For MassChallenge and Greentown startups, Fourth meant choosing grinding over grilling

Much of the American workforce spent the Fourth of July off the clock and at the grill, pool or fireworks show, but many entrepreneurs in Boston’s startup community spent Independence Day on the job. Innovation, it seems, has little time to rest.

“We are definitely working through the holiday weekend,’’ said Rama Ramakrishnan, chief executive of Cambridge-based e-mail marketing firm CQuotient. “Even those of use who are supposedly taking off from work for the holiday will be on-call and checking e-mail constantly.’’

The South Boston office space shared by 128 finalists in the MassChallenge business competition was a true incubator on the Fourth (the work area was accessible but even the air conditioner took a holiday). Instead of kicking back, however, Good-Benefits chief executive Ryan Selkis worked from home. After five days of startup “boot camp’’ — a series of business workshops and networking events organized by MassChallenge — Selkis said he had fallen behind on administrative tasks.


He said “going through festive materials like our legal docs and working on our target investor list’’ represented his Fourth of July celebration.

“But it’s all worth it,’’ added Selkis, whose company administers charitable giving programs that allow companies and their employees to make donations through their payroll systems.

Hard work is so ingrained in the personalities of some entrepreneurs that they can’t help but busy themselves. Ethan Labowitz, founder of the Boston Institute for Clean Energy Prototyping at Greentown Labs, said he has more freedom to take time off, now that he’s also an engineering professor at Olin College in Needham. Yet he describes holidays as “frustrating.’’

“Things that I need in order to be productive are often unavailable, and getting around town can be more difficult,’’ Labowitz said. “The gym is the worst. When I skip a workout, I get less productive.’’

A holiday, he concluded, is “something that requires additional planning, sometimes, rather than something to look forward to.’’

At least a few local entrepreneurs managed to declare independence from work, however. The staff of MassChallenge finalist Sensible Baby, which is developing a high-tech baby monitor, took a break on the Fourth.

“Entrepreneurship is not only about perspiration but also inspiration,’’ co-founder Jeffrey Tagen said. “Many of us get our best ideas or make unexpected connections while in the shower, exercising or performing other non-work tasks. Downtime helps give perspective.’’

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