Jeff Glass on Bain Capital Ventures’ New Innovation Center, the Startup Ecosystem, and the Future of Group Buying

7/20/10Follow @gthuang

Venture capitalists are getting back to their roots. Amid the smaller exit markets, some contraction in the VC industry, and a general reset of investments to a lower level than two or three years ago, venture firms are making some key changes. Some are moving toward earlier-stage investments, while others are making more later-stage deals—and many are doing both. But one overarching theme is emerging, or should I say, re-emerging: the need to stay close to entrepreneurs.

It’s against this backdrop that Bain Capital Ventures announced last week a new outreach and resource site for early-stage entrepreneurs. The BCV Innovation Center is apparently the first site of its kind run by a major venture firm in Boston. It is open to any and all entrepreneurs who want to network, build their teams, get introductions to Bain-affiliated partners and service providers, find local events, and attend office hours with Bain VCs (every Friday afternoon). Other venture firms around Boston and elsewhere have made similar efforts—holding office hours, networking events, and so forth—but no one else that we know of has put it all together in one place online.

To learn more about the firm’s motivation and hear Bain’s perspective on startups, I talked with Jeff Glass, a managing director at BCV who is helping to lead the virtual innovation center. Glass is a former tech and multimedia entrepreneur himself who was the CEO of m-Qube, and has led BCV’s investments in companies such as blip.tv and, more recently, BuyWithMe.

Glass was refreshingly modest about Bain’s new center. “What we’re doing here is not meant to be the end-all, be-all of early stage resources and support,” he said. “While I’d love to tell you this is going to change the face of the Boston entrepreneur universe, that’s not the goal.”

Instead, Glass said, it’s just about Bain doing its part to support the local startup ecosystem. “We’ve got a huge team [33 people at BCV], and the Bain Capital platform behind us. We should do more,” he said. “Something you hear is that VCs and networking are more accessible out West than around Boston…We don’t want this to be exclusive. We want this to be one of many things. As a result of that, our goal is to make it more open than closed…and to link to other sites and other partners.”

Of course, the virtual center could also be seen as an effort by Bain to connect more deeply with top entrepreneurial talent in a tough economy. “That’s less so what drove it for us,” Glass said. “We thought a lot about what it was like to start up our first company, and we separately spend lots of time with entrepreneurs…We really tried to build this thing putting entrepreneur shoes on. If we go back in time to starting our first business, what are all the pieces? What resources existed?”

I asked Glass for the one piece of advice he would give to early-stage tech … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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