Recently there have been a few interesting posts on the Boston internet startup scene. This genre of posts seems to come back every 18 months or so, and I thought I would revisit a piece I did a while ago called “Keeping startups in Boston.” I wrote the post in 2010, and the purpose of my points was:
I’ll try to elaborate on a few of the problems I see in Boston – problems that make it less desirable for startup founders to want to found/keep their companies here. My point of view is colored by the years I spent living in San Francisco and by the fact that I am not originally from New England. Also, please keep in mind that as a guy helping run a startup in Cambridge I actually do think this is a great place to found a technology company.
Anyways, I mentioned the following points:
1) Lack of funding sources to take a risk on less experienced founders. Sometimes I feel like this is starting to get better, sometimes not. I”m seeing a lot more seed rounds being done in Boston, but we’ll see how they translate to Series A or successful outcomes.
2) Little investor willingness to roll up the sleeves and mentor/help other companies. I see some serious improvement here, coupled with a real improvement with point #3 as well. Programs like TechStars have brought mentors out hiding and made it cool to help get small companies off the ground. This makes me happy.
3) Very few here-is-how-you-grow-your-company events. Totally getting better, with incubators leading the way + organized events at the CIC, MSFT Nerd and a few other places gaining steam.
4) Very little national, customer driving press. This is still a huge problem. A really huge problem. I don’t see it getting better soon, although Bostinno is trying hard to become a real East Coast tech reporting machine. I see them making real progress, but this will just take time.
5) It is hard to feel welcome as a “non-native” in Boston. Still a problem that most non-natives don’t get, nor do I expect them to.
So, there is some serious improvement on the “what ills” Boston startups since my post a few years ago… but has there been any progress on making better consumer startup/internet companies here? Yeah, I’d think so, just based on the number of companies I see actually growing and doing well, like RunKeeper or Boundless or CustomMade.
Only time will tell though. There needs to be a big company that becomes a tech spawner, where a bunch of engineers make a lot of $ and then go and start other companies. Maybe Hubspot will fulfill that role.
Finally, here are the articles that got me thinking about this, one by a reporter named Jim Kerstetter and one by Rob Go.