Back to School Blog: An Open Letter to Boston-Area Students

(Warning:  the
following blog post will seem parochial for all readers outside of the Boston area.  Sorry about that.  The message applies to every aspiring innovation hub.)

Dear Boston-area student,

Welcome (back) to the Top
City of the Global Innovation Economy
It’s sure been quiet around here without you.  I know how excited you are to hit the books
again – cram for exams, stress about your careers and freeze your butts off
during the long winter months.  Good

But here’s what’s great about having you here.  You provide the fuel that makes our
innovation economy hum.  Every year, you
show up and shake up our assumptions about what’s new, what’s hot and give us a
glimpse of what’s over the horizon.  And
for that, we are super-grateful, even if we don’t always do a good job showing

So here’s a little advice for you – do us all a favor and
plug in to the community that surrounds you. 
Get engaged and integrated.  There
are a crazy number of opportunities and venues for you to show up and
network.  Close your laptops, turn off
your iPhones, jump on the T and get out there and participate in the local
innovation ecosystem. 

Here are a few of the things you should have on your
must-do/must-see/must-read hit list:

  • Stay in MA – this
    is a mico-scholarship program that allows you to attend the incredible
    array of industry networking events for free.  Just sign up and show up gratis to get
    savvy in your favorite area of interest, whether it’s clean tech, bio
    tech, web 2.0, mobile, whatever.
  • DART Boston – The
    start-up game can be a lonely one. 
    DART Boston
    makes it social and fun.  It’s a
    group of 20-something peers who are engaged in the start-up game and
    hungry for knowledge, perspective, mentorship and dialog.  They get together periodically for
    social hangouts and learn sessions and are about as plugged in a group of
    young, ambitious folks as you can find in the city.
  • Mass Challenge – Our governor, Deval Patrick,
    has huge religion when it comes to fueling the innovation economy.  As such, he helped create Mass
    Challenge, “the world’s largest start-up competition”.  Go to the waterfront, swing by the
    Barking Crab and buy yourself a lobster roll, and then walk over to Mass
    Challenge HQ and see the open start-up haven that is forming.  They have multiple events and guests
    every day to fuel the young start-ups that are being incubated there.
  • Other blogs and Twitter tips – There are
    dozens of blogs and valuable Twitter streams from local VCs and
    entrepreneurs.  One of the
    best summaries of them is here
    , provided by a local Google exec.  We have more VCs per capita than
    anywhere in the US.  You can’t grab a tall decaf latte in Cambridge, Back Bay
    or half of the western suburbs and not bump into a VC or angel
    investor.  They particularly tend to
    hang out at Harvard, MIT and Babson, so don’t be shy about visiting those
    schools and attending those talks if you don’t see them happening in your
    neighborhood.  I did a talk last
    year at HBS entitled,
    “What Makes Boston’s Technology Start-Up Scene Special?”
    which might be a useful orientation for you as well.

Look, there’s a reason Boston
is consistently ranked as one of the top innovation cities in the world.  We value geeks (Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt
draw bigger crowds than Lady GaGa when they come in town to speak), encourage
rebellious thinking (see:  Minutemen,
American History), worship start-ups (why else would a World Championship
winning pitcher,
Curt Schilling, aspire to become a successful start-up CEO as
a second act?) and generate our fair share of big winners (see:  EMC, Akamai, Genzyme, TripAdvisor).

But, honestly, the real reason so many communities try to
emulate what we have is because of you. 
You keep it fresh, every September. 
Thanks for showing up.  Now get
out there and mix it up.

7 thoughts on “Back to School Blog: An Open Letter to Boston-Area Students

  1. Your post really helped me to understand the Article. It has great details and yet it is easy to understand.That’s what i was looking for. I will definitely share it with others.Thanks for sharing.


  2. Jeff,
    Boston really is a great town for innovation. We’ve got a super smart young population who demand the latest and greatest technologies which then spurs on even cooler “What if” ideas for innovation. And they are all highly concentrated in a small geographic area with all the top universities in Cambridge and Boston.
    And today it’s easier than ever for students to take those “What if” ideas and launch them as Alpha applications on the web. Cloud hosting, social media marketing, and student startup incubation programs like Microsoft’s DreamSpark ( allow them to do this for nearly free, which is perfect for a student’s budget.
    I also encourage students to attent the Boston BizSpark Meetup events where they can not only network with other startupers, but watch as founders do live pitches for real PE investment money every month. The URL is And I’m happy to help and answer student questions and give referrals to others as well.
    Marsh Sutherland
    President | Co-Founder
    SocialGrow Inc.
    @MarshSutherland | @SocialGrow


  3. Jeff,
    Thanks for the mention. I’ve already seen quite a few new and familiar faces from the student community thanks to big events like Startup Bootcamp. I hope more will get out there…and of course hope they can get pointed to Greenhorn Connect so that they can find all the great resources and events out there, many of which are tailored to help students (some of which you mentioned).


  4. TypePad HTML Email
    Great sentiment, Michael, although I confess
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with joining a hot start-up – sometimes it’s
    best to learn the ropes on other people’s nickel!


  5. Jeff, must-read advice for any student – when I started thinking about entrepreneurship at Brandeis 2-3 years ago, 4 out 5 above resources didn’t even exist.
    To add a “call-to-action” to you post – ultimately, students, go start companies! Now, while you’re still in school, is the absolute best time to do it with almost no risk. (Fab Bi put it nicely in his post:


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