Friday, January 23, 2009

Y Combinator Decamps from Cambridge

I don't think there's a glass-half-full way to look at Paul Graham's announcement this week that his Y Combinator start-up program will now take place in Silicon Valley year-round, rather than alternating between Cambridge and Silicon Valley.

Graham is a prickly personality, and he hasn't always had the best relationship with investors here in Boston, but Y Combinator was a net positive for the area: it exposed energetic young entrepreneurs to Boston investors, and vice versa.... even if Graham was never a strong advocate to his entrepreneurs of remaining in Boston once they had completed the Y Combinator program.

Here are the toughest two sentences in Graham's announcement:

    Boston just doesn't have the startup culture that the Valley does. It has more startup culture than anywhere else, but the gap between number 1 and number 2 is huge; nothing makes that clearer than alternating between them.

That's not just his opinion... it's reality... and we ought to be addressing it head-on.

Some more coverage:

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Anonymous David said...


You have been saying for years – a paraphrase of your comments: “Boston doesn’t have Silicon Valley’s vibe” – what Paul Graham said in his announcement. If Boston – for whatever rational or irrational reasons – can’t replicate Silicon Valley’s DNA, there are other ways to create and sustain entrepreneurial activity. Regional “stakeholders” can strengthen and leverage Boston’s sustainable competitive advantages (e.g., well-educated work force, commercial/business hub, a history of successful entrepreneurship, etc.) and exploit those advantages over and over again. Investors and innovators can align their individual self-interests into mutually beneficial ones by communicating regularly, suspending negative judgment, finding common ground and behaving as proponents and not as opponents of each other.

The current economic maelstrom is the perfect environment for entrepreneurial thoughts and endeavors to germinate and flourish. Boston’s brightest, most confident, ambitious risk-takers can seize upon the opportunity that’s in front of them and dare to be great. Investors can mitigate some – not all – of the risks involved in venture and angel investing by working closely with entrepreneurs and the companies they operate. Generating a return on investment is a hands-on activity; always has been, always will be. That holds true whether it occurs in Silicon Valley or in New England. Boston, rightly or wrongly, won’t (can’t) be another Silicon Valley. So be it. Accept that fact and move on.

The current global economic crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Don’t waste it Boston!

January 24, 2009 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no question Boston is a distant #2 to silicon valley and that is a shame, and this 'incubator pullout' will be counter productive to any closing of the gap.

For people like myself who are on the cusp of creating something new, Boston's conservative culture translates directly to greater risk and scarcer opportunity. The question always boiles down to: if you have a family, how do you take the plunge, even if your business intention is indeed groundbreaking? Is the risk too great in this town?? And if it is, doesn't that mean a move to the Valey must be considered.

I have nothing but appreciation for Scott's blog and others like it. Such activities are a light of encouragement while we stand on the precipice and consider jumping ... or stepping back.

January 24, 2009 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Bennett said...

This hurts - we hate to lose any group that is trying to spawn and showcase innovation. Trying our best to build a great company right here on 128 at NameMedia. We have some great people, ideas and the schools. I say "yes we can" here in Boston and dont buy that it is all about Silicon Valley.

January 26, 2009 1:50 PM  

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