Boston’s tech community responds to Menino’s death

Photo via The Boston Globe
Photo via The Boston Globe

The sad news that former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has passed away is being felt by the Boston technology and innovation community, a sector that he championed for a long time and one that owes him an enormous debt of gratitude.

There is no shortage of tech community members who have shared their thanks for all that Menino has done for them and the city, beyond his role in developing the Innovation District.

Shayne Gilbert, founder of Boston-based Silverweave, which organizes corporate events for tech and life sciences companies, said she was “heartbroken over the untimely loss of Mayor Menino. He was dedicated to innovation. I remember Mayor Menino’s personal commitment to our community.” In the late 1990s, Gilbert led a group called the Cyber District Organization. “Cyber District” was Menino’s first, and largely forgotten, attempt to brand a high-tech neighborhood — a precursor to the Innovation District.

“Back in 1997, a group of techies and geeks approached Mayor Menino about recognizing the cluster of skilled and talented tech workers in Boston,” Gilbert said. “Our intrepid mayor embraced the vision and, thus, the Cyber District, the forerunner of today’s Innovation District, was born. From the earliest days, Mayor Menino was instrumental in promoting the resources of the Boston tech community.

Nicole Fichera, who worked with the mayor on the development of the Innovation District and now runs District Hall, said, “When you’re talking about innovation, cities are more important than they’ve ever been. Mayor Menino knew that. He wasn’t the most tech-savvy guy himself, but he knew that cities were the right place for innovation to happen: dense, connected, diverse.”

“He had the biggest vision,” she added, “reshaping the agenda for innovation and entrepreneurship in cities, and making Boston a world leader in that conversation.”

“When the Mayor thought about encouraging innovation, he always remembered that innovators are people. He was a great man, and we’re going to miss him a lot,” Fichera said.

Joseph F. Fallon, chief executive of The Fallon Co., which worked to construct the Fan Pier in the Innovation District, offered his thoughts on the former mayor: “Even when he was a city councilor he wanted the city to have a startup culture. He was passionate about creating workspaces where entrepreneurs from our colleges, and young professionals, could start their businesses and stay in Boston.

But what I really remember is how he always helped people. The Seaport was a long-term vision, and it’s part of his legacy, but if you ask me what I remember most about Tom Menino it’s that he helped people.”

Katie Rae of Project 11, who was part of the recent Techstars move into Boston, said of Menino, “Mayor Menino transformed how technology companies view Boston. He moved mountains to welcome many, many tech companies over to the innovation district. The energy in Boston right now and the companies that are rapidly growing is mind boggling.”

Dave McLaughlin, who worked with the Mayor in many capacities before starting his own company VSnap said, “For Menino, innovation was never an abstract notion. It was always about impact. Impact on people’s lives, and impact on the economy and the volume of opportunities that are available to Bostonians. He understood how important it was to challenge old processes. In that regard, he led by example, reimagining many areas of City government.”

“I’m tremendously proud to have worked for the Mayor, and grateful to have had the benefit of his mentorship,” McLaughlin added.

David Chang of PayPal Boston said of Menino’s influence in the Boston technology space, “We saw firsthand his role as a major connector between worlds that didn’t typically intersect.”

“A big part of why things are so vibrant today in the Financial District and Seaport District is due to [the BRA’s work] and Mayor Menino’s direction.”

Matt Lauzon, who first built Gemvara and now runs Dunwello, remarked, ““I’ll never forget when Mayor Menino came to our open house when we first moved to Boston.”

“His leadership and commitment to the city have been inspiring and if it weren’t for his efforts I’m not sure that I’d be here in Boston building companies,” Lauzon added.

As more people send their thoughts and appreciation of the mayor, we’ll add them here.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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