Buzzards Bay Identified As Tech Startup 'Hot Spot’
By: Geoff Spillane
Could Buzzards Bay one day join the ranks of Cambridge’s Kendall Square and the South Boston Innovation District as one of the region’s hotbeds for technology startup companies? A fledgling group of entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors would like to make that happen.
Spearheaded by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, preliminary plans are underway to bolster the region’s economy by positioning the Upper Cape as an attractive place for technology entrepreneurs to launch new ventures.
At a meeting held Monday evening at the Mashpee Public Library, Peter Karlson, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and a founder of several successful technology companies, presented initial plans for the establishment of a “business incubator” for southeastern Massachusetts. The meeting was targeted to accredited investors who may be interested in providing funding for the incubator as plans solidify over the coming months.
According to Mr. Karlson, the idea of creating a business incubator was created last spring at the Smarter Cape Summit, a three-day regional economic development conference, during a conversation with John Landry, an iconic technology investor and entrepreneur with strong ties to the Cape. “The goal is to ‘grow our own’ investable companies and help build the regional economy,” Mr. Karlson said.
The proposed local business incubator would provide office and research and development space and on-premise mentoring for entrepreneurs to get their companies off the ground. Mentoring services would include consultation with experts in disciplines that include marketing, legal, finance, sales, and technology. In turn, investors in the incubator would hold a financial stake in the businesses that may emerge from the operation.
The number of early-stage companies to be admitted to an incubator “class,” and the amount of time they would be “incubated,” has yet to be determined.
Acceptance into the incubator program will be selective, and will be loosely based on TechStars, which operates five incubators in the United States and touts itself on its website as “The #1 startup accelerator in the world…with selection rates lower than the Ivy League.” Mr. Landry is a TechStar mentor.
Questions regarding potential sites for the facility were a hot topic Monday evening.
“We have a general area in mind. The closer to the canal, the better. Buzzards Bay would work well for transportation and highway access, and CapeNet is pulling a big hunk of fiber through there,” said Mr. Karlson, noting that the location would be convenient for drawing talent from three counties—Barnstable, Bristol, Plymouth, and could be an attractive location for professionals seeking an easier, reverse commute from the metropolitan Boston and Providence areas.
Mr. Karlson also cited the availability of an untapped source of talent in the region, what he referred to as an “amazing phenomena”: educated couples, one of whom relocated here for a job opportunity, leaving a partner either unemployed or underemployed.
“I loved the idea and the presentation. It’s like we are creating a mini ‘Shark Tank’ that could bring a lot of our local entrepreneurs to the surface. I do, though, think that Mashpee would be a great place for the incubator. We are only 12 minutes to the bridge, are located between Falmouth and Hyannis and will have the technology infrastructure in place and ready to go,” Carol A. Sherman, president of the Mashpee Economic Development Council and a town selectman, said.
Ms. Sherman and Mashpee Assistant Town Manager Thomas J. Mayo were the only municipal officials in attendance at the meeting.
Now that the initial concept, feasibility study, and business plan are completed or in progress, according to a plan presented Tuesday evening, organizers of the initiative must create a legal structure, recruit initial private investors, secure space, and recruit its first class of entrepreneurs.
Mr. Karlson expects to start raising investment funds for the incubator venture this winter, and anticipates that the program could be up and running within six months to a year. “Every indication we have received from private investors has been positive,” he said.
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