Monday, October 31, 2011

UnConference Session: Reinventing the Board of Directors

Session leader: James Geshwiler

James asked the question:  Why are you here?   What's on your mind?

Answers included:
  •  I'm here because I'm looking for directors
  •  I'm setting up my 1st board, looking for advice
  • We have 2 insiders and 2 investors and are adding a strategic investor who wants to be on the board
  •  Want to know how to look out for the founder's interests
  •  To learn how to find and cultivate high quality boards
  • To learn how I get the most out of the board; I spend 50% of my time managing the board so this is important
  •  I see lots of boards that are not that active; how do you get them involved, get them engaged?
  • Board members who do this for a living; how do you make this beneficial for the Company
  • How do you navigate the issue of a board member who's dealing with the issue of preferred stock vs common stock?
  •  I've seen a good board that taken us up, followed by a bad board that's taken us down
James:  Boards are incredibly relevant; I want to explore that.

There's no training for board members. 
The board is a team.
Therefore WHO is on the board matters.

Scott Kirsner Interview at MassTLC Innovation 2011

While roving the MassTLC Innovation 2011 unConference, I got the chance to speak with author and Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner at Innovation 2011 about the panel he led with CEOs from companies including Constant Contact, LogMeIn and iRobot, the benefits of the unConference, why Massachusetts is a great place to start a business and the one thing he recommends we change for next year's unConference (an easy fix!).


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Session Notes from "NY vs. Boston Tech Scenes: It Is Not a Rivalry"

Session led by Jared Chung 

In general, the biggest challenge we face is that we are physically separated too often. Co-location is the most impactful thing we could do. 

The following no-limit ideas were generated in the discussion: 
  • Send a Boston contingent to NYTechMeetup and ask the NYTM to send a contingent to MassChallenge or NERD once every quarter ("The Boston Trek")
  • Subsidized travel between Boston and NYC for entrepreneurs on short trips: (a) NECorridor Acela tickets (The "NETechCorridor"), (b) the StartupBus, (c) Dedicated entrepreneur hotels or housing / Techbnb 
  • Can we get Mayors Menino and Bloomberg to shake hands on the co-development of the Tech communities? 
  • Let's set up "twin entrepreneur villages" where there are a dozen seats reserved for entrepreneurs visiting each city on short 2-4 day trips. (e.g., at CIC / MassChallenge and at General Assembly)
  • Livestream simulcast locations for major Tech events - assemble a list of events in each city and offer simulcast locations in the other city (e.g., NYTM night at CIC, or MIT Elevator Pitch night at NYTM) 
  • A list of mentors in each city willing to mentor for startups in the other city ("MentorList" alla AngelList?)
  • Talent matching to create distributed NY/Boston teams of startups
  • A Wiki-style list of the things each city does best and the "winning" companies and VCs in each city 
  • Potential for incoming corporate sponsorship and mentorship in a cross-city fashion 

Notes from unConference Session "Occupy unConference"

We started out the session by introducing ourselves and explaining our interest in the session. I will state individual statements, but exclude names since I did not ask permission at the beginning of the session.

The first participant splits his time between Boston and Vancouver, and has been amazed by the political influence held by Occupy Vancouver. He wonders how innovation can address the issues of the occupy movement.

The next participant posed the question “what’s fair?” and wonders what sort of opportunities his children will have. He believes our society has gotten to the point of being ridiculous.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How to Mash Your Big Data Cloud, and other unConference Lessons

Written by Lawrence Schwartz (@SchwartzLawS)

Warming Up
The MassTLC unConference started on Wednesday night, with a pre-party at Storyville in Boston. I got to meet a lot of the younger 20 somethings enjoying a night out and heard everything pitched from very targeted ideas (a collection point for all your recipes - see MyReci) to helping with broader social issues such as propping up our local economy (see Luvn'Local - like airline miles but for shopping locally was how it was explained to me). 

I had to look a little harder to find my infrastructure brethren. A few drinks later, I hit across one of the more talked-about places - Yotta, who recently had a big launch. Their value prop is simple and clear - most web sites take an average of 6 seconds to load but most people are unhappy if it takes longer than two. They can fix that. I pressed William Toll, their marketing guy, for how he's been successful in getting the word out, and he gave three pieces of advice - tweet, blog at least once a week, and make a good infographic (theirs, admittedly, is pretty cool - see here).

Friday, though, was overdrive with several sessions on Big Data and the cloud. I enjoyed in depth discussions on the following: 

SoMoClo: Social Mobile Cloud, hosted by Andrew Borg @MobileAberdeen
Andrew made the case that in order for SoMoClo (Social Mobile Cloud) to be successful and offer a good experience, all 3 elements must co-exist. In fact, how useful is your iPhone or Android, save for playing Angry Birds, without your mobile connectivity?  And SoMoClo is not just big for the consumer side. Jeffrey Tingle of PolyRemedy noted the need in healthcare. He pointed that there is $27 billion in federal economic stimulus available for those who can effectively access electronic medical records. SoMoClo is a way to do this. There are several inhibitors, however, for this area to continue to develop - privacy, compliance, security, and authentication among the most notable. The panel also covered how "mash-ups" are not limited geo-social apps for the college set. With tools such as IFTTT.com and Yahoo Pipe, people can combine the cloud with other expected communication methods such as texting. 

Big Data/Analytics in MA hosted by Steve O'Leary of Aeris Partners and Bob Zurek (@bzurek) of Endeca



First question - what is Big Data? While often debated, Steve had a working definition of "big" in terms of Volume, Velocity, and Variety. Mark Rubin of Oracle, who focuses on MySQL, noted that we are collecting everything now because we can. That has led his firm to look at options from extending MySQL to completely alternative platforms (like NoSQL). Fritz Knabe of Netezza/IBM noted that Big Data can come from even the most unexpected places, such as the point-of-sale coupons at checkouts as managed by Catalina (an IBM customer). And while the infrastructure to support Big Data has continued to evolve and mature, there is a real need to make data accessible and interesting for new insights. A number of companies and ways to do this were discussed, such as Tableau, infographics, and Opengov. The model for people to pay for data analytics is proven too. Bob took a quick poll to see who used LinkedIn Premium, and a good number of hands went up. A primary benefit of that is additional analytics - a way for you to see who has viewed your profile as one example. One issue and opportunity though for Boston is that while we have a lot of "data geniuses" in town, many of the people at these data companies are focused on selling to others of a similar mind set. There is a lot to be done still to package Big Data and make it accessible to non-data "geniuses."

Fear not, as Steve and Bob (shown above) were building enthusiasm for a BigData cluster in Boston to tackle this issue and to build a community. They estimate there are about 100 companies around the space - not bad and reminiscent of the wireless cluster around Boston, which boasts around 400 places.

BigData on Small Devices led by Raphael Cariou of RealityFrontier. 
After a big lunch and break, it was time to keep the Big Data conversation going. One of the topics in this group was a practical one on the Big Data cloud - how much do you have to have local to your device? If you are going on a hike in the woods, for example, you may very well want to have the latest maps downloaded, lest you lose connectivity (you better bring a spare battery too, in that case). While getting much more than a sliver of the cloud into your pocket isn't practical given the size of mobile data pipes (and required forethought), there are times now when this happens automatically. Most people can easily have their last 1000 photos local on their iPhone or Android as one example.


Secrets of Scaling Startups led by Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe
At the end of the day, I took my head out of the clouds and listened to some battled-tested veteran CEOs talking about scaling - not data, but the other kind - how to scale a startup. LogMeIn's Michael Simon noted that he started as a freemium model just for the heck of it. He did not know that it would eventually bring exponential growth. Meanwhile, Gail Goodman, Constant Contact's CEO, talked about making it through the ups and downs and their tough 3 years of early fund raising -- in 2000 they had a post money valuation of $27M, in 2002 it was a post of $5M. They got the last laugh though - their market cap today is around $600M. She kept persevering through it and grew the company, even over the objections of a board member who wanted to sell early. It just goes to show if you believe in the scalability of your data and/or your business, then you should keep at it.

Notes from Session “Post Acquisition Depression” led by David Rose

David recently sold Vitality to an L.A. based investor. David is still the CEO but is left out of major decisions within the company. As he has signed a non-compete, he is trying to decide how to spend his remaining 14 months. He hoped that this session would help him learn from the experiences of others who have been in a similar position.

Several other entrepreneurs in the room had better experiences with their acquirers. One man recently sold his company to Google, and felt that Google continues to respect him as the leader of his company. He was able to retain his team, his management style, and still makes key decisions when it comes to the leadership of the company. He stated that Google is run like a start-up, and wonders if there are other companies who understand how to integrate entrepreneurs successfully.

A Visual Tour of MassTLC's Innovation 2011 unConference

Council Trustee Dan Bricklin shot over 300 photos at MassTLC's Innovation unConference. Most are close ups of individual participants so if you were one of the 800+ people in attendance, check out this set on Flickr to see yourself or someone you know.

Session 3 - How to know when a venture guy is bluffing? Finding the right funding partner

Session Leader: Jeffrey Beir
Consider staged investments rather than taking a big check from a vc. Hitting staged milestones that proves out your business balances valuation and amount of capital raised/preference. It also allows for an early exit if that seems like the best path, but doesn't preclude raising more capital if the opportunity warrants it.

Considerations and questions to help you assess the venture firm and their fit with your business?
  • Do they have expertise in your space? If they don't and don't know anyone who can really be helpful - they're bluffing.
  • Do they ask you hard/good questions? If they don't, but prefer to pontificate and give their uninformed opinion, they are bluffing.
  • How much ownership/capital do they need to put to work to justify their involvement? If they need to own 30-50% and put $15-30m to work, and you only need $5m to get to break-even - don't kid each other, they are bluffing.
  • Do they have a slot? If they sit on 10-12 boards, have a backlog of deals waiting for exits and really don't have a slot to devote to your deal - they are bluffing.
  • How do they view your early investors/angels? Likely your angel investors took a lot of the early risk and have provided a lot of value to get you to this point - if their firm philosophy is to limit their involvement and crush their ownership position, maybe not a great fit.
  • Board style. You probably did this because you are an entrepreneur, think you're pretty good at predicting the future and are comfortable taking risks to change the world. If their deal structure or board style will make you feel like an employee and not an owner, probably not a great fit.
  • If they don't think you're the right guy to be CEO - do they tell you why, what they're looking for, and when they think is the right time to make the change. If it's thoughtful - respect them for your directness. If they want to make the change before they put the money in, perhaps it's not the right deal for you.

UnConference Session on Getting into Tech Stars

By guest blogger, David Wong

Katie Rae, Managing Director, TechStars Boston @ktrae
David Cohen, Executive and founder, TechStars @davidcohen



They have support from the MassChallenge (Scott Bailey @scottbaileyBTV) and DogPatchLabs (Gus Weber @gweber) crew, love when simliar objective organizations help each other!
  • Early deadline was encouraged 
  • Extra opportunity for TechStars to hang out with the founders and teams
Reasons why you want to be at TechStars
  • When you're around exceptional people/companies, it makes you want to be great(er)
  • Amazing awesome mentors in different industries
  • Mentors want you to succeed

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jeff Taylor Crashes #unCon video

Amy Black, MassTLC VP of Marketing and Membership, gives a quick overview of this year's unConference and is interrupted by Jeff Taylor, founder of Monster.com and Eons while filming. Now THAT's the unConference for you!

More #unCon posts

The MassTLC Innovation unConference is still going in full force. While we try to sit-in on as many sessions as possible, we'd like to highlight some other people's perspective from the day.

Paul Hlatky covers the unGardener.

Briana Cavanaugh covers the unConference facilitation.

What afternoon sessions have you been to?

Guest blog: Selling to a Small Business: The Best and Worst of B2B and B2C

By: Kristin Dziadul
Led by: Randy Parker

Small businesses today make up a majority of the businesses and hiring bodies in America today. While they are lucrative in talent and new ideas, they are not so lucrative in incentives to buy.
You can sell to small businesses all day but chances are you will not make a sale until they are ready to either make a switch in products they use or recognize a new need they have. The key, as discussed during this intimate panel of eight, is to be there when they are ready to buy. This may seem both obvious and a bit silly since it seems to defeat the purpose of marketing to prospects, however the point is that there are ways to easily capture sales-ready leads.

There are several ways to do this:

1 - Use affiliate programs
Affiliates excel the awareness of a product or service to a buyer when they are ready to buy. While this will cost you a pretty penny, it is worth it to reach right into sales-ready pipelines via affiliates to get instant sales without a lengthy nurturing program.

2 - Use hard proof that your service works
By telling a person that a company such as Zappos uses your technology to improve x,y,z and demonstrating the clear advantages they've achieved by using the product, you are both building up credibility and exemplifying real success stories that are well known.

3 - Optimize your SEO program
When businesses are ready to buy, chances are they will visit Google, Bing and the like to determine which is the best solution for them. If you can be there both organically and with paid ads, chances are much higher that your company site will be clicked on than if you were not optimized. It’s all about being up front and center to the buyer at all times.

4 - Trusted referrals can go a long way.
Empower your best customers to be your best product champions. Encourage them to suggest the product to their friends and colleagues. Chances are, if they really believe in your product, this will be easy to obtain. While not scalable since there will probably only be a select few diehard fans of yours, this powerful word-of-mouth can go a long way via a few good customers.

5 - Go to local events.
Josh Bob of Texturant explained that they co-hosted a local event with Where and Constant Contact. This event opened the doors to a tight-knit group of people with whom these companies could develop close relationships with and have one-on-one conversations.

6 - Use cross-industry referrals
An example was given that local restaurants can refer their customers to a great hair salon next door. This does not defer any current restaurant customers away from their business -- it simply helps promote local synergy, benefiting both parties.

While exciting and sensible as these ideas seem, there are, of course, challenges to marketing to small businesses.

First, keep in mind that small businesses don't consider themselves small businesses. Instead of making a 'small business' a target market person, hone in on who within that small business market is your actual target. You can segment small businesses by verticals, industries, positions within the company, etc. Think deeper than just 'small business' because you may not reach the real decision makers and the ones with the actual pain point and need if you are marketing at that high of a level.

Second, many companies today find it hard to sell to their Board of Directors or investors the idea of selling to small businesses. Most see this as a very tough sell and, many times, a waste of time and money. They understand these companies are tight on budgets and sometimes can have drawn out sales processes due to not being sales-ready at the time. While focusing on their business goals and sustaining a profitable business model, you are then forcing them to make a decision to buy something they may not have thought about before.

Understanding the right ways to reach these people is the key to get both investor and board buy-in and to actually obtaining a profitable market segment.

If you are currently selling to a small business, what are your challenges and opportunities? How have you or others overcome them?

Guest Blog: Focus on the Right Metrics -- Early Stage Startups Session

The Unconference’s early-stage startup session was lead by Parul Singh of Gradeables and Lean Startup Challenge. The round-table discussion offered a sampling of metrics to measure, recommendations for tools to use, as well as a clear message that you shouldn’t get too caught up in measuring everything for your startup.



Participants considered the importance of funnel metrics, tracking the behavior of your users throughout each step of the customer lifecycle. Several people noted that the exact metrics you use for this can be different for B2B and SAAS versus B2C companies, especially mobile. David Skok’s blog was mentioned as a particularly helpful resource for SAAS companies.

All agreed that getting started on the right foot was important. The commitment to measurement can’t just be for business. You have to create a culture around data, get buy-in from your developers, and establish right foundation for your tool or website at the beginning so that you are prepared for data collection. The point was made that you can always “subtract data later” – or choose to focus crucial KPIs later on as you define your business and product more. But what you can’t do is go back and add numbers you weren’t tracking before if you didn’t set up your back-end properly.
All that said, I really liked one man’s point that you can’t forget what your core competency is. He explained that sometimes companies get off on a tangent building up their own metrics databases, when at some point it would really be a better use of time and resources to invest in a tool to help them not only collect data but efficiently analyze it. It seemed that people were using a variety of tools, including:
  • Get Clicky
  • User Mood
  • Kissmetrics
  • Performable (HubSpot Enterprise)
  • Mix Panel
  • Google Analytics
  • Fluery
  • Contastion
  • Localytics
  • Chat Trends
  • At This
  • Trada
  • Unbound
  • Verify App

Last but not least, when it came to selecting what metrics to measure, I loved that that several people mentioned customer feedback as a resource. Asking people where they heard about you with another question at the end of a contact form or offering customer opinion surveys were just two of the ways participants were using real human feedback – not guessing – to choose what data they would track. Now I’m a huge fan of that.
One thing I would add that wasn’t mentioned in the session – follow #measure on Twitter. There’s a ton of value in that stream when it comes to finding articles about A/B testing, email, marketing and other metrics topics.

Session recaps

If you missed the lunch sessions:
Matt Rushton covers "How to pick a startup accelerator" and "TechStars Unplugged."

Thanks, Matt!

Session 2: Company Culture

Adrian Wong covered the Company Culture session at the MassTLC Innovation unConference.

Led by: Eran Egozy, co-founder, Harmonix spearheading discussions

- The group was diverse from a company just started out with 2 people to a large company started 9 years ago employing 300+

Two ways of thinking company culture:

1. What do you do: habits, introducing new employees, holding events, awards
- When you get bigger
You have to set rules, but always have exemptions so individuals feel respected
- Awards

Having specific awards (ex. Most transparent individual award - hope you are more creative with the name than mine) that amplifies the company's cultural values instead of employee of the month
- How do you tie the brand and the culture? Or is it even possible?

At Harmonix, most are in some sort of musical consortium but if they are not chances are they will be in a few months (they have their own band room)

- Competitons
Create friendly inclusion of each department for each group/team
- Hold meetings that don't stink and also provide transparency (see point #2)
The sooner you create weekly meetings, the easier it is scalable and implemented
Speaking of HR! The purpose of having HR is to prevent employees from suing the company, not help employees with the problems they have (sorry not a knock on HR). Have a professional tasked with helping and not preventing.

2. Set of core values: ex. transparency, hiring policies
- Transparency - as company grows bigger there is a tendency to hide things (check out BzzAgent and Hubspot)
- Hiring someone - if you don't want to hire jerks then sniff them out early so as the company grows they will pick out the talent pool individuals who are the same as they are (which are not jerks) (side note - have individuals not in management be involved in interview procress who understand culture well)
- Have lunch meetings and round table discussions on what is going on in the company (management telling them what is going on) (side note - if you don't want to bore employees in such meetings - pay attention)

- How do you get feedback?
You think you know but you have no clue: ignorance is not bliss
Have a mini conference with day long sessions in smaller groups with sessions that targets that reverberates the company values but also have individuals voice their honest opinions in an intimate environment

Resources
- Read Tony Hsieh's book "Delivering Happiness"
- Check out Netflix culture deck

Info you want to go social
- Twitter @MassTLc
- Hashtag #MassTLC #unCon
- Blog: blog.masstlc.org
- App (yes they have an app!)

10 Common Startup Mistakes

Session two included 10 Common Startup Mistakes. Full post here.

What other sessions did you attend before lunch?


#UNCONCOLLEGE

I’m a Senior at BU interested in jumping into the Boston start up scene along with hundreds of other students in this city. This panel at the Mass TLC Unconference comprised of people looking to make that number thousands as soon as possible.

Karl Buttner of Mass Challenge began the conversation asking everyone to introduce themselves and talk to the students in the room. What are the problems students face breaking into the scene and most importantly what can we do to fix it?


Read Paul's full post here.

Going Freemium

Full notes from the Going Freemium Session at the MassTLC Innovation unConference.

Key Takeaways from Innovating Social Tech

Adrian Wong provided notes from Innovating Social Tech

@ Innovating Social Tech
Andy Maddocks, R2integratingBoston @andymaddocks spearheading discussions
- What is social? (if you aren't familiar) Social is the ability to connect people to places to ideas
- Where the opportunities arise: education, commerce, causes, engagement, health & social, across daily life, visibility, ideas-to-interaction
- Problem: Social space is a fragmented market which sparks the notion on metrics
- Is Measurement a constraint on innovation?

Very few people knew what are the metrics that would impact consumer behavior
- Demand-side development targeting specific user populations

Stop being monolithic in your social brands, have more specific conversations

Being a generalist engaging a large audience will provide little value when it comes conveying a message; mainly true with large corporations as they are still figuring out social

Be more location-centric
- Bringing an app into market would in essence require SEO & SEM
- There is lack of understanding the "leveragability" of older technologies into newer applications

Optimizing thank you notes
Read the book "The Thank You Economy" on the power of simple thank you notes engagement
- How can social appeal to B2B

Provide customer support
Engage developer communities
Community share same applications across different industries
Utilize inbound methodology (if you are curious check Hubspot.com)

Some of the outstanding concerning B2B: security, privacy, confidentiality
- Is there a silver bullet? Not so much since the space is continuously fragmented

Possible solution: Become focused and not be the end-all-be-all solution; find your "passionate" customers to "participate" into the development for the TOTAL ORGANIZATION COMMITMENT

Communities of Interests
1. Entrepreneurs need to leverage them
2. Utilize crowd sourcing capabilities to create and curate R&D process

Info you want to go social:
- Twitter @MassTLC @adrianjwong
- Hashtag #MassTLC #unCon
- Blog: blog.masstlc.org; adrianjwong.tumblr.com
- App (yes they have an app!)

Stay up-to-the Minute on the MassTLC Innovation unConference

Besides MassTLC blogging actively throughout the day, we also have some awesome folks blogging from different sessions. If you can't be at the MassTLC Innovation unConference, the updates will make you feel like you are a part of the event and if you are attending, it will help you get the best from all the sessions running concurrently!

Brothers Matt and Kyle Rushton will be updating frequently throughout the day from the unConference. We encourage you to visit their blog to follow along. You can also follow Matt and Kyle on Twitter.

Happy Innovation unConference day!

Bill Warner’s Pick Up Line for Today

Bill Warner, Founder and Co-Chair of Mass TLC Unconference takes the center of the room this morning to greet the technology leaders of the country. He begins by reminding us that we are “part of something big.” He explains that ”Boston is the forefront of new technologies. An entrepreneur comes to Boston and realizes they can do anything here.”

Full post by Paul Hlatky here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jeff Taylor on Innovation in Mass and the MassTLC Innovation unConference


Serial entrepreneur Jeff Taylor chatted with us at MassTLC about the state of innovation in Massachusetts and what the MassTLC Innovation unConference means to him.

Jeff is the founder of six Internet companies including Monster.com and Eons. Currently, Jeff is launching a new startup called buffalo.dj, a talent management company for the electronic dance scene and his own music festival (think Coachella and Bonaroo). For more info, check out Scott Kirsner's article about it here.

MassTLC: What makes Boston a great place for incubating innovations?

Jeff Taylor: The vibrant startup community in Massachusetts, including organizations like MassTLC and the and incubator programs like MassChallenge and TechStars, contribute to our powerful ecosystem for innovation. As a mentor, I'm invested in the startup scene in Mass. It's not just a place where I provide guidance, I also learn from the entrepreneurs. They keep me sharp, and that's part of what's so special about the Massachusetts innovation scene. It's thriving and growing and everyone benefits from the knowledge and drive.

MassTLC: What drives innovation here in Massachusetts?

Jeff Taylor: The recent micro-investment climate is a driving factor in local innovation. I'm amazed by the great gamesmanship in our state, bringing new ideas to market at the faction of the cost. Instead of requiring $1-3 million in funding, companies are getting started with much, much less. I also think educational institutions and the young entrepreneurs here drive innovation.

MassTLC: What's your favorite unConference memory?

Jeff Taylor: Last year I organized a session on Brand vs. Quant. The room was just slightly too small, so I rallied the troops to find a bigger room. On the way, I asked each person to tell others they passed to join their session. It kept growing to over 60 people and ended up as a fascinating, dynamic group discussion. People still tell me today how inspiring last year's session was.

MassTLC: How can entrepreneurs get the most out of this year's unConference?

Jeff Taylor: Woody Allen once said, "80% of success in life is showing up." It is incumbent on the attendees to get out of their shell, meet new people, share new ideas, bring personal challenges, your unique expertise, and your unique brand to the conference. It's important to really expand from your circle of personal acquaintances and friends at the conference to meet others who can help you and challenge you to grow.

Join MassTLC, Jeff Taylor and many others from the tech industry for the 2011 MassTLC Innovation unConference this Friday, October 28 at Hynes Convention Center from 8-4:30. Sessions will be created the day of by attendees and experts-propose any topic you care about and lead a session! Follow MassTLC unConference on Twitter and Facebook.

David Beisel of WebInno on The MassTLC unConference:



We recently chatted with David Beisel, co-founder and partner at NextView Ventures, and founder of WebInno, about the innovation economy in our state. David is no stranger to the power of bringing people together to share ideas. This is his 4th year as an unConference Expert, so we knew he’d have great tips for this year’s entrepreneurs and attendees.

MassTLC: What drives innovation in Massachusetts today?

David Beisel: Universities and young people are the primary drivers. Universities are technology hubs, which serve as a hub-and-spoke model for innovation, where each year we see numerous young undergraduate and graduate students choose Boston and Cambridge for their home.

There's also the state's 'innovation pockets', both in geography and industry. Places like Kendall Square, the Innovation District and the 128 loop- with high density of brilliant minds within very small geographical areas-feed innovation. There are several industry 'innovation pockets' which Massachusetts supports, such as digital media and Internet companies, specifically companies focused on e-commerce, SMB services and mobile ad networks. In the last five years, there have been six major acquisitions in the mobile ad network space that were $100M+, and five of those six were Boston-based companies, like Quattro Wireless.

MassTLC: What's your favorite unConference connection?

David Beisel: Three years ago, I met two young entrepreneurs and have kept in touch with them since – meeting every several months to receive updates and talk shop.

MassTLC: What do you love about the unConference?

David Beisel: I love the unConference because attendees can both lead and participate in topics that matter to them. If you find you aren't as interested in the given topic, you're encouraged to find a different session, and if, on the way to the next session, you happen to run into few people and start an interesting conversation in the hallway, that is ok too. It's a very democratic marketplace for ideas.

MassTLC: How does one make the most of the unConference?

David Beisel: The key is not just attending the conference, but following up afterwards and transforming an initial one-time interaction into a budding business relationship. People who get the most out of the unConference are really proactive afterwards.

If you would like to join us for the MassTLC unConference this Friday, October 28 at Hynes Convention Center from 8-4:30, visit the MassTLC website. Sessions will be created the day of by attendees and experts-propose any topic close to your heart. Follow MassTLC unConference on Twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cloud Computing on a rainy day

Attendees at the MassTLC Cloud Computing Summit on October 13th had the opportunity to learn about realizing the business benefits of "cloud computing" from experts across the industry. First, however, they saw conventional cloud computing in action, as they braved torrential rain to arrive at the conference.

The cloud, and its application, is evolving rapidly

The day began with a keynote session presented by Michael Skok, of Northbridge Venture Partners and Bruce Guptill of Saugatuck Technology and an executive panel including Chris Brookins, VP of Engineering, Acquia and Tom Ebling, CEO, DemandWare.
No surprise, Michael noted that cloud investment is on the rise, with greater than 75% of companies employing public or hybrid clouds. Lawrence Schwartz penned a great post about the presentation on the Tokutek blog, TokuView and cited:

- Michael's observation that agility, scalability, and cost are the biggest drivers of cloud adoption--but that in five years, the drivers will hinge on innovation, mobility, API's and competitive pressures.

- Bruce's remarks that cloud adoption levels were about one in three for new IT applications last year, but that we are heading to a one in two tipping point in 2014--and that that buyers are demanding cloud offerings, which in turn is driving 90% of ISV’s to some sort of cloud based presence.

- Chris's conclusion that his company, Acquia, had resolved the portability issue (i.e., vendor lock-in) and was therefore able to grow to 60k users

Michael’s presentation on the Future of Cloud Computing can be found here.

Private, public, hybrid: Each has its strengths
Brief highlights are below from the panelists concluding that there are pros and cons of both public and private cloud solutions:

- Employ public clouds for economy of scale, use private clouds only for applications where security is a priority.
- If you can predict your needs, and don't need the agility to scale up and down, consider using the private cloud.
- That said, with predictable loads, the public cloud can be very cost-effective.

Breakout sessions:
After the keynote, attendees had the option of attending two workshops. I attended the sessions on usability and mobile. The other sessions focused on making the transition from on premise to SaaS and the challenges and considerations for moving to the cloud.

Usability case studies: 37 Signals, Amazon and Box
In addition to offering an entertaining format, Cory did a great job of defining the issues. He explained that the panelists would each focus on three of four companies: Netflix, 37 Signals, Amazon, and Box. Cory then asked each panelist to focus on a specific usability challenge that the company faced when developing its product.

The audience decided against hearing about how Netflix handled the challenge associated with moving from Netflix to Qwikster to Netflix. The loudest among us opined that there was already too much discussion of this topic. Cory's presentation of the four examples can be found here.

Simplicity vs. Flexibility
First up, was Joshua Porter, Director of UX at Hubspot, who Cory asked to discuss the tradeoffs of Simplicity vs. Flexibility using 37 Signals as a case study. Joshua noted that when building HighRise, 37 Signals' designers chose to employ only a small set of screens. He compared this approach to Salesforce's more complex user interface, which provides tremendous flexibility.

Josh point out that High Rise entered the market after Salesforce--and that simplest wins at the beginning. He added that disciplined designers, aim to keep the initial interface simple, but plan for future complexity.

These designers keep sequence and flow top of mind at all times. They then may use a technique like "progressive disclosure" to reveal additional features in the right order at the right time. The example he provided was the presentation of essential elements first, with a link to advanced options.

He then described his own research experience at Hubspot. One example, he gave was the ordering of tasks. When testing the application with actual users, he quickly found that marketers prefer to create an email campaign before they build or specify a list. As a consequence, Hubspot now permits users to do exactly that.

Great user experiences vary by market segment
Karl Wirth, CEO, Apptegic, centered his remarks on the difference between a good and great user experience. He began by noting that it's hard to argue with Amazon's approach, especially now that we know how successful it's been.

Then, he described a good vs. great experience using a restaurant meal as an example. There, a great experience is when either you come across a pleasant surprise or you get an experience that represents a significant improvement over what you expected (e.g. lower price, faster, etc.)

Karl's observations highlighted the importance of knowing who you want to serve--and what they value most. He argued that Amazon provides a great user experience to the technical and financial buyers it aims to serves, because it doesn't use a GUI.

He added that we now have analytics that will tell us how successful users employ our products. When used as a part of a thoughtful strategy, he believes this makes is easier than ever to learn what constitutes a good user experience.

Freemium to Enterprise: Do you see what I see?
Joe Baz, Founder and CEO, Above the Fold, reiterated the importance of market segmentation in his discussion of how to design a single application that spans the spectrum of users from Freemium to Enterprise.

Joe spoke about the different perspectives of consumer, IT, and corporate users--and the importance of giving each an experience tailored to his/her own preferences and past experiences. His tip: design for each segment's workflow.

Using Box as an example, Joe explained that consumers want to dive into sharing files with their teams. IT, on the other hand, concerns itself with security, and individual profiles for different users, so they prefer to start by viable product often strikes the right chord.

Enterprise IT departments, on the other hand, need to start with Account Management, assigning appropriate security levels and rights to different types of users. Nevertheless, their users need to see a much simpler interface, very much like that the one consumers prefer

There was also some discussion of the cost of Freemium and ensuring that there is sufficient volume of paid customers to offset the costs of supporting free users. Someone noted that another way to justify the cost of Freemium is to assign it to marketing expense. This individual noted that this is a way to shortcut the buying process and accelerate the sale. The hope is that users that experience the Freemium product will sell it to their colleagues, thus obviating the need for a lot of marketing collateral.

Multiple perspectives create great value
In short, it was a great morning. The Mass TLC's cloud computing summit addressed the topic through the eyes of multiple players, from IT to Marketing to the financiers. Best, was the opportunity to hear case studies and examples from experts who have "been there and done that". Once again, I'm glad to live in Boston where one can stay at the leading edge without boarding a train or a plane.

Guest post contributed by Barbara Bix, BB Marketing Plus

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 Mass Technology Leadership Awards Gala: Spotlighting Innovation & Leadership in Massachusetts

PEGASYSTEMS' TREFLER, BLUESOCKET'S LILLELUND,
ANALOG DEVICES AND WAYFAIR TAKE HONORS
AT MASS TECHNOLOGY LEADERSHIP AWARDS

Technology Pioneer A. Neil Pappalardo, Meditech; Patrick Larkin, John Adams Innovation Institute; FIRST Robotics and Microsoft New England Research and Development Center Recognized for Industry Leadership

BOSTON, October 6, 2011 - The Mass Technology Leadership Council, the foremost business association that addresses the critical leadership issues of innovative technology and technology-enabled companies announced the winners of the 14th annual Mass Technology Leadership Awards at a gala event last night at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. Pegasystems CEO and Founder Alan Trefler and Bluesocket President and CEO Mads Lillelund, took the top honors in the CEO of the Year categories, with Trefler recognized for his accomplishments as Public Company CEO of the Year and Lillelund for his achievements as Private Company CEO. Leading the Company of the Year categories, Analog Devices and Wayfair, formerly known as CSN Stores took the top prizes as Public Company of the Year and Private Company of the Year respectively. In a special live audience vote, Myomo won Product of the Year.



This year's event showcased the depth and breadth of the state's vibrant technology ecosystem, with nominees in a wide array of technologies. "The richness of the burgeoning technology industry in Massachusetts was on full display tonight," said Tom Hopcroft, President and CEO of the Council. "With leaders from early to established companies representing mobile, energy, health IT, and other important sectors, the Mass Technology Leadership Awards continue to spotlight and inspire the best our sector has to offer."
500 senior executives filled the waterfront hotel's ballroom to celebrate the presentation of the awards, and in a demonstration of the power of using technology real time, audience members used their mobile devices to vote via text message for Product of the Year.

The Council also bestowed four special honors for leadership in the Massachusetts technology community. Those awardees were:

Commonwealth Award: A. Neil Pappalardo, technology pioneer and Chairman & CEO of MEDITECH;
Policy Leader of the Year: Patrick Larkin, Director, John Adams Innovation Institute of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative;
Workforce Development Leader: US FIRST, a world-renowned program that helps young people discover and develop a passion for science, engineering, technology, and math; and
Innovation Catalyst: Microsoft's New England Research and Development Center (NERD)

"These special honors shine a light on individuals and organizations that play a key role in helping the industry thrive and inspire tomorrow's leaders," said Heather Johnson, Senior Vice President of the Council. "This year's winners truly personify the spirit of innovation and leadership that continues to inspire the future of our sector and will help the industry reach new levels of success in the years to come."

The winners, selected from the more than 200 nominees in all other categories are:

CEO of the Year, Private Company: Mads Lillelund, President & CEO, Bluesocket, Inc.
CEO of the Year, Public Company: Alan Trefler, CEO and Founder, Pegasystems
CIO of the Year: Bill Scudder, CIO, Sonus Networks
Emerging Executive of the Year: Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom, Vice President of Production, Harmonix Music Systems
Private Company of the Year: Wayfair, formerly known as CSN Stores
Public Company of the Year: Analog Devices
Deal of the Year: ITA Software
Product of the Year: Myomo

A committee of Council Trustees, local thought leaders and media were involved with the selection process for the nominees and, with the exception of Product of the Year (selected by live vote at the event), chose the winners in each category. For a full list of nominees in each category, go to http://www.masstlc.org/2011awardsfinalists.html.

MassTLC wishes to give special thanks to the sponsors of the Awards Program: Microsoft, Oracle, pwc, Silicon Valley Bank, CA Technologies, Greeberg Traurig, KSquare Law, and Sprint.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

MassTLC Testifies on Digital Games Legislation

TESTIMONY OF TOM HOPCROFT
PRESIDENT AND CEO, MASSACHUSETTS TECHNOLOGY LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
SUBMITTED TO THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON REVENUE
October 6, 2011

Thank you for allowing me to submit testimony on House bills 751 and 3301.
My name is Tom Hopcroft and I am the President and CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council. MassTLC is the state's largest technology trade association, with more than 400 members, including global giants such as Google, Microsoft, AT&T, and Verizon; fast-growing Massachusetts-based companies such as Constant Contact, Acme Packet and Mathworks; and more than 300 small, dynamic companies in mobile, social media and other emerging technologies - including digital games.

I want to begin by thanking Representatives Binienda and Pedone for their leadership on this issue and their commitment to promoting the Commonwealth's innovation industries. As everyone here knows, while we continue to endure difficult economic times, our state is creating jobs at a far brisker pace than most, fueled first and foremost by the technology sector's robust health.

The bills you are considering today could be critical to helping continue that growth. As vibrant as our technology sector is today, we face incredible competition. Not all that long ago, there were two main tech centers in the world - Silicon Valley and Route 128; today we face challenges from not only other American cities and states but from around the world, from Shanghai to Bangalore to Tel Aviv. While we continue to have incredible advantages here in Massachusetts - great new companies springing up every day; the second largest concentration of venture capital in the world; the highest concentration of world class universities in the world; a highly skilled workforce - we face new challengers every day.

This is one of the reasons MassTLC decided to put a special focus on the digital games industry several years ago. In fact, a study we conducted in 2009 was one of the first to capture this dynamic new sector, revealing at the time that it was worth $2 billion and employed some 1200 people. It's also why we host the opening party for the PAXEast conference, one Boston's largest annual trade shows, attracting more than 60,000 industry leaders, designer, programmer and games aficionados.

This sector is poised for incredible growth and Massachusetts must capitalize on this opportunity. In fact, today's diverse tech economy requires us to seed a broad range of tech sub-sectors. Again, if we look back in time, our state's tech industry was once dominated by a single major sector: the minicomputer industry and its offshoots - software that ran the minicomputers; network gear that enabled them to talk to each other, and so on. Today's technology world is a collection of dynamic subsectors - mobile applications, digital advertising and marketing, robotics, social media, cloud-based software, network security, data analytics, just to name a few.

As a state, we need to be seeding each of these smaller sectors, not only to ensure that we reap the harvest from each but also to make sure we create an entire innovation ecosystem that is second-to-none. Innovators feed on one another and many of the core competencies and resources - from programming skills to venture funding knowledge - are shared among these varied subsectors. Now and in the future, our tech sector is unlikely to be dominated by any one single industry but will instead feature a broad array of robust sub-sectors, such as digital games.
The bills filed by Representative Binienda and Pedone are critical to those efforts. The competition for digital games companies is especially acute. Most know about the intense efforts by Quebec and others to lure companies to their regions. We know Hollywood and Silicon Valley will always have built-in advantages in this realm - Los Angeles' proximity to the entertainment industry; the Valley's critical mass of tech companies and investors. We, too, have built-in advantages: the tech infrastructure about which I've spoken and some tremendous success stories already here - companies like Turbine, Harmonix, Rockstar New England, and all the other innovative start-ups sprinkled across the region.

However, we can't take our current success for granted: targeted tax credits tied to increasing employment are an important first step. In fact, we at the council would argue that the Commonwealth should give serious consideration to broadening the tax credit to other key technologies. We would also argue that the state should guard against complacency and take every key advantage we currently enjoy - from our skilled workforce to our investment capital - and redouble our efforts to enhance those advantages.

Right now, for instance, in the midst of a recession that has left far too many unemployed, most of our technology companies have open positions. This is a disconnect we must not abide - open jobs and unemployed people. The state must do an even better job of producing, retaining, and retraining the kinds of workers we need to make our state the world's number one tech capital.

I would close with a final thought: none of us knows which company will turn into the next Google or Facebook. It is impossible for any technologist, analyst, investor, or state official to predict just who will succeed and who will not. But we do know this: continually planting the seeds for those next great companies is essential, not just because we want a chance to create the next big thing but because we know how vital start-ups and small companies are to job creation. No issue is more important to us now or in the future than putting people to work, and giving our citizens the opportunity to have exciting, innovative, and prosperous employment. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Scott Kirsner on Massachusetts Innovation and the Upcoming MassTLC Innovation unConference



We recently had the chance to connect with Scott Kirsner to get his take on why Boston is the place where innovation happens and how the MassTLC Innovation unConference, coming up on October 28, fosters it. Scott is a BIG supporter of new ideas. He pens the Innovation Economy column for the Boston Globe, and is heavily involved with the events including Future Forward and the Nantucket Conference.


MassTLC: What makes Boston a great place for incubating innovations?

Scott
: It is all about the smart, talented people in our city. It is about the students who go to the great schools in Boston and decide to stay and build their businesses here. And we have the companies to prove that Boston is indeed one of the most vibrant, energetic places where entrepreneurs have long-term impact. Among those that deserve recognition are Kiva Systems, which has revolutionized the logistics industry, A123 Systems, changing the face of the transportation business, Nuance, speech-enabling every aspect of our lives, and Zipcar, which is changing the way we think about transportation across the globe. But singling out just a handful of companies doesn't do justice to all the other great startups in Boston who will become household names in the next few years.

MassTLC: How does the unConference support the innovation you are describing?

Scott: The MassTLC Innovation unConferece is one of the largest gatherings of technology talent and entrepreneurs in Massachusetts. It gives people the unique chance to bump into each other, share ideas and soak in insights from the numerous sessions. It all helps boost the spirit of possibility in Boston. The only downside is that there is so much happening at the same time. People are bound to miss some of the sessions they want to be part of. I'm still haunted by the six or seven sessions that I did not have a chance to attend last year. This year I am going to buy 10 digital recorders and have them planted in each room, so I don't miss a great insight or conversation!

MassTLC: What would you tell an entrepreneur about the Innovation UnConference?

Scott
: If you didn't have a chance to join the event last year, you definitely need to be part of it this October. Plan to get there first and leave last. Take advantage of the one-on-one sessions with the experts and make every attempt to meet as many people and make as many connections as possible. A ton of talented people will be together in one place – bound by the outpouring of help and energized by the collective booster energy.

MassTLC: What is one of your best unConference memories?

Scott
: Last year Steve Vinter from Google spoke on how media production and consumption are forever changing. There were no slides, just smart people huddled in a room, discussing the future of media.


Join us for the MassTLC Innovation unConference on Friday, October 28 at the Hynes Convention Center. Click here to register. Follow MassTLC unConference on Twitter, Facebook, or join our unConference group on LinkedIn.

Thanks for Scratch Marketing+Media, the official PR agency of the MassTLC Innovation Unconference.