Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bettina Hein on the Innovation unConference and What Makes Boston’s Innovation Scene Buzz

Bettina Hein
It’s that time of year again – MassTLC unConference time! In fact, it's this Friday! To get us all in the mood, we sat down with some of Boston’s best leaders and unConference mentors to find out what they think makes Boston’s innovation scene buzz and what to expect from this year’s unConference.

First up, Bettina Hein, Founder and CEO of Pixability. Bettina has entrepreneurship in her blood, dating back at least as far as her German grandfather. Bettina is a fixture on the Boston start-up scene, and serves as a role model for other female entrepreneurs, starting the ShEO Network with Zipcar founder Robin Chase. Her take on the Boston start-up scene below:

What makes Boston an innovation hub?
The unique thing about Boston is the large concentration of educational institutions. That creates many graduates who are prime suspects for founding new businesses, working in new businesses, and just making our start-up economy so vibrant.

How is innovation evolving in Boston and where is it heading next? I am really bullish on the Boston innovation ecosystem because of the number of companies being started here, as well as the number of support initiatives we have access to, like TechStars, Mass Challenge and the BREW entrepreneurship week. Each of these programs support young companies. I believe that Boston will be home to the next billion-dollar tech startup.

Are there any elements that we lack that would make our ecosystem thrive even more? Yes! There is a very concrete element missing – high-speed rail access to New York. I believe there is an innovation corridor between Boston and New York, as so many companies who have headquarters in NY, not to mention the vibrant media hub there.

The commercial orientation of New York married with the cerebral qualities of Boston makes for an extended metro area of innovation. But to link that strongly, we urgently need the Acela to take one and a half hours, not three and a half.

What advice would you give young female entrepreneurs just starting out? I’d give the same advice to both male and female entrepreneurs, though often women need to be edged on a little bit more. Just go do it.

Don’t wait for this next nugget of experience or this certification or this Master’s degree that you think you need to become an entrepreneur. Go out, do it and get the experience. Education and experience are great, but you don't learn to become an entrepreneur by studying it from afar.

What brings you back to the unConference each year? I love that the unConference is like a hive – it’s so alive with conversations and brings people together the way a conference should. It’s egalitarian- no people on pedestals with adoring onlookers, but rather people interacting on a peer-to-peer level. Individual ideas count - more than being selected by a committee of people who say this person should be on stage, but this person cannot.

As a previous mentor, what do you enjoy most about mentoring? For me, I so enjoy helping someone make progress in his or her entrepreneurial journey. It could be on a personal level, where you tell people about your own journey and share. Or it may be about sharing industry facts that the mentee needs to know. It gives me a lot of satisfaction if I can help someone become a better entrepreneur or found a better company.

How can entrepreneurs make the most of this year’s unConference? Prepare. Look at the mentors to determine who might be able to help your company take a step forward.

But once you're there don't get too hung up on that.  Look for the people that you wanted to talk to, but keep an open mind as to who else could contribute to your success. Go a bit with the flow.

Thanks for your great insights, Bettina. We look forward to seeing you THIS FRIDAY, November 16 at the Hynes Convention Center for the MassTLC unConference

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