Risk Taking and Accelerating the Next Technology Revolution in Boston

by Jon Follett

Yesterday, the Mass Technology Leadership Council — which represents a wide range of Massachusetts industries, including energy, robotics, software, life sciences and healthcare — held its annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge. The event featured a keynote on the Council's vision for 2012, a comparative research report from the Mass Technology Collaborative, a state of the US economy from The Parthenon Group's Chief Economist Roger Brinner, and a fireside chat, featuring a colorful and candid interview with Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell by Fast Company founder Bill Taylor.

One of the themes to come out of the MassTLC annual meeting was the idea that, in order to drive innovation in the Boston area, we should encourage risk taking in the funding of new companies. While not all new companies will survive infancy, the odds are in our favor that one of the wild business ideas of today will not only survive, but thrive in a spectacular fashion. After all, it's no secret that Facebook began here, but was unable to put down roots. Today, Facebook is a dominating worldwide presence, but at the beginning, it needed nurturing and support. Making seed funding available to early stage companies is paramount to the Boston region accelerating as a hub of innovation.

Massachusetts fares well with its support of ground breaking ideas in the areas of biotech and life sciences. For evidence, we only need look at the thriving area of Kendall Square, a radius of just a few city blocks, which contributes significantly to the United States GDP when it comes to health and healthcare. However, it's clear that we can do much better when it comes to encouraging digital innovation in the Boston area.

In recent years, we've made some strides forward, and it's clear that there's a transformation happening. The business incubators and shared spaces like MassChallenge, Tech Stars, and DogPatch Labs have given start-ups a much needed boost. The Innovation District at Fan Pier is another hugely positive development. And on the funding side, NextView Ventures, a seed stage venture capital fund that invests solely in internet businesses, recently closed its inaugural fund with $21 million in its coffers. More micro VC firms like NextView might be just the thing to help Boston’s early stage companies, and fit the needs of a city where start ups are in abundance, but angel funds can be hard to find. So, we're on our way, but we still have miles to go.

Topics: Tech Stars, Dog Patch Labs, MassChallenge, business incubators, MassTLC, Innovation District, start ups, News, NextView Ventures, Analysis, Fast Company, Blog, innovation