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The Facebook & Brightcove IPOs, and what they tell us about Boston

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 13, 2012 01:14 PM

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Sunday's Globe column took a look at two companies that got their start in Harvard Square in 2004: Facebook and Brightcove.

One left, one stayed. One was founded by a first-time entrepreneur, the other by an entrepreneur who'd built a public company before. One wasn't able to raise money here, and one was. One focused on consumers, the other on solving a business problem.

Facebook's forthcoming IPO is expected to value the company at about $100 billion. Brightcove will be worth somewhere around $300 million when it goes public.

I asked Todd Dagres, founder of Spark Capital in Boston, for his take on why Boston can be so hospitable to start-ups like Brightcove while it gives fledgling companies like Facebook a cold shoulder.

Here's his take:

It's a combination of things in Boston, including:

- Discomfort with business-to-consumer models. [Investors are] more comfortable with enterprise/business-to-business models. They worry about consumer marketing... This is a blind spot that seems to persist, resulting in a B-to-B bias.

- Discomfort with unproven entrepreneurs, [and a] preference for older, more experienced and serial entrepreneurs. Problem is, many of the best B-to-C companies are being founded by youngsters like [Mark] Zuckerberg, [David] Karp of Tumblr, etc.

- Preoccupation with technology and intellectual property. This results in a lack of appreciation for the user experience and interface that combines art and computer science. Early in [the life of] a B-to-C start-up, the tech can seem trivial. My guess is that Facebook's technology didn't seem as impressive as Jeremy Allaire's. Oops.

Your thoughts? Has Boston changed enough since 2004?

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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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