Governor Patrick Tours Cambridge Innovation Center
Companies headquartered at the Cambridge Innovation Center, a rental office facility where scores of Boston-area entrepreneurs have gotten their ideas off the ground, played host to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick this afternoon. Patrick and other officials—including Massachusetts Life Sciences Center president Susan Windham-Bannister and Greg Bialicki, Patrick’s choice to replace outgoing Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Daniel O’Connell—spent about 20 minutes in a closed roundtable discussion with company leaders at 1:00 p.m., then circulated among the small (some of them really small) companies contributing to the startup brew at the CIC building, a Kendall Square landmark at One Broadway.
Patrick met executives from seven companies in the center, some of them so new or small that they don’t even have websites:
InVivo Therapeutics—a medical-device startup testing scaffolding materials for stem-cell-based repair of spinal cord injuries
Madera Energy—a one-man firm developing a biomass power plant in western Massachusetts. (Madera principal Matt Wolfe occupies one of the tiny, single-person offices that the CIC calls “Unos.”)
Design That Matters—a non-profit organization building prototype infant incubators made from easily replaced car parts and similar products for poor communities in developing countries
Tap N Tap—a software firm developing interfaces for wall-mounted home displays that coordinate family schedules, shopping lists, heating and air conditioning, and the like
Vitality—a small company creating gadgets and software to improve medication compliance, including pill-bottle caps that blink or beep to tell patients when to take their next dose
It was an interactive visit for the governor: At Conduit Labs, he sat down to try out the company’s flagship online game, Loudcrowd, and he helped Design That Matters CEO Timothy Prestero disassemble and reassemble a wheeled incubator and isolation unit for premature infants. Patrick had plenty of questions, often asking how soon each company would be bringing new products to market.
CIC president Tim Rowe acted as Patrick’s guide, and took the opportunity to point out the center’s role in providing an all-services-included environment for local technology startups with 25 or fewer employees. Out of the $7 billion invested in New England technology companies by venture firms in 2007 and 2008, Rowe asserted, companies located in the CIC soaked up some $360 million, or more than 5 percent.
In remarks to a gathering of reporters after the tour, Patrick said he thinks companies at the CIC are doing great work, and that the state should do more to create room for startups to grow. “I want to do everything we can to support that kind of imagination and creativity,” he said.
But asked what the state could do to help startups, Patrick wasn’t terribly specific. “I think mostly encourage them, to tell you the truth. I think they’re doing a lot of what they need to do all on their own.”
And there’s an element of exhortation to this encouragement. Patrick asked several of the companies he visited, including ThingMagic and Vitality, where they manufactured their hardware or devices, and got predictable answers like “Taiwan” or “southern China” (although one entrepreneur made the mistake of saying “Connecticut”). That prompted the governor to urge the entrepreneurs to look for manufacturing facilities closer to home.
“I’ve been teasing some of the entrepreneurs I’ve met about where the manufacturing happens after the concepts are developed,” Patrick told reporters later. “One thing we’re certainly doing better and better is developing that manufacturing capacity across the Commonwealth and encouraging companies that get to that point to mass produce here in Massachusetts.”