Why I’m not upset about companies moving west

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.

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5 Responses to Why I’m not upset about companies moving west

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Why I’m not upset about companies moving west « gusweber -- Topsy.com

  2. Gus, it’s kind of a weird sample set of companies you’re talking about. All four, as far as I know, found funding from west coast sources, and so decided to move out there. Couldn’t we also list dozens of tech/Internet companies — from LogMeIn to Shoebuy to RueLaLa to TripAdvisor to Kayak to Constant Contact to Oneforty to EnerNOC to VistaPrint to Akamai to Kiva to HubSpot to ITA Software to Endecar — that found funding from Boston-area investors, and have created hundreds or thousands of jobs each?

    This ecosystem supports both starting *and* scaling companies, though obviously certain companies may have an easier time finding investment in other locales, and that’s OK.

  3. Mike Volpe says:

    The weird thing about Relay Rides is that their Goliath (ZipCar) is based in Boston (actually the same building as HubSpot) and you would think they would want to draft off of that talent to some degree.

    I’m in Scott’s camp. If people want to move west, fine by me. But let’s focus on scaling companies in Boston too. There are lots of examples, and hopefully many more to come – someday in the future I hope HubSpot alumni found and scale a number of interesting ventures in Boston.

  4. gusweber says:

    Hey Scott,

    Your point is well taken! I agree that we’ve done great work to build the companies along the likes of Kayak and Akamai. But perhaps instead of buying into the premise that early stage companies leaving Boston is a bad thing — we should embrace it, and see that there is indeed opportunity for us to conitnue to work hard at creating early stage companies, and if they decide to leave — that it’s ok — we’ll welcome them back at any point in the future.

    I don’t think that it’s an all or nothing set of principals, but the quicker we embrace our role in the ecosystem — the less time we’ll spend worrying about what could have been.

  5. Pingback: Pre-Marketing 12/23 – gpkendall.com

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