Boston Lost the Sex Battle
Healy Jones recently wrote a great piece on 8 Tips for Building An Internet Company Outside of San Francisco. If you’re in Boston and starting a company, you should read it. But if you’re under 27 and thinking about starting a company, it’s not going to keep you in Boston. I recently was invited to dinner with some local consumer web CEOs and we largely talked about how Boston is falling behind (or failing) to retain college grads interested in startups. Boston has an image problem. It has no sex appeal.
Jules Pieri of Daily Grommet talked about how her son (soon to be rockstar college grad) wants to work on products he can tell his friends about, or even better, that his friends are using. Now far more than ever, young startup folk want to get into startups because it’s incredibly sexy. Caused largely by Wall Street’s failure and Zuck’s incredible success, young people want to get rich AND famous doing startups. But as Niraj Shah said, Boston sucks at promoting itself, ergo young people don’t think you can get rich and famous doing startups in Boston. There is no PG or YC, there is no NYTimes, there is no Fred Wilson, no TechCrunch. Who outside of Boston actually cares about Boston?
Boston will continue to bleed talent. It’s not just the ThredUP’s, OnSwipe’s, RelayRides’, WePay’s, etc it’s also the hundreds and thousands that go to Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, that probably won’t come back to Boston to start their companies. Of the dozen or so close friends of mine (all under 27) working on startups locally, I expect 75% of them won’t be in Boston within a year. Of the other couple of dozen young people in the ecosystem I’ve met in the last few weeks since I’ve relocated back, they say they are largely here for personal reasons. The best quote of last week’s dinner came from Bill Warner who said Boston first has to admit there was a problem, and then go and try to fix it. I still don’t think most of the establishment thinks there’s a problem with losing the next generation of risk-taking, passionately driven entrepreneurs.
There are going to be a couple of things that will reverse the trend and get Boston sexy again;
1. Gemvara and SCVNGR need to have huge exits. Credit to Highland for backing a couple of young guys (23 and 19 respective when HCP invested). These will create mini mafias (this has actually already started to happen), where others have tasted the drug of success and want to replicate it for themselves.
2. BostInno really needs to get bigger and better. There needs to be a publication that largely focuses on new and shiny tech startups that provides said startups its initial early adopters.
3. Young smart folk need to be encouraged to leave companies like VistaPrint, Microsoft NERD, TripAdvisor, Constant Contact, etc after a few years to break out on their own. There’s already a large support network through events that these people can already engage in so now it’s really just cultural.
Best of luck Boston, I’m rooting for you