Top 10 Highlights From UnConference: Boston’s Big Data Cluster, Content Vs. Commerce & More

11/1/11Follow @gthuang

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money to train them. That came from Blueleaf’s John Prendergast. Session attendees (my colleague Erin was among them) kicked around the idea of pooling their resources in training groups like Thoughtbot and pushing schools to include more co-op-style programs in undergraduate education.

5. It’s hardly a new issue, but questions have been raised in the Boston startup community lately about the value of incubators and accelerators such as TechStars, MassChallenge, and Dogpatch Labs. In the accelerator session, which Erin also sat in on, one session attendee compared the type of entrepreneur who bounces around to different incubators and business plan competitions to the perennial graduate student. “There’s this perpetual B+ level that you can play at. Is that really building a company in the marketplace?” he said.

6. And now for something completely different… I heard about some intriguing startups, including VentAboutHim.com (self-explanatory), SittingAround.com (a MassChallenge finalist), MedicalRecords.com (any company founded by a guy named “Ace” is promising), and RedHelper.ru (good luck if you don’t read Russian). And I heard more about Geek Offices, a co-working space for startups and entrepreneurs on the Cambridge side of Inman Square. There’s also a Newton location. From what I hear, price is a big selling point.

7. Analytics, schm-analytics. Are people really willing to pay for data analytics? Answer: yes. (See LinkedIn Premium, for example.) The big data session pointed out that although Boston has a lot of “data geniuses,” many of their analytics companies are focused on selling to others of a similar mindset. The real opportunity is taking big data and packaging it in a way that makes it accessible to the masses. (See Google, Facebook, Amazon.)

8. My colleague Lilly had a social-media marketing takeaway. As she reports, Glenn Gaudet from Cambridge, MA-based GaggleAMP spoke about how many tweets/Facebook posts are too many. The consensus was that Twitter is a ticker tape of content. Twitter analytics show that almost all the click-throughs, retweets, and so forth drops off two hours after a tweet has been posted, and 96 percent of activity dies off after 48 hours. So, companies using good content as an anchor shouldn’t be scared to tweet out that content several times throughout the day (and even the same thing multiple times, within reason).

9. “Should I hire a philosophy major?” Answer: yes. Among the reasons: They’ve been taught how to think creatively and critically. They can read loads of information and retell it in a digestible manner. That could fit with startup positions like product managers and marketers, as Erin reports.

10. One last tidbit came from the audience-participation part of the “scaling startups” session. Woburn, MA-based Kiva Systems has been growing steadily; the warehouse automation company (it doesn’t like to call itself a robotics firm) has been profitable for a while now and is about 250 employees going on 300. Advice from the panel on implementing bigger-company processes: Choose high performers from the company and ask them to help draft and run the new processes. And then implement them in small steps, not all at once. Maybe we’ll see Kiva on this panel next year.

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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