Startup Massachusetts: Launch Initiated

“Massachusetts can be a role model in the US for other startup ecosystems.” - Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership

Just six months ago, President Obama announced Startup America Initiative and the formation of the Startup America Partnership. Since then, the Startup America Partnership has traveled the United States forming regional initiatives, promoting entrepreneurship by supporting high-growth startups and stimulating the economy through job creation and innovation.

On August 2nd, the Startup America Partnership visited the MassChallenge Headquarters in Boston’s Innovation District, where 70 of Massachusetts’ most respected executives, entrepreneurs, lawyers, educators and government representatives joined forces in preparation for the pending launch of Startup Massachusetts. Attendees included Jose Escobar and Babatune Akindele (Verizon), Sara Spalding, (Microsoft) and Diane Hessan (Communispace), as well as a large number of entrepreneurs and investors.

John Harthorne, CEO of MassChallenge, introduced the launch as an effort to “significantly improve the productivity of the startup ecosystem in Massachusetts, and to set an example for the rest of the country and the world”. After identifying the top challenges facing entrepreneurs, industry leaders prioritized and committed to eight actions to turbocharge the startup community:

1. Facilitate access to capital (especially seed stage)

2. Facilitate access to key talent

3. Collaborate on access to national media outlets

4. Support visa allocation for entrepreneurs (especially for students/recent grads)

5. ncrease access to affordable/flexible work spaces and housing

6. Improve understanding of B2C needs

7. Encourage collaboration between Startup Support Organizations

8. Reinforce the importance of celebration, optimism and fun.

Attendees formed “action teams” and planned for immediate implementation of their actions. Dan McGuire, Founder and CEO of SKINNYprices, has since met with Marc Meyer, a professor at Northeastern University and Startup MA pioneer, to identify tangible actions that could help startups get better access to key talent (action item 2). Northeastern University boasts a prestigious CO-OP program that connects talented students to real-world work experience. “This would be a great relationship for both Northeastern, who would love to have students working with startups, and startups like SKINNYprices, who need fresh talent and driven individuals,” said McGuire.

Dave McLaughlin of Vsnapand Sean Marsh of Point Judith Capital are scheduling a series of social and networking events for B2C companies from all over MA to collaborate and share best practices (action items 6 and 8).

Action team #3 included Tara Greco, Founder of KidsCOOK Productions, and Annie Wang, Founder of Her Campus Media. Together with others on their action team, they are pooling their expertise and documenting their experience working with national and local media outlets to create a set of best practices for startups when pitching the media.

Danielle Galmore, Director of Business Development for Turnstone Furniture, noted that the company is not only focused on furniture, but is also "part of the ecosystem that surrounds small business and entrepreneurship that can help in other ways.” For instance, Danielle provides a great deal of mentorship within the startup ecosystem and committed to supporting “research on behalf of small companies and providing case studies and stories of small companies to highlight them through [Turnstone] marketing and PR efforts.”

These are just a few of the actions already underway as part of preparation for the launch of Startup Massachusetts later this year.

Following the event, Scott Henderson of CauseShift, Walter Somol of Microsoft, Dan Allred of Silicon Valley Bank and representatives from MassChallenge met to discuss the next steps in building Startup Massachusetts and pledged to support the launch and growth of Startup Massachusetts as an interim leadership team.

With support from the Startup America Partnership, and the dozens of public and private organizations who committed time, resources and forward thinking, Startup Massachusetts is actively preparing for a launch that will generate major impact on the local and national startup landscape.

MassChallenge is the largest-ever startup competition and startup accelerator. Their first class of 111 startups from 2010 raised over $90M in funding and hired 500 new team members in less than 12 months. MassChallenge is currently accelerating 125 startups and will hold the 2011 awards ceremony in Boston on Oct. 24. To learn more about MassChallenge, visit them online at www.masschallenge.org.

To watch a video of the Startup Massachusetts launch event, click here.

If you are interested in supporting or engaging with any of the Startup Massachusetts action teams, or would like to learn more about Startup Massachusetts, please send an email to startupma@masschallenge.org.