Boston should be very thankful to have Scott Kirsner in town, doing what he’s doing. I know I am!
Last week, Scott helped assemble a shindig dubbed the “Thinking Big” Party. Definitely surf that link to learn more about the goal and Scott’s net-net (we strive for minimal regurgitation here on Myriad Missives!). You can also listen to one hour of audio of the presentation courtesy of the ever-present man-with-a-mic Dan Bricklin.
The formal discussion kicked off with Paul Maeder of Highland Capital Partners talking about some of his theories of Massachusetts’ challenges. First and foremost, he believes that we are selling too many MA-based companies too early, and thus they fail to grow into the big giants that the ecosystem needs. He said that there are 7 $1B+ companies based in MA, and only one – EMC – hasn’t been around forever (think Raytheon, Thermo, etc.). He categorizes these premature-liquidity-ations as:
We’re selling the seed corn in Massachusetts.
Paul went on to say that east-coast VCs have fundamentally different attitudes than west-coast VCs:
… we’re east coast people and we’ve been through the depression, hard times, and cyclicality – and in California everybody knows everything goes to the moon, so they actually make things go to the moon …
An interesting possible take or angle on what Jim Matheson was told, that:
The Boston establishment is about preserving wealth, not creating it.
Michael Greeley of IDG Ventures joined Paul in the rabble-rousing and lamented the sense of mentorship in New England – as compared to the valley. He’d like to see more of the “rock stars” giving back to the community, and believes this lack of mentors, and the vibrant angel community that flows with them in the valley, is a big liability for us. Of course this assumes that all these smart right-coast folks don’t get sucked west when their companies get acquired…
Dharmesh Shah was at the event and wrote an interesting post in follow-up. One of the things he touches on is letting entrepreneurs “take some money off the table” during a company’s growth – so they’re less inclined to take the first big number that comes over the transom. I’ve discussed this with a number of VCs over the years. One of the wiser VCs says it almost always doesn’t work though – rational theory, but tough to put into practice. It would be interesting to see real data on this, no?
All-in-all, thoughts and ideas worth consuming and digesting. It’s stellar that Scott et. al. are working to make things better – thank you and cheers!