CEO finds engineering talent better in Boston area
Chris Lynch left for California last year after spending his professional career in Greater Boston. But it turns out he won’t be gone for long.
The former venture capitalist was lured west by former Yahoo exec Dave Mariani, who thought Lynch would be the perfect chief executive for a data management startup that Mariani had been running.
So Lynch joined AtScale, first as a consultant and then as CEO. AtScale is based in San Mateo, in the heart of the San Francisco-Silicon Valley tech frenzy. But Lynch soon learned that area wasn’t an ideal place to hunt for engineering talent, at least for his kind of venture. So he returned to Boston to set up an East Coast office in Boston’s Leather District, across from South Station.
Twenty people have joined the Boston office since it opened on Feb. 1, and he expects 100 will work there by the end of the year. (The company also recently opened a development office in Bulgaria.)
“The real reason we’re doing this is we can’t hire people out there,” Lynch says of California. “It’s incredibly difficult.”
Lynch says many engineers in Silicon Valley don’t seem to want to stick around for the many years often required to build a successful company.
“On the West Coast, nobody has the patience for that,” says Lynch, a former general partner with Cambridge venture firm Accomplice who previously ran several local tech firms over the years. “If it’s not big in 12 to 24 months, they’re on to the next big thing.”
It also tends to be much more costly to hire engineers in the San Francisco Bay area. Plus, he’s noticed that working at a startup tends to be romanticized there. “What it’s really about is a lot of hard work and commitment,” he says.
Lynch likes the fact that much of Boston’s tech scene has grown up around serving business clients, as opposed to consumers, a vestige of the minicomputer days when Data General and Digital Equipment Corp. ruled the scene. (Lynch got his start as a sales representative at Digital.)
There’s another benefit to having a Boston office: not as many cross-country flights. Lynch still lives in Arlington, although he has had an apartment near the San Mateo office. Now that the Boston office is open, he expects to spend more of his time here. A company’s headquarters is usually where the top executive is based. Lynch says it’s possible the HQ could shift to Boston but for now it will be “HQ2.”
“I want to be respectful to the founders of the company,” Lynch says. “I think all the commercial action is going to happen out of Boston. . . . Over time, it may morph into more.”
— JON CHESTO
Stewart recalls her New England bonds
Lifestyle maven Martha Stewart probably knew she couldn’t visit Boston without mentioning a few New England connections.
Yes, she lived in Westport, Conn., for nearly 30 years. But to many Bostonians, that’s the New York metro area, not true New England.
She lives in New York now, but she also summers in Maine, at her Skylands estate near Acadia National Park. It was originally built in 1925 for auto magnate Edsel Ford.
Stewart referenced Skylands more than once during a Q&A with TJX Cos. executive chairwoman Carol Meyrowitz last Wednesday at a Boston College Chief Executives Club luncheon.
She said the Maine Coast Heritage Trust is one of her favorite charities and revealed that she still uses towels left over from her eponymous Kmart line in her Maine mansion.
“People look at me and say, ‘Where did you get these beautiful towels?’ ” Stewart said. Her response: “Kmart, 1986.”
Stewart also talked about how Cambridge chef Julia Child was a mentor to her, and how poignant it was for her mom to meet Child at one point. “I cooked every single one of Julia’s recipes assiduously until I knew how to cook,” Stewart said. Stewart reached back to her days as a stockbroker, before the rise of her media and home goods empire. In one trip to Fidelity Investments in Boston, she represented Ross Perot and one of his companies.
“I had to go to Boston to present our portfolio of investments to [then-Fidelity chief] Ned Johnson and his team,” Stewart said, hinting at an intimidating audience. “That was frightening. That was very frightening.”
She also didn’t shy away from her days at “Camp Cupcake,” the five months she spent in a minimum security prison in 2004 and 2005 after being convicted on federal charges related to insider trading.
Her media business is now owned by Sequential Brands Group, but she is still the face of her brand, with magazines and TV, including a third season in the works for her VH1 show that she cohosts with rapper Snoop Dogg. — JON CHESTO
Buckingham named Pfizer vice president
Giant drug companies aren’t particularly sympathetic, what with steep prices for medicine regularly making headlines.
But it’s Ginny Buckingham’s job to put a human face on one of the biggest, New York’s Pfizer. She was just promoted to be Pfizer’s vice president of activation. The new role puts her in charge of a nearly 20-person department that oversees the company’s social media channels and works with colleagues to build public support and engagement.
“Our stories are a little more complicated than the easy foil that we are,” Buckingham says. “We’re an easy target but not a fair or wholly told story, and I think that’s something that has to be worked on.”
The new job is a natural extension of her work helping to develop Pfizer’s “Ready for Cures” initiative aimed at turning patients into supporters for the company’s public policy efforts, including getting bills favorable to Pfizer passed in Congress.
To Buckingham, it’s also a natural extension of her life in Massachusetts politics before she joined Pfizer 12 years ago. She previously was a top aide to governors Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci, chief executive at the Massachusetts Port Authority, and an editorial writer at the Boston Herald.
— JON CHESTO