Cambridge Innovation Center Turns 10; Looking Inside a Landmark for Boston-Area Entrepreneurs

12/3/09Follow @wroush

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10th, 11th, 13th, 15th, and 16th floors, along with part of the 12th—more than 100,000 square feet altogether. More often than not, when other big One Broadway tenants’ leases have expired, the CIC has been ready to expand into the space.

One Broadway itself, it must be acknowledged, is probably the ugliest building in Cambridge. Its one attraction is that it was built in 1970 by Badger Engineering, now a part of Raytheon, which means it’s solid—Rowe calls it “a Sherman tank of a building.” But its homely looks, compared to all the shiny towers that have gone up nearby, have turned out to be an advantage. “We like that—it keeps the rents lower, and startups don’t care,” Rowe says. “The fact that there’s a building that is often considered unattractive right next to MIT makes it the perfect location for us.” (Unbeknownst even to most tenants, One Broadway is also known as Building E60, in deference to MIT, its current owner.)

Selected CIC Tenants
FINANCIAL SERVICES

Apple Tree Partners
Bluegreen Ventures
Cambridge Light Partners
Maxis Capital
MC2
New Atlantic Ventures
New Science Capital
Progress Partners
Sample Path Ventures

Networking Effects

The facilities and the services at the CIC—the furnished offices, the receptionists, the 100-megabit Internet connections, the on-site development servers, the conference rooms with stunning views of the Charles River, the kitchens stocked with loads of drinks, fruit, chips, and other snacks, all provided as part of the rent—are all about making life easier for entrepreneurs. “We have always said that we can’t run a perfect working environment, but we’ll do a better job than you could,” Rowe says. “That’s not hard because most of our clients aren’t office space management experts. We can take the boring stuff out of operating a place to work off the plates of people who really have better things to spend their time on.”

Selected CIC Tenants
HARDWARE/DEVICES

Current
Exanet
Lyric Semiconductor
Tap N Tap
ThingMagic
Vitality

Former
Ambient Devices
Aurora Flight Sciences
Coatue
iCache
Luminus Devices
MICS

The CIC’s rent is high compared to what companies might pay for space in many other locations in Cambridge, Boston, and the suburbs. But Rowe argues that moving to the CIC lowers companies’ total operating costs, because of all the shared services that the center provides. “If you put 220 companies in their own spaces, they’d need 220 conference rooms, but if you share, you can get by with 30,” Rowe says. “That applies to the phone system and the kitchens and the person who figures out why the printer is jammed. That is why the economics work.”

CIC Conference RoomBut while convenience and location are probably the two main reasons most CIC tenants move in, there’s another important benefit that helps to keep them there: propinquity. Entrepreneurs “tend to be very outgoing, nice, flexible, curious, problem-solving people, so they are just constantly helping each other out,” Rowe says. That help might come for free from another startup in the building. It might be a consulting relationship (startups needing legal or public relations help, for example, can find it right down the hall at firms like Morse Barnes-Browne & Pendleton or Fama PR). Or it might lead to new business partnerships—at least one new company, Stamp Mobile, has already been born from a conversation between two entrepreneurs leasing space in the Cambridge Coworking Center, an open office environment that Rowe created on the 10th floor last May. “It’s just helpful to be around a whole lot of other bright people, in the same way it’s helpful for academics to be around other bright academics,” says Rowe.

Can the same effect help CIC startups win venture funding? That’s unclear. But it’s safe to say that the center is a popular fishing spot for local financiers. Several venture funds, private equity funds, and hedge funds have offices in the building. New Atlantic Ventures ended up investing in … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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

    I’m not a tenant of the CIC, alas, but I’ve spent a lot of time there, and the thing that always strikes me is how cool it is to have a landlord with a generosity of spirit and can-do attitude. That’s so aligned with the nature of the tenants. I would argue that spirit stems directly from Tim Rowe himself, who lives those qualities in his own professional life. I’ll never forget the incredibly helpful conversation Tim had with me, a total stranger, when I was forming my business. I still remember most of what he said and have found it to be uncannily accurate advice.

  • http://www.marchpr.com Cheryl

    Our agency, March Communications, was a tenant of CIC’s for three years. During that time, we occupied offices on three different floors as our agency grew. The flexibility to keep moving up allowed us to focus on our business, our clients and our people not the office maintenance and headaches that typically come with office moves.

    Being a part of a community of entrepreneurs was exiting and insightful. We still have many friends at CIC and many more about to move in.

    Tim and Geoff were especially helpful when we decided to brave the world and lease our own space over a year ago. Their approach to our departure was so refreshing. They were just as pleased as we were that our business was now able to sustain leased office space. Their advice was spot and appreciated.

    Happy Anniversary CIC.

  • http://WWW.EQUITYRESIDENTIAL.COM Casimir Deronette

    The year of 2009 marks your tenth anniversary!!! As a former member of the Security Staff at One Broadway, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and congratulate you and your staff in this historic moment!

    Ten years is a long time to maintain the excellent reputation your company has. Your staff has always demonstrated a highly professional manner and courtesy toward your clients. I know that the growth and success of your company is largely dependent on having strong and capable staff members, and recognizing the contribution they make in helping maintain the position you enjoy in this industry.

    During these last 10 years, your company name (Cambridge Innovation Center) has become almost a household word for clients and prospects in the Kendall Square community and around many other great places. Best of everything to you as CIC expand great services and achievements in the years ahead.

    Please know how very much I appreciate CIC and the staff. I’m hoping that Cambridge Innovation Center will remain successful for many years to come and once again would like to offer my congratulations on this 10th Anniversary Celebration!

  • http://www.speedtempo.com Ira Hochman

    I would have to agree with the positive review of CIC on all counts. These factors have led to my housing 4 of my startups (inTouch Technology Corp.,Speedtempo.com, Untravel Media and X7 Labs) there at various points in time.

    Congrats to Tim & all the CIC staff!

  • http://jonpierce.com Jon Pierce

    Congrats to Tim and Geoff on 10 great years! The Cambridge Innovation Center is an institution, and the Boston startup scene wouldn’t be the same without it.

  • http://www.prompt-communications.com Hazel Butters

    We (Prompt Communications) moved into CIC several months ago, and it’s been an eye opener to how a team and an office environment can drive and foster innovation. Tim and his team are stars – their enthusiasm is boundless: just being in this building inspires me. Here’s to the next ten years!

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  • http://biggerpenisinfo.net Evan Foster

    10 years in any industry is a very long time. Well done and i hope you have 10 more!

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