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December 18, 2008

Stay in MA - A Call To Arms

My firm, Flybridge Capital Partners, launched a new program last week that was inspired by Scott Kirsner's blog post earlier this year on the tragedy of Massachusetts students not remaining in the state after they graduate.  Scott called to task some of the industry associations who, in theory, should be welcoming to students but, in practice, create barriers by charging them for attending the critical industry events that would help weave them into the business community.

We call the program, "Stay in MA" and it's a student scholarship program that allows students who want to attend industry events with participating associations (and nearly every major "innovation economy" association is participating in the program) to attend these events for free.

To learn more, check out www.stayinma.com.  And thanks to all the associations who are participating!

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I'm an aspiring entrepreneur who's lived here for a while. I didn't go to school here-- I moved here because it's a tech hub.

I often think about leaving, and I'm considering it. It's not because of any lack of business resources, jobs, entrepreneurial networking, scientific networking, smart people, or anything else you're referring to. It's about a lack of other things: music, stuff to do to unwind, etc.

Boston's culture just feels stuffy. It feels like all everyone does is work and work and study and work. IMHO that's one reason that so many students and others leave for more fun places like California. You need to unwind and have room to breathe, especially if you're going to do something as hard as entrepreneurship, inventing, etc.

If I were tasked to make Boston more attractive for people to stay, I'd try to address that. Unfortunately, those aspects of a place are among the hardest to do anything about. There's no easy answer.

There are only two superficially addressable things that I can think of:

1) The cost of living is too high, which drives out all the artists and creative types and anyone else who isn't an engineer, a high-end professional, or a businessman. The result is too many type A workaholics and geeks and not enough laid back types. The housing bubble really harmed cities like Boston. I've heard of SF having the same problem. I call it "pricing out the soul."

2) Allow things like bars/music venues to stay open later. Many cities allow 4am. 2am is too early for a good concert.

3) Run the T later.... maybe until 4am. Easy fix, though it might be prohibitive for cost reasons. Probably not the right thing to do in the midst of an economic crash, but maybe it could be addressed once the state's budget is in better shape. You could also grant a few more cab medallions to reduce the cost of taxis. Taxis here are outrageously expensive compared to other big cities I've been in (NY, Chicago).

Of course, it's also possible that it's a vicious circle. I've sometimes thought that the reason people don't stay is because people don't stay, and that the transient population is the reason for the lack of things like music and the ever-ephemeral "culture." Aren't those things that people create when they *live* somewhere, as opposed to just going there to work for a while or go to school?

Jeff,

You should get a copy of the study BCG did for either for the Chamber of Commerce or the City of Boston on this exact topic. The study identified some of the same challenges that it looks like haven't been solved.

Jeff,

This is a fantastic effort. I actually wrote an Op-Ed for Mass High Tech a few months about about this trend (http://tinyurl.com/7uou32) and feel very strongly about it. I'll check out the site and see how I can help.

Cheers,
Kate

Jeff,
Great to see this program. If we all band together to reach out and to put programs in place such as you have done here..we can turn the corner on this. Our academic institutions are a gem of Boston. Thanks for your efforts.
Jeff Bennett
http://www.jeffbennett.org

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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