When Boston’s economic boosters hail the Hub as a great place for entrepreneurs, they’re usually referring to a certain type of startup maven: an MIT upstart looking to code a blockbuster smartphone app, or a biotech engineer working on the next big medical breakthrough. As Boston’s innovation economy grows, it shouldn’t just aim to add more of the same types of entrepreneurs to its ranks (although more of the same types of entrepreneurs would be great, too). It should also try to attract more diverse businesses and business people. That would be the best way to ensure that the innovation economy expands its reach outside of the Innovation District and Cambridge into other areas, such as Allston and Roxbury.
That’s the spirit behind a new office-sharing space in Allston, near Harvard Avenue and the Mass Pike. Startup BLVD won’t turn away the traditional type ofentrepreneurs who fill desks at other shared offices around town, like MassChallenge in the Innovation District or the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square. But it will specifically target minority entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in non-technological fields. “Our interest is to help the guy with a cleaning company who wants to expand his crew from one van to 10,” founder Nathan Spencer explains.
In contrast, traditional investors and incubators tend to favor “high impact ideas” — like a new software that could change the world, or at least make a lot of money. But a series of small, local investments can also add up to big changes, especially in underserved neighborhoods. Boston would be well served if more organizations took a cue from Startup BLVD and expanded their definition of who deserves to be mentored and what deserves to be funded.