Who was it who wrote, “If Silicon Valley didn’t exist, Boston would have to invent it in order to have someplace to feel inferior to”?
Oh wait, that was me. It was a snarky thing to say—but it was back in February 2009, and I was feeling piqued at the time about calls for a state-sponsored branding campaign to persuade high-tech businesses to set up shop in Massachusetts rather than California. It worried me that the state was about to put a lot of time, energy, and money into a big marketing push, when real problems like a lack of funding and support for early-stage stage startups were going neglected.
Well, the branding campaign eventually morphed into something much more useful (MassItsAllHere.com, a rich online directory of business resources). And in the last eighteen months, the community of entrepreneurs and investors around Boston has been busy coming up with all sorts of new ways to boost innovation and startup activity—TechStars, Dogpatch Labs, DartBoston, Greenhorn Connect, the Venture Cafe, Start@Spark, Mass Innovation Nights, MassChallenge, MassTLC’s Unconferences, 12 by 12, the Cambridge Coworking Center, Technology Underwriting Greater Good, the BU Kindle mentoring program, Angel Boot Camp, the burgeoning Web Innovators Group meetings, and the nearly nightly tech gatherings at Microsoft’s NERD Center, to name just a few.
I’m not too worried about Massachusetts anymore. And I don’t think Boston innovators have anything to feel inferior about.
Comparisons between Boston and the Bay Area have been on my mind a lot lately. On a very concrete level, I had to decide earlier this spring whether I wanted to say goodbye to all my friends in Boston and move West to operate Xconomy’s planned San Francisco bureau. (We would have opened the new office either way; the question was whether to send an Xconomy insider or hire someone new.) And as a writer, I had to decide whether I had gotten close enough to achieving my own personal journalistic goal when I moved here—discovering the most interesting and ambitious technology innovators in New England, and telling their stories to the world—to consider leaving with many of those stories unfinished.
The first decision was really hard, and I agonized over it for weeks. As an unofficial Bostonian (I went to school and worked here from 1985 to 1997), I had lots of friends to reconnect with when I came East to join Xconomy in mid-2007. And I’ve made so many more friends over the past three years. The technology community around Boston has been incredibly welcoming, both to me and to Xconomy in general. So it’s difficult to leave at the exact moment when I feel like I’ve gotten to know everyone here. (I think my colleague Greg Huang, who’s leaving Xconomy Seattle soon to become the editor of Xconomy Boston, feels the same way about the city he’s been covering.)
The second decision was a little easier, especially after I came to see that the stories of innovation and innovators in New England will never really be finished. I could write about one major technology player transforming its industry or one hopeful new startup every weekday for years and years, and never catch up. That’s how inexhaustible the supply of ideas has become around Boston. Not to mention … Next Page »