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Innovation economy

Tech insiders have a lot to say about the local startup scene. Most of it is good.

A survey shows more optimism than pessimism, but also caution about growth and hype.

A word cloud containing survey responses from founders, startup employees, investors, and providers of support services to startups about how they feel about the health of the startup ecosystem in

How are startup people feeling about the startup ecosystem in Boston now — from remote work to funding to making the city more fun?

I conducted a survey in August, collecting more than 200 responses from an array of founders, startup employees, investors, and providers of support services to startups. In a previous column, I ran through the quantitative picture. In this one, I’m reporting a sample of the most interesting comments. Everyone who filled out the survey was invited to do so anonymously, but I’ve indicated what industry sector and role (startup founder, investor, etc.) each comment represents.


Health of the ecosystem. Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents described the Boston scene as healthy and vibrant; just 6 percent said they were pessimistic about it. But even the optimists saw a few clouds punctuating their blue skies. Here are some of the comments:

“Doesn’t seem to be rebounding post-pandemic as aggressively as I had hoped.” — Tech startup employee

“The recent layoff situation has definitely cooled things off, and a lot of the hype around some of our startups seem to have died down.” — Consumer products/retail startup employee

“Still very biotech-weighted.” — Energy startup founder

“Pros remain the magnetic power of Harvard, MIT, and our biotech cluster. Cons are weather, lifestyle (not fun enough, not diverse enough), and few world-beating companies.” — Tech investor

“We have the best talent pool and there’s plenty of capital available to attack the largest, thorniest problems.” — Life sciences/health care startup founder

“Lack of diversity.” — Manufacturing startup founder

“People [are] finding jobs easily, traffic is back, [and] people are happy to be back, too.” — Tech professional services provider

“COVID has chipped away at the vitality of the cluster.” — Life sciences/health care investor

“Boston has great founders, talent, and customers. We lack good venture capital firms that are founder-focused and not conservative.” — Life sciences/health care founder


“Biotech and health care present massive opportunities, but artificial intelligence will increasingly render key processes digital, and we are not #1 in digital/software as an ecosystem.” — Tech investor

The Boston ecosystem “has an identity that it needs to accept. So many are trying to make it something other than it naturally is. Our ecosystem is fine, it does not ‘need’ more consumer-minded people, or more designers. Our system is what it is; let’s own it.” — Tech startup employee

“Clubby.” — Tech founder

“Critical mass of incubators, venture capitalists, ideas, [and] experienced people. Hiring is still very competitive.” — Life sciences/health care founder

“Rent prices make it hard to attract new talent, [and the] MBTA is terrible.” — Energy startup employee

“I work in the climate tech world. There’s lots of activity in Boston.” — Energy startup founder

“There is a lot of money invested, and still to be invested. Life science developments are long-term, and people understand this.” — Life sciences/health care founder

It’s unclear what “the advantage [is] of being physically based in a very expensive city, when the top talent doesn’t care about being here.” — Tech founder

“Tech (not life sciences) venture capitalists irrationally yearn for NYC and San Francisco.” — Tech founder

“Lots of great connecting events this summer... The network is coming back to life.” — Tech founder

The Shy Bird Restaurant in Kendall Square on June 8, 2022.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

“People in Boston just don’t socialize and gather as well as other cities. It sucks.” — Tech founder


“Events are packed, energy is incredibly high, [and the] desire to connect and build community has never been stronger. A ton of the ‘dead weight’ has left the city, and we are left with builders who want to see the city thrive.” — Tech professional services provider

“There’s no ecosystem of successful high-profile founders helping the up-and-comers; our top VCs don’t even prop up the local founders. They’re chasing associations with SF/NY founders and VCs, and not building locally.” — Tech founder

“I just came back from an event in Delaware and one of the startups there said, ‘I wish I founded my company where the ecosystem is, like Boston or the Bay area.’ Boston is one of the top two ecosystems for startups!” — Energy investor

“I’ve moved to a semi-rural place two hours west of Boston with optimism that I will continue to be able to find remote work through the end of my career. Certainly a risk, but now one that seems sane to take, versus pre-Covid. Very interested to see if I will be part of a diaspora that will change the character of rural New England in certain ways, particularly perhaps bringing life to the dozens of decaying, but not yet decayed, mill towns throughout the state.” — Energy startup employee

“Everyone wants to work remote, except recent college grads. This has a powerful impact across the ecosystem.” — Life sciences/health care professional services provider


“The diversity of the tech being built in the city, and the ever-present college innovation continue to make Boston a best-in-class innovation economy attracting attention from all over the world.” — Tech professional services provider

Funding. On the subject of funding, 72 percent of respondents said the availability of capital for startups is tighter in 2022 than last year.A few of the comments:

“While angel investors and VCs have money, they have become more selective.” — Tech professional services provider

“Many companies became overvalued prior to this correction, making it harder to raise now to maintain those valuations.” — Tech founder

“VC firms are acting on ‘lifeboat’ planning, preserving some companies, cutting loose others and drastically curtailing investment in new companies, especially startups. This ecosystem is long overdue for a shakeout. As healthy as this purge will be, there are tough times ahead for almost all startups.” — Life sciences/health care professional services

“Most VCs I know are taking the year off, and those that are still investing have raised the bar much higher.” — Tech founder

“For companies with a solid business model, some traction, [and a] clear path to profitability, funding is still strong. Especially true for robotics/automation. Worker shortages continue . . . Reduced immigration, low national birth rate, and push to ramp up US manufacturing all point to increased need for robotics.” — Tech founder

“Male investors don’t invest in women-led, nor women’s health companies.” — Life sciences/health care founder

“Like a light switch this spring, investors went from complaining that we weren’t growing fast enough (because we prioritize profitable growth), to complaining we weren’t profitable enough. Maybe if [investors stopped the] herd mentality and forcing startups to play along, then none of this would’ve felt like such a whipsaw.” — Financial services startup founder


“Money dried up, and it will get worse in the next 18 months. Zombie companies will die.” — Energy startup founder

Other perspectives. I invited survey respondents to share their take on other dynamics they are seeing in Boston.

“Not enough ‘wow’ companies / unicorns produced each year.” — Tech investor

“Great time to start a business in next couple years, as cost of start a business continues to decrease, [and] tech talent become available from layoffs at big-tech . . . I think we’ll [see] some great companies be built.” — Tech founder

The WHOOP sign is pictured with the CITGO sign near it seen from inside of Fenway Park. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

“We are entering a heyday for Boston because we can hire folks all over the country/world to work at Boston-headquartered companies. I think remote work is a massive advantage for Boston.” — Tech investor

“Founders are moving elsewhere because of improved proximity to talent and venture dollars. Talent [is] moving elsewhere for quality of life.” — Life sciences/health care founder

“We need to make the city more fun and more optimistic to retain the key talent necessary to remain a powerful force in innovation. I believe it is imperative for media personnel to highlight more positive stories about the innovation community and to apply critical pressure primarily on the public sector to support more lower-cost housing, diversity, public art, public transportation, and community events (as well as continuing to fund education and other infrastructure).” — Tech investor

“Leadership position in robotics and deep tech continues to grow.” — Tech founder

“The food industry rose and exploded during the pandemic and yet it’s one of the least-funded industries around. Minority business owners continue to get not funded.” — Consumer products/retail founder

“The networking has been hard the last few years with COVID. A lot of startup ecosystem is based on personal connections.” — Tech founder

“We sent out our next [web3/cryptocurrency] event invite for late Sept and 65+ spots filled up within 18 hours. Builders, professionals, and all sorts of tech community stakeholders want live, in-person action!” — Tech investor

“There is so much innovation happening here, but as a market we seem to always be just shy of some critical mass (in raw population, early stage funding, diversity of mindset) that would provide a step change in dynamism.” — Tech founder

“This is a positive ‘cull the herd’ transition . . . the forest burns to get rid of . . . detritus, briars, and underbrush so the strong can survive. When the VC market is frothy and access to capital is easy too, wannabe founders go to market with ill-conceived plans that are poorly executed.” — Tech employee

“The anecdotes I’ve heard from within my network are that the startups going after measured, careful growth and are building a sustainable product are as healthy as ever.” — Tech employee

Scott Kirsner can be reached at Follow him @ScottKirsner.