With Boston TechJam, District Hall gets an informal debut for local tech community

Maureen Quinlan

The inaugural Boston TechJam lived up to its aspiration of being a place where the innovation community could let down their guard and have fun.

“We wanted something to benefit the innovation economy,” Mark Lorion, co-founder of the TechJam and CMO of Apperian. “We wanted a place where innovators, investors, angels and students could socialize with games, beer and sangria.”

He and his co-founder, Christine Nolan, came up with the idea nine months ago, and on Oct. 3, saw their ideas for a block party in the innovation district come to life.

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The new District Hall in the seaport district, the unofficial headquarters of the innovation community, was the setting. A pitch session for 11 new startups and a showcase of university startups took place in the still unfinished hall while the real party was in the adjacent parking lot.

Several companies, all technology or startup businesses, set up tents in a carnival-style block party. Each tent provided games, food, drinks and freebies for the many professionals, students and self-proclaimed geeks who attended.

One such tent was Yesware, a company that provides software solutions for salespeople. They were handing out green cotton candy. One employee, Zoe Silverman, dressed as their mascot, the Yesware Yeti, a green furry monster.

“The Yeti is an elusive and unique character from Tibet where they focus on meditation and Zen attitudes,” said Eileen Ani, a Yesware designer and engineer and the designer of the Yeti. “We are trying to cultivate a salesperson with those qualities, and that is still pretty elusive.”

“It’s fantastic to see the community come together on such a nice day,” said Christine Egitto, vice president of Silicon Valley Bank, a bank for technology and life science companies.

The warm October weather combined with the overall atmosphere of celebration was clear from the cheers, smiles and dancing. The live bands playing on the main stage kept the crowd rocking, and opportunities to network kept people interested in their surroundings.

“We wanted people to let their guard down and see that investors need startups as much as startups need investors,” Lorion said. “We all need each other.”

The event, as much as it was about networking and showing off Boston’s innovation community, of innovators, was mainly about celebrating the hands-on and passionate innovation economy Boston has nurtured.

Erika Poole, one of the night’s event coordinators, acknowledged the celebratory mood of the night, “Innovation is in Boston, not Silicon Valley.”