Is Boston the Rodney Dangerfield of Startup Ecosystems?

Watching the startup world evolve over the past couple of years, I've noticed an interesting trend.  Despite all our improvements and changes over this time, New York has drawn most of the attention after the omnipresent Silicon Valley. Like the entertaining comedian of the '80s and '90s, it seems we've become akin to Rodney Dangerfield (best known for his standup and role in Caddyshack): we get no respect.

Is Boston the Rodney Dangerfield of Startup Ecosystems?


We get no respect in the press.

While on a company by company basis, coverage can often be great for a startup, I always find it interesting how little is mentioned about location in most of the articles on Boston companies. In my experience, any startup in Silicon Valley or NYC gets coverage both of them and how awesome their ecosystem is, but rarely does an article about a Boston company make much mention of our ecosystem. 

It doesn't help that we don't really have any national press in our local area (unlike the Valley which has most of the tech press and NYC which has the Times, Wall Street Journal, Mashable, AOL properties, etc), but I think it boils down to no respect for Boston as an ecosystem or at least the decision it's not an interesting part of the story.

We don't have a Fred Wilson.

Quick. Think about someone with great influence in our ecosystem who trumpets Boston as the place to be...Stumped? I was.

We have many great mentors, investors and company leaders, but rarely do I see any of them mention how great Boston is for startups when they have national attention.  Maybe one day that's a great article for OnStartups...

We can't shake Valley envy. 

Like a startup second child syndrome, we seem stuck in a never ending cycle of trying to keep up with the Valley. We've gotten better lately, but it seems to never fully leave the conversation.

Competition is good. Action to borrow ideas from them to make things better here or making the most of other ecosystems (tri-coastal) is good. Comparison for the sake of beating ourselves down or not good.

We keep ourselves down.

While we can debate the meaning of the phrase, "embracing failure," we don't seem to do as well openly talking about failure. As Chase Garbarino wrote in comments to a post on BostInnovation about SCVNGR's recent struggles, it remains to be seen how we treat first time founders in this most recent cycle who fail. 

Another interesting development is the #HumbleBrag on Twitter.  While this isn't just a Boston phenomenom, it has certainly been embraced in our community. This is just a small reflection of our modesty here as even talking with some humility about one's accomplishments can be derided. This is a far cry from a valley-that-won't-be-named where people buy sports cars with vanity plates when they have big exits (not that I want that to start here, but it is a difference).

We don't trust our founders.

Another week, another story I hear of our local VCs wanting to replace our founders generally before Product-Market Fit is complete. As Steve Blank has written, it is a totally different game when a company is in full scale mode, but that doesn't change the fact that in our town we seem to have a tendency to want to replace founders.

When you think about the most famous entrepreneurs in other towns over the years, they're usually the ones that haven't been replaced (or they come back and save the company). Why wouldn't you trust the person that has been there from the beginning, especially if the business is performing reasonably well? If you're concerned, wouldn't mentoring and coaching potentially help build them up? 


What are the Causes for this?

So with all these symptoms for a lack of respect, I have a few theories (and would love to hear yours) on why we're like this:

1) We're a melting pot 

- People come to Boston for many different reasons and so it's hard to identify any key motivators that we'd all identify with. The Valley will always be the Hollywood of startups (ie- everyone goes there to try to "make it"), and that's ok.

2) We lack a unified identity

- How would you describe Boston entrepreneurs to an outsider? (no, not Brogramming). It's a hard question. A number of us talked with Bill Warner about this at the Nantucket Conference and rumor has it that it may be a key topic at this year's unConference. A unified identity might help us show more confidence in Boston and the desire to lobby others to join us.

3) We lack confidence

When was the last time you told someone "Boston is awesome. You have to come here to start or grow your company"? Even I've been guilty of missed opportunities. Whether you fully believe it or not, perception breeds reality. Just like Tweeting your weight makes you feel social pressure to lose weight, if we start saying Boston is great a little more often, we might just all do a little more to back up the statement.


What are your thoughts? Does Boston get respect? Why?