I woke up yesterday morning and read an interesting update in the Boston Globe on the pulse of the Boston market as compared to the investment environment throughout the United States. Over the last several years, Boston has been compared to other VC markets, including San Francisco and New York, and has come up short.
But something different is happening now. For the first time in nearly seven years, Boston VC firms kept the majority of their investment local, with homegrown startups. Flybridge Venture Capital, Battery Ventures, General Catalyst, Bain Capital Ventures (and the list goes on) are seeing great ideas turn into solid revenue-generating businesses within the 30-mile radius of Beantown.
But why? Could the IPO parade led by Care.com-- and soon to be followed by the likes of Wayfair, HubSpot, Acquia, and others—be fueling interest in Boston innovation? Is the local tech community’s investment in innovation finally delivering? Have investors recognized the deep pool of Boston-based entrepreneurial talent?
I believe VCs have tripled their fundraising efforts from 2012 to 2013 for a variety of reasons. Sure, the market is starting to heat up on the “exit front” (IPOs, M&As, etc.), which has Boston tech companies and their VC firms walking with a bounce in their step. But VCs are also starting to recognize potential and invest earlier in the start up’s lifecycle. This trend towards earlier seed investment helps fuel strategic ideas, credibility, leadership and personal connections that support the start up’s business goals.
It’s refreshing to see VCs investing resources earlier in a start up’s lifecycle. This helps start up’s management team build critical infrastructure for that company to succeed. For instance, marketing (digital) teams, whether internal or outsourced, that are developed early can have a tremendous impact on a start up’s potential to acquire more investment, interest and brand equity. Based on the pace of investment from VCs and the attention on our local market, C-level executives that I have spoken with are beginning to realize the benefit of engaging in brand-building programs (think content, earned media, social awareness) as a major part of the equation for their companies short, as well as long-term success.
Marketing dollars are being earmarked earlier at the strategic stages of the company’s growth, fueling value across the business and throughout the brand. Start ups can develop more of a brand presence by strategically utilizing influencers, or driving content programs that engage with prospects or customers, which can contribute to critical early stage success. The enhanced brand equity has a long-lasting impact as companies continue to innovate, grow revenue and strive for their exit strategy.
As an agency, we have some amazing emerging growth businesses that are really playing a major role in hot markets (mobile, big data, cloud). That, coupled with brilliant teams and solid executable business models, makes for a promising 2014. Hopefully the Boston tech community does not lose its momentum or focus and we are able to capitalize on the collective brand strength of Boston’s innovative start up community.
Photo Courtesy of the New England Venture Capital Association.