The Power of Ideas
Entrepreneurs & Innovators
RETHINKING ARTS EDUCATION
Lee Pelton President
In a town where there’s no shortage of exceptional educational leadership, Pelton makes no small plans. In the past year alone, he unveiled Emerson’s stunning new $85 million dollar campus in L.A. (the first of its kind for any East Coast school), kicked off an accelerator program (a rarity at an arts college), and launched the dynamic new Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement as a hub to engage students in addressing the city’s shortcomings. Perhaps most impressively, he sparked a national discussion on how universities can deal with gun violence and created the College Presidents’ Gun Violence Resource Center. “We want big ideas that inspire people to do good things,” he says.
Flybridge Capital Partners
Bussgang’s a data junkie. When the venture capitalist looked at specs of the state’s startup landscape, one stat stood out: Immigrants are powering Boston’s innovation economy. Instead of taking jobs, they’re making them, he argues, and by not enacting immigration reform, we’re doing a disservice to our country. Over the past year, he’s been working to create a public-private partnership to enable foreign entrepreneurs in Boston to get an exemption from restrictive visa caps. This April, Governor Patrick announced a pilot program to test the concept.
AN OTTOMAN EMPIRE
Steve Conine and Niraj Shah
While I am in awe of what cofounders Niraj Shah (CEO) and Steve Conine (co-chairman and CTO) have built in a short time, I believe it is only the tip of the iceberg. In 2002, they had the vision, ambition, and determination to establish Wayfair as a company that creates and acquires and builds, rather than sells out—and I believe that what they created will serve as a magnet for the best and the brightest talent. Since its launch, Wayfair has quietly grown into an almost $1 billion online furniture empire, employing more than 1,500 people in Boston. It will inevitably become one of the most significant Boston-based IPOs of recent times, and will be a leading force in making e-commerce a major economic growth engine for our region. —Joe Grimaldi, chairman, Mullen Advertising
CAREGIVERS ON DEMAND
Sheila Lirio Marcelo
You have an unexpected business dinner and you need a reliable sitter who can wrangle your brood into bed before the clock strikes 8. For the 5.3 million families who use Care.com, which offers 24/7 access to the profiles of 4.5 million caregivers, this is no problem. Harvard alum Sheila Lirio Marcelo founded the Waltham company in 2006, raising $111 million in venture funding. Since then, she’s turned Care.com into such a success that when it released its IPO this past January, shares of the company rose nearly 43 percent in its first day of trading.
START A DIY FITNESS REVOLUTION
Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric
The November Project
The November Project’s manic, motivational, and mildly cultish mayhem, led by the charismatic duo Brogan Graham (left) and Bojan Mandaric, is bigger than you realize. The grassroots fitness movement is waging war on gym memberships by offering free early-morning workouts to hordes of fitness junkies three times a week. And now their concept—regular hill workouts, Harvard stadium runs, and random calisthenics challenges—has morphed into a sprawling international fitness community in 15 cities. The November Project’s infectious camaraderie (expressed through a disarming number of hugs) is all rooted in a single, three-point mantra: Fitness should be fun, it’s better with a team, and all you need to do is show up.
Katie Rae and John Harthorne
Techstars and MassChallenge
Few people embody Boston’s startup ecosystem better than Rae and Harthorne. Insanely connected, Rae has ushered dozens of promising businesses through the grueling Techstars program during her tenure as managing director. And Harthorne understands the impact one good idea can have on another: He picked the brains of more than 2,000 Bostonians before launching MassChallenge in 2008, and today the program is booming, with 1,600 pitches from 41 states and 50 countries in its latest application round. Now he’s taking the concept global.
BOSTON BEATS SILICON VALLEY
Rich Miner and Bijan Siabet
Google Ventures and Spark Capital
This pair of entrepreneurs turned VC wunderkinds have proven track records when it comes to investing in the right tech companies at the right times. Since creating the Android platform, Miner’s focus has been snagging up-and-comers like Nextbit and Crittercism for Google’s $1.2 billion venture arm. Siabet spearheaded Spark Capital’s early investments in Twitter, Foursquare, and Tumblr, walking away with $1.6 billion in Twitter shares after its IPO last year. His biggest effort of late was getting the governor to agree to outlaw non-compete clauses in the commonwealth.
RECLAIMING THE ORIGINAL INNOVATION DISTRICT
Founder and CEO, Cambridge Innovation Center
Back in the 19th century, when Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were toiling over the light bulb and telephone, the two worked out of shared office space in the Financial District. Now, blocks away from where those inventors first brainstormed, Rowe foresees the new branch of the Cambridge Innovation Center reinvigorating downtown Boston, just as the original CIC helped launch the new Kendall Square. Rowe believes proximity among startups and innovators encourages collaboration, and is now bringing the concept to other major cities. First up: St. Louis, Missouri.
BRINGING MANUFACTURING BACK TO LAWRENCE
Brenna Nan Schneider
By capitalizing on the burgeoning “me-commerce” industry, Schneider believes she’s found a way to bring manufacturing back to America. Working out of a building in Lawrence’s historical Everett Mills complex, her team cuts and sews custom-designed retail goods for companies like West Elm, then ships the items directly to the consumer in two to five days. It’s no coincidence that the business’s home base is the site of the 1912 “Bread and Roses” labor strike: With 99Degrees Custom, Schneider hopes to build a revolution of her own—an “up and out” employment model that will teach workers the skills they need to move into higher-paying manufacturing jobs. It’s a concept that’s quite literally paid off: The company won the “diamond” award ($100,000) in 2013 in the MassChallenge competition.