Entrepreneur Walk of Fame Opens in Kendall Square: Gates, Jobs, Kapor, Hewlett, Packard, Swanson, and Edison are Inaugural Inductees
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 committee decision. But, for the record, the guidelines for choosing the inductees included factors such as the nominations being national in scope (international is for the future); having linkage to Cambridge/Boston was not necessary but nice; they had to be founder-and-CEO level people associated with a billion-dollar company (in today’s dollars) in a tech or innovation-based industry; and the focus was on entrepreneurs with great stories—not investors, inventors, or ideas people.
The selection committee consisted of: Bill Aulet, MIT Entrepreneurship Center; Tom Byers, Stanford Technology Ventures Program; George Colony, Forrester Research; Desh Deshpande, MIT Deshpande Center; Emily Green, Yankee Group; Bryan Pearce, Ernst & Young; Jason Pontin, MIT’s Technology Review; and Carl Schramm, Kauffman Foundation.
[Disclosure: The committee for nominations included Xconomy founder and CEO Bob Buderi, as well as Howard Anderson, Mike Cantalupa, Dan Isenberg, Joi Ito, Brad Feld, John Harthorne, Paul Maeder, Pascal Marmier, Paul Sagan, and Leon Sandler.]
Aulet shed some light on the decision process for choosing the inductees by comparing it to a group of people choosing a short list of all-time basketball greats. “It’s like sitting around in a bar saying, ‘Who’s better, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, or Michael Jordan?’ and arguing for two hours,” he says. “That’s what the selection committee was like.”
Some people might ask why Kapor made the cut, for instance, given that Lotus didn’t reach the rarefied heights that Apple or Microsoft have. “He changed Kendall Square,” Aulet says. “Kendall Square doesn’t exist like it is today without Mitch Kapor. He symbolized the rock and roll entrepreneur. You could be cool and you could be a business person.”
So where do they go from here? Well, the idea is to attract national attention to the Entrepreneur Walk of Fame and (ideally) create a kind of tourist destination on par with other Massachusetts attractions like the Freedom Trail or the Basketball Hall of Fame. The plan is to induct six new entrepreneurs annually, Aulet says—about half of them will be living, and half will be historical figures.
“We’re super excited about this,” he says. “These are stories of people who changed the world.”
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