EMC’s Tucci says Massachusetts is a talent magnet, but still plays second fiddle to Silicon Valley in tech

Joe Tucci of EMC Corp. speaks at Northeastern University Thursday.
Joe Tucci of EMC Corp. speaks at Northeastern University Thursday.

EMC Corp. chief executive Joseph Tucci said Thursday that despite the acquisition of his company by Texas computer titan Dell Inc., Massachusetts’ high-tech economy still has plenty of room to boom.

“I think it’s Massachusetts’ and Boston’s time,” said Tucci, during a forum held Thursday afternoon at Northeastern University.

Earlier this month, Dell agreed to pay $67 billion to buy Hopkinton-based EMC, the world’s leading maker of high-end data storage hardware and software. It was the largest acquisition deal ever made for a digital technology company. But the deal also means that for the first time in decades, none of the world’s top computer hardware or software companies is based in Massachusetts, a state that once hosted several of them.

“Arguably in our field, we’re at best second fiddle to Silicon Valley,” Tucci said. He credited West Coast investors who are more willing to take risks than conservative East Coast venture capital firms. Tucci also praised Silicon Valley’s forgive-and-forget attitude toward business failures, which ensures that entrepreneurs can get a second chance.  “On the West Coast, somebody does a startup and it fails miserably, it’s almost a badge of honor” Tucci said. “In Boston, if you fail, you’ve got to go into the penalty box for a while.”

Throw in the great weather, said Tucci, and California’s got plenty of advantages.  Still, he added, the Bay State has strengths of its own, especially its world-class universities.  “We are a talent magnet, and we have the ability to develop that talent,” he said.  “We’re almost in a class by ourselves on that.”  Tucci said that if local investors and the state government can make Massachusetts a more welcoming environment for startups, the state can begin developing a new generation of big-time digital technology companies.

“If you look at biotechnology,” said Tucci, “we’re in the lead.  So it shows we can do it.”

Tucci declined to reveal new details about the Dell acquisition, saying that more information would be provided in the company’s upcoming proxy statement.  But he said EMC had made a good deal for its shareholders and employees, and for the Massachusetts communities where the company does business.  “It hit all the lights,” he said.

Hiawatha Bray is a technology reporter for the Boston Globe. E-mail him at [email protected].
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