10 to Watch

Jessica Herron



Who she is:
Designer and founder, Green Heron Works

What she does:
Designs apps for scientists and wildlife researchers to track sightings while in the field.

Why that matters:

Herron’s app will allow researchers to set up the criteria for the data collection beforehand, then quickly and easily upload from the field to cloud storage, allowing teams to collaborate and share date more freely.

“The current method of keeping track of wildlife sightings in the field includes a dozen clipboards, pounds of paper, expensive hand-held GPS units, and a great deal of time spent inputting the data into Excel spreadsheets – with the not-so-occasional human error. Analyzing the data takes sophisticated, often poorly-designed software; sharing the data is tedious and time-consuming; and when the research project is over, most of their hard-earned data sits on hard drives or in field notebooks on their shelves to gather dust.”

Why that matters to Providence:
The Seattle native and RISD grad left a big time job with Microsoft Research back home to return to Providence and start a company.

“I had no idea of the history of economic difficulty and the long road it’s been for the city to get back on the upswing, but I could feel that upswing and I knew it’d be a good bet to move back and be a part of it… It’s a pretty dang fantastic town and I’m glad to be here.”

What the start-up community can do for the city:
“Rhode Island is a fountain of intellectual talent at the top of a hill, and all that talent seems to run down the mountain to pool in other cities. That’s very expensive, as the Rhode Island taxpayer dollars go a long way to support those institutions. The startup community can keep some of that educated talent and vibrant energy in the area, and hopefully help reinvest the cost of those colleges back into the city.”

What more it needs to do:
“There’s a huge need for Providence start-ups that aren’t tech-focused. Tech companies tend to need few employees and aren’t a very realistic way to employ a significant number of people. If the start-up community is focused solely on the glamour of the tech world and not interested in finding business-savvy ways to support local communities, then the economic inequality will only get worse.”

Fast fact:
Herron is just one of two partners in Green Herron Works. She is the user experience designer – meaning how the app looks and functions – while her business partner Alex Hills is the programmer in charge of development.

How the city can benefit from college students, and vice versa:
“We have to pop the College Hill bubble. Engage the students in community art projects, invite them to hackathons and accelerator program events, bring local entrepreneurs into their classrooms. Every way that the students can be introduced to and engaged with the real problems and the real people right here in the awesome city should be taken advantage of.”

How the City can better engage the start-up community:
“Lay out a local problem that the City is struggling with and offer a reward to the entrepreneur who can come up with a way to address it. They’d be showing their willingness to cut through red tape to address the City’s needs quickly, acting on the desire to stay on the cutting edge, and engaging the local entrepreneurial talent with the needs of the state… If Providence is the Creative Capital, shouldn’t the Capital (government) tap into the Creative (local talent) to help make the city a better place for everyone?”

What’s on the horizon:
Herron expects to release the first version of her app, Glance, by spring, after which there will be a period of feedback and adjustments. By 2015, she hopes to push glance into other fields of scientific observation, including water, air and health data.

Follow Jessica on Twitter @TheGreenHeron

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