I haven’t been able to swig a Sam Adams at a gathering the past few weeks where someone wasn’t bemoaning the fact that Relay Rides was just the latest example of a company packing up the family station wagon and heading west for greener pastures (pun intended). But I have to admit, the more I think about it — the less upset I get. When I first started my career a wise faculty member (who would later be my boss) gave me some simple advice — “know your role”. We all need to think harder about what our role is in the innovation ecosystem and embrace it, and maybe we come to the conclusion that Boston really is the BEST place to start your company, just not to scale it.
When I landed in Boston, 2 years ago — the landscape was barren, and companies like Relay Rides, ThredUP, Baydin, and TaskRabbit would never have had the opportunity to move west — because they’d never would have been able get started. We’ve created this uber rich stable of support for early stage start-ups (mostly in the past 18 months!). WebInno, MassChallenge, DogPatch Labs, GreenHorn Connect, the CIC, DartBoston, TechStars, and MassInnovation Nights ALL had a significant hand in getting these 4 companies to the point where they could move west. Add in the talent pipeline of students, the hundred of mentors and a Boston penchant for “getting shit done”, I think we’ve got something pretty special.
I’m not saying that we should stop trying to build billion dollar companies. What I’m saying is let’s double down on the early stage ecosystem, let’s celebrate every company that comes to Boston and every company that makes a decision to head west, and let’s increase the overall surface area of companies that have roots to Boston, and when they’re a billion dollar company let’s welcome them back.