Boston Innovation MythBusters

Written by Anant Agrawal, MassChallenge Marketing Intern


Smart mirrors you can talk to, holographic surgeries, and a jacket you can live in

As a first year MassChallenge intern whose expectations for our annual Startup Showcase grew every day since I started, the event still went far beyond my wildest imagination. The largest in our history, the event brought together the entire Boston innovation community at a scale that is hard to describe and all too easy to feel.

While I could spend paragraphs describing the subtle smell of hummus or the taste of lactose-free ice cream, here’s what I found most surprising about the local innovation ecosystem.

There’s Something for Everyone

I’m an intern who’s extremely passionate about startups. But even if you’re not like me, there is something about the sheer diversity of the Boston startup ecosystem that’s inspiring.

This community spans all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life -- from seasoned experts, to high schoolers, to VCs looking to fund the next big idea. Events like Startup Showcase prove that it’s wise to expect the unexpected.

Even if startup enthusiasts aren’t the kinds of people you're used to talking to, casual conversations have a way of turning into life-changing interactions. Over the past month, I have heard several stories about how partners explored a new direction based on startup presentations, how interns landed contracting or full-time gigs within the community, and even how entrepreneurs learned something from a fellow finalist on their way to get coffee. The takeaway? Never underestimate the power of a random conversation.

The More People, The More Engagement

Boston is one of the best places in the world to launch and grow a company. Attracting startups, corporates, and talent from around the world, it seems almost intuitive that the more people there are involved, the less opportunities there are to engage. Luckily, this concern is far outweighed by the energy and enthusiasm of the local innovation community, which is more than eager to collaborate.

I had a chance to catch up with one of our 2017 finalists who talked about the power of seemingly random interactions and the belief that every person can be helpful in one way or another. I have found that entrepreneurs are like hopeless romantics, believing in “the one” conversation that will change the future of their startup. This expectation is why everyone is important and no one is immediately written off.

In fact, one of our 2017 finalists, Invisawear co-founder and CTO Ray Hamilton, said he lives for events that bring the community together -- like Startup Showcase. “This is my favorite part of being in a startup. Just meeting people and feeling the hype.”

As an intern guiding myself through the crowd and randomly going up to numerous startups and attendees, I can personally verify that a fellow attendee is just another person to talk to, not competition for the opportunity to talk to someone else.

So, What Now?

The biggest myth that surrounds this community is that the impact ends with events like Startup Showcase. The truth is that these occasions are just the beginning. The meetings that occur at events like this can change the paths of both the startups and the attendees for years to come. And this seemingly magical interaction happens more than you might think it does. Here are the top three interactions I noticed by walking around at Startup Showcase:

  • RistCall, a healthcare startup that helps nurses and patients communicate through smartwatches, had an opportunity to meet someone from one of Boston’s top hospitals.

  • Voatz, a mobile election voting platform, met a cybersecurity consulting company involved in state elections as well as me, a student who is more than happy to add my university to the list of pilot schools they’re amassing.

  • Trūbadour, a platform for contemporary poets, had the chance to meet someone from a poetry platform with a huge following, in addition to getting to know a published poet.

Overall, people come to events like Startup Showcase for a variety of reasons: to see the newest technology and ideas, to offer help, and to feel the energy and excitement. But mainly people come because they truly believe that startups are the future and they want to see or be part of how this future is made.

Be part of the future by joining us at our next event!