Introducing PressBoston

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Just over a year ago now, Pat Kinsel was the third entrepreneur to complain about how hard it was for Boston companies to get national press coverage.  I started trying to figure out why the national press hates on (or really ignores) Boston.  My first pass was an event called PressBoston.  The idea was simple: get reporters who need stories in a room with entrepreneurs who have stories to tell. It sort of worked.  I was definitely humbled by how hard it is to get reporters from outside Boston on stage and in a room without a really powerful hook.

The other discovery was that I couldn’t point reporters to something showing what is going on in the Boston tech community at a high level. Think Rob Go’s Hitchhiker’s Guide but more company and vertical focused. Carrying over from the colonial era, Boston continues to have little townships and communities (figuratively and literally) that do amazing work but are woefully under-connected given their proximity to each other. The first question from reporters I spoke to was: Ok – sounds interesting, but what’s new? What’s going on? Despite living and working in Boston for three years, I struggled to point to a comprehensive map.

V1

PB Timeline

That struggle led me to team up with Hunter Bridges and Emily Gullickson to build the answer.  Two iterations and lots of data entry later, we give you:

http://pressboston.com/

Having spent tons of time at AngelList, I’m a fanboy of the API (props to Joshua Slayton and team).  We agreed to make AngelList our database with the hope that others will participate and make it a living dataset.  At the moment, AngelList does a crappy job of telling a geographic story as the views are too dependent on their ranking algorithm (which is still early) and don’t have critical mass in certain areas, including Boston. But they do a great job describing how companies relate to markets via the tagging system. Knowing that, I started making community profiles for the Massachusetts companies not on AngelList and tagging their markets and funding announcements.

Tags

Tags on a company’s AngelList profile

Our goal was to capture all of the tech company funding announcements in Massachusettes going back to 2010. We have captured most of that data on AngelList now.  I’m sure there are a few healthcare IT deals missing and there are no biotech deals in this set yet. What you see on the home page is a market tag on the left and the total amount raised on the right. Companies can use up to four tags so the amount raised per tag is mainly interesting relative to the other tags (not in absolute terms). We removed tags with only one company. When you click on a tag you see the underlying rounds that make up the funding for that market.

No surprise that Enterprise is twice as large as the number two market. Enterprise forms the backbone of the broader Boston market from an activity perspective. Thinking back to Pat’s complaint, tech reporters seeking the sexy new dating or photo sharing apps are going to come up short with regular stories.  That being said, there are some amazing untold stories behind enterprise software that we need to do a better job telling as a community. Enterprise security and analytics come to mind. I think the data also says that people who think Boston is only enterprise and no consumer are flat wrong. Travel, e-commerce, video and SMB all have very real consumer touch points and are doing quiet well in Boston. Not to mention there is real work going on in “mobile”, which is a catchall, but also includes real consumer names like Runkeeper.

So what’s next?

What you see today is only a start.  If you are a founder in the Boston area, you should claim and/or take a look at your AngelList profile and make sure the tags are accurate. Both online and offline your work is part of a broader story.  Place matters for that story. The vast majority of national tech reporters reside in either San Francisco and New York and do not have an intuitive feel for the Boston community.  We must map it out so that people interested in Boston can piece together interesting stories and build relationships with companies over time.

The next two features we are discussing are: value created by market tag and showing the top founders by tag.  Money invested is an accurate heat map of activity but a poor indicator of sustainable performance.  Value created via exits is critical for a healthy ecosystem and we are going to try and capture that.  Behind every success there are people – founders, team members investors and advisors. Giving those people credit for the value they have created will hopefully also drive reporters and others to help tell their story.

If you have any questions, comments or ideas, please share @PressBoston!

Making an AngelList Profile Parts 2 and 3

Finished my next two posts on making a proper AngelList profile.  You can read them here:

Crafting an Opening Line

Describing your product on AngelList

A few thoughts that didn’t fit into the posts, but are worth mentioning here:

  • During our annual meeting two weeks ago, we listed a scary stat: between one and two thousand seed startups are going to hit a wall at Series A.  No doubt some good businesses will die on the vine while some bad ones will be funded. It’s a good reminder that we are all fighting for mindshare and awareness.
  • Fundraising is a critical skill for at least one founder on every team.  So much of that skill is about communicating really effectively to a variety of people.  One of the things an AngelList profile immediately reveals is a team’s ability to tell their story succinctly and effectively.
  • Word economy is a powerful tool.  Getting copy to a great place just takes revision after revision.  But when used effectively, words have an incredibly powerful impact.

Making an AngelList Profile

Given how much time I spend helping people improve their AngelList profile, I’ve started a “how to” series over at Medium.  You can see the first post here.  It took me a while to get this one out because I had to take a step back and explain what AngelList is fundamentally.  It was hard to do because I’m so entrenched in their product (and culture as I work in their offices when I’m in SF).

As a quick aside, using Medium has been a dream.  The level of thought that has gone into their product is inspiring.  For example, try and put two spaces after a period and between sentences.  Can’t wait to see how the product evolves.  I will continue to cross post as I write.

Control

Team, product and burn

As far as I can tell, there are three things founders have complete control over when they are building a startup:

  1. Team
  2. Product
  3. Burn

It’s tempting to include traction on that list, but that’s a misleading dream.  Having closely observed dozens of companies, the best teams obsess over these three things.  Focus pays remarkable dividends and traction seems to take care of itself.

 

Hello world (again again)!

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get into Tumblr for blogging.  So I’m starting fresh on WordPress again.  Expect more soon.