Friday, October 2, 2015

Smart Connected Products: Can Massachusetts be a Global Hub for IoT

Last week, MassTLC was lucky enough to have partnered for a forum with Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, to discuss where Massachusetts sits in comparison to other key cities in the US.

Christian Ketels, a Principal Associate at HBS, provided us with a number of insights from his team’s research to help guide the discussion.

We looked at this in three key themes, which were later broken down:
  •          The What – What are IoT enabling technologies? and, What does a cluster of IoT enabling technologies look like? Or should we be a cluster of IoT within a vertical?
  •         The Where - What is Boston’s position, how are we doing relative to other locations, what are our strengths and weaknesses
  •         The How – How can we be more successful and to help individual companies by changing the environment? What actions can we take to achieve this leadership position?

The What
There was some of dissent with respect to separating out the IoT product from the enabling technologies. The thought was that these two things must go together and the focus must be on the knowledge of the vertical industry with a deep understanding of the value that a connected product can bring to its stakeholders.

The Where
While HBS provided some great data, this being a newer market leaves a number of stealth companies unaccounted for so it is very difficult to understand how cities compare realistically. Also, if the reality of vertical knowledge is most important, does it make most sense for Massachusetts to concentrate and lead in just those verticals, such as healthcare and life sciences as well as small agriculture?

The How
While this wasn’t addressed as heavily, there was discussion about the importance of partnering with our regions of the country and globe. IoT is so vast that no one area can own it, the different disciplines and knowledge centers must work together to accomplish big things and succeed.

So where does this leave Massachusetts as a possible hotbed?
MassTLC, along with many of the great companies and organizations in the region will continue to work towards Massachusetts having a solid foundation and leadership role in IoT. But we must continue to define what that role should entail.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Enterprises in the Boston area need to do more to become design partners with security startups

An interview with Elizabeth Lawler, Co-founder, Conjur; @ElizabethLawler, @Conjurinc

We asked. Elizabeth answered.

Why is stepping up security, immediately, particularly important to your company/industry?

My industry is cyber security, so this is a bit of a skewed reply. However, what we are observing from the breaches of the last 4 years is that there were two classes of companies: 1) high velocity IT innovators and new technology adopters who were breached (LinkedIn, Facebook, Uber, etc) who were required to cobble together cyber security solutions to address technology gaps in their infrastructure, and 2) companies who cannot innovate in the IT space owing to cyber security concerns/constraints.

So stepping up security has a positive impact to the business directly (faster IT innovation, faster time to value) for both cohorts of companies.

What is the key obstacle companies like yours face in bringing security up to where it needs to be?

Lack of tooling in next generation infrastructure, difficulty hiring, organizational alignment around methodologies and technologies, rather than technology alone as a remediation

What is the next step that you recommend the local community takes to ensure that Boston becomes the next security Mecca?

The trope, regarding east coast "rounds and valuations" and west coast "rounds and valuations", causes great early stage companies to seek alternatives. Enterprises in the Boston area need to do more to become design partners with security startups, particularly since there are cyber security domain expert talent pools in the startup community.

Hear more about what Elizabeth has to say at The Business of Security: Impacting Your Company's Resiliency, Reputation and Revenue on September 30. Learn more and register:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Early adoption of new solutions and approaches is both good business and good for the city

An interview with Kevin O'Brien, CEO and Founder, GreatHorn (Techstars ‘15)  Kobrien82 @GreatHorn_inc

We asked. Kevin answered.

Why is stepping up security, immediately, particularly important to your company/industry?

As the last 18 months have revealed, beyond any question, security-as-usual is failing to prevent large scale data breaches. From Target to Anthem, OPM to Ashley Madison, the bottom line is that attackers' sophistication is exceeding the capabilities of most organizations.

What is the key obstacle companies like yours face in bringing security up to where it needs to be?

Companies ranging from HMOs to high-tech hardware manufacturers all share a common thread: technological innovation has accelerated the pace of their businesses.

Getting in the way of business and users isn't a viable strategy any longer; the old tools -- training, blocking, and routing through intrusive tools -- simply push users into alternative and often insecure channels in order to get their work done quickly. The upside here is that we're on the cusp of a tremendous wave of innovation in the security industry, and that the companies that are behind new products and approaches are redefining what it means to detect and prevent breaches before they happen.

What is the next step that you recommend the local community takes to ensure that Boston becomes the next security Mecca?

Keep fostering security startups, first and foremost. Becoming a mecca for security means attracting talent into the local ecosystem, and the way to make that happen is to create an environment where talent, investment, and market opportunities come together.

There's fantastic work happening here, but still plenty of opportunity to build more hack spaces, accelerators, and early-stage incubation programs to drive growth. Likewise, on the market side, local companies, institutions, and even government organizations have the opportunity to benefit enormously from the thriving entrepreneurial atmosphere that organizations like the MassTLC have helped to foster; early adoption of new solutions and approaches is both good business and good for the city.

Hear more of what Kevin has to say at The Business of Security:  Impacting Your Company's Resiliency, Reputation and Revenue on September 30. Learn more and register:

Companies that use open source code don't really understand their exposure to open source security vulnerabilities, our area of focus and expertise.

An interview with Lou Shipley, CEO,  Black Duck Software, @LouShipley @black_duck_sw

We asked.  Lou answered.

What is the next step that you recommend the local community takes to ensure that Boston becomes the next security Mecca?

Promoting entrepreneurship in security technology and leveraging the expertise of companies in the space to nurture and encourage the entrepreneurs is always a good way to create some energy behind this sort of effort--and a way to attract capital.
Additionally, investing in primary education and expert instruction in related disciplines is essential. Technology and computer science, are important of course, but so are contemporary classes in sales and capital formation--as early on as junior high school. This will pay dividends for many years to come.

Why is stepping up security, immediately, particularly important to your company/industry?

The explosion in the use of open source software has created significant security challenges. Because open source software makes its way into code bases in a variety of ways, it is difficult for companies to maintain the necessary visibility into, and control of, the code they are using. This lack of visibility and control has led to high-profile breaches such as HeartBleed and Shellshock.

What is the key obstacle companies like yours face in bringing security up to where it needs to be?

Companies do not really understand their exposure, or believe they have the situation in hand--even though they are using testing tools that are not effective in finding open source vulnerabilities. It is important that we help companies understand their potential exposure to open source vulnerabilities and educate them about automated solutions that address that exposure.

Hear more of what Lou has to say at The Business of Security:  Impacting Your Company's Resiliency, Reputation and Revenue on September 30. Learn more and register:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Executives overseeing cyber security need to understand how to translate technical risk to business risk and what the business impact will be if a threat is realized

An interview with Emily Mossburg @EmilyJMossburg, Resilient Practice Leader, Deloitte Cyber Risk Services @DeloitteRisks

We asked. Emily answered.

Why is stepping up security, immediately, particularly important to your company/industry?  

Addressing cyber security, for any organization, is not merely about technology; it’s a business risk that requires oversight and direction from business leaders. Executives overseeing cyber security need to understand how to translate technical risk to business risk and what the business impact will be if a threat is realized.

What is the key obstacle companies like yours face in bringing security up to where it needs to be?

For many years, the market has been talking about the need for security programs to be better aligned with the business. Most cyber security programs still operate within technical silos. Organizations need help transforming from a traditional IT Security program to a Cyber Risk program. This is first an organizational problem, not a technical one. There are several important considerations that can influence the transition:

·        Boards and executives taking the initiative to better educate themselves to lead the discussion, ask the right questions, and influence the process
·        Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) taking on the role of change agents
·        Line-of-business leaders, with a strong stake in protecting revenue and growth initiatives, driving cyber risk management into innovation and development lifecycles
·        Once fundamentals are established, broad enterprise-wide education and awareness campaigns are crucial

Here more of what Emily has to say at The Business of Security:  Impacting Your Company's Resiliency, Reputation and Revenue on September 30. Learn more and register:

ERP systems, which house the corporation's crown jewels, are vulnerable to attack

An interview with Alex Bender, @AlexeBender VP Marketing, @Onapsis

We asked. Alex answered.

Why is stepping up security, immediately, particularly important to your company/industry?

The stakes are high. Corporate Espionage costs the world economy $445 billion each year. Attacks are not just hacking to obtain credit card information or to sell personal information on the Internet. Instead, we're talking about breaches to mission-critical ERP systems that can lead to nation-state attacks, intellectual property theft, financial fraud and sabotage--and even the compromise of military trade secrets that impact national security. For example, there's been a 53% rise in economic espionage, aimed at US companies, in just the past year--with the vast majority of this activity originating from China.

What is the next step that you recommend the local community takes to ensure that Boston becomes the next security mecca?

We need to fuel the next generation of security professionals. Boston should set up a common stock that is offered on the Nasdaq that only features Boston Infosec Companies--with some of the proceeds going to development of youth and STEM education.

Here more of what Alex has to say at The Business of Security:  Impacting Your Company's Resiliency, Reputation and Revenue on September 30. Learn more and register:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Massachusetts Innovators in Sales & Marketing Technologies

Massachusetts Innovators in Sales & Marketing Technologies
By Patrick Rafter, Chief ValueCaster at Valuecasters and Principal of Rafter Communications is a frequent contributor to the MassTLC blog. Twitter: @prafter

Having been active in the MassTLC since its inception, I’ve been fortunate to attend more than a dozen of the annual MassTLC Leadership Awards galas. The 18th annual Awards ceremony (on September 16, 2015) topped them all: great turnout and a very upbeat mood among attendees, and the best crop of awards finalists and winners to date!

While the presentations of the coveted MassTLC 2015 Commonwealth Award and two Distinguished Leadership Awards at last week’s event were inspiring, as someone who’s worked in tech marketing and communications for three decades, I was especially interested in checking out who was in the running for the Award for the category of Innovative Technology of the Year – Sales & Marketing.

Sales and marketing leaders featured prominently during last year’s (2014), Awards with HubSpot tapped as Private Company of Year, Acquia’s Dries Buytaert: Top CTO, as well as Content Raven and Jebbit taking home trophies.

Five Massachusetts Sales & Marketing Innovators
(@acquia, @curata, @MavrckCo, @qstream, @visiblemeasures):
Five noteworthy and successful companies were finalists for the 2015 Sales & Marketing Innovation Award, including the winner: Mavrck.

Here’s my take on the five companies selected as 2015 Awards finalists (in alphabetical order), with observations on how these sales & marketing companies market themselves, their respective offerings, and resources each offer through their websites for prospects and other interested parties:

Acquia for ContextDB Twitter: @acquia
Burlington, MA-based Acquia is a software-as-a-service company co-founded by Dries Buytaert and Jay Batson to provide enterprise products, services, and technical support for its widely used open-source web content management platform Drupal.

Since its founding in 2007, Acquia has grown to become a global leader in content management with 4,000+ enterprise customers, an expansive product line and “thumbs up” reviews from industry analysts like Gartner who rated Acquia a “Leader” in its 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (for the second consecutive year). Describing itself as “the digital experience company,” Acquia’s momentum in delivering products and platforms to manage content, community, commerce and content” is formidable, fueled by 7 rounds of funding from 10 investors including Mass-based North Bridge Venture Partners.

Acquia’s website offers LOTS of Resources including data sheets, white papers, analyst briefs, and archived webinars.

Curata for Curata CMP Content Marketing Platform Twitter: @curata
With offices in Boston and Cambridge, Curata provides solutions to create, organize and share content, and measure the impact of content marketing strategies. Curata’s value proposition (enabling marketers,” for the first time, to harness the power of content creation, curation, and analytics to yield a predictable and more successful stream of content,) is delivered through 2 complimentary offerings: Curata CMP (content marketing platform) and Curata CCS (content curation software).

Named by Gartner as a 2015 “Cool Vendor for Content Marketing,” Curata has built an impressive customer base, with both B2B and B2C clients, and small/medium to large enterprises across a broad spectrum of market sectors.

Among the collection of resources, visit its website to register to download Curata’s eBook on THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO CONTENT MARKETING ANALYTICS & METRICS
Mavrck for Mavrck  Twitter: @MavrckCo (not to be confused with Bill Condo of Columbus, OH nabbed the @mavrck Twitter handle back in 2008).

Founded in 2012 by a group of Northeastern alumni (including Chris Wolfel, Lyle Stevens, and Sean Naegeli,) Mavrck is not only the winner of this year’s Award, its also the youngest of the five contenders.

Given the skyrocketing reach and use of social networks by consumers and businesses alike, Mavrck’s capability to effectively monitor followers, identify micro-influencers, and then engage customers on a human-to-human level, has savvy brand managers and advertisers salivating.

From its digs in Boston’s North End, the growing Mavrck team is developing what it calls  “the most effective influence marketing platform for driving sales on social networks.”

In under 3 ½ years, this fast-growing company has won the acceptance of major ad agencies, as well as blue chip brands such as Hershey’s, P&G, Sears and Tom’s of Maine.  Through its free Facebook Fan Grader, Mavrck taps into millennials’ preference for word-of-mouth endorsements, Mavrck is helping marketers to engage individuals through people they trust who are fans of those brands.

Mavrck’s solutions for “influence marketing” address a major shift in how people decide to buy products and services with Nielsen estimating that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than advertisements.

To learn more, register to download Mavrck’s

Qstream for Qstream  Twitter: @qstream
Burlington, MA-based Qstream, whom Gartner, Forrester et. al. consider a radically new and powerful sales performance platform is used by leading brands in technology (Xerox, LinkedIn), financial services (MasterCard), retail and consumer, medical devices and life sciences-- including 13 of the top 15 pharmaceutical companies, to improve the effectiveness of their sales teams and manage risk.

Based on clinically-proven brain science originally developed for students at Harvard Medical School, Qstream helps sales teams to improve knowledge acquisition, long-term knowledge retention, change behavior, and boost learners’ abilities to self-assess their knowledge.

Named a Gartner 2015 “Cool Vendor in CRM Sales,” Qstream enables sales management to track and act upon crucial sales metrics, while transparently accelerating the performance of individual sales people as well as teams.

Companies who run for CRM/sales/marketing operations, will be interested in Qstream’s recent announcement of the “industry's first predictive sales capabilities engine for Salesforce.”

The Resources section of the website is extensive: White papers and eBooks, videos & infographics, webcasts and Slideshare decks, as well as PDF datasheets on Qstream use in all of its target markets including Qstream for High Tech Sales Teams and Channels.”

Visible Measures for True Reach Twitter: @Visiblemeasures.

Previously chosen by MassTLC as a finalist for the 2012 Private Company of the Year Award, Boston-based Visible Measures describes itself as “the leading content advertising company.”

Founded in 2005, by serial entrepreneur Brian Shin, Visible Measures has received $70.8M in eight funding rounds, backed by leading VC partners including General Catalyst Partners, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Northgate Capital, DAG Ventures, Advance Media / Conde Nast, and Commonfund. 

While other AdTech vendors also share its view that “it all comes down to data,” Visible Meaures stands apart as a provider of solutions that help internet video publishers and advertisers to measure users’ video-content consumption. The sheer scale of Visible Measures’ reach is awesome: as each day it monitors over 500 million videos and it has studied consumer behavior of 3 trillion video views by 380 million consumers and counting!

Visible Measures works with top advertisers and partners including hundreds of global brands, agencies, trading desks, and publisher clients, which include Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestle, VivaKi and Conde Nast.

Resources from the “Insights” section of the Visible Measures website include informative charts such as “Top 10 Brands in Video”  as well as a steady stream of research, including periodic reports on “all that’s new” in branded video viewership, that the company calls “The Vizzies.”

Massachusetts Leadership in Sales & Marketing Technology:
Each of these five Massachusetts-based companies have demonstrated true innovation in sales and marketing technology. 

Just as Massachusetts was the crucible of the American Revolution in the 18th century, birthplace to the transformative Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, and home to high technology pioneers of the 20th century—future historians may judge 21st Century Boston as the epicenter for new Web-based platforms that will significantly improve how companies connect and engage with those that matter—individuals who’ll find their products and services of value. 

I look forward to seeing what’s in their product pipeline!

Opportunities abound!

An interview with Harold Moss @hmossiii, Sr. Director, Security Strategy @Akamai

We asked.  Harold answered.

Why is stepping up security, immediately, particularly important to your company/industry?  

High valuations of recent security startups are indicators of the tremendous opportunities available to local technology companies--particularly those focused on providing security services, especially those delivered via the cloud.  Attacks are evolving and becoming more pervasive, at the same time we are experiencing a deficit in the area of security talent.  

What is the key obstacle companies like yours face in bringing security up to where it needs to be?

Talent, or lack thereof. The reality is there are limited resources available to develop the controls needed to address the exponential growth of threats across the landscape.

What is the next step that you recommend the local community take to ensure that Boston becomes the next security mecca?

Boston and the Massachusetts area represent a wealth of talent and knowledge, as well as a breath of educational opportunities. Massachusetts businesses need to start sowing the seeds of security into the educational community through teaching and intern programs.  At the same time, Massachusetts schools need to create focused programs on cyber security, similar to those found at the University of Tacoma… By introducing the next generation to security knowledge we can create a community of excellence which will enable us to create a security mecca. 

Hear more from Harold and a host of other security experts at next week’s Security Conference – The Business of Security: Impacting Your Company’s Resiliency, Reputation and Revenue.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ridesharing and the Innovation Economy

By Tom Hopcroft, President & CEO
Mass Technology Leadership Council

Fueled by one of the world’s greatest concentrations of research and academic institutions, Massachusetts has been at the forefront of innovation for over 300 years – from the founding of the United States to successive waves of innovation and leadership -- in agriculture, maritime trade, industrial mechanism, and information technology. This latest era has witnessed technology innovation transforming our world with the birth of the telephone, the Internet, the mutual fund, computational biology, genomics, telemedicine, online education, and more.

Our political leaders work hard to leverage our regional strength – brainpower, innovation and our knowledge economy. We are a leading technology and innovation state, and with this comes both economic power and an opportunity to use technology innovation to create new, flexible job opportunities, particularly for women and people in lower income neighborhoods. Ridesharing represents just one more in a long line of innovative business models that is being embraced by our forward-looking populace. And, beyond the improvements in convenience, safety and sustainability, these innovative services contribute to the brand of our innovation economy which is a powerful magnet for attracting and retaining talent, investments and companies to the region.

What’s Good for Consumers is Good for Drivers
A wide variety of transportation options provide both visitors and residents of our Commonwealth with choices and flexibility, supporting the Massachusetts innovation brand and providing service and economic opportunity in underserved neighborhoods. Studies show that the availability of transportation is the most significant factor in lifting communities out of poverty. The addition of ridesharing has decreased wait times, increased safety and accountability, and provided flexible work options for people across the region.

Ridesharing is also good for the vast majority of taxi drivers. With the tremendous demand for drivers and transferability of skills, the rise of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft has created greater economic opportunities for drivers. And the transportation network company (TNC) technology platforms mean that drivers set their own schedules as they wish rather than working fixed shifts. This flexibility plus the added security, lack of cash on hand, and accountability are reflected in the relatively high number of women who choose to be drivers in this new paradigm. These factors also encourage drivers to come online in previously underserved neighborhoods.

The main opposition to ridesharing comes from owners of highly coveted taxi medallions who must now cope with a shifting consumer market. The automobile replaced the horse drawn carriage. Personal computers replaced mainframes, only to be replaced by tablets. The Internet and mobile technologies have forever changed communications. Instead of stifling innovation in favor of old models, policy makers have instead shaped rules that focused on the value to consumers.

The ridesharing model tips the balance in favor of customer-centric drivers and service, and disrupts the entrenched regulatory scheme built around a scarcity of medallions rather than service or safety of consumers. As a leading technology innovation state, we should support innovative business models as important to our brand and to the thousands of drivers who have taken advantage of the high quality, flexible jobs that have been created.

A Word of Caution
In seeking to protect traditional business models, some proposals could, not only end ridesharing in Massachusetts as we know it – resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, but threaten the very existence of our innovation economy. Lawmakers have an opportunity to pass regulations that support the technologies and innovation that have changed the way Massachusetts moves.  
  • Consider this: As a leader in mobile software and hardware, Massachusetts’ thriving mobile community has produced game-changing innovations from telecom to photo sharing, traditional retail to health and fitness, online education, travel, home automation, and more. By all accounts, mobile is where technology is going and our leadership in this area has produced thousands of jobs. Yet one of the bills under consideration would require tens of thousands of TNC drivers to bring their smartphones in for review and approval by state regulators as if they were taxi meters. Requiring state approval for users of mobile apps is a dangerous precedent that threatens to drive the mobile development community out of Massachusetts, putting all our industries that utilize mobile applications – from heath care to financial services, and retail to education – at a significant disadvantage. Sensible regulations would ensure these new technologies that have introduced unprecedented accountability can continue to thrive and support the demands of Massachusetts residents and visitors.
  • Consider this: One of the great things about technology is its ability to level the playing field and help make smarter use of capital investments. Another provision under consideration would prohibit the use of technology to manage vehicles that are more than five years old. Putting safety aside as already addressed by our state inspection system, restrictions on the age of assets managed by TNC technology makes no sense. Should building automation technology only be permitted on new buildings? Should we not allow the public to fly on older airplanes, drive over bridges, or ride bicycles that are more than a few years old? The effect with ridesharing would simply be to exclude the drivers who are least able to afford a new car every five years from essential economic opportunities and decrease the availability of transportation in the underserved neighborhoods that need it most. Legislators have an opportunity to support regulations that would create access to more affordable transportation options.
  • Consider this: Dynamic pricing is a growing trend that has been around for some time. We see algorithmic pricing and business intelligence used in travel, retail, sporting, financial markets, etc. TNCs have found a way to use this pricing to incentivize drivers and meet consumer demand at peak times and in underserved communities, resulting in better service for consumers. Much like a plumber who charges more for a late night visit, the dynamic pricing is a trend that is an accepted practice in many business models and has driven a responsive customer centric service level that would be hard to let go. Prohibiting dynamic pricing could have far reaching implications for our economy. Lawmakers should consider a framework that would support the innovative technologies that allow companies to help meet the growing demands.  

Fair policies around ridesharing and other disruptive technologies can become one of the first building blocks of a true Innovation Agenda for our state. The tech sector is eager to continue to help state and local lawmakers leverage technology to deliver vital services, and to create the talent and regulatory framework that will let innovation thrive in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Exit Strategies - what every CEO needs to understand

MassTLC, along with our sponsor, Argosight, recently brought together a small group of CEOs to talk about different exit strategies, and the pros and cons that arise with each. The CEOs came from small, medium, large companies, some of who were greener and some of whom have had their fair share of exits.

The discussion was informal and allowed the younger CEOs the unique opportunity to ask direct questions of those that have had ample experience. 

Overarching themes were focused on different types of investments, acquisitions, going public versus staying private, and most importantly having a true understanding of where you want to take your company.

We put together the infographic below as a way to capture the substantial amount of information and ideas that were shared. Some key pieces of advice to bear in mind for any founder are:

  1. Know your business, not just your function or role, but your entire business inherently. For instance, sales, sales projections, product lines, revenues under each product line, and so on.
  2. When you are just starting off, read everything, learn everything. Because the decisions you make on day one will affect the decisions you will have to make years later.  That can be as little as the office lease you sign to as big as the Board you put together.
  3. For those that take funding, know everything there is to know about the fund, when it was started, when it will vest, and what number your company will be in the fund.
  4. Whether you are looking to be acquired or go public, it is imperative that your company is strong enough to stand on its own.