Entrepreneur Walk of Fame Opens in Kendall Square: Gates, Jobs, Kapor, Hewlett, Packard, Swanson, and Edison are Inaugural Inductees

9/16/11Follow @gthuang

It was a little over a year ago that Xconomy broke the news that a movement was underway to bring an Entrepreneur Walk of Fame to Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA, modeled after its Hollywood namesake.

The idea makes a lot of sense: If we celebrate movie stars and athletes, why not the top innovators and business leaders of all time? The goal is to inspire young people to make a big impact on the world. As for a location for the Walk of Fame, why not historic Kendall Square, which arguably sits in the densest cluster of technology and life sciences organizations and companies in the world?

Lo and behold, it’s really happening. Today the Entrepreneur Walk of Fame will be unveiled at a 1 pm ceremony in the newly paved plaza in front of the Marriott Hotel in Kendall Square. To get to this point took the collaborative efforts of a lot of people from MIT, the City of Cambridge, the Kauffman Foundation, and several community and private organizations.

Here is the inaugural class of seven inductees (and who will present the awards at the ceremony, which is almost as interesting):

Thomas Edison (1847-1931), founder of General Electric. Probably America’s most famous inventor, he is credited with pioneering the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the commercial light bulb. But it’s his contributions to industry that got him in here. (Presented by David Edison Sloane, Edison’s great-grandson.)

Bill Hewlett (1913-2001), co-founder and CEO of Hewlett-Packard. He was a Stanford and MIT grad. (Presented by Howard Anderson of MIT Sloan School of Management, formerly of Yankee Group and Battery Ventures, and an Xconomist.)

David Packard (1912-1996), co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Hewlett-Packard. A Stanford grad and General Electric veteran who supplied the garage that housed the early HP. Rumor has it they called it “HP,” rather than “PH,” based on a coin flip. (Also presented by Howard Anderson.)

Bob Swanson (1947-1999), co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Genentech. He was an MIT undergrad and MIT Sloan grad, as well as a founding board member of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center. (Presented by Tyler Jacks of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.)

Bill Gates (1955- ), co-founder, chairman, and former CEO of Microsoft; co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He is probably Harvard’s most famous dropout, and one of the world’s richest men. (Presented by Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc, the PC spreadsheet.)

Steve Jobs (1955- ), co-founder, chairman, and former CEO of Apple. On his resume: the Apple II, Mac, Pixar, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad…need we say more? (Presented by Dan Lyons, better known as Fake Steve Jobs.)

Mitch Kapor (1950- ), founder of Lotus Development, creator of Lotus 1-2-3, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Kapor is the one inductee who will be present at today’s ceremony and will speak for himself. Rumor has it there will also be lots of ex-Lotus employees on hand wearing vintage Lotus 1-2-3 shirts.

“This is a hall of fame” for entrepreneurs, says Bill Aulet of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, who spearheaded the overall effort. “The event itself is kind of like The Breakfast Club. These people are coming together who fought at different times.” (He was talking about Gates, Jobs, and Kapor in particular.)

Each inductee gets a granite star on a 4-foot by 1.5-foot tile that has the entrepreneur’s name, title, and one of his inspirational quotes inscribed. (See photo, left, of the Steve Jobs tile, next to an MIT beaver mascot.) The tiles sit in the plaza next to the Kendall T stop, close to the sidewalk, on either side of the new grassy knoll. As of yesterday morning, about a dozen workmen were sweating to put the finishing touches on the construction in the plaza.

Of course, with any list like this, it’s easy to nitpick or ask why someone is or isn’t on the list. The whole selection process was probably subject to all the usual politics that plague any … 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. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.startup-book.com Herve Lebret

    I think they forgot Robert Noyce (Fairchild and Intel co-founder and MIT alumnus), but maybe they would have had to put the eight traitors or at least Gordon Moore. The Google guys are probably young enough to come later.

  • http://www.palatuccisearch.com Chris Palatucci

    “having linkage to Cambridge/Boston was not necessary” Why not?? Seems like a tacit admission that we don’t have enough tech rock stars with roots here, which is clearly not the case.
    Also note the absence of Dean Kamen on any of the selection committees. His whole shtick is about how young people need scientists and engineers as heroes, not basketball stars. Maybe he was asked and turned it down, but this type of effort seems right in his cross hairs.

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  • http://Adventuresinburgundy.com Lincoln Russell

    Between 1970 and 1974, I worked in chemical research for Polaroid as it created the SX-70 camera, after which I spent 35 years as a professional photographer, and the failure to include Edwin Land on this list is simply impossible to understand!

  • Janet Egan

    They forgot Ken Olsen! We must get him inducted in the next round. Founding Digital Equipment Corporation set the stage for the accomplishments of some of the entrepreneurs they have honored.

  • Kathryn Kilroy

    I agree with the Edwin Land comment but mostly I was disappointed that there were no women in this inaugural class!!

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  • Kim Francis

    Other than Edison and Swanson, does this listing imply that to be a entrepreneur you have to be in a computer related field? There were no successful or outstanding out-of-the-box thinkers in the fields of architecture or medicine or chemical engineering? I do support this type of recognition, it makes the contribution permanent, but I am dismayed at its narrowness.

  • David Wells

    I agree with Janet and other comment contributors. While I applaud recognition of great entrepreneurs, I find it hard to believe Ken Olsen wouldn’t be on the first version of such a list. This is not to suggest those selected shouldn’t be there, but it seems like this may be a somewhat narrow definition of entrepreneur.

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