Boston Tech Scene Needs Fewer Doubles and Triples, More Home Runs
If the NSA monitored communications in Massachusetts, their analysts might raise an alert. With the baseball season over, there has been an anomalous amount of chatter using baseball terms as code for something.
They would trace the threat to Bill Warner, Avid founder and long time innovation activist. Bill has recently published a manifesto on his blog setting the bar for the rest of us. Declaring that we have too many singles and doubles, and not enough home runs, Bill is proposing we adopt a new nomenclature in our innovation economy. Here is Bill Warner’s proposed scorecard:
Any growing company that is selling a successful product. This would mean any company that successfully reaches the market and serves a growing need. Essentially, you’re on base once you show that more and more people need your product.
Any growing company with sales over $10M.
Any growing company with sales over $100M. Local or distant leadership. Note: huge acquisitions by distant companies will still be considered a triple due to loss of local leadership.
>$1B market cap. Local leadership.
>$10B market cap. Dominates its market; fast market growth. Local leadership.
Bill followed his scorecard manifesto with some practical suggestions on how to improve the score in this playbook.
What Bill’s getting at is that we need to think actively about building large, local companies to serve as anchors for our economy. For too long, our smartest companies have been sold early to acquirers on other coasts. This behavior deprives us of market leadership, dampens the flow of experienced executives to our region, especially in scaling and execution roles such as sales and operations, and ultimately relegates us to being the world’s R&D lab. Not a bad position on the ball field, but we can do better.
In the ensuing chatter, some have argued that economics, particularly venture fund economics, drive the decision to sell early versus growing a company independently. While this is can be true, I believe that the volition of our startup executives, and the values of our investors, can play a big role, since it is rarely certain that selling early provides a bigger ultimate return than staying in the game. A quick exit can pay for a new car, a new house, and maybe a new life for a founder. Sticking around and growing a business through difficult realities is hard work, but real impact in the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs league requires sticking around.
Hearing top startup CEOs mull over Bill’s challenge, I get the sense that a lot of folks are getting religion, and are saying “Yeah! Lets take our creations all the way.” In the end it is this attitude, more than any other factor, which will cause us to build more Gillettes, Genzymes, Akamais and EMCs.