This is the second of a 2-part series by guest-blogger Ariel Diaz, a Boston based entrepreneur and PopSignal Member, focusing on the key drivers and reasons for the recent surges in Boston’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and how to keep it going. You can read Part 1 here, which talks about what has changed.
Key Drivers – Why It’s changing
More important than what’s changing is to understand what is driving this recent acceleration in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The under-pinnings for many of these changes have been around for a while, and like most “overnight successes”, this one is anything but. Here are my observations about why things are changing.
1 – Self-Awareness
The most important one is the fact that people all around Boston are talking openly about how to help the ecosystem, whether or not they agree there is a problem. For a long time, Boston chose to ignore the apparent differences (and weaknesses) between Boston and the Valley and other startup centers. Then New York came and stole a lot of our thunder, and it got people thinking, talking, and acting again.
2 – Critical Mass
Secondly is the critical mass of all of these efforts. It takes a lot of activities working together to bring about this acceleration. A lot of these efforts have been underway for a while, many of them for well over a year, but have only recently hit critical mass. And now new initiatives are turning up which are only possible because of this critical mass.
3 – New Crop of Young Evangelists
A lot of the recent energy and innovation has come from a crop of younger entrepreneurs and evangelists who are working hard to strengthen Boston. Many of these folks are doing it because they saw a perceived (real or not) need in the Boston community. This crop includes people like Cort Johnson (DartBoston), Jason Evanish (Greenhorn Connect), Justin Cannon (MITX, DrinkupLinkUp), Jay Meattle and Brian Balfour (PopSignal), Adam Marchick (FoundersClub), Jon Pierce (AngelBootCamp, Betahouse), etc.
4 – Better use of Technology
Many new efforts and groups are using technology to distribute content that was often limited to attendees. This helps create a permanent online place to access interesting discussions and content. Examples include groups like BostonTweetUp and DartBoston, which have done a great job of making social media and video technology a core part of the offerings, and FounderCollective, who recently launched a new blog that includes photos and video of their events.
5 – More effective Publicity
The events and opportunities that exist (and have existed) in Boston are getting much more publicity as a result of a much more active and Boston-focused press and publicity engine. This includes BostInnovation, which has done a great job at driving a local presence and focusing on creating an outlet for activities and companies in Boston, and VentureFizz, another new entrant working on similar goals. These new players complement the long term efforts of sites like Xconomy and individuals like Scott Kirsner.
6 – More Visible and Active Mentors
Finally, all of these efforts have resulted in a much stronger mentor network that does a better job of helping connect experienced entrepreneurs and investors with new companies and individuals. TechStars has helped kickstart these efforts and has helped identify many mentors around Boston, and gotten them more involved and visible in the community. MassChallenge has similar goals, but is earlier on in the process.
How to keep this going
I remember being at the UnConference in October 2008, about a year and a half ago. There was a lot of talk about how to improve the community and continue building on the ideas being generated at the conference. But nothing concrete really materialized. Now we have some momentum, and I hope we continue it.
What else do you think is changing? What are the key drivers for these changes? And how do we keep this all going?