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

5/12/09Follow @bbuderi

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a Dog Patch Lab-like incubator here in the Boston area. “It’s a possibility,” he says. “If there’s enough interest.” (Anyone want to answer that challenge?)

Sabet and Spark, meanwhile, have already taken several strides in this regard. Sabet is well known for pressing for the elimination of non-compete clauses in Massachusetts, which would make it much easier for entrepreneurs to do what Hirshland referred to—leave an established company to start their own. That effort has gained a lot of momentum and a bill to ban non-competes in Massachusetts is scheduled for a hearing this spring.

Spark (through Sabet) is one of several local groups that is helping bring a branch of the Boulder, CO-based TechStars startup program to Cambridge, MA. And in March, Spark announced the launch of Start@Spark, a program that will offer seed-stage investments of up to $250,000 to promising early-stage startups in the Boston and New York regions.

“There’s not like one silver bullet—it’s going to be a lot of stuff,” says Sabet, when referring to what might ignite social media and consumer Internet companies in the Boston Area.

Which to me means a concerted, collaborative effort. The last time I saw Hirshland and Sabet, they were at an OpenCoffee meeting (yes, Sabet helped this group get started here as well) at Andala Coffee House in Central Square. That’s where I snapped the picture of them together.

A Sampling of Social Media/Consumer Internet Investments From Spark and Polaris

Spark

5min — Internet-based “How-To” videos
8D World — virtual world focused on teaching English as a second language
Boxee — open-source software platform to enable home social media centers
Eqal — the Los Angeles studio behind the cult Web video series Lonelygirl15
KickApps — hosted application service enabling social networking capabilities for major web publishing and corporate websites
Next New Networks — micro TV meets community Web casting
OMGPOP (formerly i’minlikewithyou) — combines online gaming with social networking
OneRiot — social search engine
Tumblr — mixed media, short form blogging
Veoh — Internet TV

See my interview last year with Spark managing director Todd Dagres about the company’s media strategy.

Polaris

Automattic — the company behind WordPress, the leading blogging platform
BlackArrow — ad management for viewer-controlled video
Heavy — online entertainment network for men 18-34
JibJab Media — online comedy network
Quantcast — new media measurement company
Sprout — widget makes it easy to add interactive content to blogs and other websites.

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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  • Luca

    That would be Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, not Fred Williams of Union Square Bank.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/bbuderi/ Robert Buderi

    Very sorry–fixed, thanks

  • http://www.dailygrommet.com/ Jules Pieri

    I am happy for any progress on advancing the Boston locus for social media and consumer internet enterprises. The list in the article is a good start but it’s still relatively anemic, considering that half of it is more social media infracture, and not consumer facing. At the end of the day, we are all consumers (politicians, policy makers, investors, employees, and entrepreneurs) and the best way to grab mindshare for social media innovation is to create meaningful consumer facing businesses. To build the kind of experiences to which people become deeply attached.

    Although it is not social media-based, Zipcar is one of our best local consumer internet examples. I like CarbonRally too, as a very young example of local social media-fueled innovating company too. Care.com and RunMyErr come to mind as well. We have to broaden our definition of social media to include the innovative use of those behaviors, tools, and technologies. Not just the creation of platforms and infrastructure/analytics around social media.

    Anyway we need more, more, more in Boston, and much of the onus and opportunity lies within the investor community–to get out of its comfort zone. So few investors have really done consumer and social media in their careers. It’s understandably hard for them to trust even deeply experienced teams in these areas…it’s such a scary black box to investors. Success in consumer facing-enterprises can’t be driven entirely with dials and levers–it takes insight and confidence too. Social media does, however, offer amazing customer engagement and acquisition tools to make consumer businesses profitably scale in very new ways. That’s the real opportunity in social media.

  • Jules Pieri

    Oops…typed too fast. Meant to type RunMyErrand.com I erred.