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Founder of TechSandBox, new innovation center, is searching for space in Boston's western exurbs

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 23, 2012 07:45 AM

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Marketing consultant Barb Finer tells me she is looking for space in the Westborough area for a new 5,000-square foot "innovation center" that would provide space for entrepreneurs and events. Finer is focusing on locations near the intersection of Route 495 and the Mass Pike.

"Out west, the individual towns don't really market themselves as destinations for entrepreneurs," says Finer, who is on the board of the WPI Venture Forum and an adjunct professor at Emerson College. "So you have these fragmented markets with no cohesion. We want to make the TechSandBox a fun, engaged community, which is definitely missing out here." (Finer lives in Hudson, and her business, QuiVivity Marketing Partners, is in Westborough.) She notes that most places where solo entrepreneurs and small teams can rent space, or attend events regularly, are inside of Route 128: "Our premise is that Metrowest is truly underserved."

Finer says she hopes to offer below-market rent to about 10 founders or small teams, and set up a classroom/conference area that would accommodate 150 people. Other elements she is planning for the TechSandBox are a "networking parlor" that'd provide free short-term hang-out and schmoozing space for denizens of the area, as well as office hours with various topical experts. She says that groups like the MIT Enterprise Forum and the 128 Innovation Capital Group have already expressed interest in holding events there. Finer is in the process of setting up the TechSandBox as a non-profit organization; that'll enable her to chase government grants and also corporate sponsorship. She's hoping that the space itself might be donated by a local benefactor — perhaps an EMC-type tech company that has a bit of vacant real estate on its hands.

Finer's target is to have TechSandBox open by next spring. It'll be interesting to watch how the project proceeds...

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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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