepreneurs and investors.



Canadian high: A clean-energy stalwart and posterchild for Long Island innovation has earned some love from our neighbors to the north.

The Natural Gas Innovation Fund, a Canadian Gas Association function designed to support clean-tech innovation and fill technology gaps in the natural gas industry, has supplemented its fourth funding round – winners were first announced in December – with an additional $426,500 reward for ThermoLift, a Stony Brook-based heat-pump innovator with a proprietary tech promising dramatic reductions in carbon emissions and heating costs.

The NGIF, which combines the investment might of five Canadian natural-gas utilities, also announced the winners of its fifth funding round: four Canadian companies that earned between $100,000 and $300,000 apiece. Founded in 2012 by Paul Schwartz and Peter Hofbauer, ThermoLift – based at Stony Brook University’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center – has raised millions in government grants, corporate stakes and private investments.

Adrian Krainer: Ross level.

Like a Ross: A pioneer of “antisense therapy” (battling disease with short, DNA-like molecules) has earned the eighth-annual Ross Prize in Molecular Medicine.

Awarded through Molecular Medicine – the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research’s open-access, peer-reviewed journal – the $50,000 award is reserved for scientists who make “a demonstrable impact in the understanding of human disease pathogenesis and/or treatment” and who are likely to make “even greater contributions to the general field of molecular medicine,” according to the Feinstein Institutes.

It goes this year to Adrian Krainer, the St. Giles Foundation professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, who studies the mechanisms of RNA splicing with a particular focus on genes associated with spinal muscular atrophy, a leading genetic cause of death in infants. The researcher said he was “grateful and honored” to earn the Ross Prize, adding, “We will redouble our efforts to explore new ways to address unmet medical needs.”



Surgical decision: As COVID-19 spreads, Northwell Health is postponing elective procedures.

Playing past it: They’re staying focused at the Nassau County IDA, with incentives packages targeting job creation and rental housing.

Post haste: Facebook users drop linguistic clues about pending medical emergencies –sometimes months in advance, according to a new study.



Downright infectious: From the coronavirus to homeschooling to the best recipes for your leftover corned beef, nothing informs and entertains like our remarkable Voices library – a deep dive into the Long Island innovation economy, swimming with key contributors. This global pandemic, learn something new.



First responders: Entrepreneur magazine foresees the next wave of entrepreneurism, courtesy of the coronavirus.

Second front: Bloomberg reports on a cyberattack – foreign actors suspected – aimed at disrupting the U.S. pandemic response.

Third worst: After Wall Street’s cruelest day in three decades, Barron’s considers what it would take to temporarily suspend the stock markets.



+ HEX Performance, a Colorado-based cleaning solution designed to clean and protect activewear and synthetic materials, closed a $5 million funding round led by Lykos Capital Partners.

+ Vida Diagnostics, an Iowa-based provider of AI-powered lung-imaging analysis, raised $11 million in the initial close of its Series C funding round, led by First Analysis Corp., Blue Heron Capital, UnityPoint Health Ventures, Next Level Ventures, Chartline Capital Partners, Rural Vitality Fund, Rittenhouse Ventures, Iowa First Capital Fund and The Angels’ Forum.

+ Greyter Water Systems, an Arizona-based manufacturer of a home water-recycling system, closed its $3 million Series A funding round led by Lennar Ventures.

+ Heartbeat Health, a New York City-based digital-health company addressing cardiovascular disease, closed an $8.2 million Series A funding round led by .406 Ventures and Optum Ventures, Kindred Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Designer Fund and Max Ventures.

+ Kaleidoscope Group, a Minnesota-based software developer focused on the management of private scholarships and grants, secured $3 million as part of its Series A financing round. Rally Ventures made the investment.

+ BillionToOne, a California-based precision diagnostics company with a patent-pending “molecular counter platform,” closed its follow-on Series A+ funding round of $15 million, led by Hummingbird Ventures, NeoTribe Ventures, Y Combinator, Libertus Capital, Pacific 8 Ventures, Civilization Ventures, 500 Startups Istanbul and HOF Capital.


BELOW THE FOLD (Quarantine Edition)

Work in progress: Adjusting to the new norm.

How to start: A webinar on preparing your team to work remotely.

How to work and parent: Tips from a dad who’s done it.

How to stay sane: Read this one before the isolation drives you into an inescapable pit of deranged incoherence.

How it’s done in the bigs: For a COVID-19 response done right, check out one of the amazing firms that support Innovate LI – Farrell Fritz, where a ready-to-roll contingency plan is keeping employees healthy, clients safe and all cylinders firing.