On Monday, I took a break from planning for the upcoming Percona Live MySQL Conference (where we have a session, lightning talk, booth, and other misc activities planned) to go attend the UK-Massachusetts Innovation Economies Conference at the MIT Media Lab. The event featured Gov. Deval Patrick, MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito, industry experts such as Sheila Marcelo (founder of Care.com), and UK trade representatives, including Minister Mark Prisk. A key topic was entrepreneurship, including how breakthroughs happen.
From Left: Consul General Phil Budden, Gov. Deval Patrick, Mark Prisk MP, and Joi Ito
The discussion started with a focus on home — the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. First, Patrick noted that MA is doing well in entrepreneurship, with $2.7B in VC in 2010 and the top position in the Kauffman New Economy Index. Next, Ito got into details around technology models, noting that he is trying to spread the proven low cost software model to other areas that MA shines in, such as big data, infrastructure, life sciences and robotics. Finally, consulate members noted how Boston has become an example for entrepreneurship for the UK. Stew McTavish, who was here from ideaSpace in the UK, has been looking at our incubator and early stage centers, such as the CIC to learn more. He engaged Akhil Nigam, from MassChallenge, on this topic.
In their discussion, Nigham and McTavish spoke about how important it is to facilitate collisions, or meetings of random people with similar goals and interests. The analogy they used was particle physics, where the most interesting phenomena occur when things collide. Stew noted that there are two ways to “increase collisions” for startups – make them move faster (give them more money, advice, talent, etc…) and make the space smaller (stick many diverse groups in a building like at the CIC).
Do collisions help? McTavish had a real life example from ideaSpace. He spoke about how one investor left a meeting to go get some coffee after realizing the CEO’s pitch wasn’t a fit for his fund. He bumped into another entrepreneur working down the hall, started talking, and liked what he heard. Six months later, he ended up investing £200k in the second company. Proof positive that unexpected hallway “collisions” can be beneficial.
It’s exactly this type of frequent, active, and interesting set of global collisions that I look forward to next month at the Percona Live MySQL conference. While the talks are generally excellent, much of the value of the show is from having a talented and diverse crowd come together with unexpected hallway (or Pedro’s) conversations where solutions are hatched, partnerships are forged, and networks are built.