What’s Up in the Boston/Cambridge Innovation Ecosystem in 2015? Everything.
The last few years of growth have been great for the Boston-area entrepreneurial community. Talented company founders (including many first-timers), scientists, engineers, marketers and supporters have productized creative new ideas and brought forth amazing results in enterprise tech, consumer tech, eHealth.
As we enter 2015, here are a few more observations on this trend:
- We now have 5+ significant institutional seed funds in Boston. Boston now has a critical mass of significant and successful institutional seed funds. Specifically, Founder Collective, Project11, BostonSeed and of my own Koa Fund among others are leading many new great investments. These funds have balanced the dysfunction created by Boston early-stage venture funds investing seed money primarily as a method to buy options on the best Series A financings. This is long money.
- We added several key anchor tenants (aka feeder companies), with the 2014 IPOs of HubSpot, Wayfair and Care.com. These new independent public companies will have a radical positive impact on the entire ecosystem as the talent pool in Boston begins to develop muscles outside of traditional hard-core tech infrastructure (Boston’s traditional sweet spot) – especially with respect to application and interface design.
- We increased our global profile as a center of advanced commercial technology research. Google’s updated/expanded Google office in Kendall Square makes Cambridge a hub for the global start-up ecosystem. Consider the amazing contrast when one visits Google’s Cambridge office vs. EMC out in Hopkinton – it’s like looking towards the future or back at the past, respectively.
- We watched biopharma continue to crank. The strength of the biopharmaceutical sector over the past year has created disproportionate leverage for the Cambridge/Boston ecosystem. Cambridge/Kendall Square has truly become the primary global center of life science commercial research. It will be incredible to watch Novartis finish their new 500K+ square foot Maya Lin-designed building @181 Mass Ave.
- We discovered a fascinating sleeper company: CarGurus. Langley Steinert is a very low-key and amazing entrepreneur who has built a great company in Harvard Square over the past four years – http://www.cargurus.com (I have no interest in Langley’s company other than being a fan). CarGurus’ development is significant. One of my favorite things about CarGurus (other than the Harvard Square roots) is the style of entrepreneurship he practices. Langley’s modest style is consistent with what I encourage in Koa companies.
- We raised awareness of the non-compete problem. Legislators are now aware that many of the smartest and most entrepreneurial people in Mass. have their hands (and legs) tied behind their backs by a bunch of big company lawyers. Watch this space in 2015.
- We heard a new drumbeat among first-time company founders. Many young successful entrepreneurs are talking about “going long” – not selling their companies out to IBM, Oracle or Google, but instead doing whatever is required to build independent companies that will serve as the new “anchor tenants” in Boston. I’ve noticed this change in the past year – specifically, among the many talented young first timers in the ecosystem. Very encouraging.
- We watched relevant VCs move into town. As of this past year, all the significant venture capitalists (even the most conservative, and comfortable, “Westonites”) have moved their offices into town from Route 128. Anyone who remains out there will become irrelevant over time as the great companies are started in town.
What else is up in 2015 for the Boston/Cambridge innovation ecosystem? What are you seeing? Comments welcome.