No. 75: Beer money, new kids on the block and Chelsea boots are back

TGIF: A good Friday everyone and a special welcome to new readers. This was a week during which even the cynics and doomers had to think, “Hmm, maybe there really is something to this innovation stuff.”

For starters, welcome Chad Bouton, the neural research wunderkind who figured out how to harness brain impulses that allow paralyzed patients to move limbs, even their wheel chairs, by just thinking about it. He’s done loads more at Battelle, the giant Ohio R&D organization, racking up 70 patents, a slew of government and private awards and a shot on 60 Minutes.

As of this week, he’s the newly minted director of the Feinstein Institute’s Center for Bioelectronic Medicine, to be built – Albany and other donors willing – at the Nassau Hub. Big doings.

Speaking of wunderkinder, meet Daniel Preston, CEO of Brooklyn startup Luminati Aerospace, now in talks with Riverhead officials to launch a $50M next-gen drone operation at the former Grumman test facility at Calverton.

A college student by age 12 – though he dropped out to start his first company – Preston later launched Atair Aerospace, a $20 million firm that designed parachutes, including a jet-powered model, for the U.S. military. After selling that, he took on his family’s 100-year-old cacao business, adding top-shelf confections plus rum, liqueur and an award-winning bourbon.

And now comes Luminati, which seems a better fit for Preston’s 100+ patents, most related to aerodynamics.

One of the many remaining questions: Is Preston playing front man for Facebook, which plans to deliver Internet to the developing world via drones very much like the ones Preston is pitching? He ain’t saying, at least not yet. If only for the intrigue, we’re pressing the “like” button on this one.

Beyond that, just a week full of your normal, run-of-the-mill innovation news: Medical breakthroughs, millions in funding, promising startups, climate saving and more state aid for craft beverages. Hmm, maybe there really is something to this innovation stuff.


Gear Up Play Hard, a startup founded by Molloy grad Lanier Mason – and one of our Innovator of the Year award winners – matches used sports equipment with young athletes who couldn’t otherwise  afford to play. Smart guy, nice story.

Farmingdale charter operator JFI Jets has acquired a Florida competitor, expanding its reach and fleet. These are the guys who will take your corporate crew to Cuba on, wink, business development trips.

Medford-based Chembio Diagnostics won a $2.1M grant from Microsoft founder Paul Allen to roll out an all-in-one field test for Ebola and other fever-causing diseases.

We’re celebrating Long Island’s best and brightest ideas at an Oct. 21 breakfast and would love to have you there. Honorees are from software, clean energy, biotech, science and technology, general inventiveness and craft food and beverage. Details here.

ULC Robotics of Hauppauge has been named an industry Game Changer for its unique repair bot, which can mend gas mains with minimum excavation and no halt in customer service. A utility industry favorite.

Applied DNA Sciences has inked a deal with a California firm that will get Applied products in front of 500,000+ police and security officials. In sales, that’s like having a triple helix.

As mentioned, the state ponied up $16M to help craft distillers, brewers and cider makers.

New York’s First Mother, Matilda Raffa Cuomo, will chair a mentoring program for at-risk kids launched this week by her son. (They’re looking for business people, BTW.)

Just in time for pothole season, the state is spending $14M to resurface 16.2 miles of State routes 106, 231 and 25A in the towns of North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Smithtown, Riverhead and Babylon. Yay: Work to be done at night.

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GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: New York heating bills this winter should be 10 percent lower than last year. Four points of the decrease is attributable to lower fuel prices, the remainder to higher temperatures from climate change, according to DOE.

THE CHIPS ARE UP: The Finger Lakes have landed a $700M deal with a Massachusetts firm to manufacture silicon chips for solar panels. The plan includes up to 1,000 jobs and several hundred thousand square feet of buildings. NY taxpayers are chipping in almost $60M.

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS: Brooklyn real estate prices continue to surge, with third quarter average prices up 18 percent year over year. It’s also the only borough with a median sales price above its pre-recession high. More from the Elliman report.

PLANNING IS EVERYTHING: A Buffalo developer’s plans for a giant Bavarian-styled beer hall have been pushed back by almost two years after discovering major sewer and utility lines under the site.

THE BOSS WOULDN’T LIKE THIS: The Yankees are out $15M in ticket and suite revenue for each playoff game they’re not playing, according to a Crain’s analysis. And regular attendance was off 600,000 this season.

LATE BLOOMER: Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, last mentioned here for a serious gift to Cold Spring Harbor Lab, is urging former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg to join the presidential race, providing a real alternative to Hillary and relief from the comedy that is Trump.

And no fundraising necessary, Ackman notes, since Bloomberg’s $38B fortune is four times what The Donald claims he’s worth.

And 10 times the number Forbes uses.

DIDN’T SEE THIS COMING: New York is the most energy-efficient state in the union, according to a new annual survey from WalletHub.

North Carolina was 25th. Just sayin’.

WORKS LIKE MAGIC: Voodoo Manufacturing, a Brooklyn startup founded by four former employees of 3-D printer company MakerBot, offers low-cost prototyping and limited manufacturing runs of up to 10,000 pieces. Perfect for the crowdfunding set or the company golf outing. MakerBot’s own entrée into retail last year flopped, forcing it to lay off 100.

Oops, it just happened again. The bot firm laid off 20 percent of its remaining staff yesterday and consolidated operations into its Brooklyn HQ.

ATTENTION MEDALLION FINANCIERS: Uber has doubled the number of drivers patrolling NYC streets in the past year, to 20,000. Another 10,000 green and yellow cabs can also be hailed with the app.

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RAKISH ENTREPRENEUR: Kyle Waring, who tried to make a buck last year selling blocks of Boston’s record snowfall to those in warmer climes, is back. This time with New England fall foliage. Waring will send you three carefully preserved, hand selected, Grade A-only leaves for $19.99. No joke.

FLAVOR PENDING: California-based Impossible Foods, a four-year-old startup that is perfecting an all-plant cheeseburger that actually looks like the real thing, has raised $108M in its fight against calories, cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics.

MOVE OVER, GOOGLE: Germany’s Daimler Trucks is testing a self-driving semi on a stretch of Autobahn 7 near Stuttgart. The trucks are expected to help fight driver fatigue on future long hauls. They already shift and brake more safely and economically than humans.

DUH: 92 percent of U.S. millennials consider the smartphone to be their primary device, an Adobe survey found. More surprising: 67 percent of the over-70 crowd does, too.

ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW: Recipients of cold-call emails are four times as likely to respond if you gratuitously drop names like Charlie Strain in your message, according to a report in Priceonomics. Mentioning a famous customer – Stu Rabinowitz, say – or a backer like Nancy Douzinas works well, but dropping the name of a shared contact like Ray Farrell is the top strategy. What do you think, Michael Sahn?

(OK, I’ll stop. Anthony Acampora is begging me.)

BOARD GAMES: Directors of public companies are less happy with each other, according to the latest PwC survey of board members, with 40 percent saying at least one fellow trustee should go.

No surprise that new board members are most unhappy with their long-tenured colleagues, with diminished performance due to aging cited as the top gripe. The full survey and chart pack are here.


HOW TO LOSE A NOBEL: Smithsonian magazine looks at all the ways to not win science’s top prize, including having a crummy nominator, as did brain surgery pioneer Harvey Cushing, arguably the father of modern neurosurgery. (You can visit his brain collection at Yale, though.)

FALL FASHION ROUNDUP: Collar bars are back – but you now wear them without the tie. Also, higher waists, baggy pants, Chelsea boots and roll-neck cashmere sweaters. The scoop from our friends at Inside Hook.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: New episodes of The X-Files, due to begin running in January, will have the same opening credits as the original show, which debuted in 1993. Remember David Duchovny before the wear and tear of Californication?

LIFE IMITATING ART: Former Twitter CEO Dick is helping write the third season of HBO’s Silicon Valley.

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Compiled by John Kominicki. Thanks for reading.