(Note: this post is an open letter to the approximately 400,000 members of the Massachusetts-based student community. Many of the messages apply to students in other innovation hubs.)
Welcome (back)! Now that you have unpacked the underwear, laid out the futon, picked your courses and settled in a bit, I wanted to write to you about something important.
Just as you were selected by your school amongst many applicants, we know that you chose to make the greater Boston community your home in selecting your school. For that, we thank you.
But more than thanking you, on behalf of the Massachusetts Innovation Economy community, I wanted to make sure you understood something. We want you.
We want you to learn, engage, show up, contribute and - most important - stay when you graduate. One of our core values in this community is supporting innovation and young people. We have a long history of fostering amazing student entrepreneurs, many of whom you know all about (like Zuckerberg and Facebook, or Houston and Dropbox) to some you may not know about (like the three Babson students who founded IdeaPaint or the two Harvard students who started IP TV pioneer Tivli). And everyone in the community is fired up to support you, from civic leaders to business leaders and fellow entrepreneurs.
At 600,000 people, this city is small. Even with a larger metropolitan area of 4.5 million, there is a strong sense of intimacy and community here. This sense of intimacy contributes to why the innovation community here is so accessible. As you are out and about, you will quickly learn that this is a very open and friendly town, particularly for students who hustle.
So here are a few tips for you as you think about exploring what the innovation community has to offer:
- Read/Follow the popular local blogs and bloggers. Two of the best are BostonInno and the recently launched Hive from Boston.com. Local VC Rob Go has a nice long list of many of the other relevant blogs and Twitter handles worth following in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Boston Tech Community.
- Attend an event. Greenhorn Connect is the definitive listing of all the local events in the entrepreneurial community. My firm, Flybridge Capital, created a scholarship program to support local students who want to attend events called Stay in MA. Take advantage of the free passes on us and law firm Gunderson Dettmer and get out there!
- Invite an entrepreneur to speak on campus. I am amazed at how accessible and giving the entrepreneurial community is. "Pay it forward" is the local motto and entrepreneurs are always telling me they love meeting with students and speaking on campus. If you read about someone you think would be interesting, reach out.
There are a few standout examples of students who are making an impact in the local community that are worth highlighting as role models for their peers:
- Cory Botolsky. This Northeastern junior decided that not enough students were finding jobs at startups. So, he created StartUp Summer and helped facilitate over 100 summer internships to help students get exposed to the local entrepreneurial community.
- Scott Crouch. A Harvard senior, Crouch spent his summer shuttling back and forth between Springfield and Cambridge as he collaborated with the police department and state troopers to use social media and pattern recognition software to combat gang violence. His work was featured in this Boston.com article and the New York Times.
- Anna Palmer and Christine Rizk. These two Harvard Law School graduates have launched a new company called Fashion Project that is helping non-profits make more money by providing a marketplace to sell high-end, donated goods more efficiently. They are a part of the Techstars 2012 class.
- Zach Ringer. A Babson senior, Ringer has jumped into the entrepreneurial community with two feet. He secured an internship with a hot mobile start-up, Crashlytics, by merely aggressively tweeting and engaging in the community. He is always attending events at Mass Challenge and the Cambridge Innovation Center and is leading a number of entrepreneurial initiatives on the Babson campus.
- John Whelan. This Tufts senior interned at SimpleTuition this summer, the leading online student loan and banking platform, and helped drive the integration of the company's acquisition of textbook marketplace, ValoreBooks. Thanks to John, students can get help finding loans, books, scholarships and banking products all in one place.
What will you do this year to get engaged? I urge you to make your presence felt beyond the classroom and frat house. The local community you have chosen to be with wants you.
Have a great school year!