The big news in Boston last week was GE's decision to move its headquarters to Boston's Innovation District. It's a big endorsement of Boston's tech scene in general and a reflection of all of the great talent here.
GE isn't relocating here because Boston offered up crazy incentives. GE is moving here because it wants to be closer to coders and innovators.
It's particularly important for Boston's cleantech community. Having GE so close will further accelerate the cluster-building effects that are already making Boston a major hub of cleantech entrepreneurship.
There are more than a few important cleantech startups already based in the Innovation District, in fact. And around the broader region, some really interesting cleantech hardware startups in sectors like energy storage and solar will be cheered by this news as well.
Hopefully, GE will become an even more active partner in vital and vibrant efforts like the Northeast Clean Energy Council, Greentown Labs and the Cleantech Open.
I'm particularly excited by the potential impacts on cleantech IT and "cleanweb" efforts here. I must admit, I am regularly surprised at how little awareness people outside our region have of the cleantech IT cluster here in Boston. We have large and fast-growing companies like FirstFuel, Next Step Living and Digital Lumens (those latter two in my firm's portfolio) that are relatively unknown on the West Coast, even though they have tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.
Imagine how much attention startups like that would be getting from the tech community if their ZIP code started with a nine instead of a zero. GE moves to Boston while it becomes increasingly focused on the intersection of energy and IT -- which means it'll likely help drive more outside attention to the efforts underway here.
GE will hopefully help build better links across the developer and energy entrepreneurship communities in the region. One of the gaps here in Boston has been the strange schism between those communities. While cleanweb hackathons have helped, in general "tech" and "cleantech" are viewed as very separate categories by tech journalists, academics, students and entrepreneurs.
So while the cleantech IT and cleanweb sector has been pretty active here in Boston, one obstacle to its growth has been the limited amount of developer talent flowing into the companies. I hope this shines a light on the opportunities at that intersection and encourages people to stop seeing these sectors as separate -- because they're not, not anymore. I can't wait for the first cleanweb hackathon event at GE's new headquarters, once it's built.
GE's move is also going to help create more fluidity between the big companies in our sector and the startups. One of the special advantages of the Bay Area entrepreneurial community is the strong ties to the bigger, established companies. Talent flows easily between small and big companies in the region, making it easier for entrepreneurs to access the right people at the bigger companies for partnerships, learning, and eventually, acquisition.
Although GE's move won't make Boston's network that powerful by itself, it certainly helps. Other big companies in our sector, such as Schneider, have already located their headquarters in the region, and more big corporate venture groups from multinational strategics are opening up offices here as well. Proximity matters, as Boston's own Michael Porter has described so well.
The news about GE's move reflects recognition of the special cleantech and IT talent we already have here in Boston -- and a huge potential boost to our burgeoning cluster. I'm very excited to see it, and I hope more leading companies in our market follow GE's lead.