Boston Startup Culture : The entrepreneur’s view



The excellent C.A. Webb at NEVCA pushed through a survey that looks at the relative attractiveness of Boston as a startup market.   Hold that yawn : the results are interesting.  Not that I am expecting hordes of YC grads to come beating a path quite yet, mind you. 

The Good = mostly infrastructure driven

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents consider Boston’s community to be “thriving”
  • 78% feel very positive about Boston’s overall lifestyle and livability, including the city’s attractive housing and cost of living expenses
  • Almost all entrepreneurs surveyed consider Boston to be very attractive in terms of access to an academic community
  • The access that Boston affords to research facilities, technological talent, and work space are also considered to be among the city’s strengths

The Bad = mostly funding related

  • Early-stage funding is perceived as limited, and some first-time entrepreneurs do not feel they are taken seriously
  • Belief that Boston-based VCs are often too conservative and too close-minded

Scoring high where it matters 

Overall I found the survey results heartening.  The top elements entrepreneurs care most about are dimensions on which Boston scores highly, including access to talent, lifestyle & liveability, infrastructure and of course access to a great academic community.

On access to talent in particular, I have lived through this in both the Bay Area and Boston and without pre-conceived ideas have found talent super flighty, expensive and often arrogant in SV and much more approachable and “gettable” in Boston, at non-inflated rates.

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Solvable issues

The elements on which Boston still scores relatively low are solvable and being solved, including more agressive early capital backers (we’re part of that movement for sure), better mentoring and access to peers (also progressing at speed), quality of angels and VCs compared to the Bay Area.  

I’d be interested in digging deeper into how all startup investors are perceived as some of the quotes on “Desired Change” don’t yet inspire confidence: 

  • “Boston VC’s become more  like CA VC’s: open-minded, less conservative, more honest with entrepreneurs”
  • “More risk tolerance for  startups”
  • “True seed stage investing”

I always say (truthfully) that I came to Boston with low expectations and have been blown away by the vitality of the local scene.  I grabbed a beer with Mark Z, Drew H and Paul G the other day and they agreed, lamenting their decision to move West.  We’ll have you back, guys.  Although of course rent might be a bit more expensive that you remember… 

( I was told I needed to specify the above did not really happen and that any resemblance to people living or dead is accidental.   Also, the real PG is apparently still very much down on Boston.  Oh Well.).

Onward !

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