You Can Go Home Again: Five Themes to Watch in the Boston Innovation Scene

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for the right reasons), and entrepreneurs don’t feel stigmatized by failures. But I’ll be trying to dig in and understand more about the view from the trenches.

2. How elitist is the innovation community?

This one didn’t really strike me until I left Boston recently. People outside New England tend to think the culture is based around hierarchies of old money and established power structures. If you didn’t go to college at MIT or an Ivy League School (and, preferably, get your MBA, JD, or MD from Harvard), forget it. Prominent angel investors and venture capitalists aren’t taking your calls, and they’re definitely not meeting with you, unless you’ve got connections and a solid business plan already.

Real or imagined, that’s a very different vibe from a place like Seattle, where the investor and startup community is smaller, and it’s not as hard to get that first meeting. And to be clear, this is just what I’m hearing anecdotally, not what I’m seeing firsthand (not yet anyway). The divide between entrepreneurs and investors, and getting them to mix in a productive way, is certainly a challenge everywhere—and I know Boston-area organizations have been doing a lot on this front lately.

3. Where are the anchor tenants in high tech?

Boston is known for its big life sciences companies—Biogen Idec, Boston Scientific, Genzyme, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and dozens of other publicly traded firms. But what about anchor tenants in technology? Sure, we have EMC, Nuance, Akamai, iRobot, and others, and IBM has a big presence here. Google and Microsoft also have been growing in the area. It’s a bit cliché to ask why Boston hasn’t produced a Google, Microsoft, Amazon, or Apple of its own lately. But I think it’s a fair question.

A giant like Microsoft acts as a talent magnet, especially at its headquarters, which has had a huge impact on local innovation for decades. (Even indirectly—for example, Amazon came to Seattle originally in part because founder Jeff Bezos wanted to set up where there was already lots of software development talent.) So Boston needs more of these big companies, and fast.

4. What is the business impact of all the top universities around town?

This one could be tough to quantify, but I’ll be looking at things like the number of companies spun out by different institutions, the types of technologies licensed by commercialization offices, the strength of entrepreneurial programs and competitions, the percentage of graduates who … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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