A New Year’s wish list: Fewer burning trains

In October, as I was riding the train to work, the conductor calmly asked everyone to get off the train at the next station. Why? Because the train was on fire. Sigh.

Complaining about the MBTA has become a hobby for many Bostonians. In fact, it’s impossible to say the name “T” without having it either directly preceded or followed by profanity. The problem is, it’s not getting any better, from last year’s dismal performance in the snow to the recent escapade of the runaway train. The lack of functioning public transit is a problem for every Bostonian. If we don’t have a functioning transit system how can people get to work? If we have a third-tier transit system, how can we expect to attract and retain the top tier talent? The short answer is we can’t.


We can help. Tell the governor to fix it. Charlie, I’m willing to pay more if it stops my train from catching on fire. This is a low bar, but we have to start somewhere.

Bear with me while I put on my tie-dye and paint a protest sign but “Hey. Hey. Hey ho. Noncompetes have to go!” This isn’t just a startup and economic development issue. This is about workers’ rights. The fight to eliminate noncompetes fizzled in 2014, and it’s time for us to pick it up again. Noncompetes stop people from following their dreams, finding better jobs, and building businesses. They adversely affect everyone from the 25-year-old developer who wants to launch a new company to the 48-year-old hairdresser who wants to switch hair salons. As Scott Kirsner pointed out, in the case of EMC they didn’t really help anyone. Let’s kill noncompetes and set people free to do more.

Boston is where the world comes to learn. The same holds true for the innovation economy. Boston is blessed with countless thought leaders who are willing to share their insight, wisdom, and opinions. OpenView Labs, NextView Platform, David Skok’s forEntrepreneurs, and Startup Institute’s The Whiteboard are four sites you should subscribe to and start reading as soon as you’ve finished reading this article. You’ll become smarter, better at your job, and more attractive. OK, I can only promise two out of three will actually happen.

By now, I’m sure you’ve read that LovePop, a local greeting-card company, received an investment on Shark Tank. That company didn’t just pop out (pun intended) of nowhere. The founders have been working on it for years and were part of a recent Techstars Boston class. They have a tangible product and they’ve been focused on generating revenue since they launched. Are they going to be the next HubSpot? No. But that’s the point. The founders are part of the maker movement. We need to continue investing in different types of businesses. Software is great, but there are great businesses being passed over because they don’t fit a specific template.

Remember when I mentioned how we should invest in more LovePops? Well, that will require us to continue to innovate on funding models. Accomplice has led the way by championing syndicates, and BetaSpring recently launched RevUp, which is the first accelerator for revenue-first companies. RevUp is focused on generating a return through royalties, instead of taking equity in a company.


Are these approaches going to work? Who knows? What’s important is that we expand the methods to fund different business models founded by a diverse group of entrepreneurs. We need more manicubes, soofas, and beautylynks. The VC world is about disruption. It’s time for the funding model to get disrupted.

You need to get out. You’re young. You’re attractive. You have a great personality. Go out. Meet someone. Go out to dinner. See the latest “Star Wars” movie again. Who knows what could happen? You might enjoy yourself.

Seriously, we work too much. In 2016 let’s make sure to get away from our electronic devices and go on a date with our spouse/friend/lover/whomever. Promise that you’ll schedule in some fun while trying to change the world.

Did I just write “schedule in some fun”?

That sounds unfun. Anyway, you get the point.

Happy New Year!

Allan Telio is the vice president and director of Startup Institute Boston. Follow Allan Telio on Twitter @gallonofalan. Startup Institute is currently accepting applications for its spring program.

Open bundled references in tabs:

Leave a Reply