Of the people who know Boston best — the Harvard and MIT lecturers, the fiercely loyal venture capitalists and the incubator stalwarts — many say that even among its bountiful advantages, the city has one unmatchable, largely unspoken asset: Its propensity at all levels — from wildly successful founders to wide-eyed MIT students — to help others succeed in the city’s startup ecosystem.
Mashable found 15 behind-the-scenes influencers and asked them about what makes the city a nerve center for tech startups — and what their favorite spots in Boston are, in case you happen to visit soon.
1. Jeffrey Bussgang, General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners
Boston as a growing center of technological innovation and entrepreneurship:
“The brainpower and the community in Boston is extraordinary.
“The brainpower and the community in Boston is extraordinary. The core institutions of Harvard and M.I.T. and the core hospitals give Boston the highest density of super-smart people you can possibly find,” says Bussgang, who is also a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. “This is the most prideful startup culture you’ll find. In Los Angeles, Hollywood dominates the culture, and in New York, the media and Wall Street dominate; but in Boston, the innovation community is the dominant culture.Favorite Boston athlete: Dustin Pedroia, [second baseman of the Boston Red Sox]. He’s 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds soaking wet, but he’s incredibly hard-working and intense.
2. John Harthorne, Founder and CEO atMassChallenge
Boston’s edge: The main advantage of Boston is the talent inside of it and the value of that talent. Through the university substructure, Boston produces thousands of talented and reasonably affordable graduates who focus on revolutionary ideas — big, game-changing, global ideas that aren’t iterative improvements on existing technologies.
Favorite Boston landmark: I totally love Fenway [Park]. I had my first beer there.
3. Christina Chase, Entrepreneur-in-Residence atMassachusetts Institute of Technology
The beauty of Boston’s entrepreneurial ecosystem: Boston has individuals who compete to have an impact and facilitate acceleration in their areas, but they also want to help others who are trying to make an impact. It’s a very inclusive community where entrepreneurs make themselves accessible to younger teams so they can share knowledge and help them overcome problems.
Favorite restaurant in Boston: Craigie On Main [in Cambridge, Mass.]. They have a killer burger.
4. C.A. Webb, Executive Director at New England Venture Capital Association
Why entrepreneurs love Boston: There’s a culture shift, and a lot of the New England chill has thawed out. The permeability amazes me. There’s a spirit that if you’re new to town, ‘Let me send emails and introduce you to these five people.’ I see this happening again and again. You can land in Boston coming from a university here, coming from another part of the country or shifting from a large company, and you’re met with a welcome reception.
Favorite local attraction: Voltage Coffee & Art [in Cambridge, Mass.]. There are seven VCs and startup founders in there who I want to see and can get up to speed with. The place is coursing with energy and great people at all hours of the day.
5. Katie Rae, Managing Director at TechStars Boston
Breaking the stereotype: I hear all the time that we ‘don’t do consumer’ and instead we do B2Bcompanies. If you truly look at what’s happening, we have an incredibly diverse ecosystem of startups that deal with hardware and software, front-end tech and ecommerce — all the way to deep algorithm companies, biotech and consumer healthcare. There are very few business models that early stage companies in Boston haven’t tried. The lines are blurring.
Favorite Boston delicacy: Steamers. They’re salty, New England goodness.
6. Tim Rowe, Founder and CEO at Cambridge Innovation Center
A home for early stage companies: Massachusetts is an intense place when it comes to new ventures and investment. It has more venture capital investment and research and development spending per capita than anywhere else in the world. Boston is also walkable, which is unique. You live in a city where the key resources you need — ideas, money and talent — are all around you.
Favorite Boston movie:“Next Stop Wonderland”
7. Andy Palmer, Founder of Koa Labs
Boston as a startup hub: The recent focus on Cambridge and downtown Boston instead of Route 128 has been transformational — a fait accompli. A renaissance has happened in Cambridge. The amount of tech talent on the Red Line is overwhelming. Increasingly, entrepreneurs find that if they stay in Boston, they get more time and attention within the community. There’s less noise here and the loyalty of the tech talent is much better than anywhere else. If your city has an orientation where the talent sticks around, then you get a better product and better companies.
Favorite local bar:: Tory Row [in Cambridge, Mass.]. The food is terrific and the atmosphere is modern but not cliche. The staff are great people you love to hang out with.
8. Amir Nashat, Managing Partner at Polaris Partners
At the forefront of medical breakthroughs: The link in Boston between patients, unmet needs in tech, the innovations of the city’s universities and medical centers and investment is coming together really nicely. Big pharma is moving research into Cambridge and Boston because they want to be where the action is, and local companies are doing well and launching drugs. IPOs are starting to come, too. More so than at any other time I’ve been investing in Boston, biotech is at the top of its game.
Favorite local restaurant:: Black Sheep Restaurant [at the Kendall Hotel in Cambridge, Mass.]. I’ve always had pleasurable conversations there and their big cups of chili will stick to your ribs.
9. Gordon Jones, Managing Director at Harvard Innovation Lab
Fostering innovation: I think of the universities as ways for first-time entrepreneurs to get experience in a way that they’re resourced more deliberately and carefully than they’d be in a non-academic setting. They can be in a community with other first time entrepreneurs and ask questions and get answers from that community or other more formal programs — it’s like an estuary: a birthplace where first-time entrepreneurs can get started and grow.
Favorite Boston athlete: Bobby Orr, [former Boston Bruins defenseman]. I love the creativity of hockey and how Orr was groundbreaking. He brought an unscripted style [to the game] that married offense and his defensive position, and he fought his way to legitimize this approach to his position.
10. Jules Pieri, Cofounder and CEO of The Grommet
The Boston tech ecosystem: There’s an inherent strength in the size of the Boston startup community. It’s like Goldilocks: Not too big, and not too small. It means you can — without ridiculous amounts of work — become known and know people. There’s nobody here — not even leading investors or CEOs — who feel like they’re above reaching behind themselves and pulling someone up. It’s understood that we do that in Boston.
Favorite local getaway? Taking a ferry to one of the Boston Harbor Islands. Within seconds of hitting the water, your blood pressure goes down and the pace slows. You remember, “Yeah, Boston is kickass.”
11. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs
Transforming into a green tech hub: Green tech tends to get overshadowed in Boston because it’s is such a hub for biotech, IT and robotics, but I don’t think there’s another place where the community of energy and clean tech professionals is so strong and giving of its time and resources. Some might say our VC scene isn’t as big as Silicon Valley’s, but you only have to look at organizations like Greentown Labs, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and theNew England Clean Energy Council to see that there’s a ton of green energy activity in Boston.
Favorite museum in Boston: The MIT Museum. It’s fascinating to walk through and the exhibits draw you in.
12. Abby Fichtner, Hacker-in-Residence at Harvard Innovation Lab and Founder of Hack Boston
Taking care of its own: We have a huge culture of ‘pay it forward’ — how can we help someone else? If you’re a student in Boston, you can reach out to any entrepreneur in Boston and say, “I’m interested in this; can you help me?” And people will go out of their way to help you. I’m not a fan of pay-to-pitch events or when people take advantage of our entrepreneurs, so a few of us got together and created Unpitch Boston — a totally free way for people to get into our tight-knit community.
Favorite local getaway: Artisan’s Asylum [in Somerville, Mass.]. It’s a humongous maker space where they have everything from classes on Raspberry Pi to woodworking classes; it’s a space where people come together to make great stuff.
13. Dave Balter, Global Head of Investments atdunnhumby and CEO at Smarterer
Success begets success: There are people and true businesses here that have shareholder value written all over them. Rue La La did well, Wayfair is killing it, Care just went public andHubSpot, Acquia and DataXu are getting close. A company that succeeds gives its young to the community. The next great talent pool is now out in the market feeding new businesses.
Favorite off-the-beaten-path local joint: Mul’s Diner [in South Boston, Mass.]. It’s breakfast straight out of a Scorsese movie. You can only pay in cash and they talk to you like it’s your last meal. You’d feel totally unsafe if there weren’t 11 cops eating at the table next to you.
14. Ken Zolot, Senior Lecturer at MIT School of Engineering
Boston as a major disruptor: I’m now working on a partnership with the Berklee College of Music that allows students to learn about entrepreneurship so they can succeed in the disrupted music industry. If you add this into the mosaic, it makes a richer fabric to support young entrepreneurs. Boston has the original yankee ingenuity; its founders built a new land from scratch in the 1620s, so shouldn’t we be doing it again?
It’s in Boston’s DNA to be a disruptor.
It’s in Boston’s DNA to be a disruptor.Favorite local museum: The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Great museum architecture and diversity of art and performances.
15. Jeff Fagnan, Partner at Atlas Venture
A comeback decade: New England kind of disappeared following the telecom bubble burst around 2005. Now, though, groups are willing to write checks for really early stage teams who only have a prototype. For the first time in decades, we have a cohesive community. A nucleus is starting to come back into Boston and as you start to have a nucleus, more and more people come to it — we have companies coming from Israel, Canada, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Florida. It’s becoming like Ellis Island — a melting pot.