June is innovation month here in New England.
There is of course lots of innovation happening all the time in this region, but June is a particularly fitting time for us to shine the spotlight on the startup ecosystem. This time of year a new crop of young entrepreneurs leaves university to focus the full time and energy on building a new company. There’s always a jam packed calendar of interesting events (see here for full list). And another Boston area company (Zipcar) filed their S-1 to go public to start the month off brightly.
As many of you know, I’m a transplant to this area from Silicon Valley where I began my career. I’ve been here for a little over five years and in that time I’ve noticed a palpable shift in the level of activity and interconnectedness in this startup ecosystem, which is great. Some specific thoughts:
1) Cambridge Revival –> Cambridge has always been a hotbed of innovation in the greater Boston area, but the startup ecosystem in particular has been supercharged in recent years. Some of the factors at play… large footprint (hundreds of employees each) established by both Microsoft & Google in Kendall Sq, rise of events like WebInnovators Group, entrepreneur friendly hangouts (Andala – Central Sq, Diesel Cafe – Davis Sq, Coupa Cafe – Harvard Sq, et al), VCs locating in Cambridge (new groups like Founder Collective, Launch Capital, Google Ventures as well as established firms like Greylock & Bessemer). I think Microsoft (and esp. Reed Sturtevant & Gus Webber) deserve a lot of credit for helping catalyze Kendall Sq in particular, by opening up their space for lots of great events, but all of these factors have contributed to this revival.
2) Startup Accelerators –> these programs are proliferating around the country (and the world). But here in New England the arrival of accelerators like TechStars in Boston or Betaspring in Providence have created several new pipelines of startups, attracted entrepreneurs from outside this region, and provided a supportive proving ground particularly for newer entrepreneurs. There are even more in the works and I look forward to seeing them blossom.
3) Vibrant Community of Younger Entrepreneurs –> there are great entrepreneurs of a range of generations, but a disproportionate number of folks building companies in the internet/mobile sector I focus on are in their 20s and 30s. When I first moved here, there were plenty of younger entrepreneurs around but a vibrant interconnected community amongst us was somewhat lacking. In recent years there’ve been lots of formal and informal things whiche have brought this younger cohert much closer, with immediate results already visible and tremendous potential for the future of this startup ecosystem. In particular I have to tip my hat to POPSignal (started by Jay Meattle and Brian Balfour), Greenhorn Connect, and DartBoston. All very different resources, but each has played a key role in connecting and energizing entrepreneurially minded folks in their 20s & 30s around here.
I’m looking forward to my next five years as part of this community.