Thoughts on the startup world in Boston

Although not officially full time on a startup in Boston, I have been working with my co-founder, John Kelleher, on a project called Leasability for the better part of the past year. As a full time commercial real estate broker who has always been interested in tech, I encountered a problem in the office space leasing process that I felt could be solved with technology. I found myself spending way too much time managing several different listings with different client reporting tools and formats, and thought I could save time by centralizing client reporting into a real time, mobile-enabled application, built specifically for the space leasing process. Through using Leasability, brokers can keep their clients and teammates up to date on deal pipeline and market activity in real time from anywhere, rather than the industry norm of weekly conference calls reviewing boring spreadsheets. Everyone wins! Thus, I dove into the Boston startup scene and began building Leasability.

(Note: this post is not all about my journey building a startup, but my observations about the Boston startup community, so if you want to learn more about Leasability, just email me. Trust me, I am not an expert in building a startup)

In no particular order, here is what I have observed:

People genuinely want to help you – not that corporate America is full of people working against you, but the pressure that comes along with climbing a corporate ladder sometimes creates, well, headwinds when dealing with others. I noticed in the startup world, that even when people may be providing resistance, they are usually doing it to challenge your thought process on your start up, which is actually a good thing. This goes for investors, entrepreneurs, attorneys, etc. The bottom line is that people want to see you succeed, and you need that because it is not easy to do so. 

Good developers are really hard to find – the startup scene in Boston is so strong right now, that even developers that are not fully employed by a startup or big tech firm are contracting on their own, and making good money. So to convince a top notch developer to join your team pre-revenue or pre-customers, you need to be able to tell a really good story (or have a lot of money in the bank). 

You can always find a free meal – startup events are so rampant that you are never more than a couple of hours away from your next slice of semi warm pizza. 

The door is always open – there is no hierarchical or “what’s in it for me” attitude in the startup scene in Boston. Sure, some people might be difficult to get ahold of, but people are genuinely interested in listening to your thoughts. Even if someone cannot give you what you need like money, time, or expertise, they are usually willing to grab coffee and listen.

People are really young – coming from the corporate world where you are usually engaged with decision makers with silver hair, the startup world in Boston has an unbelievably young vibe, which is awesome. I have been really impressed with some of the college students I have met, and recent grads for that matter. The only knock is that I believe that until life or the business world smacks you in the face, life can seem way too blissful, so it is not all roses out there for the youngsters.

Beware the time waster – while there are tons of good events, and tons of good people to meet, you can really get bogged down in the “scene” while your competition is sharpening its saw. When you start noticing the same people at all the events, its time to get back to getting shit done. Relationships are key, and events are where you meet people, but don’t spend all your time being “of” the startup community, be “in” it.

Its not all about Boston – I don’t have any experience working in any other startup heavy ecosystem, but the more you stay in the Boston bubble, the longer it will take for you to succeed. Customers are everywhere, so go find them. Investors are everywhere, so go find them. Be proud to be from Boston, but don’t limit yourself.

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