Boston entrepreneurial leaders please stop whining about Boston

Posted by Brad on March 11th, 2010

I went to my third entrepreneurial event in the last two months last night where the panel discussion degenerated to a groupthink discussion about how Boston sucks for young entrepreneurs. There are no angels that fund anything and how the best course of action is to head to the left coast if you want to start a business. This panel discussion was held at MIT and was sponsored by the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge. That is Cambridge Massachusetts for those of you paying attention and not Cambridge, Silicon Valley, California.

This thinking is counter-productive and has got to stop. At the vast majority of these events, we convince all the smart entrepreneurial graduates that they should take the first train to California and seek their fortunes, much like the 49ers searching for gold. I love Northern California and there is a somewhat greater appetite there to fund highly capital efficient, very early stage, internet consumer plays, but this does not mean you can’t start great companies in Massachusetts. In 2008, the last data I could quickly find, the venture capital investment per capita in Massachusetts was $457 per person. In California, it was $388 per person. http://www.ssti.org/vc/massachusetts/all.php. Massachusetts has out spent VC dollars on a per capita basis every year since 1995. There was over two billion dollars invested by VCs in New England in 2009. Yes, this is less then California, but it is by no means chump change.

Surely, we can do better in Massachusetts, but walking around feeling bad for ourselves is not the way forward. Massachusetts continues to innovate, spark IPOs (A123, Ironwood, logmein) and create great companies. Techstars setup shop here and not in California. Mass Challenge will do great things for Massachusetts.
We need to take every opportunity we can to encourage smart, young (and not so young) entrepreneurs to ignore the winters and continue to build companies in Massachusetts. So, all of you entrepreneurial-thought-leaders, please think of the audience the next time you are crying in your soup at an entrepreneurial event and change the tone. We reversed the curse in 2004, anything is possible in Boston.