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Resources: The New Culture of Entrepreneurship

Posted by Scott Kirsner  October 14, 2009 11:45 AM

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Earlier this month at the Mass Tech Leadership Council's Innovation Unconference, I helped lead a session called "How Do We Turbo-Charge the Culture of Entrepreneurship in Massachusetts?" It attracted a room full of about 35 people.

I believe, as you may know, that there is a cultural revolution happening here, and that there are two kinds of people in our region's innovation economy:

1. People who do their jobs in isolation and continue to repeat the same old tropes about how "we don't network enough" and "things are so different in Silicon Valley."

2. People who are inventing new networking events, mentoring young entrepreneurs, opening doors for students, running programs to help start-ups get off to a faster start, investing in new sectors, and generally bouncing off one another in ways that create really great sparks.

I generally try not to hang around with the first group of people, and am counting the days until they all retire or expire.

At our session, we tried to list all of the events, associations, and programs that already exist to support this new culture, as well as some things that are in process. (I'm sure we missed quite a few.) We also created a "to do" list, like ways to improve coordination among our great universities, or to make angel investors more visible.

Here are some links, as well as some rough notes from the session:

- Two Northeastern grads have created a great new site called Greenhorn Connect, which just launched this week. What I like best about it is that it lists things like VC firms, incubators, and industry associations -- but it's a wiki, so once you register, you can add more to it. Why not go do that now?

- Microsoft's Don Dodge posted about some of the angel groups, workspaces, conferences, media outlets we discussed, along with some of the "super-connector" individuals -- with links.

- Tom Hopcroft of Mass TLC posted some of his notes from the session.

And I'm including below the notes that Allison Parker of Microsoft took, which are somewhat duplicative of the two posts above, but may be useful just for the record. (I've cleaned them up a bit...)

    Culture of Innovation
    Community of Innovation

    · Premise
    · Existing initiatives
    · What ought to exist

    Observations on Current Ecosystem
    (missed a few)
    Laura Fitton: Need more angels in New England!
    Lee Hower: Whole Ecosystem… Not just a funding gap.
    Matt Lauzon, Paragon Lake: Part of his pitch was that they were looking to bring a CEO on board… Bigger problem, how do you get students connected to those small/emerging companies?
    Russ Wilcox/eInk: Not us vs. Silicon Valley; it’s us vs. the rest of the world… Boston very inward looking invention. Would like to see more outward looking innovation. Asia, Brasil, India, China… Need to get their needs into Boston and get more of the markets outside of Boston.
    Jeremy Halpern/The Capital Network: Mentorship. Factory at Tufts. 90% of people he sees underutilize human capital. Carve out an extra 3-5 hours to bring a student on board. (List of resources, TechStars, NE Angels, etc.). Pay it forward.
    Romulus guy: VCs show differing levels of respect to first-time entrepreneurs.

    Active Groups:
    · Tech Stars
    · WebInno
    · Business Innovation Factory
    · Stay In
    · unConference
    · Bettina Hein’s Group of Women
    · Mobile Monday
    · Open Coffee
    · Tech Tuesday
    · Microsoft NERD
    · Romulus Capital – works with 1st time entrepreneurs coming out of university
    · MIT Enterprise Forum
    · MIT 100K competition
    · MIT Entrepreneurship Center
    · SwissNex Boston
    · Boston World Partnerships
    · Boston Post Mortem
    · DART Boston
    · MITX
    · MassTLC
    · Social Media Awards
    · TIE Boston
    · BetaHouse
    · Dogpatch Labs
    · NECINA
    · Vilna Shul
    · BYTE (Boston Young Tech Entrepreneurs)
    · BYE
    · Common Angels
    · Hub Angels
    · Launch Pad
    · Elist
    · Mass High Tech
    · Xconomy
    · Green Tech Media
    · Innovation Economy
    · Funded Founder (Bay area link)
    · WPI Venture Forum
    · UNH
    · Cambridge Innovation Center
    · Cambridge Coworking Space
    · UMass Boston VDC
    · Quest for Innovation
    · FIRST
    · Mass Inno Nites
    · Berkman Center
    · Awesome Foundation
    · Info Super Highway
    · Beta Spring (in Providence)
    · TCN
    · TEDxBoston
    · Boston/Tufts/Northeastern/BC TC
    · Start at Spark
    · Highland Capital
    · Genotrope

    In Process:
    · MassChallenge
    · Venture Café
    · Venture Well
    · Dog Patch Labs
    · IDEA @ Northeastern
    · Youth Cities
    · Innovation Open Houses
    · Mark’s Guide/Gary's Guide
    · Venture Fizz
    · TCN Student Fair

    To Do:
    · Coordination (diminish the oversupply)
    · Wiki
    · TechCrunch50 type of thing
    · Exchange for open source talent
    · More thought leadership on global stage
    · More connections to work with universities to get students in engineering and science into local smaller companies
    · Integrate students more
    · ‘Open Employer’ badge for companies that don’t require non-compete
    · Gov funds
    · Embrace greenhorns
    · VC reprogramming
    · More practical meetings, e.g., some schools around web product managers (Tom Summit)
    · We’ve lost the acquirers to the West Coast… How do we court acquirers?
    · Angel matching services (Boston angel environment very formal)
    · Once it’s funded, what tools and capabilities are there to help the companies scale?
    · Silos of info at every local school
    · Have the list and help people navigate which resources to tap when
    · Map the angel network for entrepreneurs -- (
    · Make events easier to find online (so that they’re easy to share online). For example, email invites aren’t sharable on twitter, etc.
    · Go-to designees at all companies (a la Don Dodge)

    Other notes
    · Attract & retain students and smart people from around the world

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6 comments so far...
  1. Hey Scott, great post and I'm excited to see so much action. I see a counterculture happening.

    I wrote my thought on my blog here ..

    Two observations is one around mindset and other is community. Boston is grounded in entrepreneurial history - more than Silicon Valley. I think that what Silicon Valley did to over take Boston was the innovation on the capital side in the 80s within the venture ranks specifically (my opinion there).

    Opportunity is in the recalibration of the early stage process. I wrote my observations from Silicon Valley here in a recent blog post

    You're on to something with this unconference in that everything is faster at the early stage. Just look at the real time web, twitter, incubation centers popping up all over the United States (you mentioned a long list in your story) and around the world not just Silicon Valley. Also we are seeing a developer boom right now and new markets are emerging. It’s a great time for startups yet venture is still struggling.??

    A new breed of folks who understand this world will fill the void. This major shift is a big opportunity to resurface and highlight the still current entrepreneurial action in Boston.

    Posted by John Furrier October 14, 09 12:15 PM
  1. Scott,

    Thanks for mentioning Greenhorn Connect. The site will only get better in the future and hopefully this will inspire others to do what they can from the list of things "to do".


    Jason @Evanish
    Co-Founder, Greenhorn Connect

    Posted by Jason Evanish October 14, 09 12:27 PM
  1. hey scott, no doubt there is an ever-growing list of resources within the boston startup community, and i wonder if there will be a consolidation stage. i in fact remember you once asking me how i got any work done between all the different events, and i reminded you that i still had classes to attend.

    i found your last line interesting, and essentially that's what a lot of this revolution is about. it's about bringing and retaining the best talent in boston, FROM AROUND THE WORLD. i have no doubt that boston is the dream destination for a lot of the brightest and most talented entrepreneurs around the world. the problem is these people aren't being offered the opportunity to actually do so.

    brad feld (, eric ries ( and vivek wadhwa ( have some interesting thoughts on the issue.

    Posted by Fan Bi October 14, 09 02:47 PM
  1. Hi Scott - two things to add to your list: MobileCampBoston and BarCampBoston. I've organized MobileCamp the past two years, and it's a great place for the local Mobile startups to present and share ideas. BarCampBoston is one of the most successful unConferences in the area. They run an entire weekend and provide a great place to network and learn what's going on.

    MobileCamp will be in Mar/Apr - planning now. BarCampBoston usually is in the spring as well.

    Posted by Keith Erskine October 15, 09 07:21 AM
  1. Hi Scott, thanks for putting this loop together and the challenge to take it, build it, share and run. I'm still trying to figure how the traditional media types can help this expand, especially as tech developments and content delivery continue to collide to produce opportunity. Tim Stansky

    Posted by Tim Stansky October 15, 09 01:00 PM
  1. Scott,

    That session was the highlight of a great unConference. I think a lot of people walked feeling pretty good about the energy and direction of entrepreneurship in New England.

    Posted by Brad johnson October 15, 09 03:24 PM


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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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