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BostInnovation – #FutureM: The Future of Marketing is Here in Massachusetts

September 14, 2011

By Lauren Landry
BostInnovation Staff
www.bostinnovation.com

Collaboration, education, awareness and change: all words I heard repeated yesterday at  “Massachusetts: The Future of Marketing Is Here,” a FutureM panel put on by the Massachusetts Tech Hub. Over the years, an outstanding number of innovative thinkers and companies have emerged from the state, bringing with them economic development, growth and hope for entrepreneurs here in Boston. Massachusetts has made an indisputable name for itself on the East Coast, rising in the ranks next to major cities like New York and San Francisco.

“We’ve become number one in a lot of these emerging technologies, and it hasn’t been by happenstance,” said Massachusetts State Senator Karen Spilka. “It’s been a conscious decision to put a lot of energy, resources and talent toward economic development and emerging technologies.”

Senator Spilka, who represents the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk district, is co-chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. Since being appointed chair of the committee in 2009, she’s helped raise awareness for small, entrepreneurial businesses. Her achievements include the passage of an economic development reform law that has overhauled the way the state does business, increasing capital for small businesses so they can hire more workers and grow their brands in the city. Through the reform law stemmed this year’s creation of the Mass Marketing Partnership, designed to better market Massachusetts to businesses both inside and out of the United States.

Although companies appear to be forming in Massachusetts, the biggest problem seems to be that they’re not staying in Massachusetts. With bigger hubs like New York and Silicon Valley vying for attention, for some it’s hard to resist what they think “could” be, and they flee.

Brian Shin, Founder and CEO of Visible Measures, resisted temptation, however. After being given the opportunity to move to New York and Silicon Valley, Shin chose to stay in Boston because he knew it was where he could build a long-lasting team. He said he’s never once regretted the decision.

“It’s music to my ears that companies want to come here, grow here, stay here and invest here,” Spilka said.

Still, not enough start-up companies are staying in Boston, which put a bigger question on the table: What can the government do to keep its entrepreneurs in the state?

Education was one of the first answers. With schools like Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the state already has a banner crop of young talent in its midst. If students aren’t given the opportunities to get out in the field and meet people while they’re in school, though, Massachusetts could easily lose them.

“I think we should be insanely aggressive about internships,” said Eric Paley, a managing partner at Founder Collective.

Paley stressed how important it is give students the opportunity to get out in the community. Once students are out in the community, they can begin networking and making contacts in Massachusetts.

Networking, as pointed out by Jennifer Fremont-Smith, co-founder and CEO of Smarterer, is crucial. To succeed as an entreprenuer, Smith said you need to have the neccessary connections that can get you the funding and resources your company requires. Helping start-up businesses build their connections is somewhere the state could possibly come in.

“If you want the next Facebook to stay in Massachusetts, if you want the next Microsoft to stay in Massachusetts, you have to prioritize that,” Smith said.

Students, educators and businesses both in house and abroad need to be made aware of what Massachusetts has accomplished, which can be done through the proper marketing. Massachusetts is number one in the country in education and innovation, according to Spilka. Moving forward, it will take a matter of listening and collaboration between the smaller businesses and the state. “We can’t rest on our laurels,” as Spilka said, but the government can’t create change alone.

“People need to understand that the government does have a role to play here,” Spilka said. “It may not be in the traditional role they may think of, but government definitely has a role, whether it be through education, or infrastructure, or convening, or having a public policy that helps foster the growth of emerging technologies. We need that, but we need to have a partnership in creating and fostering that.”

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