Investing, identity, ice cream: Six New Year’s resolutions for Boston startups

Fireworks over Boston Harbor at midnight on new year's eve. (Photo: Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)
Fireworks over Boston Harbor at midnight on new year's eve. (Photo: Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)

My pants are too tight. My blood sugar is all out of whack and I am pretty sure that I did something terrible to the Jello mold at the company office party. It looks like the holiday season has passed us and that the new year is finally upon us.

It’s time for us to resolve to do better in 2015.

With that in mind, I have put together my top six resolutions for Boston’s startup community.

6. Work with City Hall to promote Boston’s startup community.
For the first time since the last Ice Age, Boston has a new administration. This is a great opportunity for us to work directly with City Hall to help promote what we do, in the Innovation District but also beyond.

Mayor Martin Walsh has a dynamic staff (I’m a big fan of Dan Koh, the mayor’s chief of staff), and that team has started to move in the right direction by having round tables with members of the startup community. They should continue on this path and we should find ways to work with them.

For inspiration, we need to look no further than our friends in New York. The City of New York has worked for years to help promote and raise the profile of their fledgling startup community. It worked there, and we can do the same.

5. Look past resumes, change how we hire.
Hiring is hard and time consuming. It’s also the most important thing we do when building our companies. But hiring just for skills is lazy and I have seen it fail many times.

We need to start to hire for cultural fit, drive, and smarts. The sooner we embrace this philosophy, the faster we’ll grow. David Cancel, the chief executive of Driftt, summed it up well in this post: “Hire people, not skills.”

4. Celebrate who we are and what we are becoming.
2014 was a very good year for tech in Boston. We had several successful IPOs — Hubspot, Wayfair, Care.com — and a growing “mafia” that is starting to spin out even more success.

The rest of the world is now realizing that we know how to build and create long-term value. Our community is open, supportive, insanely smart, and defined by a willingness to pay it forward.

We know we’re not the Valley. Nobody is. Let’s embrace who are and what we’ve done.

3. More angel investing.
A thriving startup community requires an active community of investors who are willing to take a leap and invest in an idea or a team. Companies rely on these angels to provide them with the cash required to grow from a minimally viable product to a minimally viable company. This past year, the angel community has started to expand with Launch Angels, Project11, and NextView Ventures raising new funds to support the growth of companies.

While this is a good start, we still need more angels. Access to cash is what allows people to focus on their passions and make it something bigger.

2. Be more like Tom Hughes and Giles Philips.
Tom Hughes and Giles Philips are two people who exemplify the Boston startup community’s pay-it-forward ethos.

Tom is one of the co-founders of IdeaLab. You know that Mac computer you’re using right now?  He worked on its great-great-great-great-granddaddy back in the day. He’s extremely modest and would never say this himself, but, in short, the guy is pretty amazing.

Giles is the chief product designer for Constant Contact where he is responsible for global  product design, UX, usability, user research, and front end development. He’s an MIT grad, worked at the Media Lab, Monster, and Brightcove. In his spare time he founded Subforum, a design think tank.

How do these two spend their free-time? Volunteering countless hours teaching future startup employees and entrepreneurs how to become better at what they do. Why? Because giving back is ingrained in who they are and they enjoy helping others to achieve great things.

This year, make sure to step away from your desk and do the same. You’ll be a better person for it.

1. Eat more ice cream — with friends
First off, Boston has some of the best ice cream in the world (Toscanini’s and Ron’s are my personal favorites). But that’s only part of the reason I’m suggesting you eat more of it.

One of the Boston startup community’s strengths is its intimacy and network.  The more we hang out with each other, the more likely it is that interesting things will happen. People don’t have to go to massive parties in order to network — we could meet for board games, or drinks. It’s just important that we continue to get out there more and make new connections.

It’s hard to launch something new or get a new job if you’re sitting at home in sweat pants, eating a pint of Chubby Hubby in the dark. Also, that’s weird. Text a few people and get out. Good things will happen the more we lift our heads out of our laptops and start to talk to each other.

Allan Telio is the vice president and director of Startup Institute Boston. Startup Institute is currently accepting applications for its spring program.
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