@NewCo #Boston highlights! Boston Biz Busting out all Over - visits with 8 engaged entities & observations. Click To TweetBoston Biz Busting Out All Over| Observations from NewCo 2018
For two days last week, I out-maneuvered Boston’s traffic patterns to work my way around to Boston’s “coolest” companies that anteed up their executives, marketing pitches, meals, and SWAG for hundreds of curious peers, colleagues, job-seekers, investors, students, and independent advisors. As this is my second time attending @NewCo, I felt better prepared to take full advantage of this fabulous opportunity. Before I launch into my observations, a loud round of applause to ALL the companies that participated and the hosting organization, @MassTLC. This is a fantastic learning and networking opportunity of the highest caliber and I hope it continues to grow.
My number one observation is that you get out of this what you put into it. That’s for both the companies and the attendees. It’s a chance for everyone to put their best foot forward and engage in intimate, no pretense conversation in a convenient and colorful environment. A major theme was COMPANIES = CULTURE and most of the organizations made a serious effort to distinguish themselves along these lines. Those that didn’t missed a huge opportunity. For companies large and small, it pays to have a C-Level executive in attendance. The attendees are your best nearly free PR in the Boston tech community.
Where I went|
In my company speed-dating, I visited Avecto (Somerville), CloudHealth Technologies (S.Boston/Seaport), Red Hat (S. Boston/Seaport), PTC (Needham), Cengage Learning (S.Boston/Seaport), TimeTrade (Tewksbury), NetBrain Technologies (Burlington), SessionM (S. Boston/Seaport), and the CIC (Cambridge).
What I learned|
@Avecto presented a compelling overview of the $655B Cyber-Security industry. Far from just detecting security breaches, where most of the industry is focused, their value prop focuses on Admin Privileges where over 85% of the of the issues occur and thus becomes a major opportunity for mitigation. Avecto was hatched in the UK in 2008 and is backing their conviction for “security without compromise” with an aggressive growth plan, recently awarded the Golden Bridge Award by McAfee. Golden Bridge Awards (@goldenbridgeusa). Golden Bridge Awards are an annual industry and peers recognition program honoring Best Companies of all types and sizes from all over the world. Thanks to COO Andrew Avenessian for a thoughtful presentation. And what a cool spot for a company – above the shopping arcade in Assembly Square!
@CloudHealthTech I enjoyed seeing one of the original @FutureofCloud companies up close with an engaging overview from CTO Joe Kinsella on how this Cloud Service Management provider is scaling to build its footprint in this explosive sector. Joe himself was an early evangelist and bet his own future on the issues he saw as companies employed multiple cloud technologies. His team has focused on deep customer engagement and seeking to pin-point minimum viable “features” – those that the customers were most likely to use – as one of their secrets to a healthy customer relationship. Joe made it clear that they are growing the company with a dedicated, hard-working team that values integrity over all other qualities.
@RedHat hosted lunch on Wednesday at their downtown location on A Street. The informal white board overview was a nostalgic look at RedHat’s modest beginning and a long relationship with a $3 per share stock price. Having worked on the @FutureofOSS program, I have empathy for the challenge of how to “sell” free software. No one’s done it as well as @RedHat, but the real story of its success – surrounding itself with best in class services and creating engaged and active communities really didn’t ring as loudly as it could have. The room was filled with many admirers and for certain the marketing team has done a stellar job of outfitting everyone with Red Hat goodies. By far, the SWAG at Red Hat (loved the cellphone battery backup) won the day as well as a generous lunch, but the secret was that none of the executive team is at this location….so maybe Westford would have been a better location to engage more of the team?
@PTC was truly a highlight of the company visits. EVP Corporate Marketing Eric Snow provided an excellent overview of how this early innovator (originally Parametric Technology founded in 1985 by Samuel Geisberg) has reinvented itself once again – taking its core technology “CAD” savvy into the bleeding edge of Augmented Reality and then connecting the dots via IoT. The idea of machines of all types having “digital twins” (or my own version of this is a digital skeleton) is a fabulous baseline for seeing what’s possible. But, for this particular genre of technology it’s actually critical to see it in action and this was made possible during this visit. GAME CHANGING is the message here, loud and clear. Moving from the physical to the digital and back to the physical realm creates endless possibilities. With thought leadership guru Michael Porter and PTC CEO James Heppelmann one can dive into the details of this by reading a series of white papers on how Smart Connected Products are Transforming Companies, Competition, etc. It’s a wonderful 360 POV. See it up close in the June LiveWorx event in Boston. By January 2019, @PTC will set the stage for its next wave of innovation by moving its HQ to Boston’s innovation hub. Congratulations to the @PTC team.
@CengageLearning was yet another situation where a company with solid bones but a market shift has completely reinvented itself. Admittedly I was immensely curious about what was happening at Cengage and was pleasantly surprised by the fresh outlook on e-learning and the full engagement of their growing team – a full plate for new Chief People Officer Gary Fortier. Thanks to CTO George Moore, CTO who explained the journey of this 130 old, 5000 employee, text book publisher to a student centered, innovator in e-learning. What I learned is that “competency models” and “assessment” are finally coming forward as institutions need to be more accountable for the end results of education. In response to my question, it was explained in this way, “it’s not about majoring in A or B, but about walking away with a competency,” or in my words, a real-life tool-kit. To do this, Cengage immerses itself in conversations with students and subject matter expert crossing over traditional silos. Cengage is placing significant emphasis on making a major cultural shift as it morphs in new directions – no small task for a company of this size.
@TimeTrade CEO, Gary Ambrosino and his team warmly welcomed everyone to Tewksbury (the old Avid digs) to discuss their product suite designed to revolutionize intelligent appointment scheduling. Gary provided a truly engaging overview of how the AI work of IBM Watson and its eco-system can provide productivity tools to all size businesses – a/k/a – applied AI. It was fascinating to hear about the way that data can be reviewed, analyzed, and culled for pattern recognition – human-like in approach, but far more scalable and the message was clear – AI is a commodity and “it’s all about the data.” [side note of interest, AI also brings biases into the fray based on the data set its monitoring and that too must be taken into account in the system].
TimeTrade has powered 100M appointments in 45K locations to date. It’s fully engaged with industry-leading CRM such as Salesforce and Cloud giants like Google to close the gap on mission-critical appoint scheduling. In BTC laymen’s terms, search for a salon and book an appointment and never even go to the website (Reserve Google). In BTB speak, direct route an investor call to the CEO or send the e.g. Accenture consultant to the top scientists at IBM Watson. Important to note, the business value prop is based on significant data that demonstrates how much business is LOST when appointments are not handled in a timely manner. The highly accessible application suite of TimeTrade can be implemented for $50/year and up. The atmosphere was cheerful and the executive team was energizing.
@NetBrain Technologies is focused on redefining network automation and was founded in China. It’s now flourishing in Burlington with offices opening throughout Europe and Asia-Pac and a very busy HR team, a dedicated engineering team and vibrant executive leadership. The technology was pioneered inside Thomson-Reuters where it was demonstrated and proven to provide a seamless customer experience in the realm of adaptive network automation. At its core, NetBrain has fully automated the best practices of network management with the goal of creating a self-healing toolset. Its customer base are the largest and most security sensitive companies particularly in the financial services arena. An interesting note, the software is “on prem.” Thanks for a great lunch of Tex-Mex goodies!
@CICambridge has grown tremendously since my first visit there 5 years ago. The visit was actually a succession of 3 minute speed dating sessions with various networking leaders who host sessions at the CIC combined with a facilities tour. Among them @Tieboston the Virtual Podcast – VR community, and opportunities to attend the CIC Venture Café sessions on Thursday evenings or rent space from $450/month and beyond. Enjoyed hearing about CIC expansion around the country – the critical factors in choosing a locale – M.I.T. (money, innovation, tech).
@SessionM CMO Patrick Reynolds provided insight into the customer engagement platform empowering the world’s most innovative brands. Bottom line was that we have to reward loyalty differently and not get into the “lower price” spiral and critically important, using customer and consumer data in GOOD ways that help consumers have better overall experiences with brands. Thanks to Scott Weller and the other team members who led the group in an animated, custom version of Family Feud and provides a wonderful spread of cocktail hour goodies. Worth noting, the amazing group of investors behind SessionM – hello to Bob Davis from NYNEX YP and Lycos days! Enjoyed my “716” chat with Patrick! Go Canisius!
What I loved?
Overall, I fully support the NewCo format. Having the opportunity to meet at the company says much about the culture, the leadership, the many ways and places that people now work. I found the senior executives, many of whom are quite accomplished, humble, accessible, and welcoming. There was a general feeling of comradery and excitement that all this is happening right here in our Boston backyard without pretense or posturing. The people attending were also a diverse group – from employees of some the participating companies, to senior level business advisors and students – all seeking to learn and connect. I hope @NewCo #Boston keeps growing without losing the feeling of intimacy. What’s fascinating is that 2 of the 8 companies I visited were started outside the US and found homes here – a great testament to our innovation economy and eco-system.