The big opening party for Paul English’s Blade Network startup space is tomorrow night, and when I dropped by on Monday morning, construction crews were scrambling to get everything finished. English, the co-founder and former chief technology officer at Kayak, wants it to become a supercollider for consumer tech, art, and music in Boston. And in terms of designing a dazzling environment, he’s definitely aiming high.
Blade has a pool of more than $20 million to invest in creating two to three startups each year, English tells me. The bulk of that money comes from Accel Partners and General Catalyst, who did quite well by backing Kayak. And there are already two student-focused startups that Blade plans to launch by August, though English wasn’t ready to share specifics or company names. (I wrote earlier this month about the team that English and his co-founders have put together at Blade.)
With Blade, English hopes to prove that “if you want to do consumer, you can do it in Boston,” he told me earlier this week. And “in order to make consumer exciting here, Blade needs to be an exciting space. We wanted to create a focal point for designers and engineers and marketers and entrepreneurs.”
VIP visitors to Blade will get a wristband sent to them in the mail. Inside is a Qualcomm iBeacon chip that interacts with the environment, thanks to software created by Boston-based One Mighty Roar. You encode the wristband with information about your favorite song, your Instagram acccount, your favorite color, and your favorite drink. Then, when you enter Blade, your entrance music plays over the sound system. Some of the LED lighting changes to your color when you’re standing nearby. Your Instagram pics can be projected on the wall. And when you approach the bar, the booze used to make your favorite drink lights up on the shelf.
On top of that, English built a stage, DJ booth, and green room for regular invite-only performances in the space. “I wanted this to be the favorite place for musicians to play in Boston,” says English, adding that Berklee College of Music prof Carl Beatty served as an advisor. iPads can be used to control lighting, sound, and a half-dozen digital projectors around Blade’s main room. English purchased and commissioned original art — including custom wallpaper — for Blade. And since Blade’s ground-floor digs were once home to Weylu’s on the Wharf, a Chinese restaurant, English wrote his own startup-related fortune cookies that guests will get on their way out.
I’m eager to see the finished space. A few work-in-progress photos are below…
Playing the invite-only opening party tomorrow night is New York-based DJ The Wig.
Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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