Innovation News
Innovation News

Boston Firsts


Category: Innovation News

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the USA, known to many for the Boston Tea Party, when, on December 16th, 1773, officials in Boston refused to return shiploads of taxed tea to Britain so a group of colonists boarded the ships and threw the tea into Boston Harbour. The incident remains an iconic event of American history and a trigger for the crisis which escalated into the American Revolutionary War, beginning near Boston in 1775.


The city has evolved into a centre for social and political change becoming the economic and cultural hub of New England as well as an educational centre of excellence for the world. Boston is home to over 617,000 residents, nearly half of whom are students at over 90 institutions of higher education.

Melbourne is the most distant Sister City for Boston and provides a vital and dynamic link between these two cities of parks and gardens, international thought leadership, ethnic neighbourhoods, museums and educational excellence.

Boston is an outstanding source of deep research in a wide range of fields with such notable institutions as MIT and Harvard being recognised the world over for their persistent leadership in a wide range of physical and social sciences. The achievements and commercial successes that result attract the people and the funding.

 For example, in life sciences Boston organisations received USD16.6 billion in National Institute of Health (NIH) grants during the first decade of the 21st century. The MIT Media Lab is renowned for its creative insights into the future of technology in our lives and the many spin-off companies have commercialised fundamental enabling technologies such as the electronic ink that makes the Kindle, Kobo and other electronic book readers practical.

Olin College, established in 2002, has taken the entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and is changing the way students are trained to think and practice as engineers. Olin College seeks to redefine engineering as a profession of innovation encompassing the consideration of human and societal needs, the creative design of engineering systems and the creation of value through entrepreneurial effort and philanthropy. By discovering and developing the most effective educational approaches Olin is creating a new future that may well empower its century old neighbours to reinvigorate their own institutions.

With so much of the future recovery of the USA depending on more, and more successful, technology there are few disciplines more central than engineering, few habits more essential than entrepreneurship and few communities more pivotal than Boston.

Supporting the early-stage entrepreneurs of Boston are more than 13 Angel investor groups including the Common Angels, where Australian expat Chris Sheehan is co-managing director. The city is the East Coast heart of the USA Venture Capital community with more than a dozen top tier VC firms. The success of Boston is rooted in its habit of innovation and entrepreneurial success.

Typical of the exciting and dynamic initiatives in this city is CriticalMass, a “dedicated workspace for early stage entrepreneurs to work, learn, collaborate and start new companies”.

Last year, Boston hosted the Angel Capital Association Annual Summit where 530 Angel investors from all over the country and around the world came together. A few were fortunate to visit the brand new CriticalMass where Nancy Saucier, Executive Director of the New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA), introduced the 2,500sq.ft of co-working space designed exclusively for promising start-ups.

CriticalMass provides early stage entrepreneurs with a place to work, learn, collaborate and start new companies. But it goes beyond typical co-working space, bringing together a broad cross-section of the Boston area start-up community - experienced technology leaders, first time entrepreneurs and investors - to drive new company creation without an expectation that all the related start-up activity needs to be, or will be venture-backed.

Other Boston area initiatives address:

·         Creativity - Awesome Foundation for the Arts and Sciences is an ever-growing network of people devoted to forwarding the interest of awesomeness in the universe;

·         Geeks - Dogpatch Labs offer desk space, bandwidth, coffee and lunch to aspiring entrepreneurs in wide-open, fun spaces that are shared with local start-ups;

·         Expertise - First Growth Venture Network (FGVN) provides free sessions once a month to help nascent tech businesses build the networks and substantive expertise they need to grow at the earliest possible moment;

·         Sustainability - VentureWell is a bridge and translator between ventures emerging from university research and aligned seed investors to produce transformative commercial innovations that improve the human condition and environmental sustainability;

·         Mentors - TechStars is a very selective mentorship-driven three month long seed stage investment program for about ten companies that get up to USD18,000 in seed funding, three months of intensive top-notch mentorship and the chance to pitch to Angel Investors and venture capitalists at the end of the program;

·         Digital media - Start@Spark grants entrepreneurs who are starting companies in the conflux of media, technology and entertainment up to USD250,000 to quickly accelerate their progress;

·         Students - IDEA, the Northeastern University Venture Accelerator, is a student-created and student-run university program that provides tailored services for entrepreneurial students to organically create, develop and accelerate their own business ventures with an end goal of launching sustainable or investment-ready businesses.

·         more students - The Harvard innovation lab is a new and innovative initiative that will foster team-based and entrepreneurial activities from a building that once housed WGBH-TV’s studios the i-lab will encourage entrepreneurship and innovation across the University, bringing together cross-curricular interests, including Harvard College, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, the School for Engineering and Applied Science, and the Harvard Kennedy School;

·         incubators - The University of Massachusetts Venture Development Center incubates promising, early stage technology and life science companies in an 18,000 sq. ft. award winning facility, selecting entrepreneurs who are solving problems that really matter.

In Boston we find a diverse, dynamic, multi-threaded entrepreneurial community which combines the new ideas of academic researchers with the new capabilities of bleeding edge technologists to fire the spirit of eager entrepreneurs fuelled by the funds and experience of successful investors.

None of these elements on its own is sufficient to enable the outcomes that have earned this city the reputation as one of the smartest on the planet. None is adequate on its own to sustaining the growth and success that is being achieved.

At the heart of this story is the persistent commitment of community leaders, undeterred by failure, to champion an holistic approach to sustain the entrepreneurial culture, the habit of collaboration and the spirit of curiosity that together drive new knowledge into successful ventures.



Boston – early days as a leader

First incorporated as a town in 1630, named after Boston in Lincolnshire, England, the town’s early achievements included:

·      first public anti-smoking law (1632)

·      designation of the Boston Common as the first public park in America (1634)

·      first State constitution (1780)

·      oldest pub in the USA (1784)

·      first African-American meeting house (1806).

Incorporated as a city in 1822, its rich economic and social history continued to rack up firsts including:

·      first school for the blind (1829)

·      first public school for African-American children (1835)

·      Samuel Morse invented the telegraph (1837)

·      Boston Public Library as the first publicly supported free municipal library in the world (1848)

·      first telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell (1876)

·      Helen Magill White graduated from Boston University as the first woman in the USA to earn a PhD (1877).


Boston Firsts

Awesome Foundation

First Growth Venture Network

Harvard i-lab


Olin College



Venture Development Center




Jordan Green


Australian Association of Angel Investors

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