After social distancing on Cape Cod for 13+ months, I returned to Boston to find a very different tech community than the one I left. Gone were the coffee meetings, the meetups, the collaborating at a white board, the conferences, and the after work drinks. Replacing them was Zoom, Zoom, and… more Zoom. As an introvert, at first I embraced this new way of doing business while quarantining on the Cape. I enjoyed not having the commute, being able to go for walks during the day, and seeing my family during work hours. But there was a point last year when I realized the full cost of what we’d lost. There is an energy that comes from collaborating with trusted colleagues in shared space. There is a power to having high bandwidth conversations with people of diverse experiences. And companies are more than just the aggregate work output of its employees being done anywhere, but the deep connections and sense of mission that forms when people work together in physical proximity. No matter how much I liked the convenience of working from home, I began to get nostalgic for the old Boston tech.
After I was fully vaccinated, I decided to try to recapture a little of what I was missing. I started small: I had a colleague over for coffee outside, which only served to remind me of the energy of in-person collaboration. Next I invited more colleagues to get together in different outdoor settings. And when new people wanted to connect with me, I always offered to meet in-person anywhere in Boston. I openly declared my vaccination status, and was pleasantly surprised to see my guests do the same. In only one case did I find someone who told me they were still only comfortable meeting over Zoom, and I happily obliged.
But last night was a milestone for me. I attended my first in-person tech event in Boston for the first time in 15+ months. Well to be more precise, I created my first tech event to attend. While no one will ever accuse me of being an event planner, I realized someone had to make the first move. So in April, I set out to find an outdoor venue for an event. I called around to businesses and restaurants with rooftop decks, but unfortunately the strict Covid-19 guidelines made everyone reluctant to be a host. But in reaching out to Rudina Seseri and Glasswing Ventures, she not only offered up her rooftop deck, but volunteered to sponsor the event as well. She had only one condition: the landlord required everyone entering the building show proof of vaccination. Previously unsure of how to impose such a requirement on my own, I was happy the landlord provided me with the solution.
So last night, 43 members of the Boston tech community gathered for our first in-person / non-socially-distant tech event in 15+ months. I called the event ScaleBoston, based on my belief that it’s time our city shed its old image as an “also ran” tech hub. We have some of the most talented people in the world working here, building incredibly innovative products and companies. We are about more than just biotech and enterprise software. Our next-generation of entrepreneurs may be the most talented and diverse in the history of Boston. Our venture community, after languishing for years, has been revived by a new generation of firms that have shed the legacy East Coast way of doing business. And yes, we can and have been building big and long lasting businesses right here in Boston.
I am hoping this first event can be the beginning of a ScaleBoston movement: a group of leaders not satisfied with the status quo and interested in making Boston the premiere tech hub in the world over the next decade. It was most definitely an MVP, and I am open to any and all feedback. The next step is to find a small group of people willing to form a steering committee to discuss where to go next. My instinct tells me the future of Boston tech flows through our next-generation of entrepreneurs. If we want them to build big businesses in Boston, though, we’re going to have to lean in to invest, include, and support them in ways unrivaled by any other tech hub.
Thanks to everyone who helped organize this event, including my secret cabal of Tom Hazel, Les Yetton and Scott Kirsner. Thanks to Glasswing for having the courage to host and sponsor the first in-person tech event in Boston in 15+ months. And thanks to everyone who made the time to attend last night. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and energy of being around incredible smart and talented people from our community again.
It’s time to declare it from the mountain top (or in this case rooftop deck): Boston tech is back.