Contributed article from Mark Lorion, co-founder of Boston TechJam and chief marketing officer of Apperian, and Tom Hopcroft, president and chief executive at Mass Technology Leadership Council
When it comes to tech hubs, the spotlight usually shines on Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley in New York City. Despite our own rich history in technology and innovation, Boston, to be quite blunt, has lost top billing. In the last few years, there’s been a perception, both internally and nationally, that the city had flat lined, or as PandoDaily put it, was “in a rut” and had “lost its mojo.”
But guess what? We’re back, and there is a renewed energy pouring throughout the city and the Greater Boston area.
Boston is an entirely different place than it was a few years ago. Our tech ecosystem is experiencing a renaissance. Even Zuckerberg has taken note, stating a few years ago that if he was launching a startup again, he “would have stayed in Boston.”
The renaissance is driven by an undercurrent of fierce pride, beginning at the startup level, and sense of community that embraces everyone.
Boston-bred initiatives have increased dramatically, including Boston TechJam, which we created to celebrate all the world-class innovation already thriving in the region. And there’s plenty to recognize.
Here’s what we hope you’ll celebrate with us on June 12 at Boston’s City Hall Plaza:
Startups Spreading Across and Beyond Greater Boston
The region’s startup scene was once centered in Cambridge and Route 128, but no longer. The area’s technology renaissance is so large it is spilling beyond these traditional hot beds.
New companies are popping up from Somerville to the Seaport District, with TechScene reporting 782 startups located across Greater Boston. More recently, they’ve taken to Boston’s Financial District, the Needham/Natick area, and Lowell.
VCs Showing Increased Interest in the Boston Area
The edge, energy, and spirit of these startups is contagious, and Boston VCs have taken note. While Massachusetts raised one-third of venture funding nationwide in 2013, the majority of these deals have historically been outside of Boston.
Many of our local firms, like Battery Ventures, Atlas Venture, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Matrix Venture Partners have relocated from their Route 128 outposts into the city. It’s no secret that venture capitalists want to co-locate with their portfolio companies. This physical move to be closer to the region’s startup action (not to mention support through programs such as Matrix Partners entrepreneur-in-residence program) could be great news for a strong local showing in portfolios.
Local Incubators Are On the Rise
The amount of accelerators are increasing, helping startups start, grow, and stay. There are mainstays like MassChallenge and TechStars Boston and newer industry-specific accelerators like LearnLaunchX in the edtech space. Then there’s Blade, located in Fort Point, which recently raised $20 million to make seed investments in 10 consumer tech companies, a sector that many consider to be a weakness in the Boston area.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is also behind the incubation efforts, with recently announced plans to develop between 3,500 and 4,000 square feet of dedicated incubator space in Dudley Square, Roxbury. Governor Patrick also just dedicated a new innovation center in Lowell.
Mayor Walsh Supports Startup Success
In addition to dedicating the Dudley Square space, Mayor Walsh is encouraging startups to set up shop across Boston, including Mattapan, Hyde Park, and even Allston/Brighton. He is all-in on our innovation economy, stating he wants “Boston to become the tech capital of the world,” which is the goal of #StartBostonUp, an initiative to enhance the city’s profile of being “inclusive, international, and innovative.”
With a concentration of tech talent and mentorship of successful entrepreneurs, the region is already a great place to grow a startup. Mayor Walsh’s attention to the technology ecosystem will build on that and visibly provide the resources and tools to support entrepreneurs even further.
Student Startups Are Encouraged
Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his dorm room at Harvard, and local universities are taking strides to promote and foster more of that. Harvard is building an innovation campus and business park in Allston, while MIT hosts a two-week startup boot camp. Tufts formed a student-run investing group to fund student startups, Berklee launched its Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, and Northeastern’s IDEA has funded student startups such as SplashScore. Rough Draft Ventures, powered by General Catalyst, and Dorm Room Fund are also dedicated to investing in and nurturing Boston-area student startups.
Proof enough that the region is in a renaissance?
We think so. But our long-term momentum as home to startups and innovation will be a direct result of the collaboration that starts on the individual level. Everyone in the Boston area plays a critical role. If you’ve got mojo, the city’s got mojo. Take that, Pando!
Greater Boston is one big incubator – YOUR incubator.