Monday, February 26, 2007

BNW #3: Bostonians are Loyal, Hard Working

When it comes to tech entrepreneurship, a Bostonian is a bit like one of those cute border collies (loyal, hard working) instead of a greyhound (fast and sleek).

You can't get a bunch of entrepreneurs and VCs together around here without getting into the whole New England/Bay Area thing. We know they raise more money; we know they have more tech giants.

The MIT Enterprise Forum Brave New Web panel I wrote about here started out on the topic of Web 1.0 and 2.0 and then shifted to the question: "Why does Boston have unique advantages for building Web 2.0 businesses?"

Michael Skok's answer was most endearing: "People here are incredibly loyal and hard working. They're less driven by money." He went on to make the key point that there's no need to think about Boston as "the" location; most young companies today are virtual anyway.

Richard Levandov noted the areas many advantages: a great concentration of young, smart people (350,000 college students) and ready access to capital. "There must be $5 billion under management in this room."

Skok also noted that entrepreneurs need the passion to hit homers, not just singles. "Success begets success; we haven't had that many billion dollar exits." Skok noted that discussions of Web 2.0 tend to present it as a consumer movement, but there's considerable infrastructure behind it. We can expect local companies like EMC to benefit.

Jeff Taylor, who proved it can be done in Boston (with Monster.com) urged entrepreneurs to have the "...fortitude to bring some big ideas out there. You have to take some risks."

Taylor described Boston as a double-edge sword. "We're missing the companies that can buy us and keep us here. We have access to great tech talent but it's expensive. There's nobody to draw from with 5 to 7 years of experience. You have to grow your own talent."

Taylor also offered advice to entrepreneurs: "You have to find the VC who is passionate about your firm. Focus on the RBI - really big idea."

In discussing ways to improve the entrepreneurial climate in New England, David Weinberger offered some succinct advice to investors: "Fund more women." That generated a round of enthusiastic applause.

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