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Constant Contact creating a space for startups at its Waltham HQ

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 14, 2014 07:00 AM

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One of the area's biggest digital marketing companies, Constant Contact, is searching for a few roommates that care as much as it does about serving small businesses.

Constant Contact is carving out 30,000 square feet at its Waltham headquarters and dubbing it the Small Business InnoLoft at Constant Contact. The space will be home to Constant Contact's internal innovation team, as well as a handful of startups on rotating four-month residencies. The space is expected to be open by June, with the first set of three to five startups moving in over the summer.

Constant Contact will start taking applications from startups today. Chosen ventures will have access to Constant Contact customers that have volunteered as beta testers; $10,000 in marketing dollars (actual money, as opposed to credit for Constant Contact products), along with advice from company marketing execs on how to spend it; and priority access to Constant Contact's APIs.

Andy_Miller.png"We're not taking equity," explains Andy Miller, chief innovation architect at Constant Contact. "That's a big differentiator from other kinds of accelerator programs. But this is sort of accelerator-like in that our goal is to really help startups get to product-market fit. We want to help them scale, as experts in the small business category, and we want to get them in front of some of our 600,000 customers." (Update: A spokesperson clarified that the current number is 585,000.) Miller came to the company after his own startup, the loyalty app CardStar, was acquired by Constant Contact in 2012.

Miller says that the InnoLoft will also host events; already, groups like CommonAngels and the 128 Innovation Capital Group have been holding regular meetings at Constant Contact's headquarters, and he hopes others will follow suit. He describes the loft as "similar to what a SoHo artist would have. There will be big sliding doors, reclaimed wood and aluminum. It's going to be a cool, Cambridge space in Waltham." Boston architecture firm Visnick and Caulfield Associates is handling the design of the InnoLoft.

As for whether the loft's suburban location will be seen by startuppers as a plus or a minus, Miller says he's looking for people who aren't fixated on having the "right" address: "The size of our customer base, and having access to the folks here on a regular basis I think that will outweigh location. We want the folks who are really looking to benefit from what we bring to the table."

Miller leads a 15-person innovation team that vets new concepts and builds prototypes at publicly-held Constant Contact, best known for its e-mail marketing tools. "We felt that having our innovators working side-by-side with startups, learning from and helping one another, was a great idea," he says. While Miller says Constant Contact doesn't have any plans to start investing in small business-focused startups, "there are a multitude of opportunities that could come from this," he says, including partnerships and acquisitions.

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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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