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Local graduates find fertile ground and quality of life in their own backyard

Posted by Devin Cole  June 27, 2012 11:40 AM

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Our city is alive with a roar of innovation and, according to a recent meeting that I had with Gregory Bialecki, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the State, this boom is real. Other states may claim to be a hub of innovation, but we in fact, have grown to be a global leader and plan to keep growing without just “riding the wave”, as he put it.

I’ve been attending events centered on the topic of retaining and attracting talent from The Boston Globe’s Building a Better Commonwealth series, to MassBio's quarterly Human Resource meetings.

At these events, I interviewed four people who are active and committed to retaining local graduates. Read on for their thoughts and feel the “buzz”.

Harvard iLab.jpg

Talent being retained at Harvard's iLab

By Melissa Niu

In her role at the Harvard Innovation Lab, Jodi Goldstein is responsible for all programming as well as bridging the gap between Harvard students and the entrepreneurial community. She has an impressive 20 years of experience in the Boston start-up world with a focus on innovative consumer technologies. I asked her to share what the i-lab does and to offer examples of the talent moving through the i-lab.
We are focused on growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Boston by resourcing and supporting students early in their development so their ventures move faster and further than they would have on their own. Our “secret sauce” is twofold. I believe it’s facilitating interactions among students from across the university that otherwise would not have occurred, enabling them to have deeper intellectual knowledge in their ventures. The university-wide focus is really what differentiates us and gives our value to students. We believe that if we can support student ventures and help cultivate their network through mentors, advisors, and experts in residence, they will be more inclined to keep companies in Boston once they graduate.

Vaxess is a good example of student venture. The idea came out of research from a class at Tufts being taught at the i-lab. Students from 4 different schools (Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School of Engineering and Applied Science, Harvard Law School) chose to continue working on the idea. They were revolutionizing global health by creating low cost, thermo-stable vaccines that can reach people around the world. They recently won the HBS Business Plan Competition and are applying to Mass Challenge this year.

We have a number of recent grad ventures who are being "incubated" as well. These are teams we are supporting in an effort to keep talent in Boston. Tivli is a good example. They are 2009 Harvard College graduates who are providing Internet cable (Harvard is a customer). They have raised $1.2M in VC funding (NEA, Flybridge) and have 12 employees and a lot of traction in their space. They have chosen to stay in Boston because of i-lab and their growing network of contacts and advisors."

Beyond the classroom, there are events around the city that offer support and venues to get connected in the start up world. One hot one is Webinno. Founder, David Beisel, is a partner at NextView Ventures during the day. However, he has also created a smash hit event for anyone related to and excited about internet and mobile innovation to get educated, updated and mingle. David shared how it all evolved and what it's about.

What started out as an informal gathering of a dozen has now blossomed into a regular event that draws nearly 1000 people from Boston and beyond. Webinno's community includes entrepreneurs, developers, creator's, startups, students, startup geeks, VC's and technology executives with a shared interest in discussing the latest startups and networking. The open quarterly events provide a forum for entrepreneurs to present new services to their peers, as well as an opportunity for everyone in the community to share and exchange ideas. And by the way, register online for the next event in September held at the Royal Sonesta Hotel.

(Another great networking spot for start-ups that meets regularly is the Venture Café at the Cambridge Innovation Center.)

Ian Masiter is an entrepreneurial executive with more than 28 years of high-tech experience. He is an executive-in-residence and a lecturer at Boston University where he teaches entrepreneurship, strategy, business and business management. I asked him what BU is doing to keep entrepreneurs in Boston after they graduate.

We are lucky in Boston to have such a fertile eco system that will support young entrepreneurs. What we do with our students prepares them to enter this eco system. We give them grounding in entrepreneurial skills, a roadmap and we set them loose. With this great support system available to them, why would they want to start their new venture anywhere else?

Finally, Malia Lazu is the Executive Director of Future Boston Alliance. She has made it a focus to broaden grass roots involvement in political organizing and civic engagement. FBA is a cool organization that has come together to advocate and support the cultural growth of the city in the 21st century.

Malia says:

The areas we seek to improve include the creative economy, support for talent and entrepreneurship, affordable housing, communication, the urban surroundings, and transit. We push for fair, equal, and predictable licensing and regulation, a reduction in bureaucracy, openness to new methods and collaboration.

Through the efforts of these people and too many more to mention, people in our city are breaking away from old stereotypes and building upon our historical past with powerful, innovative thinking for the future. As a result, out talented pool of students and executives worldwide want to plant their roots here, knowing there is fertile ground for growth.

Cheryl Meyerson is the CEO of new city, INC., a company that offers personalized and comprehensive relocation and transition services and helps businesses, nonprofits and professionals make new Boston-area connections. Learn more about new city's complete range of services at and check out the new city, blog "the bean."

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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