How Massachusetts Should Boost Innovation—A Compendium of Reader Ideas (And A Call for More)

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a result of the Yankee brain.” He added, “Start-up funding is just too important to be left to the venture capitalist who talks the seed stage talk, but really will never settle for less than B round risk at seed stage valuation.”

Polazzo suggested that “Entrepreneurs need a financial and regulatory (blue sky) bailout. Take a page out of the MA independent film industry revolution and apply it to entrepreneurs before they leave or give up. Grant every willing entrepreneur reasonable funds graduated by milestones…Only wholehearted state support will reinforce a start-up brand identity, and drive intellectual capital back to the northeast. MA odds with these many small bets will be much better that its residents’ odds in a new casino.”

Easier said than done? Weinreb challenged Polazzo: “Enrico, Gee, that would be great. Where does the money come from?” To which Polazzo responded, “Daniel – Simple. The same way that millions are spent on asphalt paving a small stretch of roadway: bonds. Where’s the justification? How much tax revenue would have been raised, how many jobs and feeder companies created, if eBay stayed around the Tufts campus in Medford where it was founded? How many VC’s here passed on eBay? There are lots of examples that MA is under-utilizing its potential by relying on private seed funding networks. You can’t expect disruptive innovation rewards without seed stage risk. Who else will fill the capital gap?”

  • Better tap experienced, successful leaders in the innovation community—Xconomist Nijhawan, a serial entrepreneur and former venture capitalist, cited his own experience teaching an MBA course on entrepreneurship at Boston University as an example of one way to help foster innovation. “Let’s get other accomplished entrepreneurs to join local colleges,” he said.

Wrote Weinreb: “Massachusetts has another great resource: experienced professionals and former entrepreneurs, who can help out the next generation of innovators. For example, many people who created and built the successful minicomputer industry are surely still around. Can we create more opportunities for them to become mentors? At the MassTLC Innovation2008 unConference, entrepreneurs were matched up with experts, who could give them advice. I found this to be successful, and I am continuing to provide tips and ideas now and then to the entrepreneurs to whom I was assigned.”

Several other promising ideas were put forth. Xconomist Michael Greeley of Flybridge Capital Partners has long worked to foster innovation in Massachusetts, not just in his day job but as chair of the New England Venture Capital Association and as a member of the state’s Information Technology Collaborative. Greeley wrote that he has recommended two immediate actions to Gov. Deval Patrick: appoint an “Entrepreneur Czar” of national stature (he dropped Jack Welch’s name), and work with the Obama Administration “to get as much of the non-dilutive funding offered up in the federal stimulus package to address the staggering ‘capital gap’ so many of our early-stage companies are struggling with.”

Since Wade’s article appear almost a month ago, I have not heard or read one word from the Patrick administration about the concrete steps it plans for strengthening the innovation ecosystem. Maybe there have been some. If so, they haven’t been communicated well—as Xconomy is one of the leading forums on innovation based in New England with over 130,000 unique visitors a month, and we haven’t heard about it. Perhaps the committees have been meeting. But with the economy in recession, and innovation a key to getting out of the economic mess we’re in, every day without action can be important.

As Alexa Scordato noted in her comment, “For all the talk that’s out there, I see very little in terms of practical tactics being executed.” Or as Genotrope founder and chief product officer Tom Summit volunteered about a study commissioned by the Information Technology Collaborative to demonstrate how the infotech sector contributes to the Massachusetts economy: “Seems like a waste of good money and a concrete example of why we have lost the edge in the first place. Things need to be done not studied.”

If you have additional encouraging words for government officials and others, or just more good ideas to put forth, we welcome your comments.

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Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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