I recently had the pleasure of moderating a panel at HUBweek’s Demo Day here in Boston. HUBweek was founded by The Boston Globe, Harvard University, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital to bring together the most creative and inventive minds making an impact in art, science and technology. As HUBweek’s website says, “there is a unique concentration of brainpower, ingenuity, and creativity in the Greater Boston region.” I couldn’t agree more, which is why I founded CYBRIC here.
The panel I moderated, “Growing a Startup in Boston: Challenges and Disadvantages,” brought together like-minded entrepreneurs from young and fast-growing Massachusetts companies Catalant, PatientPing, SuperPedestrian and Freight Farms. We all came at this topic from different perspectives and spaces—from B2B enterprise application security to B2C innovative bicycle technology—yet we all have a common goal. To grow successful companies that create value for our customers, employees, investors and the greater Boston community.
The panel discussed and debated the advantages and challenges of creating and nurturing a startup in Boston, which include the obvious ones of a strong higher education market from which to draw talent and a strong VC community. But we also surfaced and drilled down into an issue that bears highlighting.
It goes without saying that Boston and Massachusetts have technology deeply embedded in our DNA—Route 128 was known after all as “America’s Technology Highway” in the ‘80s and the region incubated and grew the likes of Akamai, BBN, Digital, EMC and Polaroid. The list of powerhouse B2B/technology companies, past and present, is extensive and innovations continue every day in areas such as robotics, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity and biotech.
But the list of B2C household names is far shorter—Trip Advisor, Wayfair and Vistaprint to name a few. But much like an investment portfolio, our B2C community should be as strong and thriving as our B2B to keep Boston and Massachusetts well-rounded and competitive.
How does this happen? Thoughts from the panel included more VC focus on and support of consumer startups. More mentoring and more organizations like the Mass Technology Collaborative and MassTLC to help promote the overall startup ecosystem. With that said, Boston has (again) been recognized as the #1 city in the country for startups. With our rich academic network, diverse industry customer base (financial services, insurance, biotech, etc.) and a booming revitalization of existing and new neighborhoods (e.g. Seaport), the ingredients are all here to expand our breadth to include more consumer-focused startups.
And the scales are definitely on their way to balancing out. Boston is making a full-court press to attract Amazon’s second HQ. That alone will have a ripple effect to attract new consumer-focused blood to the area. The opportunity to have Amazon potentially select Boston is a tremendous validation of everything a tech-hub city like Boston and a state like Massachusetts has to offer.
One last thought from the panel. The city of Boston and our great state of Massachusetts should try something new—take credit for our incredible accomplishments! We are built on a foundation of amazing universities, with a diverse community of talent and industries and a long history of building great companies that have had global impact. Most importantly, we have never stopped cultivating incredible entrepreneurs. The best kept secret shouldn’t be a secret anymore. As the panel concluded, we should individually and collectively continue to promote that Boston and Massachusetts are great places to grow an enduring company.
I was glad to see such fresh thoughts and lively discussion from this group of my peers and look forward to Boston’s future.