Last week, TechCrunch came to town for their Meetup + Pitchfest at The Estate. While some of the pitches were very intriguing, particularly the one from the company called Drop, the best part of the night (that may have been missed by many in the very loud club) had to be Atlas Venture's Fred Destin's appearance on stage.
Luckily, the entire interview between Destin and TechCrunch's Jordan Crook was recorded and recently featured on the site.
During the discussion, Destin makes a few comments about what he looks for in prospective companies and startup founders. Among those points, one of the most interesting had to do with what he and people like Spark's Bijan Sabet might be looking for in pitches these days that differs from what they were looking for in companies just a few years ago. Destin says that unlike a few years ago, he is more willing to look at companies without business models if they are all about user acquisition. If a founder has an idea that is good enough and can attract users, VCs in Boston have become more willing to look at that company than they may have been in the past.
Additionally, Destin is asked about what is happening in Boston these days and his response is measured, critical at times yet overwhelmingly praising, and epic.
When Crook asks him what the big opportunities and advantages for startups in Boston as opposed to New York and Silicon Valley are, it's on for Destin.
He starts, "That's actually a softball, which I appreciate," and then rolls from there.
"There are only two fully-diversified startup ecosystems probably in the world," Destin says, "One is the Silicon Valley vortex, which is unbeatable, and the other one is Boston."
"You can go across e-commerce, machine learning, robotics, etc., and you'll find strength in all these areas."
He then references Steve Jobs idea that "When you mix expertise that is when great things happen, that is when you get something unique."
He then also references the close-knit community in Boston that is different than the "mercenary" culture of the West Coast.
Destin also points out that startup founders in Boston could be a bit more proactive than they are. "I find that at the seed stage, that entrepreneurs, especially in Boston, are often shy to reach and extend to people that they don't think they can get. The reality is that you can get Nicolas Negroponte on your board...you can get Joi ito, you can get amazing engineers." He added, "I think that as seed stage entrepreneur, when your project in embryonic, you may not realize that you can reach for the stars and get to one of these guys."
"This community will work for you, if you are just not afraid to ask."
Destin wants Boston entrepreneurs and startups to "shout from the rooftops" about what they are doing, like Silicon Valley companies seem to do more of. Even West Coast startups that may be just an idea and might not have any engineers onboard a project yet seem to get noticed and get press. He theorizes that part of the quiet, workmanlike culture of the Boston tech community may have to do with the engineering culture that focuses on perfection.
It is obvious that Destin is not only one of Boston's biggest champions, but also a catalyst for the city's advancement. Looking back years from now, as the forward progress of the Boston tech ecosystem continues, it may be moments like this and figures like Destin that we turn back too and admire for their vision and enthusiasm to make Boston the center of the innovation/technology world.
Here is the entire interview:
The best part of the entire video has to be when Destin quiets, then fires up, then re-quiets the raucous crowd inside the club. There are very few people who have both the esteem and temerity to pull of what Destin does here.