12×12 – Yet Another Update….

Last night marked the fourth dinner this year for the 12×12 group – which nearly numbered 50 people. We were pleased to be joined by Governor Patrick as we heard from Company #5 (two have been announced, three are still in stealth mode). Thanks to Tim Rowe who hosted us at the Cambridge Innovation Center. And special thanks to the team at Pricewaterhouse Coopers who, as the accounting/consulting partner, sponsored the event.

In a few short months this initiative has raised $11.5 million for five companies which now employ 37 people. It is still early days but the progress is very encouraging. The goal is 12 companies in 12 months which hopefully will go on to employ hundreds of people in the Commonwealth.

Recall the intention was to convene 12 senior partners from local VC firms with 12 senior, serially successful local CEO’s (and around this group we have an Organizing Committee – all of whom were there last night – Jonathan Kraft, Paul Sagan, Desh Deshpande, Steve Vinter). Nearly everyone was in attendence last night which is impressive given time of year.

One of the most profound developments is to watch this group come together with a greater sense of mission to start new companies, and in so doing, re-energize the entrepreneurial ecosystem. I was struck when we launched last spring how many of the 12×12 participants did not actually know each other; now many business important connections have been formed (in addition to 5 new companies).

Last night the group engaged in a surprisingly spirited debate concerning the impact of “non competes” in Massachusetts. After frankly more discussion than I imagined a common ground seemed to be coalescing around the need to soften or do away with “non competes.”

Other highlights from the evening:

  • Company #5 (still stealth): a great case study for why this initiative is so important – a very senior VC teamed up with one of the CEO’s to keep a young talented entrepreneur here to build his company (he apparently had his bags packed, heading to the west coast).
  • Desh Deshpande, an extraordinary success story in his own right, sharing insights from all of his entrepreneurial activities – and important lessons learned.
  • Jonathan Kraft, recounting how the Patriots successfully built the most dominant NFL franchise and some insights relevant for the start-up community (it was very inspirational). Jonathan also shared why Tom Brady is so much better then Peyton Manning – like any of us needed to be convinced of that.
  • Colin Angle and Tim Healy (CEO’s of iRobot and EnerNoc, respectively) discussing all the existing and possible new spin-out companies coming from their companies which led to a provocative discussion about how best to cultivate a company’s alumni body and encourage innovation within existing companies. The list of iRobot offspring is impressive and growing.
  • Eric Paley of Founders Collective retelling how he established two of the 12×12 companies so far and all the value those start-up’s are getting from the initiative.

So what are the values these start-up’s are getting from the 12×12 initiative? To date numerous service providers have stepped forward so now virtually all costs – other than salaries – are covered in the first year of operations. This includes free legal services (Foley Hoag), accounting/consulting (PwC), personal finance (BNY Mellon), PR/marketing (Allen & Gerristen), real estate, marketing software (Hub Spot), market research (Yankee Group), broadband CDN services (Akamai), infrastructure software, etc – a very impressive list of services. Some of the participants have come to refer to this as the “rocket fuel” a start-up requires.  

Stay tuned. We have seven more companies to launch…

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