Seaport Start-ups: Bringing Boston’s Innovation District companies together

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I want to talk a little bit about the up-and-coming start-up area with a distinctly Boston vibe: It’s the Innovation District located in Southie and encompassing the Seaport. Outside of Boston, many people are familiar with Kendall Square and the many startups that originated there, as well as of course that tiny little Institute of Technology, but fewer have heard of the Innovation District.

The Innovation District — or I/D as those of us cohabitating in it call it — stretches from the seaward side of Fort Point Channel all the way to the Drydock (An actual, giant working drydock!) and into Southie at 2nd Street. It’s the fastest growing startup area in the greater Boston metroplex, and maybe the fastest growing anywhere in the nation. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino envisioned it to serve as an engine for job growth by enabling the development of innovative products and services through entrepreneurship. He really did succeed and the city’s support has been outstanding, as any company and entrepreneur that has moved down here can attest to, and that includes us at Sample6.

We started a small biotech company out of Boston University and MIT like so many others, but unlike them, we didn’t stick around Kendall Square; We moved to the I/D. Now why would we move to the I/D instead of hanging around lots of other biotech companies, our alma maters and big pharma?

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What makes the I/D different from Kendall?

Several things come to mind like excellent seafood and easy access to all forms of transportation (Logan, I-90, I-93, South Station / Amtrak), but startups care about something else: space and the cost of the same. This is an area where Kendall cannot (and I dare speculate does not want to) compete. We moved down here in August 2011 and never looked back. Now we’re building out a small manufacturing site in the I/D as well, and couldn’t be happier.

What’s also really great to see is the enormous number of startups that have moved down to the I/D or have started here. Several of the startups are courtesy of John Harthorne and the MassChallenge organization he started. Given the I/D’s relatively expansive area compared to other clusters, we’ve seen several micro-clusters emerge: there’s Summer Street/Fort Point Channel (LogMeIn, DataXu, Greentown Labs), the MassChallenge Cluster, the Drydock Center (Sample6, Gingko Bioworks, Oasys), A street (Re-Think Robotics, Ramp), to name just a few.

The real opportunity now is to bring all the startups together and build bridges — connections — to establish a thriving community of entrepreneurs in the I/D. To that end we are putting together “You, Me and the Innovation District” – a networking event mixer for all startups and companies that once were small startups (like ZipCar), but are now successful thriving businesses. The Boston Redevelopment Authority, Mass Life Sciences Center and the Office of the Mayor have all contributed to making this a great event and we look forward to seeing as many of the I/D startups on February 27th at Space with a Soul, 281 Summer Street in the District.

Share news and get updates about the event on Twitter at @YouMeAndID.

Michael S. Koeris, Ph.D., is the founder and vice president of operations of Sample6 Technologies, located at 27 Drydock Avenue in the Innovation District.