Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Innovation Economy T-Shirt

If you're reading this, you are likely a member of the Innovation Economy here in New England: someone who makes things happen.

So this t-shirt is for you. ;)

In all seriousness, I've been playing around with various print-on-demand t-shirt options, and the one I like best is Spreadshirt. (They are based in Boston and Leipzig, Germany, and run by Jana Eggers, who lives in New Hampshire.) The products just look great.

I've been wearing my "Innovation Economy" t-shirt out and about this fall, and a couple of people have asked me whether they're for sale. Well, they are now, and you can choose from men's or women's, short-sleeve or long-sleeve, any color (as long as it's black or white.)

On the back, here's what it says:

...Because, in fact, the Innovation Economy is powered by you.

The logo design is by Tito Bottitta of Here's the short-sleeve white version:

Now, in case you are curious, the prices you'll see are exactly what Spreadshirt charges. There's no mark-up. I don't make any money from these shirts, nor do I get a referral fee or anything from Spreadshirt.

And feel free to post here about your experience with the site, or if you simply think this blog has become far too commercial...


Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 16th: Coffee for No Reason

What if a bunch of us descended on the Cosi in Kendall Square to have coffee together for absolutely no reason?

That would sort of be fun, especially if it was a Friday morning.

Here's how it will work:

Jimmy Guterman and I are hosting. (Jimmy is an editor at MIT's Sloan Management Review, former rock-and-roll tour manager, and author of a really great book on Springsteen.)

We'll be there from 9 to 11 AM on Friday, October 16th. We'll try to grab a table in the dead center of the restaurant's front room. You'll find our pictures below so you can recognize us. Come up and say hi, or introduce yourself to someone who looks like they are part of this craziness.

I'm bringing a stack of brand new hardcover business and tech books that have been sent to me as "review copies." Grab one that looks interesting. (If you feel inclined to write a review -- ideally in 300 words or less -- I'll happily post it or link to it.)

More enticingly, Jimmy is bringing a few free copies of an album he produced: "The Sandinista Project," a tribute to The Clash.

(And if you have something you'd like to give away for free, bring it! There's also an open WiFi network that usually works, in case you want to bring a laptop and do some demos.)

But mostly this is just a chance to meet some interesting people (most of whom work or hang out in Kendall Square) and introduce them to one another... and goof off on a Friday morning. No content, no sponsors, no agenda, no nothing. Just a social-media-driven coffee klatsch.

[ PR Folks: You're welcome to come, but please don't view this as an opportunity to pitch two of the dimmer members of Boston's journalistic firmament. ]

Here's Jimmy:

Here's me:

See you there (and feel free to spread the word...)

The Twitter hash tag, of course, is #CFNR (Coffee for No Reason).

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Know Any College Students in Boston?

Here's the new Facebook Group for the Innovation Open House Series. It provides an opportunity for currently-enrolled students around the Boston area to visit cool companies. We're going to do a pilot group of six to nine open houses this coming academic year.

To read more about the idea behind IOH, check out these prior blog posts:

- Let's Organize Some Innovation Open Houses

- Connecting Students With Cool Companies: Your Ideas?

We'll use the Facebook group to communicate with students about upcoming open houses, solicit their feedback and ideas, and also keep companies that would like to host open houses in the loop.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

What You've Been Missing

A couple quick headlines to remind you about the *new location* of the Innovation Economy blog (the new RSS feed is here, and if you are signed up for e-mail updates [see the box at right], you shouldn't have to do anything.)

See you over there...the URL is pretty simple, too:

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Moving Notice: Please Update Your Feeds

I started this blog in the summer of 2007, when I moved back to Cambridge from San Francisco, and started the "Innovation Economy" column on Sundays in the Globe.

Five hundred posts and two years later, I'm moving it over to

Why? I started the blog on my own because I wanted to get it up-and-running quickly. A really wonderful, smart, and supportive community has developed around it.

I'm moving it to first because it makes sense for the blog and my Sunday Boston Globe column to live in the same place, and second, because I think it'll attract some additional traffic there. I was also part of the founding crew of back in 1995, so it feels like a natural place to be.

The RSS feed for the new blog is here. The URL is pretty easy to remember:

I won't abandon this blog, though it may get quiet. I'll keep it active because the blogroll is a pretty comprehensive list of who is blogging locally (the blog pares that down to just seven "must-reads"), and also, I may need a more independent place to talk about community causes, events, and stuff that may be inappropriate for the address.

My Twitter feed stays the same.

Hope to see you on feedback is always welcome here, via e-mail (sk at, or in the comments section on the new blog.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Latest on the Non-Compete Bill in Massachusetts

I don't intend to turn this into the "all non-compete, all-the-time" blog -- but there's a lot of action on that front right now...

Next week is the Symposium on Bills Affecting Employee Non-Compete Agreements at the Boston Bar Association. (I'll be there.) State Rep. Will Brownsberger will be talking about the latest version of the bill on non-competes -- essentially, his proposal to eliminate non-competes entirely has been combined with another State Rep's proposal to simply limit the way they are used.

Here's his summary of what's in the new, combined bill (you can find the complete language of the bill here.):

    Overview of current working draft of non-compete legislation
    (combining House 1794 and House 1799, bills filed by Rep's. Brownsberger and Ehrlich)


    To protect employees from unfair non-competition agreements while preserving protections for legitimate risks to business assets.

    Basic Approach:

    Prohibit non-compete agreements for lower level employees; for others, allow non-compete agreements but clarify guidelines and give employers strong incentives to require only moderate and reasonable agreements.

    Key Elements:

    - Create procedural protections for all employees
      - Agreements must be in writing
      - Employers making job offers must give early notice that a non-competition agreement will be required, in time for a prospective employee to assess his or her options and decline the job offer before resigning their present job.

    - Clarify common law rules that, to be enforceable, non-competition agreements must be necessary to protect trade secrets, confidential information or good will and must be consonant with public policy and reasonable in duration, geographic scope and proscription of activities

    - Limit term of agreements to one year (unless garden leave payments of at least 50% of total compensation are made, in which case agreements may last two years).

    - Make non-compete agreements unenforceable against employees making under $50,000 and enforceable only to protect trade secrets or confidential information (but not for goodwill) for employees between $50,000 and $100,000.

    - Create safe harbors for very moderate agreements -- giving employers incentives to choose agreements meeting those terms:
      - Six month agreements prohibiting activities of the type the employee was actually engaged in within the geographic area that they were working in.
      - Garden leave agreements supported by adequate compensation (greater of $50,000 or 50% of total compensation).

    - Punish overreaching by employers by awarding attorneys fees to the employee whenever an agreement is reformed or found unenforceable and was not within one of the safe harbors.

    - Otherwise preserving existing law
      - Preserve existing common law defenses for employees facing enforcement actions
      - Not applying new rules to business purchases, covenants not to solicit employers' customers, etc.

    - Effective as to agreements entered on or after January 1, 2010

Welcoming your thoughts...

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Founders Collective: The Newest VC Firm in Town

I've been working this week to find out more about Founders Collective, the newest VC firm in Boston.

They don't yet have a Web site, though there is a bit about them on LinkedIn, and they've been covered lightly by Mass High Tech, PEHub, and Xconomy in June, when they filed SEC documents stating that they'd raised $24.4 million for a planned $50 million fund.

Here's what I've been able to find out so far...

- The three central founders of Founders Collective are Eric Paley, previously co-founder of Brontes Technologies; Chris Dixon, co-founder of SiteAdvisor; and David Frankel, a South African currently ensconced at the Mandarin Oriental. Frankel co-founded Internet Solutions, the biggest ISP on the African continent. There are four other founders spread across Boston, New York and California, but they haven't been named yet. They won't be working full time on the fund, but rather will help source deals.

- FC has been shacked up at the Boston offices of Flybridge Capital Partners, but will soon move out into their own digs, likely in Cambridge. Flybridge (formerly known as IDG Ventures Boston) made a ton of money when Brontes was sold to 3M, and in 2007, Paley joined IDG (now Flybridge) as a senior advisor. David Frankel, incidentally, was the very first investor in Brontes, which developed 3-D imaging technology for use in dentistry, and originally spun out of MIT research.

- What helped them raise $30 million thus far, on their way to $50 million, was a solid track record as angel investors. They've backed about 25 companies over the last five years, including TrialPay, Canopy Financial, Positive Energy, SiteAdvisor (acquired by McAfee for $70 million), Magazine Radar, Link Medicine, and Hunch.

- Chris Dixon is one of the co-founders of NYC-based Hunch, so he'll split his time between that start-up and Founders Collective. (Working alongside Dixon at Hunch is Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr.)

- FC has already made a few investments out of its new fund, and they're closing another next week. They'll typically invest under $1 million, and won't necessarily keep participating in later rounds. They'll aim to get enough equity with the seed investment that they won't be wiped out in later rounds.

- Michael Greeley of Flybridge has only good things to say about FC. "They'll get to $50 million quite comfortably, and that could translate into 60 or 80 companies. Our $300 million fund, in contrast, will be 20 to 24 companies. Their goal is velocity, and I think they'll be a real talent magnet." Already, he says, "they're bringing a lot of volume through the office." Greeley says that the fund will be pretty wide-ranging in its investments: "I think they'll have a highly-diversified seed fund." (Link Medicine, for instance, one of the team's investments that precedes the creation of FC, is a biotech company.) Given FC's strategy of investing early (and not necessarily paying to play in later rounds), Greeley said they will "gravitate to businesses that can get to proof points or break-even with $10 million or $15 million."

- The other VCs and entrepreneurs who provided me info with Founders Collective (and who asked not to be named) all had good things to say about the team. None of the usual VC competitiveness...

- Reached in a cab in Manhattan earlier this morning, Eric Paley didn't want to chat about what they're up to right now, at least until the Web site goes up in a month or so. All he would say was that "information technology has generally been our sweet spot" and "capital efficiency tends to be one of the core rules for us." He sees FC helping to fill the early-stage funding gap in the Boston and New York markets.

We'll keep an eye on them. And of course, do post a comment if you know more...

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