Over the past 2 decades, we have seen entrepreneurial ventures and communities develop in major cities across America. This has been a great thing, and it has set the stage for great things to come. But the development has been occurring primarily within cities, leaving large gaps in the population. In 2010, I realized this, when I looked out into my backyard and saw that not much entrepreneurial activity was going on in the suburbs between Boston and Cape Cod, the area known as the South Shore. This made me wonder, because I knew many people working on startups who lived in the area. What would it be like to have a vibrant startup community happening nearby? My heart beat fast and I got stars in my eyes. I knew it would be extraordinary!
I had many hypotheses:
- A startup community in the area could help strengthen the existing startups and support the creation of new startups.
- Reducing the commute time to “work” in Boston would easily save startup employees 10-15 hours per week in lost productivity.
- In an age where we can do it all remotely, we have lost the human component of social community, which has been key to our survival, success and happiness on this planet.
- Enticing entrepreneurs to leave their basements, kitchens, home offices and coffee shops would increase the chance of success by allowing solo entrepreneurs and small teams to interact with others and create community.
- An innovation center in the area would lower the barriers to entry and lower the risk factors for someone without startup experience to try out his or her entrepreneurial spirit on a chance and an idea.
- Suburban entrepreneurs are different from city entrepreneurs. They can do great things, but they require different types of support.
Ultimately, the goal was to increase the chances of success by bringing together people with ideas who wanted to start companies and try to create something of value and try to direct those efforts towards sustainable and impactful innovation. I set out to explore these hypotheses and see if we could test them out as a community.
From all of this, South Shore Innovation was born. It started as a community drawn together through weekly Innovation Round Table meet-ups and grew from there as we co-founded an innovation center and developed programming. We have connected hundreds of people with ideas and early stage ventures. Our impact has come through the hard work of volunteer mentoring, workshops, events and active connecting. We have helped young entrepreneurs take the leap into the startup world. We have helped older entrepreneurs explore new territory and learn what it takes to succeed, fail and succeed again. Some of our startups have seen great growth. All have contributed to creating jobs and rethinking the world to make it better through innovation and/or social impact.
For the past year, we have been at a crossroads, which has resulted in the incorporation of South Shore Innovation as a Massachusetts nonprofit (currently awaiting 501(c)3 status) with a board made up of entrepreneurs and business people who want to make an impact by continuing to extend and support entrepreneurship to the suburbs and other areas with underserved populations. Through programming, events and collaborative team-oriented workspace, we will continue to support those who are moving beyond the first mile of their startup journey — after an accelerator program, out of a university or once they have achieved initial customer traction in their market of focus. In order to prepare America for the future of work, we cannot just focus on people within cities and people of means. Entrepreneurship is the hope for the future if we teach it, encourage it, support it and build community around it.
We are currently in the process of securing space in the Quincy or Braintree area for a flagship innovation center that can serve as a focal point for our programming and startup community, which has become fractured over the past year. Once we re-establish that basecamp and get to a point of sustainability, our vision is to extend services throughout the region and connect the dots between our areas of focus and existing startup communities that are mostly within larger cities.
Please show your support of this mission by filling out this 1 minute survey and providing a few personal words of support. This will help us immeasurably as we look for additional funding and as we work with partners in the area.
As we continue this journey, we cannot do it alone. We have drawn on many volunteers and will continue to do so. If you are interested in helping the cause financially as a donor or sponsor, please click the Donate button on our website. If you are interested in being a mentor, workshop or event organizer, volunteer or participant in any way, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can do this together, have fun and make a great impact.
“Alone we go faster, together we go farther.” – African Proverb