December Breakfast Discussion

When we asked Branko Gerovac to share some of his research into the data behind the Massachusetts Innovation Economy, we knew what we were getting into.  Discussions with Branko and a look at Empirical Reality, his innovation blog that takes a hard look at the numbers can sometimes come off as depressing to Massachusetts innovation cheerleaders, and he freely admits it.  But to move ahead, we need to understand where we’ve been.

Gerovac looks at data from places like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Standard & Poors and mixes it with information culled from a wide variety of studies.  Recent blog posts included information from the Wall Street Journal, the Moneytree Report and the Kaufman Foundation.

At our recent Innovation Breakfast, Gerovac looked at Massachusetts tech sector employment (breaking it down by county — yes, Middesex county looks a lot like Santa Clara), where tech founders went to school and the average age of founding a tech company.  (45 percent of technology companies were formed by people in the 35-44 year old range.) The “depressing” graphs showed serious declines in tech employment, “ouch” comparisons between Massachusetts and California, and Seattle, and other tech hot spots like Michigan(???) in areas like our ability to keep grads here.

But an interesting thing happens when we have knowledge.  The room wasn’t depressed.  Immediately talk turned to what we can and need to do.

1) We need anchor companies, old and new, to keep grads here the requisite average 16 years before they will found their own company.

2) We need to focus more on building companies to grow, versus building companies to sell.

3) We need to deal with the non-compete issue.

4) We need to foster a culture of collaboration versus competition.  Instead of the zero sum game, we need to grow the pie big enough for everyone to have a piece.

5) We need to make sure that tech is getting its fair share of the funding money.  (Bio-pharma and alternative energy are great but the time to liquidity is far greater as are the start-up costs.)  Tech is where the best bang for our buck is.

What can you do?  What do you think?

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One Response to “December Breakfast Discussion”

  1. I think creating a new level of awareness for students and young people is important. I think students need to be made exceptionally aware (yes, go to them and make it so they can’t miss it) of the opportunities that are here. Scott Kirsner’s Innovation Open Houses are a great start, but I think something more industry specific could also be quite valuable.

    I think it’s also important for organizations to be more open to taking chances on young people. I think there’s a great temptation to always take the more experienced people in any given role, rather then perhaps the slightly less qualified but more highly motivated person. By doing this, you drive away young people and they never look back.

    I have a number of other ideas, but this is a start.