I attended a conference last week put on by the MIT Enterprise Forum that focused on “Web 2.0″ stuff. One of the topics which was tangential to some of the overarching themes, yet somehow popped up in several of the panels, was the comparison of Boston and Silicon Valley as startup/VC hubs. This is a topic endlessly debated here in the greater Boston area, with many viewpoints.
One of the many things that’s struck me, having worked in Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur and now working in the Boston area as a VC, is the difference in the way the startup community is covered by the traditional and non-traditional media. Here in the Boston area we have traditional press like Mass High Tech which is essentially a specialty publication. I know I read their daily email digests and the quality and breadth of the coverage is pretty good. In the Valley, there’s no real analog for this though… the tech community is essentially pervasive (for better and worse) so the San Jose Mercury News simply functions as the “tech press” covering funding announcements, M&A, personnel changes, and the like.
The two leading journalistic blogs focused on the startup community are TechCrunch and VentureBeat. I say “journalistic” to distinguish between blogs with multiple authors that essentially report like traditional publications, as opposed to individual/personal blogs of entrepreneurs, VCs, etc like this one. I find both to be invaluable both sources both for “scoops” and rumors, but also for detailed coverage and comments. While both certainly make good efforts to cover startups throughout the US and indeed internationally, they remain fairly Valley-centric in their coverage. It’s hardly surprising given that Michael Arrington (TechCrunch founder) is a former Wilson Sonsini attorney and entrepreneur and Matt Marshall (VentureBeat founder) was formerly a reporter and blogger for the SJ Merc. The Valley even has it’s own startup gossip rag in Valleywag.
So what does the nature of media coverage mean in the context of the startup ecosystem populated by entrepreneurs, VCs, and others? Well of course the scope of coverage differs between Boston and Silicon Valley. The latter is the largest tech startup center on the planet, and whether you measure in terms of VC dollars invested or number of startups Silicon Valley is roughly 3x the size of the Boston / Rt 128 area (despite growth in emerging markets, still the #2 startup center on the planet). One can debate whether something like media coverage is a cause of or a byproduct from differences in culture, sources of innovation, and other factors. But it’s just something that has struck me as I continue to appreciate the distinctions between these two areas.