Business & Tech


Diane Hessan is everywhere . . .

Chris Morris for The Boston Globe
Diane Hessan

Just how many hats can Diane Hessan wear at one time?

Hessan (right) is still working on the answer to that question. She has jumped back into the Boston business scene after stepping away to focus on voter research for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

She continues the political work she began last year after leaving her post as the Startup Institute’s CEO. This time, Hessan says, it’s more out of her desire to find some common ground. She stays in contact on a weekly basis with at least 350 voters, roughly split between Clinton supporters and people who backed President Trump. It’s a natural extension of the online community work she did when she ran C Space, a Boston marketing firm.


She says she’ll make an appearance on Jake Tapper’s CNN show on April 5 to talk about her latest findings.

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Then there’s her work with Salient Ventures, a firm she launched to “consolidate” her efforts as an investor and adviser to early-stage technology companies, most of them in Boston. “There are so many people that helped me,” Hessan says. “Now, I’m just trying to pay it forward.”

Hessan has also become an in-demand board member. She sits on the boards of Panera Bread, Eastern Bank, CoachUp, MassChallenge, and Tufts University. Two weeks ago, Boston video tech company Brightcove appointed her to its board. (Meanwhile, Brightcove board member Chet Kapoor quit last week with a letter critical of the company’s governance.)

Don’t forget about C Space, which Omnicom Group acquired in 2011. Hessan remains involved as C Space’s chair. That involves meeting with clients, for example, and providing advice to her successor in the CEO’s office, Charles Trevail.

“I’m really enjoying the breadth of stuff that I’m involved with,” she says. “It’s fascinating. Might I go back and run a company again? Sure. But right now, I couldn’t be happier.”

It’s iRobot versus lionfish


Last year, iRobot Corp. stopped making military robots. But its CEO and cofounder, Colin Angle, is about to launch a new machine designed to take out a fearsome underwater enemy: the lionfish.

You’ve heard of this creature if you watch nature documentaries. It’s a spiny fish from the Pacific that’s on the loose along the Atlantic coast, reproducing by the millions and devastating native fish species. Angle learned about the problem during a 2015 scuba trip with his wife, Erika, a biochemist.

“We were asked by the dive operator, how about building a robot that can go and control the lionfish population?” Angle said.

His new machine, to be unveiled in the Bahamas April 19, will be remotely controlled from a boat. The operator will “swim” the robot over to a lionfish, zap it with an electric shock, and scoop up the stunned fish. An early prototype caught 900 lionfish in just 10 hours. Angle hopes to sell the robot for between $500 and $1,000.

It sounds like the latest money-making venture from the man who gave us the popular Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. But the robot will be produced by a nonprofit venture, Robots in Service of the Environment. Angle hopes it will be the first of a series of products to use robotics to address environmental problems. RISE will also work with Erika Angle’s educational foundation, Science from Scientists. Data gathered by the robots will be used in grade schools to teach future environmental scientists and mechanical engineers.

The Blue Monster, maybe?


JetBlue Airways isn’t letting the Boston Red Sox get to free agency.

A week ahead of opening day, the team and the airline announced they are extending a sponsorship agreement that’s been in place since 2008. It wasn’t going to expire for another three years, but now JetBlue will be the official airline of the Sox (whose principal owner, John W. Henry, also owns The Boston Globe) until 2030.

The deal includes JetBlue signage inside Fenway Park and gives the airline naming rights for the team’s spring training facility, JetBlue Park in Fort Myers,Fla.

Marty St. George, JetBlue’s executive vice president of operations, said the company was eager to extend the deal in large part because it values the naming rights.

“It’s a great reminder that we’re the leading airline in New England. I’m sure that if they’re willing to rename Fenway Park, we’d like to talk about that, too,” he said, noting that “the fans wouldn’t like it.”

JetBlue offers more flights than any other provider out of Logan International Airport, where it has designed a terminal wall that mimics Fenway’s Green Monster.

The airline sponsors other teams across the Boston sports landscape, including the Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics.

Outside of Boston, JetBlue sponsors the Florida Panthers, Brooklyn Nets, and New York Islanders — but not the Sox’s biggest rival. “We do not have a deal with the Yankees,” St. George said.

Free sites for nonprofits

Small nonprofits often can’t afford fancy websites; pricey technology just isn’t in their budgets.

So the prospect of a free, sophisticated website is music to their ears — and it’s about to become a reality in Boston.

The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley is partnering with an organization called 48in48 to build 48 customized websites for 48 Boston-area nonprofits in 48 hours, courtesy of a group of volunteer developers and designers.

“At the end of it, 48 nonprofits will get brand-new, souped-up websites,” says United Way vice president Karley Ausiello.

They’ll be easy-to-use, easy-to-maintain, WordPress-based sites that work on mobile devices as well as on desktop computers.

To be eligible, a nonprofit must have an annual operating budget of $3 million or less.

Applications are being accepted at through March 31. Winners will be announced in April, and the websites will be built the weekend of June 2-4.

“It’s important for a nonprofit to have a good digital presence, especially in Massachusetts and Boston, where we have a lot of nonprofits,” Ausiello says, “so something like this can be incredibly transforming.”

An added bonus: Every nonprofit that applies will be offered free professional head shots of its employees. — SACHA PFEIFFER

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