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Five venture capital firms sponsor free Kendall Square office space for entrepreneurs

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 28, 2011 01:42 PM

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The New England Venture Capital Association and five of its member firms will sponsor free Kendall Square desks for early-stage entrepreneurs, starting March 31st. The 2,500 square foot space will be part of a new co-working facility where numerous start-up teams share open space instead of hermetically-sealed offices called CriticalMass that will be part of the Cambridge Innovation Center.

Nancy Saucier, a spokesperson for NEVCA, says that the five firms sponsoring the space will choose the entrepreneurs who get "golden tickets." (Others can pay $250 a month to have access to the same space.) The current sponsors will cover the costs for about 48 entrepreneurs a year to get three months of free rent, but Saucier says other NEVCA members have expressed interest in getting involved with the program, and she expects that as many as 100 tickets could be handed out annually. Sponsoring VC firms will also have conference rooms with their names on the door, which they'll use periodically to meet with entrepreneurs (but which will otherwise be open to CriticalMass denizens.) CriticalMass will also host Q&A sessions with angel investors, as well as "how to" workshops geared to entrepreneurs.

How will entrepreneurs get a "golden ticket"? They'll be doled out by the venture capital firms underwriting CriticalMass. Saucier notes that entrepreneurs who take advantage of a sponsored pass to the CriticalMass space won't be under any obligation to the sponsoring firm.

The initial sponsors of CriticalMass are Charles River Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, and Flybridge Capital Partners. Many of the partners of those firms have been participants in regular "office hours" sessions that the NEVCA has held at the Cambridge Innovation Center's Venture Cafe. I'm told the idea for CriticalMass came about when Saucier, Cambridge Innovation Center CEO Tim Rowe, and Jamie Goldstein of North Bridge and the NEVCA began talking about how to take those weekly office hours sessions a few steps further.

A grand opening for the new space is scheduled for March 31st.

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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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