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A new vision needs to include the tech sector

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce needs to open up

The garden outside Google’s new office in Kendall Square.
The garden outside Google’s new office in Kendall Square.Wendy Maeda/Globe staff

AS THE Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce begins its search for a new president, it should make sure the new leader's vision includes the innovation sector.

I had the pleasure of speaking at the chamber last winter. It was my first interaction with the organization, even though I have worked in leadership positions in high tech in the city for 20 years. I was curious to see what it was all about.

There were some bright and fun people present, and I enjoyed the questions from the audience. However, a couple things struck me about the event:

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1. The audience seemed to be full of older, white men. If the chamber wants to remain relevant to the city, it needs to recruit women, minorities, and younger people.

2. Based on the 20 people who waited to give me their business card after my talk, the attendees seemed to be in finance, marketing, and legal service. They seemed to be looking to get more business for themselves or their companies versus trying to improve the business climate in Boston.

If the agenda for the chamber is to improve Boston's business economy, it should seek out innovation leaders as its members. People who are not looking simply to get more business for their company, but to instead figure out how we can improve the business climate overall in Boston.

For example, Boston is the best college town in the world, but why do so many of our engineer graduates move to California? How can we retain them to help build technology businesses here in Boston? The chamber needs to take on this issue.

The chamber should also reverse its position on noncompete clauses. It was against recent legislative attempt to abolish the antiquated clauses, which are stifling innovation. When I do business in California, where non-compete clauses are banned, I notice that employees and ideas flow freely between companies, therefore accelerating innovation and growing business. It should be the same in Massachusetts, and the chamber should be leading the effort to get them banned.

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The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce has improved the business climate over the years. But, just like in business, it needs to modernize and be more inclusive. Let the innovation sector in, Boston.


Paul English is CEO and co-founder of Blade, a consumer technology foundry in Boston. He was previously chief technology officer and co-founder of KAYAK.