Entrepreneur Factory

Boston entrepreneurs are finding benefit in working collectively with other start-ups, even those not in their sector. Dave Keating reports.

Boston’s Route 128 has long been a hub for entrepreneurs in the high tech sector. With the rapid growth of the high-technology industry between the 1960’s and 1980’s, the highway has come to symbolize the Boston IT community itself. The area has been ranked number one in the state in entrepreneurial start-ups for the past decade.

But Route 128 is rarely considered in connection with Boston’s life sciences community, or any of the other start-ups which tend to receive attention from venture capitalists.

Foley Hoag corporate partner David Broadwin

Legal services provider Foley Hoag is seeking to bridge some of the gaps between high-tech and other start-ups by opening up an ‘Emerging Enterprise Center’ in Waltham, Massachusetts, at the hub of the Route 128 technology corridor. The new centre, run by Foley Hoag, will provide a full array of legal services, business management expertise and professional networks for emerging companies in the biotechnology and technology markets.

“The idea for the centre was to create a gathering place for information and services that entrepreneurs might need to assist them in accelerating a business,” says David Broadwin, a corporate partner with Foley Hoag and head of the new centre. “The notion is that there are information and services that start-ups will need to access in an efficient and user-friendly way.”

Broadwin says aside from providing legal and support services for new businesses the centre will also provide workshops and training sessions. The center’s first event was presented last week by Foley Hoag and the National Venture Capital Association. The workshop, entitled, “What Early Stage Companies Need to Know About Medicare Coverage and Reimbursement,” served the dual function of educating entrepreneurs and introducing them to each other.

Some of the high-tech clients being served out of the centre so far include Third Screen Media, Convergys, Advanced Electron Beams and Dataupia. Life sciences companies include Concordant Rater Systems, HistoRx, FluoroPharma, ViuRx, Declmmune and KnewCo.

Other firms have centres similar to Foley Hoag’s, among them the technology centre run by Deloitte. But Broadwin says Foley Hoag’s centre is different because it is bringing both high tech and life sciences start-ups together and focusing on the main thing they have in common: the need to learn how to run an emerging business.

“Life science and IT start-ups have a lot of differences and different kinds of needs,” says Broadwin. “Healthcare attracts a lot of large venture transactions, which is not common in the software space. But many of these companies are focused on the same community. In many cases they’re looking for similar types of assistance, and similar introductions and contacts with potential financing sources.”

Broadwin says in the end he hopes investors will be attracted to clients who use the centre because they will know these are start-ups which have emerged well-prepared for the road ahead.

“We’re very optimistic that this will be a good contribution to the general development of start-ups and their ability to speed up and accelerate their growth,” he says. “We think that’s one of the most exciting things about this area.”