State of the Startups, Addressed
Not everything harvested in October hatched from the dirt. In a huge week for the Boston startup community, two visions came to fruition with a Mayor, a Governor, and a (Draft) King cheering on. A major website launch (Starthub) and the “Oscars of Startups” (The Mass Challenge Awards) cemented Boston’s place on the A-list of tech towns with Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Tel Aviv.
At the geographic center of Boston, inside the staggering monument to reclaimed community space that is the Roxbury Innovation Center, the Starthub Boston website was breathed to life. Mayor Marty Walsh, IBM, Venture Café, and Gust gave power, support and clout to the launch, the first "all-inclusive" platform for startups in Boston.
What Starthub aims to do with its content and mission is to foster the kind of supportive ecosystem that can keep Boston in the top tier of tech cities. Because local institutions churn out so much entrepreneurial, startup and tech talent, the next job for the Hub City is to find solutions to nurture and keep them here. As a one-stop resource for community, jobs, incubators, accelerators, events, courses and news, Starthub promises that kind of staying power.
What Starthub did not do was address its relationship to other entities doing almost the same thing. Here lies the very tricky rub. The Boston startup ecosystem already has many organizations offering a similar product: Boston Tech's Hitchhiker's Guide, Mass TLC, and Greenhorn Connect for emerging businesses, to name a few.
On a different note were the following night’s Mass Challenge Awards, a high-stakes and dazzling feather in the cap of Boston’s startup community. As the "world's largest startup accelerator," Mass Challenge throws a commensurate bash. Before the ballroom engulfed them in the brouhaha of the awards ceremony, the thousand-plus strong crowd was encouraged to tip champagne and browse the demo tables. In case there wasn’t enough hanging in the balance, a few remote-controlled helium shark balloons turned slow laps above the startup hopefuls and their babies. Fueled by a genuine wish to improve the world and a feral hunger for a six-digit check, the startups coming out of Mass Challenge’s four-month accelerator program were going all-in on their dreams, and it showed. In the diverse categories of clean energy, high technology, healthcare, retail, and social impact, what united them all was the degree of their zeal, and a deep appreciation for the resources provided by the Mass Challenge accelerator.
Between the minute-long pitches by the 26 finalists vying for big-time funding, the Mass Challenge juggernaut caught an impressive cast of speakers in its jetwash. Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Martin Walsh, and Draft Kings founder/ CEO Jason Robins were just some of the local heavies who weighed in on the state of startups in Massachusetts. Their routes there were different, but where they arrived with their message was the consensus that Boston’s startups are a driving force behind real global change.
While the winners of the 2015 Mass Challenge are poised to throw themselves through the new doors opened by $1.5 million in total prize money, the brave new landscape promised by those products heralds radical change for humanity… or at least a killer business model. When Diane Hessan, CEO of the Startup Institute, took the stage to the strains of Nancy Sinatra she quipped an axiom of the startup world, “You start with nothing and at the end, you’ve still got most of it left.” With underwater drones, bone glue, cricket chips, 3D displays, and the Internet of Cows in the picture, at least you’d also have some made-in-Boston amenities to keep your poor self company.
About the Author: Dave Gentry is a fan of progress and recess. He believes in old English, new fortune cookies and he answers to #davertido.
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