Growing up in Boston as the son of an electrical engineer, I was often told that when it comes to technology, “Boston has the substance, and San Francisco has the style.” But over the years, San Francisco has eclipsed Boston as the nation’s tech hub.
This might be changing, however. Fueling the ongoing “Boston versus San Francisco” debate, a recent US Chamber of Commerce Foundation report, “Innovation That Matters 2016,” ranked Boston as the best place to capitalize on the shift to a digital economy. Tech-centered San Francisco was ranked second.
The report ranked cities from across the country using dozens of key indicators. The Bay Area was the clear leader across most categories, like entrepreneurial activity, but scored poorly on ecosystem connectivity factors, which suggests that the Bay Area has become too competitive and that it inhibits collaboration among startups, investors, and other stakeholders.
Boston, on the other hand, scored well in the category of community building— an important component of startup growth for new and established entrepreneurs alike.
Boston’s first place rating may also be in part due to our propensity for innovation in healthcare and life sciences. As demonstrated by the recent announcement of Pulse@MassChallenge, and the Massachusetts Innovation Catalyst Fund— a $26 million venture capital fund dedicated to funding local digital health startups— we are expecting a new wave of New England healthcare startups.
To Ahmed Albaiti, the CEO of Cambridge-based digital health consultancy Medullan, Boston’s lack of style might might account for its success in the digital health space. “Here [in Boston] our prowess comes from depth in healthcare and we have no technology style—so we really press on how we develop the best solution and not necessarily on style. The acceptance of lab failure is much more favorable.”
But Albaiti recognizes that Boston also has its flaws. He believes that we sometimes undervalue the clinical experts we have in our region, and that we also place too much emphasis on elite education. “We take it for granted that you can talk to the Chief Medical Officer of Dana Farber, for example,” he says.
With that said, Albaiti has high hopes for Boston’s contribution to digital health. “If we’re going to talk about creating new digital medicines and understanding how it will impact care behaviors, standards, protocols, etc. that doesn’t come from the West Coast.”
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