Xconomist of the Week: Reed Sturtevant of Lotus, Idealab, and Microsoft Fame Talks Tech Trends to Watch
You know the type. He’s at every tech startup event, every investor event, and every incubator and early-stage mentorship session (at least every good one). He’s talked to every entrepreneur in the area and has had a hand in the development of many of their companies.
He has been a fixture of the local software scene for some 30 years, even though he doesn’t look nearly old enough for that. Worst of all, he comes across as a genuinely nice guy and doesn’t seek the limelight or talk a big game.
That would be Reed Sturtevant—and his reputation is as distinguished as his name. He is one of the Boston area’s most active and respected techies, known especially for his technical prowess and product experience. He’s also an Xconomist—one of our informal advisors who helps keep Xconomy plugged in to the innovation scene—so I wanted to take some time to catch up with him in more depth.
Sturtevant grew up outside of Washington, DC, and is a self-professed MIT dropout (we need more of those, don’t we?). He started his career as a programmer at Strategic Planning Institute in the late ‘70s and went on to work at Graphic Communications, maker of Freelance Graphics—which was bought by Lotus Development, where he stayed for about 10 years. During the ‘90s, he co-founded Radnet and RadioAMP before taking a senior role in 2000 with Idealab, where he was responsible for new company development in Boston. There he helped start six companies: Refer.com, Compete, Picasa (bought by Google), Newbury Networks, Paythrough, Pathspace, and Newbury Payments.
After Idealab, he became chief technology officer for Eons, the Jeff Taylor-led social networking site, and stayed for almost two years. He left Eons and helped found Microsoft Startup Labs in 2007, where he directed a team that developed the user experience for Bing Twitter search, among other projects. He left Microsoft in late 2009 to focus on startups and investing—which brings us to what he’s doing today.
Sturtevant currently co-runs Project 11 Ventures, a seed-stage investment fund (co-founded with Katie Rae) that works together with angel investors to back young tech startups. He tells me that since last fall, Project 11 has invested in seven companies—Locately, Scriptpad, peerTransfer, GreenGoose, and three undisclosed startups. In his spare time, he is a mentor for TechStars Boston, a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a founding member and trustee of the Awesome Foundation.
I caught up with Sturtevant over e-mail this week, asking him a variety of questions ranging from the state of the economy to the challenges of building a consumer-focused tech company (especially in Boston), to the most important trends to watch in computing. Here are his answers:
Xconomy: Let’s talk about the broader economic backdrop for what you do: startups and investing. How does the bleak macro-outlook for jobs and the stock market affect your strategy?
Reed Sturtevant: Obviously we’re all better off in times of economic tailwinds, but I’m seeing a couple of effects on the very early stage startup arena.
First, job security in established companies and industries is clearly an illusion. I teach at MIT and this week I asked our students whether they expect to work in, or found, a startup. Two-thirds of … Next Page »