Thursday, November 15, 2012

Michael Skok on the Innovation unConference, Entrepreneurship and Startup Secrets

Michael, tell us about your involvement with the MassTLC Innovation unConference

The Innovation unConference is such an important initiative for entrepreneurs, innovation and the Boston technology ecosystem.  In order for innovation to succeed, our community needs to create forums and platforms for continuous, collaborative learning.  That means bringing together the best talent in our industry to share their experiences, insights and best practices. What better way to get that learning than to have entrepreneurs and innovators engaging amongst themselves, continually refreshing, refining and improving. This is where both the mentors and mentees benefit equally.  I think what MassTLC and all the mentors are doing for the community is phenomenal. I'm psyched to be a part of it this year and for years to come.

You are passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation.  Tell us a bit about your passion and your endeavor, Startup Secrets.

When I look back on my fortune as an entrepreneur, I wish I could rewind the clock and start my first ventures again with the knowledge I have today.  I call this the unfair competitive advantage, and although it is impossible for me to go back in time, I know I can put the lessons I learned to use for today’s entrepreneurs.  This is why I started Startup Secrets. It is but one way to give back to our thriving community of entrepreneurs and support industry efforts such as the Mass TLC unConference, now in its fifth year. Startup Secrets was also propelled by my realizing that there is a mentorship gap, a deeper need to connect those with extensive practical experience with the new talented leaders in our growing startup community. So the format I follow for Startup Secrets is a collaborative one – I bring together successful entrepreneurs to share their stories and insights, so we can collectively give back and help the new leaders, and learn in the process.  I see my efforts and the efforts top entrepreneurs as a catalyst where we all learn as much from the emerging companies as their leaders learn from us. This is why I have committed to finding the best founders, the top innovators, and the most talented product managers, to come and participate in Startup Secrets.

You are a strong believer and supporter of all things cloud and open source. Can you comment on what cloud and open-source innovations will come from Boston next year?

Drupal is the largest open source community in the world - a community that has built tremendous value for businesses. There is a very-well established Drupal movement in Boston and one Boston-based company that is leading the charge behind commercializing it is Acquia. Boston has a heritage of tackling very hard problems - we are not afraid of doing things at the infrastructure level, which allows innovations such as the cloud to come forth for networking, storage, database, and big data. We will continue to see Boston having some of the best startups. The Boston community has a great, diverse culture, combing arts and technology, and I predict that some of most interesting innovations will come from that combination of art and science.

How can entrepreneurs connect with you and the Startup Secrets track?

The best place is to start is on my website-; entrepreneurs can also join me at the Harvard iLab for the Startup Secret series. The series offer the core aspects of running a startup and an opportunity to meet a number of the entrepreneurs in the audience. We will create other programs and think about other ways to create more collaboration and continuously learning in 2013. We trust that having three of North Bridge’s partners at the unConference will provide us with inspiration about such new initiatives next year.

Michael Skok joined North Bridge Venture Partners in 2002 to seek out great entrepreneurs and lead innovative software investments.  Prior to this, Michael had himself been an entrepreneur and CEO in the software business for 21 years.  Michael has invested in many great entrepreneurs who have built over a $1bn of value focusing on large market changing technologies and disruptive business models such as SaaS, Cloud Computing, Open Source and Mobile. Michael's passion for innovation and entrepreneurship is also fueling his work mentoring and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs. For example he is currently developing and leading workshops such as the "Startup Secrets" series with the Harvard iLab. His work in this regard can be found online at

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