What Makes the Boston Start Up Scene Special?

Every year, I give an open talk to the returning students at Harvard Business School on what makes the Boston start-up scene special.  I do it for two reasons:  1) as an advocate for the local innovation ecosystem, I want to make sure all these smart, talented folks from around the world can access and plug in to the amazing local resources available to them; 2) Boston is a microcosm of the ingredients for a successful start up community, a topic of great interest to policy makers and leaders all over the world (for more on this topic, see Brad Feld's excellent book, StartUp Communities).  The city of Boston is a relatively small one (the 21st largest city in the US with a population of 600k and a combined metro area that ranks it 10th), yet it is consistently ranked as one of the most innovative clusters in the world.

This presentation gives you a sense of why.

I have written in the past that in the IT sector, Boston suffers from not having more "platform companies", such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn.  As the above presentation shows, only a few companies in Boston are of the scale where they are platforms for other startups to plug in to and large enough to create their own industrial clusters.  Hopefully, that will change in the coming years.


9 thoughts on “What Makes the Boston Start Up Scene Special?

  1. Great slideshare! I’ve recently been touting how big Boston is becoming in the start-up world, clearly they are much bigger than I even realized. I’ll be spitting out these numbers left and right now.


  2. Jeff,
    Do you know:
    1- how many of these students are graduating in software engineering/Computer Science?
    2- how many of those graduating with these degrees start or join a Boston-based startup?


  3. Jeff, great presentation yesterday, I am still curious why Health IT was barely mentioned during the presentation and no where in your micro-clusters given all the innovation happening here and all the hospitals around. Is this because of lack of interest in the VC side? There’s a huge buzz around Health IT in California right now.


    • thanks, Ike. I did try to highlight the strength in life sciences but perhaps didn’t give it enough air time? you are right – with athenahealth and so many others leading the way.


  4. Boston: high on excellence, low on sex appeal. You are a 22 year old programer who wants to work hard and play hard. Do you stay in Boston where it’s cold 8 months a year to work at Constant Contact? Or, possibly move to California which is, after all, California. Just sayin’.


  5. great deck Jeff
    slide 7, patents, is an interesting one to me. NYC and LA are driving a lot of innovation in information tech these days and that is not a sector that is patent driven in terms of innovation. areas like biotech and energy tech, which Boston has a real strength in, are patent driven. so it makes sense to me that Boston and SV have a lead in patents


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