Over the past 5+ years I’ve been working hard to help develop founder culture in Cambridge/Boston ecosystem. Thanks to my wife Amy for supporting my seemingly never ending startup addiction – she’s an amazing partner and soul mate.
As I outlined in my first Koa post back in the spring of 2012 – we have amazing startup resources in Cambridge/Boston and I consider it an honor to work with so many smart, talented entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists. At Koa we have expressed our enthusiasm for founding great companies via three methods :
- seed fund primarily focused on backing first time entrepreneurs with technical backgrounds
- “fierce networking” to connect the best people with the best opportunities across our ecosystem
- a “startup club” in Harvard Square – a physical place for entrepreneurs to hang out, work on their projects and support each other in both success and failure. This started as a place to hang my hat and turns out – there were a ton of people who wanted co-working space in HSquare to start their companies
The Koa Labs seed fund is alive and well – our portfolio is here. Thus far we’ve invested ≈ $8M+ directly into startups and institutional seed funds with very healthy returns (despite the expectation that it would be worth $0 😉 I’m not making new direct investments at the moment but I am sure that I’ll go back to writing new checks at some point. As posted previously – I am working hard to focus on Tamr 100% and I am channeling my startup investing through Founder Collective and other great new seed funds in the Boston/Cambridge ecosystem such as The Engine, Pillar and others.
I continue to do a ton of networking with all the fantastic people in our community – I get mojo from seeing great people work on big opportunities in our ecosystem. I continue to believe that if we prosecuted intellectual content as aggressively as those in the Bay Area that we’d have 4X+ the number of startups in Boston/Cambridge.
I am continuously amazed at the artificial gap between the great academic talent/content in our ecosystem and the great commercial talent. Most of these people are merely 1-2 T-stops away from each other – bridging these gaps is a lifelong mission for me.
As a result of my focus on Tamr and the emergence of other great co-working spaces on the red line – I’ve decided to get out of the “landlord” business in Harvard Square. I’m hopeful that Tim Rowe and/or others will open additional co-working space in Harvard Square to compliment those in Kendall, Central and Davis – there is tremendous demand in Harvard Square based on my experience over the past 5 years. The Harvard iLab is also doing a great job and will be even more active once the new engineering school is finished across the river (btw I’m a huge fan of Frank Doyle – the new Dean at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences – his work on the artificial pancreas is inspirational, he’s a great guy and welcome addition to our ecosystem in Boston).
We’ve had the privilege to host some great startups and founders in our space @ 1430 Mass Ave over the past 5 years. I thank all of them for the opportunity to work together. Some of the great startups who have hung their hats @ Koa include : Recorded Future, Madaket, Tamr, Resurety, Firecraker, Twine Health, Matter.io and many others.
I’d also like to thank all of the individual people who have helped me @ Koa over the past 5 years – especially Rich Miner, Christopher Ahlberg, Katie Rae, Frank Moss, Remy Evard, Jim Dougherty, Zen Chu, Ellen Rubin, Scott Kirsner, Jody Rose, Kelsey Cole, Steve Bell, Joe McPherson, Hugo VanVuuren, Janice Brown, Tony Purpura, Kim Murphy, Sean Treacy & the team at Grafton Street Studio and of course Paul Melone. I’d also like to thank the many interns that we’ve had at Koa including – Sam Roberts, Katie Kaufman, Ian Lee, Sean Clemens, Bryan Holtzman and Qin Li. I’m psyched to continue to work with many of you at Tamr and on other projects.
Over the past decade, my favorite change in the startup ecosystem in Boston/Cambridge has been the migration from Route 128 into the city/red line. This change has also come with a refocus on great Founders as the core of our startup ecosystem – the team at Founder Collective has done a great job curating founder role models by sponsoring the “Founder Dialog” series.
At the end of the day – incubators, service providers and funds are all necessary – but great founders are first and foremost the core of our ecosystem in Boston. Over the past few years there is no greater example of the power of great founders in Boston than Langley Steinert @ Cargurus. I was following Langley’s lead when I moved to Harvard Square 5+ years ago to start Koa – CarGuru’s original offices are 3 blocks from Tamr. If Tamr can be a fraction as successful as CarGurus – I’ll be thrilled – although I’m not planning to move out of Harvard Square anytime soon 😉
ps – special thanks to Aaron Kelsey Cole for all his effort – no one appears to work as hard as you big guy 😉