Fueling the Digital Economy's Growth Engine: Event Recap

Posted by Kate Jurras on Wed, May 25, 2011

On Tuesday night, throngs of Massachusetts enthusiasts trekked through the rain to CSN Stores to discuss the future of the Massachusetts Digital Economy. Jeff Bussgang, General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, led a diverse panel of government and industry leaders in an active discussion about the state of the digital economy here in Massachusetts, or, as it's affectionately known by me many, the Best State of All the States.

train resized 600The panel included Noah Berger - President, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center; Brian Halligan – CEO & Founder, Hubspot; Kofi Jones - Executive Director, Commonwealth Marketing Office; Robert May - CEO and Co-Founder, Backupify; and Senator Karen Spilka – Commonwealth of Massachusetts / Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

Massachusetts has a thriving and dynamic digital economy that is significantly contributing to the economic growth of the region. Tech and digital marketing companies are hiring, succeeding, and making a name for the Boston area as a hub for new marketing thinking and doing. If there was ever a time to capitalize on possibilities, it's now. The panel, which included both government and business leaders, dove deeply into the issues and possibilities that are facing us today.

Halligan and May, both founders of prominent and rapidly growing Boston-based companies, spoke about their reasons for staying in Massachusetts. May, a Kentucky native, couldn't find the tech talent in his home state that he needed to succeed, and recognized that a move was necessary. Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley represent some of the nation's most innovative areas, and he chose Boston for its ready access to knowledge and capital.

Halligan noted that there is greater talent in Boston than in Silicon Valley, and that start-ups in Boston have an opportunity to shine that they likely wouldn't have elsewhere. Boston can create a certain kind of buzz that Silicon Valley simply can't.

Senator Spilka reported that Massachusetts is among the top 5 states to do business in. And according to Berger, the digital economy is Massachusetts is faring better than in most other states. We uphold a particularly high standard for education, and Berger showed statistics demonstrating a nearly linear relationship between education and wages. Said Bussgang, Massachusetts is made up of the haves and the have-nots: the haves being those with a higher education degree, or living inside the 128 belt.

The panelists agreed emphatically that we must take our graduates seriously, as great talent is the key to the success of any start-up. Programs like Stay in MA and Massachusetts: It's all Here aim to equip college students with the resources they need to learn and thrive in Massachusetts. Silicon Valley can be an enticing option for smart, young graduates, but there are many, if not more, options in Massachusetts.

Halligan expressed the opinion that, rather than focusing on the development of certain industries, we should focus on developing the education system. In MA, this is one of our greatest assets, and perhaps the key to unlocking incredible innovation. This was met with enthusiasm from the audience.

Massachusetts is poised for extreme greatness, and the ability to achieve this greatness rests largely on our ability to encourage college graduates to stick around. Additionally, establishing partnerships is one of the things we do well but not shouting loud enough about our successes is one of the things we don't. If you are a champion of Massachusetts, help to spread the word! If talented college graduates know how great our state is, why would they want to leave?

If you attended the event, what did you think were the best take-aways?