Boston tech leaders laud General Electric’s move to Seaport

DataXu CEO Mike Baker
DataXu CEO Mike Baker

The local tech community reacted largely with delight to the news that General Electric will relocate its global headquarters to Boston’s Seaport district. While some are concerned the neighborhood is becoming too crowded, most said GE’s presence can only help smaller tech companies.

 

Jeff Bussgang, Flybridge Capital Partners

“This is a watershed event. When people talk about the innovation economy in Boston, they always say we’re lacking in big platform companies. We don’t have the Amazons and Googles and Microsofts. We have divisions of big companies, but nobody’s brain trust is here. Well, this changes all that.”

“If you’re an entrepreneur who’s interested in one of the areas that GE specializes in, like big data, the cloud, clean energy, or machine learning, guess what? GE is investing tens of millions of dollars in those fields. Now this huge potential partner—or customer, or acquirer—has just moved in next door. What could be better?”

 

Jay Acunzo, vice president, NextView Ventures, former Google and HubSpot employee

“GE needs to reach out to the local community and become a part of it—not a presence above or around it. We can learn a lot from them — and they can learn a lot from startups. If you can get GE in the same room with the next big thing? Wow. What an amazing place to live and work.”

One underrated strength of GE, Acunzo said, is the conglomerate’s marketing prowess, which includes a highly successful podcast.

“GE’s podcast, The Message, is one of the most popular on iTunes. That’s an amazing feat of marketing. Their ability to use brand-first, story-lead marketing to reclaim some of their legacy innovation luster is a skill that Boston companies really need.”

 

Tom Pincince, chief executive, Digital Lumens

On paper, Pincince’s company competes with General Electric, as both firms sell “smart” lighting systems. But Pincince was exuberant about GE’s plans to move in down the street. He said the conglomerate would help develop new specialists in the field, and provide growing companies like Digital Lumens with a pool of more experienced mid- and high-level executives to draw from.

“When you’re in transition from a growth company to company at scale, and you’re filling out the ranks of your higher-level executives, you’d love to have a company like GE in town,” he said. “They have a world-renowned training program for those people, and it’s something Boston has really been missing.”

 

Mike Baker, chief executive, DataXu

“My company DataXu was an early tenant in the so-called innovation district. When we moved in here we subletted for $19 a square foot. …Now, the rent has gone through the roof, the building is full, and we’re out of space. Visitors can’t find parking, and getting back across the Channel is challenging at rush hour. On the plus side, there are some good restaurants and more people on the streets, even a community of entrepreneurs.”

“If General Electric moves its headquarters to the Seaport, I’d like to see GE help improve the South Boston public transportation infrastructure. Or maybe invest in startups that solve urban logistical problems, as more development here will only exacerbate the current problems if nothing is done to modernize the infrastructure.”