Boston VCs Grok Social Media—So Can We Please Not Tell That Facebook Story Anymore?

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allow others to create custom Facebook apps such as quizzes and virtual gift-makers. LOLapps’ co-founder and chairman Ariel Poler (formerly of StumbleUpon, among other companies), was a Dog Patch denizen—and Polaris was the sole investor last September in the company’s $4.5 million Series A round. With some 44 million people using LOLapps’ Facebook applications, “We believe they are actually the largest Facebook apps company,” says Hirshland.

Hopes for Boston

What about Boston? Sabet’s theory is that when Boston VCs got into the consumer Internet during the Internet bubble, “they jumped in late and they got killed.” Many, he believes, said ‘never again.’ That, in turn, created a spiral where for a long time a lot of entrepreneurs felt that many Boston VCs weren’t interested in consumer Internet companies, creating a situation where they either moved to the West Coast or morphed their idea to something that was more infrastructure related.

Now, with a new crop of Boston area VCs “investing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in this space,” Sabet says he doesn’t think that attitude is as prevalent. Which led me to ask him whether he thinks more local social networking/new media entrepreneurs will be encouraged to start companies here—and keep them in New England.

“God, I hope so,” was his reply. “But we have some work to do.” (More on that last comment in a bit.)

That same hopeful sentiment came from Hirshland, who says there are definitely more entrepreneurs attuned to social media now in New England than in the past. “The vast majority are in their 20s, who just grew up on the Web,” he says. When they come out of local universities, “they’re not necessarily going to a telecom infrastructure company or an enterprise software company, or fill in the blank.”

Hirshland says that their success will feed upon itself. The Valley, he says, “had Yahoo and Google and eBay and Paypal,” and after a few years at those companies, key employees had made money and “wanted to try their own thing, just creating a whole wave of entrepreneurs.”

Similarly, in New England, he says, “What we need is for a couple of those [startups] to really take and become business and companies, and spawn the next generation…and that’s what I think we’ve been lacking.”

So now, back to that point from Sabet about having work to do to strengthen New England’s hand in all this. Both men, it turns out, are willing to take some extra steps to help social media entrepreneurs along. For instance, Hirshland says Polaris would be open to the idea of creating … Next Page »

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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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