When thinking of where most technological innovation is taking place, one geographical area usually comes to mind first: Silicon Valley. There’s a reason for that, with giants like Facebook, Google, Lockheed Martin, and Netflix choosing the area to house their corporate offices and innovation centers.
Many entrepreneurs believe that they need to be there in order to thrive. Boston often does not even factor in the conversation about technological development, at least not in the service industry. Until now.
Over the past few years the city has become one of the blossoming innovation centers of the country, with hundreds of startups now calling Boston their home.
Driven by the high-profile success stories of local companies, entrepreneurs are now looking into the area with a careful eye, and they are not the only ones.
Venture capital firms have been keen to financially back local startups to such an extent that investment in the innovation economy hit $4 billion in 2014, according to CB Insights.
But, what has caused this boom? Yes, we have all heard the famous Harvard-based Facebook story, one that was highlighted by the movie The Social Network.
Could that have played a part in sparking interest in the technology sector in the city? Likely, but interest in itself was not the only factor at play here.
Boston has always been known as a key area of the country for scientific discovery and medical advancements, so it is not as if the resources and tools did not previously exist. They are just being utilized in a different way.
The American economy has been consistently based on services for decades now, with most manufacturing jobs now moved overseas. The way these services are provided has changed dramatically since the invention of the smartphone.
Almost everyone nowadays carries a little supercomputer in their pockets that possesses huge amounts of processing power, and companies are taking note.
Many new ventures are basing their entire product on Web applications that can be run by smartphones, eliminating the need for large amounts of physical capital, such as large factories, to create a business, with huge corporations like Uber needing just a server to function.
Students around the nation have taken notice, and with such a large cluster of institutions in the city (over 40) that have historically taken part in technological innovation, it was only a matter of time before Boston became a hub for startups.
But, back to the original question: what caused the boom in the sector?
The interest of students and their collaborative nature in the city has seen the rise of student-run organizations that promote the development of concepts within institutions. Moreover, universities have begun to actively support these ventures by creating startup accelerators and venture competitions to promote these developments.
Alumni have taken notice as well, with the large networking circles present at the larger universities becoming investment wells for the new ventures.
Support does not stop there, however, with a large amount of internships available in Boston to provide students with the necessary skills and experience to run a business on their own.
Recently, the city has played its part, with Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, announcing the launch of Starthub, an online platform supporting the startup community.
“Boston is a city known for its creative talent and innovative spirit, and I am proud to announce the launch of StartHub, which will connect entrepreneurs and innovators with the tools and resources they need to grow and thrive in the City of Boston,” Walsh said in a press release in August 2015. “I am excited to offer our startup community this centralized online platform and I thank all of the partners for their collaboration as we continue to establish Boston as a hub of entrepreneurship.”
The city has experienced a renewed energy since the onset of the innovation movement, with areas like Fenway undergoing a renaissance both in infrastructure and in relevance—many startups now call it home.
It’s clear that the state of technology in Boston is strong, and its long-term momentum as a home to startups and innovation is the direct result of collaboration and innovation starting at the university level, with a passionate and talented workforce and an abundance of investors and government support—all the things that position this city as a high-tech force to be reckoned with.
Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor