TechStars Boston needs a new leader.
Late Friday, Shawn Broderick, who had been running the finishing school for promising start-ups, announced on his blog that he'd be stepping down to focus more on his fledgling online games company, play140. (Last month, Broderick told me that he planned to continue running TechStars Boston, perhaps with an assistant — but my guess is that he and the TechStars powers-that-be decided that having a less-distracted leader was a better idea.)
Broderick was a little-known entrepreneur when he took the job in 2009, and he was a solid steward for the program's first two years of operation in Boston. Broderick's persona was that of the trying-a-bit-too-hard-to-be-cool camp counselor, who rode a Ducati to work, kept a bottle of Bourbon in the office, and dropped F-bombs with abandon.
But TechStars Boston could use a high-profile leader who'd help it attract the most promising young entrepreneurs from around New England and beyond— someone who already has a following and could help the Boston outpost of TechStars (which also operates in Boulder, Seattle, and New York) really increase the power of its tractor beam. In my view, the next director of TechStars Boston ought to expand the scope of the program to include more "hard" technologies — not just people building Web-based services and mobile apps, but robotics businesses, sensor start-ups, and health and wellness technologies, too.
Who'd be on my short list of people worth considering?
- Ray Ozzie. Bill Gates once called him one of the five best programmers in the world. He created Lotus Notes, founded Groove Networks, and recently served as Microsoft's chief software architect. He's now under-employed, and still owns a waterfront spread in Beverly. Couldn't hurt to ask.
- Eran Egozy. The co-founder and chief technical officer of Harmonix Music Systems did his graduate work at MIT's Media Lab, and he has served as a mentor with TechStars Boston. With Viacom (Harmonix's current parent company) looking to unload the Cambridge videogame developer, why wouldn't Egozy want to spend a few years sharing what he learned about raising money and creating hit products like "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band"?
- Andy Palmer. Cloud? Search? E-Commerce? Biotech? Databases? Palmer is one of the rare guys who has experience in all of it. A high-energy serial entrepreneur who is determined to make the Boston scene more competitive.
- Pito Salas worked on spreadsheets at Lotus, on Internet collaboration at eRoom, and on blogs and RSS at his own start-up, BlogBridge. Lately, he's been focused on creating open source software that would run on voting machines, and also helping Brandeis University foster more entrepreneurial activity. He's a respected techie and a thoughtful blogger with a following.
- Reed Sturtevant and/or Katie Rae. Both are former execs at Microsoft's Startup Labs (a new idea generation group in Cambridge) and Eons, the social network for seniors. Sturtevant worked at Idealab and Lotus earlier in his career, and Rae was at Lycos. The pair are currently looking to raise a $5 million fund to make seed stage investments, but I'm not sure where that stands. Having one of them run TechStars while the other continues to beat the bushes wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea — and having both of them run TechStars could be even better.
- Andy Miller. Miller headed up business development at the mobile start-up m-Qube, and then co-founded and led Quattro Wireless, which was acquired by Apple earlier this year. (He was also an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner from 2009.) But he had to move to Silicon Valley after the Apple acquisition, and how much fun can it be to report directly to the mercurial and demanding Steve Jobs? Miller could be lured back to Massachusetts to contribute to the next wave of entrepreneurial innovation here, with a special focus on mobile and digital media.
- Micah Rosenbloom. Helped start the 3-D imaging company Brontes Technologies (acquired by 3M), but left earlier this year. Rosenbloom has been doing some angel investing, and he was an advisor with the MassChallenge competition. Young guy with lots of energy, and an interest in start-ups with unusual and industrial niche markets — not your garden-variety Internet-based, social media stuff.
- Yonald Chery. MIT-educated entrepreneur who helped start Virtual Ink, a company that made the first whiteboard that could digitally capture what was written on it. Chery was also involved in enterprise WiFi security in the early days, and served as CEO of Mok3, the 3-D imaging company that morphed into EveryScape.
- Marina Hatsopoulos. Supremely well-connected, MIT-educated mechanical engineer who also served as CEO of the pioneering 3-D printing start-up Z Corp. Currently serving as an advisor to MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. Hatsopoulos could attract new kinds of companies to TechStars Boston: people building hardware, medical devices, and consumer products (she's on the board of Tea Forte, the high-end tea company based in Concord.)
- Karl Büttner. Büttner bootstrapped his last company, 170 Systems, to $18 million in revenue before taking VC funding — not a bad approach to share with the next generation of entrepreneurs. Buttner also has experience in sales, services, and artificial intelligence, and did his undergrad work at MIT. This year, he served as one of the more engaged mentors at the MassChallenge competition.
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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December 9: Web Innovators Group
Demos of new mobile apps and web ventures at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. Free admission; cash bar.
December 10: Fintech Demo Day
Short demos from startups in the financial technology realm.
December 11: Unpitch
Entrepreneurs and investors sit down for lunch, advice, and feedback. Entrepreneurs must apply to participate.