Making Boston Awesome for Entrepreneurs | Step five

Boston needs a startup culture

May 1, 2011

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Courtney Scrib, 26, is studying for an MBA at the Boston College Carroll Graduate School of Management.

Boston’s economy is rich in innovation and diversity. But compared to Silicon Valley, and some may argue New York, it is not the marquee destination for tech entrepreneurs and innovators.

Positioning Boston as a “place to be” for young entrepreneurial professionals requires an understanding of what these individuals value. It's more than just dynamic employment opportunities and competitive compensation. It's also having a culture that people want to be a part of.

During the time I spent in Silicon Valley, I was fascinated by the camaraderie, mixed in with a healthy dose of rivalry, among entrepreneurs and investors. The close-knit atmosphere was most apparent the night I visited a bar called The Old Pro, a place where it really did feel like everyone knew their names.

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but it was clear that Palo Alto is the community that never stops working and networking. A sports bar with a mechanical bull will not transform Kendall Square into a startup water cooler; however, it symbolizes the greater lesson that Boston can learn from Palo Alto. Rather than try to be another Silicon Valley, Boston needs to create its own dynamic of cooperation and competition; in other words a "co-opetive" bubble where work doesn’t always feel like work.

Entrepreneurs gravitate towards environments where the ecosystem is robust and paths clearly defined and well traveled. As one entrepreneur who moved west explained, investing in startups is part of Silicon Valley's fabric. Capital support is not limited to venture capitalists and angel investors, but also extends to wealthy individuals, many of them experienced entrepreneurs. These men and women feel a moral responsibility to reinvest in small companies and give back to the community that made them successful.

Like culture, establishing an institutionalized support network in Boston will not be accomplished overnight. That doesn’t it mean shouldn’t try, though.

The region’s universities should challenge their successful alumni to actively support entrepreneurship in this area. Concurrently, a concerted effort is needed on the part of the state government, industry leaders, and higher education to keep tech companies in Boston, much like what has been done to bolster life sciences.

The talent is here, but stronger entrepreneurial infrastructure and networks need to be built for this talent to stay.