Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Robotica 2016 – June 7-9 2016

Many MassTLC community members participated in the AUVSI 3 day Robotica event at Devens MA, 7-9 June.

The event featured several presentations, panels and discussions including technical, regulatory and policy on autonomous vehicles (land, air and sea).  There was a medical track featuring presentations and discussion on Surgical Robotics, Exoskeletons and Assistive and Rehabilitation Robotics, as well as robotic application discussions focusing on e-commerce/warehousing/logistics, collaborative robotics and Robotic/IoT in the future connected home.

Thanks to all of our MassTLC members who made the event a success!

E-commerce, Warehousing and Logistics Panel moderated by Vik Gopalakrishnan, Senior Supply Chain Manager at Staples Inc.  Panel members left to right: Mary Ellen Sparrow (NextShift), Gino Stone (Wynright), Rob Sullivan (Symbotic), Bruce Welty (Locus), Yaro Tenzer (Right Hand Robotics)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Talking Talent with Tech Execs in Cambridge

By: Mike Johnson, Director of Communities, MassTLC

As the Director of Communities at MassTLC, I hear about a lot of issues and trends happening within our tech ecosystem. The most common theme of late is tech talent in the region. Where is it, where is it going, and why is it so hard to fill seats. 

Our 2016 State of Tech Report scratches the surface of what’s happening in the region but we wanted to dig a little deeper and bring together leaders in our community that are either growing their organizations or have successfully grown in Massachusetts.  

Tuesday June 7th, MassTLC hosted a dinner at Catalyst in Cambridge that was graciously sponsored by Digital Realty. This event set the stage for 11 of the smartest tech executives ranging from startups to household names to share their experiences, strategies, and some hilarious stories with each other. 

Below are the common problems/excuses organizations have and how our attendees overcame some of these hurdles. 

Only 27% of students are staying in Massachusetts after graduation from college. 

Yes, this is true, but many of that 73% weren’t Massachusetts residents before school so we can’t expect them to be locked in. We have one of the highest concentrations of higher education institutions in the country so this high percentage is a standard that we can’t do much about. 

It’s really hard to compete against the big tech players with recognizable names for talent, even if you are an enterprise level company. 

We found funding labs or research projects was a good way to get students to become aware of who we are and build an affinity towards our organization. This helps with recruiting them at the end of their education. 

We have a hard time getting people to apply or accept offers. 

Sometimes you need to look at the top. If the right leadership isn’t in place your organization can become a no-go zone no matter how much you’re paying, and if people are accepting offers to work in a place that’s not great just because the money is good, they’re not going to work out in the long run. 

How do we get marketing to allow us to use our social channels as a recruiting platform? 

This needs to come from the top and from HR. It’s a little more difficult when you’re a B2C but you need to sell that supporters of the organization often make the best employees and that marketing works for everyone in the organization, not just sales. 

It takes so much longer to fill the mid and senior level roles but it feels like we spend all of our time reviewing or interviewing entry level candidates. 

Create higher hurdles for the entry level gigs. Homework before the application can even be submitted so you know the people submitting are really interested and have some of the skills right from the start. This way you’re not wasting time and can spend more time working on mid and senior level roles. 

There is a huge mid-level gap. 

Separate management from mentorship and have all mid and senior level engineers mentoring lower level engineers. Too often its just left to managers when it needs to be a company-wide collaborative effort. 

Why is everyone asking for titles that they’re not qualified for yet? 

The talent crunch has changed the balance of power for some engineering specific jobs where the demand is so high that applicants shoot for the moon, and often times get it. The market is unfortunately growing faster than the skillsets. You need to be a little weary of these people. Yes, it’s great that they’re vocal about what they want which is a good asset to have on your team, but they also might be over confident and take on things which they are grossly underqualified for. This could be disastrous for your products or organization.  

I need to scale my teams hype-growth style. 

It’s said that doubling your teams in a year can’t/shouldn’t be done. When you try to scale too quickly you often make poor hiring decisions which leads to you either cutting some of those new hires because they don’t work out, or losing some veterans because the team dynamic has changed. You had 10 to start, you hired 10 more, but you let 2 go and 3 left due to the mess that was created, so you’re really only +5. 

Where does culture fit into the importance level of applicants? 

Culture fit is the MOST important part of any hire. You can teach skills but if someone can’t acclimate to the culture, it’s impossible to work around that. Bad hires are almost always due to bad culture fit and the bad ones you make are always more costly than the good ones you miss.  

How big of a role does data play in your hiring? 

There are lots of data points to look at, such as testing scores, and quantitative feedback from interviewers. But at the end of the day, hiring is an emotional decision. Most people have panels that decide and some even involve an advocate for the minority opinion but numbers rarely, if ever, are a final decision maker. Although, earlier in the process, they could be. 

The take away from this dinner is that these leaders play a much larger role in their organization than their titles state. They are the #1 recruiters charged with thinking about how to fill the funnel and build the best team possible all while still being extremely productive in their day to day job functions. For them, their livelihoods are all about risk management, from the decisions they make on products and code to the people they hire to support them.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

MassTLC, CHEN PR and What’s Next

CHEN PR has enjoyed a long relationship with the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council. We strongly believe in its mission and, in fact, our agency’s history parallels MassTLC’s. We’ve always been involved in one way or another, so the decision to become a Global Sponsor was an easy one for us.

When CHEN PR opened its doors in 1996, we did so with an enthusiasm for the vibrancy of the Massachusetts innovation community. It was a time of great promise – and much turmoil – for the technology industry here and around the world.

Through the ups and downs, the optimism of the people of this community has never wavered. MassTLC and its member companies have consistently been at the vanguard of that positivity and progress – leading with a vision and a message that embodies the history of our region’s world-leading innovation, while keeping a steady focus on what we can continue to do collectively to make the world a considerably more efficient, safer, healthier, happier and ever-advancing place.

Like MassTLC, we’ve enjoyed having a front row seat to some of the most important movements of the digital age. With tens of dozens of clients through the years, we’ve worked with multibillion-dollar, publicly traded global leaders, venture-backed startups defining new markets, and hyper-growth companies capitalizing on bringing just the right product or service to market at just the right time. M&As. IPOs. Funding rounds. Information security and privacy. Networking and telecommunications. Software. Hardware. Services. On-prem. In the cloud. And we can’t wait to see what the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings next.

Three years ago, we made the decision to relocate from our longtime location in Waltham, which served us well for so many years, and take up residence in Boston’s Downtown Crossing neighborhood. The city was on the cusp of a Renaissance, a reversal of the flight to the suburbs that had previously driven construction of the impressive string of office parks that line our famous Route 128 and Route 495 corridors. We knew something big was unfolding – and we wanted in.

Today, we’re excited to be in the thick of “what’s next” for technology and our great city. With the Innovation District across the Fort Point Channel to one side and Kendall Square across the Charles River to the other, the hum of DTX is undeniable and invigorating.

Serving as a vanguard for the state’s tech industry, MassTLC has been in the thick of it, too. The organization and the people who drive it have built a robust community comprising Thinkers and Doers alike. MassTLC’s programs draw the best and brightest (and those who aspire to be) in their respective industry segments, like security, internet of things, cloud, big data, healthcare technology, robotics… and other areas where innovation is transforming industries.

Look no further than the recent NewCo Boston festival for evidence, as more than 1,000 people throughout the Greater Boston Area got a look behind the curtain at 80+ of the region’s most creative firms. Host companies’ expertise ranged from virtual reality, ecommerce, clean tech and marketing to transportation, exercise, food and drink.

Given the dynamic nature of the innovation economy, Massachusetts is now home to multiple associations and organizations, emanating from both the public and private sectors. It is outstanding to have this type of infrastructure; it’s a requirement for expanding upon Massachusetts’ role among the world’s most influential tech capitals.

We’re equally fortunate that MassTLC remains the region’s consistent, proven voice and the leading network for tech executives, entrepreneurs and investors. We’ve always applauded MassTLC’s tireless dedication to furthering the tech industry agenda in Massachusetts to the benefit of the state as a whole – working on its own and by partnering with other groups.

CHEN PR is excited to be increasing our role in those initiatives. Working even more closely with MassTLC and the hundreds of companies it represents, together we’ll help make “what’s next” unfold.  

(P.S.: Stop by and see us every Thursday eve in Boston’s Dewey Square Park near South Station for the Boston Calling Summer Block Parties. Catch some live music, have a drink and challenge us to a game of corn hole… if you dare.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

NewCo Boston Host Company Fun Facts - Bob Dame, Executive Director, Year Up Boston


Bob Dame, Executive Director, Year Up Boston

1. Why Boston?
Boston is a vibrant, diverse city with a lot to offer in terms of opportunities and culture.

2. What's the one word to describe how people will feel after leaving your NewCo session?    

3. If you could have a beer with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?    
Abraham Lincoln    

4. If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?    
Cheerios - it does the job.

About Year Up BostonYear Up envisions a future in which every urban young adult will have access to the education, experiences, and guidance required to realize his or her true potential. Our mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.

Want to learn more? Visit the Year Up Boston offices and meet their leaders on April 27, 2016 during the inaugural NewCo Boston Festival of Innovation!

Session Time: 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM

Session Title: Year Up - proven diverse talent in sales, IT, and accounting (and, coming soon, programming!)

Learn More & Register at

Monday, April 25, 2016

Barriers and New Pathways: Exchange with the U.S. Air Force : April 22, 2016

MassTLC non-defense companies were invited by the MA Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force to join discussions at a U.S. Air Force Innovation Forum on April 22nd at the Boston location of the Cambridge Innovation Center.

The Air Force is initiating a series of forums to engage with non-traditional innovative tech companies and to understand how they can work to incorporate this innovation into their “business plan” in the future.  The launch of this series took place in Boston last week and attending were Governor Baker and the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force.  Secretary James chose Massachusetts for the initial session as a jumping off point for a series of regional forums the Air Force is holding across the country - all aimed at accessing America's intellectual capital.

A variety of non-traditional defense companies attended the forum and participated breakout sessions discussing strategies and potential paths forward.

The Air Force in Massachusetts employees tens of thousands of people and adds billions of dollars annually to the Massachusetts economy.  At this forum the Air Force discussed key efforts currently underway to access technologies from non-Defense companies, and they listened to our industry partner’s ideas, interests, and experiences.

A new Commonwealth partnership to help companies match their products and services to federal agency needs and programs, and to educate companies on quicker and simpler pathways to doing business with federal agencies was also announced.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James with Sampriti Bhattacharyya, Founder of Hydroswarm Inc. (underwater drone intelligence)

NewCo Boston Host Company Fun Facts - Steven Conine, CEO & Co-Founder, Wayfair

Steven Conine, CEO & Co-Founder, Wayfair

1. Why Boston?
It is the best city in the USA!  

2. What's the one word to describe how people will feel after leaving your New Co session?    

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you and why?    
10 - You're either a 1 or a 10 not sure where a middle amount of weirdness gets you :)

4. What movie, no matter how many times you've seen it, do you have to watch when it's on?    
Caddy Shack

5. What business would you love to start?    

6. In the past few months, what is the smallest change you made that had the biggest positive result?    
Switched from lagers to IPAs

About Wayfair: Wayfair offers a zillion things home. With one of the world's largest online selections of furniture, home furnishings, décor and goods, including more than seven million products from over 7,000 suppliers, Wayfair helps people find the perfect product at the right price. Our extensive selection and superior customer service coupled with the convenience of online shopping, make it easier than ever before to find exactly what you want for your home at a price you can afford.

Want to learn more? Meet Steve and the Wayfair team on April 27, 2016 during the NewCo Boston Festival of Innovation!

Session Time: 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Session Title: Technology Innovation in eCommerce

Learn More & Register at

Saturday, April 23, 2016

NewCo Boston Host Company Fun Facts - William Brah, Founder, Venture Development Center


William Brah, Founder, Venture Development Center

1. Why Boston?
Learn something new every day. 

2. What's the one word to describe how people will feel after leaving your NewCo session?


3. What trophy do you want on your mantle?

Giant check from AT&T, Samsung or Panasonic

4. In the past few months, what is the smallest change you made that had the biggest positive result?

Wrote a personal take on a business topic, and got lots of likes. 

5. What book do you think everyone on your team should read?

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

About the Venture Development Center: The VDC opened in 2009 with one simple goal in mind: to make it easier for exceptional entrepreneurial teams with important ideas - no matter what university they attended - to take the strategic step from their university setting to a more commercial environment where they can obtain the data required to secure investment and launch their companies. Today, we are proud to be launching some of the best startup companies anywhere, and to be stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Massachusetts.

Want to learn more? Visit Will and the VDC team inside their office on April 27, 2016 during NewCo Boston!

Session Time: 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Session Description: Nowhere else in the city will you meet a group of 28 year olds, who within one year raised $500,000,000 to write suicide message to cancer cells. Scientific American selected SQZ Biotech as 1 of the top 10 World Changing Ideas. Join SQZ and the VDC for an in-depth and focused look at the simple device that is changing the world.

Learn More & Register at

Thursday, April 21, 2016

NewCo Boston Host Company Fun Facts - Betsy Weaver, Ed.D., CEO, President & Founder, UbiCare

Betsy Weaver, Ed.D., CEO, Prisident & Founder, UbiCare

1. Why Boston?
I grew up in the suburbs. I wanted my family to grow up in a heterogeneous city and Jamaica Plain is perfect.

2. What's the one word to describe how people will feel after leaving your New Co session?

Inspired ... I hope!

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you and why?

Probably a 6. I'm a visionary ”the good, the bad and the ugly of it." 

4. What movie, no matter how many times you've seen it, do you have to watch when it's on?

Most recently, Spy with Melissa McCarthy. 

5. In the past few months, what is the smallest change you made that had the biggest positive result?    
Repeating the following every day: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference." Also, remembering that the key to good business is to treat others the way I want to be treated.

6. If you could have a beer with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?    
These three people (followed by links to their talks that you should watch): 

Scott Galloway 

Sally Kohn 

Karen Armstrong

7. What did you miss in the interview for the worst hire you ever made?    
I was too impressed with credentials and not with what they could prove they'd already accomplished.

8. If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?
Oatmeal with fruit and nuts healthy, high protein and low calorie. 

9. If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?    
Bette Midler. She's smart, sassy and a good business woman. 

10. What book do you think everyone on your team should read?    
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

About UbiCare: We work in healthcare because we care. We joined forces with forward-thinking hospitals and partners to evoke “patient engagement” long before it was the buzzword it is now. We form meaningful, long-term relationships between hospitals and patients because it's the right way to care for people. It's the kind of care we want as patients, and the kind we want for everyone. Our end goal is Making Us All Better – and we live by this mission.

Want to learn more? Visit Betsy and the UbiCare team inside their office on April 27, 2016 during the inagural NewCo Boston Festical of Innovation!

Session Time: 8:30 AM - 9:30 AM
Session Title: You Can't Change the World Without Disruption

Learn More & Register at

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

NewCo Boston Host Company Fun Facts - Kevin Wiant, Executive Director, Venture Cafe Foundation / Roxbury Innovation Center

Kevin Wiant, Executive Director, Venture Cafe Foundation / Roxbury Innovation Center

1. Why Boston?
Venture Cafe started in six years ago to connect the innovation community by managing spaces and programs for gatherings.  Venture Cafe was awarded the opportunity to run the Roxbury Innovation Center by the City of Boston in 2015.  The Roxbury Innovation Center is focused on local economic development in the Roxbury neighborhood.

2. What's the one word to describe how people will feel after leaving your New Co session?

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you and why?
Ten (assuming ten is the highest ranking)

4. What movie, no matter how many times you've seen it, do you have to watch when it's on?
All episodes of Star Wars

5. What business would you love to start?
We are doing what we love to do now

6. What trophy do you want on your mantle?
No trophy, just the satisfaction of having created great new companies and jobs

7. In the past few months, what is the smallest change you made that had the biggest positive result?
Opening the Roxbury Innovation Center

8. If you could have a beer with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?
Way too many options here, we operate as a team

9. Whats is your superpower?
Connecting others to create great companies

10. If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?
You really don't want to have me sing

11. If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?
Granola - lots of options, its crunchy, and diverse

About the Roxbury Innovation CenterThe Roxbury Innovation Center is a civic experiment that will support local economic development by encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship. The Venture Café Foundation runs the Roxbury Innovation Center as a mission-driven not-for-profit gathering and event space. The space is positioned as a platform: a local space that will be available for many groups to provide programs that support innovators, entrepreneurs and business founders. In addition to working with many programming partners–like our flagship programming partner, SkyLab, with their Educate-Activate-Incubate bootcamp approach–Venture Café also produces programming to activate the space and connect the innovation economy.

Want to learn more? Visit Kevin and tour the Roxbury Innovation Center on April 27, 2016 during the NewCo Boston Festival of Innovation!

Session Time: 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM

Session Description: Learn how a neighborhood innovation center will help to increase local economic development in this Boston neighborhood with the highest unemployment rate.

Learn More and Register at

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

NewCo Boston Host Company Fun Facts - Lou Shipley, Founder, Black Duck Software

Lou Shipley, CEO, Black Duck Software

1. Why Boston?
Boston is a tech hub and a worthy rival of Silicon Valley for overall leadership.

2. What’s the one word to describe how people will feel after leaving your NewCo session?

3. What movie, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, do you have to watch when it’s on?
Monthy Python & the Holy Grail

4. What trophy do you want on your mantle?
The Stanley Cup

5. What book do you think everyone on your team should read?
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Want to learn more? Visit Lou Shipley and the Black Duck Software office during NewCo Boston on April 27, 2016! Watch the short video below!

Session Time: 8:30 AM - 9:30 AM

Session Description: We look forward to an interactive discussion that will be led by Lou and other executives on how we are transforming Black Duck by changing our market focus from open source compliance to open source security where the opportunity for customer acquisition and revenue growth is much greater; and by embracing and perfecting a high-velocity sales model pioneered in Boston that is the envy of and being copied by Silicon Valley. 

Learn more about NewCo Boston and purchase tickets here: