I’m sure some of the old folks woke up this morning and said, “ugh…another discussion on young entrepreneurs leaving.” I know some of you are tired of it and I know things have gotten a lot better over the last year and a half or so, but the fact is that we’ve solved only a handful of the challenges that do exist. And like the little brother in a big family, our accomplishments will always be compared to our big brother in the Valley.
The important thing to remember is: talking about this and not taking action is called complaining. Talking about this and doing something about it is healthy (and necessary) discourse. Great sports teams watch and learn from what other teams do, so we should be no different.
With all this in mind, here’s a couple of things I’d like to add to the great article in the Globe today and supporting pieces by local young entrepreneurs:
1) DartBoston is missed.
Yes, Dart still does Family Dinners, which Victoria Song is doing an absolutely amazing job on. And I also realize that the pace that Dart worked at in the beginning was completely unsustainable (and financially unsupported). I’m also very happy for where Cort and Jake are both crushing it at startups.
That being said, the comaraderie and friendships formed at DartBoston events like Pokin Holes and Capitalize are what energized me when I first started Greenhorn Connect and few people cared. That energy also drew in new students in great numbers (as I wrote about in the Globe piece)
I’ve actually been talking with Fan Bi recently about how we can resurrect elements of it in a less demanding fashion for the organizers. So far, we’ve done a few dinners and poker nights, but there’s an intermediate step between small dinners and huge parties that is missing for young people.
2) How can we get more mainstream press?
One of the reasons that New York City has picked up so fast is that they have major press there, which has given great attention to the startups making things happen there. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Mashable, Times or Wall Street Journal, but we do have press that would allow locals to see us: the Globe, the Herald, the Metro and the Improper Bostonian. Now obviously those 4 Boston press arms are VERY different from one another, but they all reach different audiences that might just include some people who should join our startup community.
Imagine if some of the cool startups such as some of the ones Kirsner wrote about got small features in the Metro every week? I take the T every day and believe it or not, a lot of people read them. It might just get us a better early adopter crowd (the other half is playing angry birds, so maybe they’ll download that app written about) and at the least will make people aware of the startup scene, which has ancillary benefits like rescuing more talented, experienced folks from big companies (another thing we could work on in Boston).
3) You have to remember what it was like to be a student
I spent 6 great years at Northeastern University. Unlike many “Boston” schools, we’re literally right in the city. They even send us out on co-ops to work at 3 places to get us off campus. I even got an entrepreneurial degree in that 6th year (a Master’s in Technological Entrepreneurship). I had no idea that the startup scene existed except for a few off-hand mentions until I graduated and then created Greenhorn Connect.
When you’re in college, you have student groups, intramural sports, classes, parties and tests. Each university is a contained ecosystem that students rarely poke their head out of unless it’s to do something fun in the city. That’s why you have to go to them. Once you get them excited and can point them to a few good things (maybe one of the upcoming startup parties like RubyRiot or Binno de Mayo (this week!) plus Greenhorn Connect and Web Innovators) and they’ll be on their way, but it starts with us providing some of the activation energy.
4) I’m tired of young people leaving
A couple weeks ago we had a #startupdinner of 13 young entrepreneurs. 4 were planning on leaving (Tim Chae and Evan Morikawa amongst them) and Fan Bi predicted 10 would be gone by next year.
I want what’s best for young entrepreneurs and frankly, I don’t have a lot of good answers for them. Right now, I don’t feel comfortable looking them in the eye and saying, “No. Don’t go. You should stay here. Trust me.” Maybe I’m just a little tired from all the things I do. Maybe my vision is foggy. Maybe that’s what I should be telling them, but when I get emails from friends now in the Valley that say things like this, it gives me pause:
I’d get out here as fast as you can. Capital aside, the level of access you get out here is like night and day from Boston. I know the people who run the APIs for [all of the big players in his industry], and just about anyone else we have an interest in working with is just a tweet or email away. They’re all accessible, they’re all responsive, and since they don’t know who’ll end up the next Google, they’re pretty darned helpful.
Just the parties alone — there are tech parties with 400-500 people attending. It’s wild. Kegs are allowed at events. Journalists attend them, meet you, and write about you the next week, sending tons of traffic. Companies get acquired regularly, making even more parties, new angels, and feeding the whole system.
I’m excited for Ruby Riot, Binno de Mayo (this week!), the forthcoming Playtime Party and DartBoston‘s party that will blow the roof off (trust me). We need this. 4 big parties gets you on that track. So anyone grumpy about that Globe post…dust off your dance shoes and come out and remind everyone why they’d be a fool to leave.
And if you want to leave a comment that can give me some ammo next time a young person asks me about leaving, I’d much appreciate it…
Good article Jason, agree on many points. In particular, the points on media. I sent some info to the local TV outlets a couple months go about he concept of a weekly or bi-monthly start-up focus segment. Sort of like the “Wednesday’s Child” concept, but focused on promoting or talking about new companies in Boston. I heard nothing back, bit perhaps someone a little more plugged in might have better luck than I.
Great article! Did you see the Boston Mayor’s Office Report on the mobile industry that came out last month? There is a whole section on how to keep college students in Boston. It might help give you the ammo you’re looking for …
Here is the link to the report: http://www.newurbanmechanics.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Report-on-Boston-Mobile-Industry.pdf
Thanks for sharing the link. There’s some interesting suggestions in that report, although it felt very unrefined.
As I tried to stress in the Globe, I think that a misguided view is that the students will come to us. We have to go to them and then point them to what’s in our ecosystem waiting for them.
A great example is the issue of office space for Moglo mentioned in the report. There are at least 5 great options I can immediately think of that those guys could use if they just knew what was out there.
This is definitely an issue I’m passionate about and hoping to further develop in coming months/years.