I've worked in technology in Silicon Valley and Boston and the environments are pretty different. In Boston you often get the inferiority vibe...I guess now that our sports teams have won their share of national titles we have to keep the inferiority complex going somewhere. From my perspective, having worked in both places, Bostonian technology people are simply less social. In Silicon Valley, whether you are an engineer starting out or a tech executive who has been in the business 20 years, the weeks are filled with happy hours, launch parties, breakfast meetings, impromptu office parties and the like. In Boston you tend to go to work and go home. Breakfast meetings and launch parties happen occasionally but more often than not, they are intra-company affairs. Networks in Boston take a long time to develop and are based primarily on who you have worked with in the past. This may be partly geography - there are a few more logical hubs of activity in Silicon Valley, San Francisco's SOMA district, Palo Alto, & San Jose but that seems like a poor excuse since Waltham, Burlington, & Kendall Square in Cambridge now have significant critical mass.
Now that I am back in Boston and working in the social media world things seem to have changed and I wonder if we are at a tipping point - as least in this market. The community has leaders - Chris Brogan, Laura Fitton, Doug Haslam, Todd Van Hoosear, Adam Zand, Maria Thurell, Alexa Scordato, Amanda Gravel, Aaron Strout, Jim Storer, Steve Garfield, Beth Kanter, Adam Cohen, Mike Langford, C.C. Chapman, and many others who are very active and instigate tweet-ups, conferences, rock climbing get togethers, dinners, apple picking trips, etc. sometimes formal and sometimes spontaneous. This is critical because while this crowd knows each other pretty well, they are also adept at pulling others into their vortex making new people feel welcome and growing the community - and they do not represent just one company or one discipline. There are also enough local technology companies in this space. Mzinga, Communispace, Awareness, Lotus, Cymphony, MoCo Space, Sermo, ChoiceStream, Trip Advisor, and MatchMine are all local software companies working in the social media space in some capacity. Topaz Partners and Perkett PR also participate extensively from the marketing side of things. This all rolls up to make Boston a real Hub in this particular market and to me, feels a lot more like what makes Silicon Valley so powerful - a critical mass of technology, business, and marketing professionals dedicated to the same vision. To investors and potential employees who are interested in this market, it makes Boston the place to be.
Like the Red Sox, and the Patriots, Boston seems to be coming into its own in the software industry and taking a leading role in pushing innovation and adoption. Our challenge now - convincing all of those talented kids coming out of MIT, Harvard, BU, BC, Wellseley, Tufts, etc. to stick around and play. That, and we need some better cafes and restaurants to hang out at on the 128 loop so I encourage any of you who are thinking of starting your own business - we need a couple of cool, hip, unique places to hang out somewhere between Waltham and Burlington - essentially we need a Buck's of our own.