The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boston Tech: 2016 Update

Today, we are excited to re-release an updated Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boston Tech!

This guide is a living and breathing site, so we make a bit of a push to update it on an annual basis to keep things fresh.

I wanted to point out a couple things in the updated guide, but the general theme is that we are simply seeing more, bigger, and better things happening here in Boston. To name a few:


1. More exciting, industry-leading companies.


Most impressively, there seems to be a thriving startup of every flavor, with many more joining the list of Pillar Startups on the Guide in 2016 compared to 2015. These companies have a long way to go until global dominance in many cases, but they are all growing, hiring, and strengthening the local community right now.

Want businesses with massive reach and international presence? How about Jana, which brings internet access to the developing world and boasts 30 million global users?

Want hardcore futuristic technology? There’s Semantic Machines, one of the best collections of AI and ML minds in the world, led by serial entrepreneur Dan Roth.

Want the next TripAdvisor or Wayfair? Look out for bootstrapped CarGurus, one of the leading used-car properties, targeting over $150M in revenue this year.

The next SaaS leader like HubSpot could very well be InsightSquared, with a top-rate team and an industry niche they’re positioned to own. The next big consumer company could be BookBub, with millions of users, a ravenous fan base on social channels, and global reach. The last year also saw a local, public tech company acquiring another local, public tech leader, as Constant Contact was acquired by Endurance for $1B back in November. And although they’re not a startup, GE’s decision to move its global headquarters to Boston is a positive sign. Yes, they’re bringing 800 jobs, which isn’t the thousands we would prefer, but with those 800 comes their organization’s global leadership. Additionally, few legacy companies have been as successful in innovating through younger channels like YouTube, Vine, Snapchat, podcasting, and more. Put all that together, and consider that this is a company that thinks in decades or even centuries, and we’re bound to see both more jobs and more acquisitions.

(Editor’s note: NextView is an investor in InsightSquared and BookBub.)


2. Much more funding.

The investor section received by far the most updates. This is true when it comes to early-stage funding, but also as it relates to support platforms being built by local firms to help Boston-based startups. I’ll discuss the latter in a second, but first, the increase in investors…

A number of super-angels and angel groups institutionalized in the past year, creating a broader set of seed-stage funds, like Converge Venture Partners. A handful of industry-focused funds have also burst onto the scene. These promise to add significant expertise and capital to some of the Boston tech scene’s strongest areas. This group includes firms like Hyperplane, focused on machine learning, and Procyon Ventures, focused on next-gen infrastructure, machine learning, and the IoT software spaces.

We also saw the emergence of new early-stage and growth-stage VC firms created by veterans of other Series A and B firms looking to disrupt the traditional venture model.

On the early-stage side, this includes groups like Assemble, founded by Michael Skok, John Pearce, and C.A. Webb, as well as security-focused TenEleven, co-founded by Mark Hatfield. On the growth side, we saw the emergence of new firms like Elephant Ventures and Wavecrest. Overall, the Boston funding market is strong and getting stronger, with a healthy addition of fresh new thinking and a mix of both new investors and experienced individuals employing new strategies.

As for this idea of support platforms: Underscoring the capital and expertise provided by these investors is the emergence of “platform” activities — projects both public and private that are focused on better supporting entrepreneurs and teams. NextView’s platform launched a couple years ago (platform home) and actually helped birth the Hitchhiker’s Guide microsite. However, we’re far from alone, and we’re thrilled to see more funds than ever thinking progressively about supporting entrepreneurs. (“Progressive” is not a word often associated with Boston VCs in the media, but it’s a word that increasingly deserves to be.)

3. Thought leadership originating in Boston.

In addition to the steady stream of terrific blogging and exciting events like the Consumer Tech Summit, the re-launched WebInno (now BIG), Founder Dialogues, and the NEVYs, we’ve seen Boston innovators take to new mediums (like, well, Medium) to share their knowledge with the world. In particular, this past year was one where podcasts came to life, including ours (Traction), Tech in Boston, David Cancel’s Seeking Wisdom, and several others.

Boston’s own growth marketing guru Brian Balfour also launched an 8-week course which saw thousands enroll globally, while others in Boston tech aimed their efforts at helping people land that perfect startup job, get inside the cultures of local startups, better tell their company stories, build and manage a modern marketing team, and a ton more.

Overall, we’re thrilled by the continued progress of this community and the way it continues to grow and evolve.

Yes, we have a long way to go from a company growth standpoint (and some pundits seem to like to making that clear). We’d also like to see much more diversity across the board, as well as the successful removal of inhibiting noncompetes. These are all obvious and crucial areas to improve.

But we’re also realistic, which in this case means we’re optimistic: There’s been noticeable momentum and growth in just a year, and there’s a wider diversity of thriving startups and teams than ever before.

After years of writing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boston Tech, first as a series of link roundups (here’s my very first, from 2009), and now as this site (and its 2.0 version), I can safely and confidently say: It’s never been a better time to be in Boston tech, and it’s never been more important to keep catalyzing this great community.

Explore the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boston Tech >>

PS: If you see anything missing on the site, click the links beneath various sections to add it to the community-submitted list.