TL;DR: After a dozen years, Boston Innovators Group as we know it is sunsetting, but I will be regularly creating new, focused events to contribute to the ecosystem. The first event focused on voice computing will be held on June 27th. You can learn more and register here.
When I moved back to Boston back in 2004, the area was a pretty lonely place for internet entrepreneurs like myself. Still recovering from the dot-com startup crash, the local ecosystem wasn’t conducive to getting together informally and fostering collaboration. Most of the local events were exclusive and expensive to attend, making it hard to meet new people in the community.
So, my natural inclination was to do something about it.
The first event was small — just a dozen people interested in the future of the internet. We squeezed into the back room at Tavern in the Square in Central. The next time, twice as many people showed up. And by the third event, which marked the official beginning of the Web Innovators Group (aka WebInno), we had dozens of folks attend. (And looking back, it was a pretty impressive group of individuals.)
Over the next few years, the organization (later renamed the Boston Innovators Group or “BIG”) quickly grew to become the flagship meetup gathering in the local tech entrepreneurship scene. It took off so quickly because it filled two huge needs in the community:
- It provided a meeting place for those in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to share and exchange ideas.
- It showcased our local web and mobile startups at their very earliest stages (including companies like Dropbox, Reddit, Birchbox, ThredUP (now a NextView portfolio company), and Localytics)
But most importantly, to me at least, was hearing the personal stories from attendees. Nothing has been more gratifying than hearing, “I met my cofounder at BIG,” or, “I found my first investor there,” or, “I got a startup job because of connections I made at the event.”
Fast-forward to today, and the landscape is very different. Accelerators, incubators, and co-working spaces have flourished in Cambridge and Boston — each of them providing “demo days” and other forums for their startups to present for exposure and feedback from their peers. Award events like the NEVCA’s NEVYs (where I serve on the Board) and BostInno’s 50onFire celebrate accomplishments in the innovation community. And, the number of tech networking events on any given night would exhaust you if you attempted to attend all of them. Today, those two missing pieces — general tech networking and highlighting local startups — have been filled, which is absolutely fantastic.
As a VC here in Boston, I believe that it’s important that I not just be a participant in the local ecosystem, but also a meaningful contributor to it as well. That’s why I started BIG in the first place. Given all of the ecosystem’s progress over the past decade, the best way for me to channel those energies isn’t by indefinitely carrying the same quarterly events under the BIG/WebInno flag with the exact same format.
What’s Next for Boston Innovators Group
One of the whitespaces I see in Boston events is the lack of focus on specific domains, especially those on the very forefront of innovation. Personally, I’ve recently been on a thematic pursuit around personal voice computing. With over 10M Amazon Echo devices sold, the introduction of Google Home, and a myriad of voice computing devices and services on the horizon, I believe that we are potentially on the verge of the next shift in computing platforms.
So the next BIG event on June 27 will be entirely devoted to the idea of #VoiceFirst. The evening’s program will feature both startup demos, as well as exclusive panel discussions and content, with of course networking conversations dedicated to the next frontier of voice computing.
If voice computing interests you, I hope you can join us. You can learn more and sign up on the registration page.
So after nearly a dozen years, it’s time to say goodbye to the old BIG/WebInno and start the next chapter. Thanks to everyone who has been along for the ride so far — I hope that you’ll continue this journey with me.