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Monday, June 07, 2010

Rebecca Frankel on Boston Startups

A few weeks ago, I shared something on Google Reader/Buzz about Boston Entrepreneurship. Fundamentally, during the mini-computer era, Route 128 was as much a hotbed of computer expertise and business as Silicon Valley was. If you had to bet on a region, you could easily have bet on the Boston Area rather than Silicon Valley.

Yet all through the 1980s till now, Silicon Valley has led the way in producing the companies that people talk about today. Google, Facebook, Netscape, and many others that changed the landscape basically came out of Silicon Valley. I applied to graduate school at MIT in 1992, and was accepted, but for various reasons (explained in An Engineer's Guide to Silicon Valley Startups) backed out before registration, so I never truly got a good feel for the Boston area.

I met Rebecca Frankel a few years ago when she applied for a conversion from intern to full time employee at Google. At that time, I thought Google was doing something pretty nasty: they were forcing interns who wanted to convert to commit to leaving graduate school before granting an interview, which might or might not result in a full time offer. I understand why Google did this: it really wanted to make sure that the best graduate students weren't being systematically poached by Google (or some groups inside Google), thereby poisoning the well at graduate schools where professors would send us their top students. But I thought it was a pretty crummy deal.

Anyway, Rebecca has a lot to say about the Boston area, MIT, and the role of DARPA and what other sciences call "basic research" as compared to what entrepreneurship is all about, and I think whether you live in Silicon Valley or Boston (or even New York City), it's definitely worth reading what she has to say.


Rifkele said...

So you introduce me to the world as someone who accepted that crazy conversion deal! Oh dear. I would never have done it under normal circumstances. It just so happened that I was in a state where the "burn your bridges behind you" feature of it was in fact somewhat appealing, a feature rather than a bug. Some part of me wanted to have the easy safe route forcibly closed behind me so I would have no choice but to go forward.

Actually, though, I was a bit caught by surprise by the other bad thing about that deal --- it overloaded my last few weeks. It meant that at the end of the summer I was simultaneously trying to finish rather demanding intern work that it was very important to me to wrap up properly, make irrevocable decisions about my life, talk to the people needed to be told about those decisions, interview & negotiate -- all in little more than three weeks. I regret a lot about those last three weeks, but it was just impossible to handle it all. It was a strange, strange deal. I'm not sure the people who designed it were thinking about the consequences (this is part of where my comments about "lack of intentionality" come from.)

The Buzz thread is going viral! It was on Hacker News, and even translated into Spanish! Oh my! I thought of it as testing out some ideas in front of a few friends, finding out how I felt by writing it down ... and its already spreading over the world. The internet is dangerous! Maybe I should be more cautious -- but I was rather enjoying unapologetic overstatement, tagged it as such. My husband approves; he thinks I'm too cautious about putting things out there. And as dangerous ideas that I could put out there go, this is peanuts. So maybe I should start practicing and get used to it.

Piaw Na said...

I agree. I don't think that "thinking through the consequences" is in character for Google management, especially after Wayne left.

I had no idea that the Buzz thread went viral. That's a big deal, and I hope I helped! And yes, get used to the spotlight, especially if you keep saying intelligent things well. :-)

Shalmanese said...

Heh, I was the one who posted it on Hacker News. Sorry if that was not your intention :P.

Piaw Na said...

Nice. Do you have a direct link? I can't seem to search properly on Hacker News.

And I assume you didn't translate it to Spanish.

Piaw Na said...

Never mind, I found it