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February 15, 2012

What Makes The Boston Start-Up Scene Special?

There continues to be great interest around the world regarding how to build innovation clusters.  Inspired by a similar presentation that Fred Wilson did on the NYC start-up scene many years ago, I pulled this presentation together.  I just updated it for a group of Harvard Business School students and was struck by how much has changed and progressed in a positive way.  I would venture to guess every major US technical hub would say the same.  Like Boston, the NYC, SF, Silicon Valley, Boulder and Austin start-up scenes are all on stronger footing and more vibrant and diverse than ever as compared to a few years ago. This should give all of us great optimism for the future.




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Why did you not list DC as well? This is not hometown braggadocio, but a serious question around recognition for the tech activity in the DC metro region. This region had been a major hub in the past, particularly from a telecommunications and infrastructure perspective, and there is new activity that seems to be getting recognition by some in SV and NYC. But, "we" didn't even make it into the list above, a list I imagine you quickly made based on your own current view of the world.

Not a criticism, complaint, or anything of the sort. I am just wondering where you see the DC metro region in comparison to the others. And, what it might take for you and others in Boston to regularly include DC in that list.

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No offense intended, but there's not the same critical mass and density as measured by venture capital investment, startup formation, university research and innovation economy employment. Those are the elements I have my eye on. The fall of AOL hasn't helped, but the rise of LivingSocial, Revolution Partners and others are all good signs for sure.


Great post. When you travel to other cities, you quickly realize how different and exciting Boston's economy is. But we have so much more we could do to drive innovation. We think a key is making our research universities more oriented to innovation. They need to develop technology, and train not only founders but early product development and sales and marketing employees. Our UMass Venture Development Center and Harvard's Innovation Lab are recent examples of how our universities are stepping up to the plate.

To show what is possible, 78% of the nine life science and high tech companies at the Venture Development Center seeking investment succeeded by the end of 2011. The average received was $1,220,444 per company, the total $10,984,000 (including one of your investments, Novophage). The success rate, average amount raised, and median amount raised in 2011 outperforms the top accelerator program in the nation.

Super update to the presentation. I riffed on this - and other stuff - in a post today on Startup Communities titled Boston's Amazing Comeback".

Great data, Bill.  Thanks for sharing.  I agree with you - the university ecosystem around Boston really "gets" commercialization pipeline in a way I've never seen before.  MIT was the leading example that others are now following.

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Awesome.  I don’t see it on your website yet, but look forward to checking it out.  You are an amazing role model in this area, Brad.  

Great publish. When you take a trip to other places, you quickly recognize how different and interesting Boston's economic climate is. But we have so much more we could do to drive advancement. We think a key is making our research colleges more focused to advancement. They need to create technological innovation, and practice not only creators but early service and marketing and advertising workers. Our UMass Project Progression Middle and Harvard's Innovation Lab are latest illustrations of how our colleges are getting up to the menu.

Jeff, thanks for updating this. I think the energy that centers on Boston is incredible, and under-appreciated.

Did you have to make the Boston - NYC line run through Hartford though? Whether by Amtrak or car, that blue line runs much more naturally along the coast, and thus through Providence! ;-)

Fair enough!  Artistic license (and an easy graphic) is the culprit...

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