Boston's startup scene is thriving, even if that's not obvious from confines of Harvard Business School.
By Brent Grinna, contributor
Earlier this week I read Jon Lai’s post detailing the reasons why many of his peers at Harvard Business School aren’t interested in building companies in Boston. Jon cited an inferior lifestyle, FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) and said “the prevailing image of Boston is one of a non-progressive entrepreneurial community.”
No matter where you move, choosing an entrepreneurial path out of HBS will ensure an inferior lifestyle (low pay, high stress!) and FOMO (you’ll probably miss your section-mate’s wedding in Australia). But I want to challenge Jon’s point about Boston being a non-progressive entrepreneurial community.
Some of the themes Jon touched on reminded me how I might have felt about Boston when I founded EverTrue at HBS three years ago. Looking back on it, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Here are a few reasons why Boston is a great place to build a company.
1. “Startup-Ready” Talent. Boston has long been the leading hub for undergraduate and graduate education, but it’s emerging as one of the best training grounds for early-stage startup employees. Our friends at Startup Institute are churning out talented graduates who are prepared to hit the ground running in sales, marketing, web development and product management. Sarah Hodges at Intelligent.ly enlists some of the most talented startup leaders in town to teach everything from “Product Poker” to Inbound Marketing for Entrepreneurs to “Scotch: It’s What’s For Dinner.” Fresh Tilled Soil’s Apprentice in UX Design is answering the call to eschew the MBA in favor of design skills. Developer communities ranging from Drinks on Tap to Boston Front End Developers tohack/reduce unite technical talent eager to build the next big thing. Fast Company recently named Boston the Smartest City in America for good reason.
2. Mentors Abound. Early EverTrue mentor Jeff Bussgang introduced me to Where CEO Walt Doyle prior to his company’s acquisition by PayPal. I met Walt before I had a product, a co-founder or funding. He went out of his way to give me office space, help me recruit a technical co-founder and endorse our application to TechStars. Walt is now joining our board as part of our Series A funding from Bain Capital Ventures. Given how little progress I had made when I met Walt, it would have been easy for him to move on without even taking a follow-up meeting. There are many mentors like Walt in this town who go above and beyond to support first-time founders. TechStars Boston, MassChallenge, Scott Kirsner’s Secrets of Scaling and Nantucket Conference, the MITX Future Leaders’ Group and Sean Lindsay’s Founder Mentors are all examples of how mentorship permeates the entrepreneurial culture here.
3. Big Problems Are Being Solved. In the last few months, Andreesen Horowitz-backed Actifio raised $50 million at a $500 million valuation, AppNeta raised $16 million and DataXu raised $27 million. But you probably didn’t hear about those stories at HBS because data virtualization, application-performance management and programmatic marketing aren’t as exciting as new innovations in men’s grooming. We can’t change the fact that the problems we’re attacking here aren’t always that sexy – but they are big problems nonetheless. In the last TechStars Boston class alone, founders are enabling more efficient hospital patient transitions, providing real-time pregnancy health monitoring and turning air into water.
The reasons above explain in part why in the last two years the founders of Kinvey, HelpScout and GrabCad have moved here from Austin, Nashville and Estonia, respectively.
If you’re aspiring to be named to The 100 Coolest People in New York Tech or The 100 Biggest Stars in Silicon Valley, Boston is not the place for you. But you might get named to BostInno’s 50 on Fire. You’re just not as likely to hear about that at HBS.
Brent Grinna (@brentgrinna) founded EverTrue at HBS in 2010. EverTrue is a graduate of TechStars Boston and was selected as a winner of MassChallenge. Today it announced that it has raised $5.25 million in VC funding led by Bain Capital Ventures. Prior to attending HBS, Brent worked in private equity at Madison Dearborn Partners in Chicago.