Paying it forward, one slice at a time
Who is going to be Lawrence’s next Sal Lupoli?
The restaurateur-turned-developer is working hard to answer that question. Lupoli opened a “revolving test kitchen” in Lawrence this month aimed at spurring along other entrepreneurs toward success.
Lupoli, of course, has had his own famous upward trajectory. He built the Sal’s Pizza chain from scratch and created the Salvatore’s restaurant group, later selling it to his managers. Meanwhile, he developed a real estate empire in the Merrimack Valley, anchored by his massive Riverwalk complex in Lawrence.
Now Lupoli is trying to pay it forward again. He turned one of his pizzerias – one he opened at the urging of Mayor Dan Rivera on Common Street in Lawrence — into the test kitchen concept. Every six months or so, a new restaurateur will get a chance to use the space to incubate a business.
Northern Essex Community College owns the building and is providing the space for free, and Lupoli is providing nearly $300,000 worth of equipment, furniture, and renovations. Lupoli will also lend his team’s expertise.
“I begged and borrowed [to start Sal’s],” Lupoli says. “I know what it is to be an entrepreneur, to bootstrap something.”
The first one in: Ray Gonzalez, the owner of a Mexican food truck known as Coco Ray’s. This gives Gonzalez a chance to convert his truck into a brick-and-mortar business. As soon as Gonzalez stabilizes his cash flow and can move to a new place, Lupoli says, it will be time for someone new to take his place.
The goal isn’t just to foster entrepreneurs; it’s also to give downtown Lawrence a much-needed lift by birthing a new generation of businesses that can fill empty storefronts.
“You can’t go through life always taking, you’ve got to give,” Lupoli says. “You’ve got to make a difference while you’re breathing.” — JON CHESTO
Start making cents
As an investor, Jerry Harrison is not your typical talking head spewing funding jargon. For one thing, he’s an actual Talking Head. The Harvard educated Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has gotten into investing since leaving his music career behind.
In 1999, he helped launch Garageband.com, a music crowdsourcing platform that seeks to find the next rock star.
His latest venture, RedCrow, is an equity crowdfunding platform that funds health care startups with social impact. It was launched last month, with two local companies in its pipeline, MiRTLE Medical, which helps cardiac patients and children undergo MRI analysis, and IXCELA, which offers a blood test that helps patients better manage gut bacteria.
Harrison’s partner in RedCrow is Brian Smith, a Winchester native and former financial adviser in Boston who led business development at MindChild, a North Andover startup building a fetal heart rate monitor. That experience helped him appreciate the need for early-stage health care firms to find investors.
Both now live in California, and met through a mutual friend, Chad Taylor, the former guitarist in the band Live. (Harrison produced the band’s album “Throwing Copper.”)
After federal law began allowing startups to receive crowdfunded equity, Smith and Harrison launched RedCrow.
So how does a career in music parlay into an equity crowdfunding platform? “We’re discovering the next rock star entrepreneurs,” Smith said. — JANELLE NANOS
Free outdoor Wi-Fi
Kendall Square is one of the planet’s most tech-savvy places, but the neighborhood’s low-income residents are victims of the notorious digital divide:
Nearly a third of Cambridge Housing Authority tenants don’t have Internet access.
But that situation is improving, thanks to new, free, high-speed outdoor Wi-Fi in Kendall Square, including at the Newtowne Court and Washington Elms public housing developments.
It’s the work of Google, MIT, the City of Cambridge, Boston Properties, and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, among others, who partnered to accomplish what MIT’s Sarah Gallop calls “an infrastructure challenge.”
MIT deputy executive vice president Anthony Sharon says the project covers more than 1 million square feet and involves 8,000 feet of fiber-optic cable, about 450 feet of underground conduit, and 24 access points, such as antennae, on numerous buildings.
A second phase, aided by Cambridge Innovation Center CEO Tim Rowe, will expand to 500,000 square feet of East Cambridge.
“People working in tech and bio and pharma in the neighborhood probably have really good Internet access, but housing developments even three blocks away did not,” said Liz Schwab, the head of external affairs at Google Cambridge.
“It’s not solving the full problem,” she added, noting that individual apartment units still don’t all have
Wi-Fi. “But it’s a start.” —SACHA PFEIFFER
Apparently, innovative companies aren’t all that interested in renting space in the Innovation District.
After nearly three years of trying to find a tenant for 7,000 square feet of ground-level startup office space in his Waterside Place apartment building on Congress Street in the Seaport District, developer John Drew is ready to throw in the towel. He filed a letter with the Boston Planning & Development Agency on Monday, requesting permission to change the use of the city-mandated “startup space” to something more marketable.
The innovation space idea was a holdover from the Thomas M. Menino administration, which pitched the built-from-scratch business district as a hub for startups. Now that the neighborhood is largely built out, those companies are few and far between, with big chunks of space in new buildings instead being rented by professional services firms like PwC and Boston Consulting Group.
Techy startups have tended to prefer older, and often cheaper, space in Fort Point and Downtown Crossing.
Drew said Waterside’s failure to lure startups was not for lack of trying. A spokeswoman said the firm talked to 25 potential tenants, but couldn’t find any that could afford the rents.
“These efforts have not resulted in a single lease for the space, which continues to sit vacant,” he wrote.
What do they hope to use the space as? The real business of the Innovation District: a construction office for phase two of Waterside Place. — TIM LOGAN