Shahbano Imran, 23, and David Tolioupov, 29, Boston College 2009, 2010, founders of LocalOn, South San Francisco
About a year ago, with the backing of Boston investors, we founded a start-up called LocalOn. Soon after, we packed our belongings and relocated to Silicon Valley in hopes of living the entrepreneur’s dream. For entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley is the modern-day analogy of the California Gold Rush: thousands of hopeful souls migrate to this Promised Land, where the result is great struggle for all, but great success for only a few. We took our company west to take our chance at great success. This area is known for its extensive support network for young entrepreneurs; an electric atmosphere that inspires ideas, innovations, and the determination to keep trying; and a substantial concentration of investors, making it a great place to raise money.
After a six-month stint in the Valley, we released LocalOn.com, which helps small local businesses to promote themselves online free of charge. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response.
Although Boston has impressive credentials when it comes to spawning innovation, they haven’t been widely shared. In our experience, there was no obvious infrastructure in place to support aspiring innovators. And it wasn’t easy to find a lot of young entrepreneurs in Boston, to whom we could relate or get advice from.
This was unexpected since Boston is the hub of academia, and could easily use its academic intensity to nurture a thrilling atmosphere of entrepreneurship. Perhaps by spreading opportunity across the landscape, and not limiting these resources to the ivory halls of Harvard Business School or MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Boston can better expose aspiring entrepreneurs to its unique resources, like access to a community of mentors.
We’re ecstatic about the changes already taking place in Boston on this front: MIT opened up its elevator pitch competition to all eager individuals; MassChallenge, a nonprofit group that aims to spur entrepreneurial activity, is gaining exposure; and undergraduate programs like TechTrek at Boston College are exposing students to entrepreneurship, in both the East and West.
In short, we believe Boston can establish itself as the dream for entrepreneurs as wholly as it is the established dream for academics, by spreading awareness about opportunities in Boston, as well as opening up these opportunities to everyone, without restricting them based on alma mater.
Would we have stayed in Boston had we known more about opportunities available to us? Probably.
Are we excited about what has been going on in Boston recently? Absolutely.