The bump factor, tech density, startup hubs, innovation clusters… all commonly used phrases that describe a flourishing innovation economy.
The concept of “clusters” of businesses bolstering innovation and strengthening local industry was originally introduced by HBS Professor Michael Porter in 1990 in his book The Competitive Advantage of Nations. Many other prominent business minds have touched on the topic – Paul Graham of Y-Combinator in his essay “Why Startup Hubs Work,” and Brad Feld in his book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City – just two that come to mind in a long list of very smart people.
Despite the extensive focus on building these real-world local economies, we’ve believed since founding VentureApp that there are many aspects of local economies that could be made much more efficient by connecting them online.
There is a lot that goes into a local innovation economy – capital, talent, meeting and office spaces, transportation, education – the list goes on. For the past two years, we’ve talked to young professionals who want to tap into the local tech community, seasoned professionals who want to help and do more to demonstrate their thought leadership, and community builders from industry organizations, alumni groups, and tech associations. We asked what would help them more easily access their local innovation economy and what would help organizers strengthen these networks.
It always comes back to increasing community. According to the Index of the Massachusetts Innovation Economy, more than 38 percent of employees in the state work in the innovation economy in some way. But how many of them are truly connected? Often, increasing community means increasing quality interactions – meaningful conversations that drive excitement, engagement, and relevance between important and emerging players in the ecosystem.
Professionals and community organizers need an effective way to network online – on the go – and it needs to be enjoyable with a huge focus on quality.
Which brings me to the point of my blog. I’m really excited to share what our team has built: powerful community-building tools on top of our chat platform, which we believe will have a great impact on the number of conversations promoting our innovation economy.
Here’s a sneak peek into the features you’ll find on VentureApp, but we hope you’ll join the community and check it out for yourself:
Community management is really, really hard, but when done right it’s very powerful. It’s a fine line between software vs. human-touch, quality vs. quantity interactions, and defined strategy vs. unstructured guidance. We believe we’ve come up with a permission-based network format that strikes a balance between these concerns to encourage engagement without sacrificing usefulness.
We’re kicking things off with a public network very near and dear to our hearts: the Boston Tech network. Designated for members who are employees of tech companies or tech investors in the Hub, the Boston Tech network will promote, build, and organize the strong community we all crave in our city.
We will be soliciting feedback from our initial list of network leaders on how the group should be run, but the overall goals will be:
- Drive meaningful conversation about important topics to inform, educate and entertain the network (more on the conversations below…)
- Create a central location for knowledge sharing to improve efficiency within the local economy
- Connect professionals with quality opportunities
We recognize that not every community is the same. We’ve created the ability for organizations to create their own private networks, where they can control permissions on who can join and contribute, and have a heavier hand in the conversations and programming. Chat with any member of VentureApp if you’re interested in setting up your own.
We believe that the ability to follow meaningful online conversations about important topics, news, and events, is extremely powerful. How many times have you checked Twitter or the blogs of your favorite influencers to get their hot take on a topic? It’s fascinating to watch people interact and discuss industry buzz, the news, or an event, etc. We’re bringing more of that to light within our networks to get more people talking about meaningful and important conversations happening in our community.
During the month of July, we’re programming public chats with some of our biggest influencers, all discussing the topics the believe to be most important to Boston Tech. Kicking off this week: Jeff Bussgang, Sarah Hodges, Sarah Downey, Patrick Campbell, Mike Troiano, and more.
By joining the Boston Tech Network, you can follow and share the public chats, and request questions for the moderator to ask. Want to recommend someone for a public chat? Let us know.
Ultimately, the most powerful conversations cancel out the noise and happen between individuals or small groups. Most of the connections you make following an event or meet-up happen in small group emails or text messages. We’re creating a simple but controlled way for professionals to request to have one-on-one conversations or small group chats between willing participants on a relevant topic or shared industry/interest.
So, join us and request to be a part of the Boston Tech network. We’re on the road to 1,000 members to strengthen the innovation in our hometown. I’ll be hosting a public chat this week, discussing this effort and all details about the product itself. Hope you’ll follow along and participate.