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Let's scout collegiate entrepreneurs the way the NFL scouts future players

Posted by Scott Kirsner  March 25, 2013 09:30 AM

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This week's Boston Globe column suggests that we need to think differently about identifying high-potential entrepreneurs while they're in college. What if we created a Massachusetts Founders League that inducted 100 new students each year, and helped them in all kinds of ways, from funding to office space to visas to mentorship? (Thanks to Quintin Adamis for the playful logo at right.)

There are a number of great programs in this vein already (such as RoughDraft.vc and MassDigi's Summer Innovation Program), but nothing that acts as a comprehensive scouting program across all industries, covering the entire state.

The opening:

With the National Football League’s draft ­approaching next month, you can bet that every team has carefully constructed its list of the most promising college players they hope to add to their rosters.

What if Massachusetts devoted the same resources to scouting the next generation of entrepreneurs as NFL teams devote to finding their next great wide receiver? (The Patriots alone have 21 employees focused solely on identifying and cultivating future players.) Entrepreneurs, after all, can have a far bigger impact on the local economy than football stars, no matter how many seats they fill or jerseys they sell.

I’ve been brainstorming lately about how a scouting program might operate, soliciting input from entrepreneurs who got their educations here, as well as start-up coaches like Katie Rae of TechStars Boston and Jeffrey Bussgang of Flybridge Capital Partners. Here’s how we might identify high-potential future founders, and also what we’d do once we identified them.

Here's some of the Twitter conversation that the column sparked. I'm also interested in your comments below. How would you try to identify the top future entrepreneurs? What should we do for them?

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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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March 3: Web Innovators Group
Demos, drinks, and schmoozing at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.

March 7-8: MassDigi Game Challenge
Competition for aspiring game developers... plus panels and keynotes related to the business of play.

April 3-4: Mass Biotech Annual Meeting
Issues facing the region's life sciences community.

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