Philip Jacob

East coast startups redux

· Philip Jacob

François writes about east coast startups and Bijan writes some more, all in response to Scott Kirsner’s article in this past Sunday’s Boston Globe (shameless plug: StyleFeeder is mentioned briefly).

There seems to be a dimension of the conversation missing here, though. My view is that there is a veritable wellspring of local developers already working in the consumer space (and even more who want to be). If Boston has any deficiency of b2c/c2c Internet companies, it’s not for lack of technology talent.

It is substantially harder to hire good marketing, bizdev and design people who haven’t spent the last ten years working at banks, biotech companies or consulting companies (with financial services and biotech clients). In fact, most of the design work for StyleFeeder is done either by Canadians or Brazilians and not because they are cheaper or easier to work with than Boston-based designers. It’s because I can’t find a deep pool of design talent here. Boston designers tend to be fairly conservative, which generally isn’t what you want when you’re trying to build for consumers. If you’re a Boston-based designer who thinks I’m wrong about that, I’d love to hear from you.

Marketing and bizdev people with consumer experience are equally tricky to find, again due to circumstances that I have to attribute to the dearth of consumer companies in the area. Technology skills are reasonably portable across industries, but contacts (the proverbial rolodex) and “getting it” are not.  We were able to attract a few great candidates to both of the positions that they now fill, but it took a while and required a lot of patience.  Bringing Dina Pradel and Shergul Arshad to StyleFeeder rounded out a truly kickass team and we’re extremely fortunate to have both of them.

My message to local designers, marketing and bizdev people: speak up and get involved.  The local venture/PE community can certainly help you connect with technology talent, plus there are many events in the area to attend.