Hub entrepreneurs surge through Dog Days

By GAYLE NOWAK

BOSTON—These long, hot days are nearly over, with plans for fall on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean that Boston entrepreneurs slacked over summer.

A recent Captivate Network study showed that during summer, productivity drops by 20 percent, work attendance drops by 19 percent, projects take 13 percent longer and workers are 45 percent more distracted.

Here in Boston, though, summer was the time for hitting milestones, piloting data and testing products, according to MassChallenge Managing Director Scott Bailey.

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Blonde 2.0 mascot, Zoey

MassChallenge, the largest global accelerator, offers entrepreneurs from around the world an opportunity to heat things up in the summer, with chances to mix with mentors, hear from high-profile speakers and learn from alumni.

“Summer is an amazing time to make progress and have fun in the process. Many of our entrepreneurs think about scale and efficiency. They collaborate openly and get feedback in the real world,” Bailey says.

Connect, Communicate and Collaborate

Entrepreneurs who survive the dog days work through a strategy for summer, which includes staying closely connected and continuing to build their network—whether through Boston’s universities, incubators or co-working spaces. Meredith Sandiford, executive director of The Capital Network and Greenhorn Connect, credits this community and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem as one of Boston’s unique assets.

“People are genuinely interested in helping each other out. If you are working on building something great, the more effort you put into connecting and helping others the more you will get in return,” Sandiford says.

Many networking opportunities are open to entrepreneurs in Boston throughout the summer and year-round, Sandiford said. The Capital Network’s GreenhornConnect features a variety of events hosted by such organizations as MassInnovation Nights and Venture Café to help entrepreneurs connect and “make things happen.”

Good weather and hot spots like the Seaport District have drawn entrepreneurs out to meet people and talk about their work while also having some fun.

“There is always something interesting happening in Boston,” Sandiford said. “Go out and meet people, whether it’s potential customers, investors or just others in the startup community.”

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Wellist mascot, Linus

Entrepreneurs don’t have to limit networking solely to business gatherings, Bailey adds.

“You could be talking to someone at a wedding on Cape Cod who can help you,” he says. “When you’re out with friends and loved ones, be open to communicating freely about what you’re doing.”

Beat Fall’s Funding Frenzy

Funding can slow down in the summer but entrepreneurs who plan ahead can still raise money, says Ricky Pelletier, a partner with expansion-stage venture capital firm OpenView.

“Not everybody disappears to Nantucket for six weeks at a time, but a weeklong vacation here and there does create some lag,” he says. He recommends designating a team member who can keep the funding ball rolling while founders are away—valid advice for any time of year.

But deals do close and emails do get answered, which can work in growth companies’ favor—because there is less competition, he adds. But Pelletier cautions against relying too heavily on the calendar to decide when to raise capital.

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Teletrip Robotics mascot, CJ

“Everyone comes out of the woodwork to raise funds after Labor Day. That’s great in theory, but then you’re competing with everyone else for the VC’s time. If you’re a good, solid business, you can dictate your fund-raising schedule. Stick to the process and you can make it work,” he says.

Make Room for Fun and Flexibility

Even for entrepreneurs who don’t slow down over summer, it’s not all work, all the time. Fun and flexibility are just as important.

“Our startup founders make their own time—and it is most of their time,” MassChallenge’s Bailey says. And Rica Elysee, founder of MassChallenge finalist BeautyLynk, can confirm that. “You should see how many different companies are (in the office) after 6 p.m.”

Elysee concedes, “The dog days for an entrepreneur, right, it’s not always a fun thing. But summer is the greatest opportunity to knock on doors and get some awesome customer research done. I say, ‘I want to know more about your opinion, I don’t want to sell you anything.’ I was also able to talk to a few angels, and do a few war rooms—you know, where you’re locked up in an office and getting people to ask the hard questions, to the point where I get to crying,” she laughs.

“If you’re not answering the hard questions now, you’re not doing your work,” she says.

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FoundersWire mascot, Honeybear

But there has also been plenty of daylight left for lighter challenges. Boston showcased a variety of summer entertainment and events geared toward entrepreneurs, the most popular of which included TechJam, BUILD Entrepreneur Games and the Regatta for Entrepreneurship.

Switch Gears Instead of Slowing Down

In some business circles, the dog days of summer are regarded as the time when decision-makers are unreachable and buyers are not engaged. But for entrepreneurs, it can work quite the opposite. “I thrived this summer,” says Hub native Elysee, 30. “Have you ever watched (TV show) Naked and Afraid? There will be those who survive it by being lazy, and those who thrive. (Entrepreneurs) wake up early to avoid the heat, and chase something with a rock to show how savage we can be—that’s what I’m about.”

Staying in motion means capitalizing on the hottest months of the year, creating opportunities to make direct connections, get noticed and get ahead of anyone who believes summer is a tough time to get things done—just in time for fall execution season.

“We are expanding services into colleges and office spaces for fall. But I have to say, one thing I’m really looking forward to for fall has nothing to do with beauty services but watching the transformation that’s about to happen in this city,” Elysee says. “With Forbes Under 30 summit coming, and HubWeek expanding out to Roxbury for the first time, Boston is rising to the occasion.

“Boston is the city on the hill—which means I have the opportunity to make it exactly what I want it to be. I use that to push forward.”


Make your plans now for HubWeek, the creative festival in September that brings a week of events and experiences that highlight the intersection of art, science and technology within Boston.