We attended the first unConference last year and felt it was a great event. Bill Warner is to be commended for his contributions to the Boston start-up scene, and the MTLC unconferences and bringing TechStars to Cambridge are just two visible and recent examples.
You could feel the energy in the room last year and there was a palpable sense of community and cooperation at the kick off meeting. But a week later, it seemed that everyone reverted back to their insulated worlds and carried on in typical Boston fashion. The follow ups that you thought would lead to something fizzled, and the momentum died along with the financial markets. This year could be different. There is already momentum for the growing culture of openness and cooperation.
Looking back at the progress that has been made since the initial MTLC unConference, the change is fairly dramatic and encouraging.
Innovation Events have dramatically increased. Web Inno is huge and the Microsoft NERD center is almost booked solid with events most evenings, ranging from Ignite Boston, Tech Tuesday to Music Hack Day.
Co-working spaces have multiplied with betahouse paving the way for the Cambridge CoWorking Center and others.
Seed Capital programs have proliferated to the point that there are not enough startups here in Boston to fund. Programs like CRV Quickstart, Start @Spark, TechStars, Summer @Highland program and the new DogPatch Labs backed by Polaris, provide ample opportunity for a young company to find funding.
And let's not forget that Google Ventures has an office in Cambridge.
Programs like Stayinma, have been created to encourage young entrepreneurs to stay in the Boston area once they have finished college
This year the momentum is building and as the economy improves, we need to continue to create a community that nurtures fledgling companies into existence.
But wait, if you take a look at the registration list for the 2009 unConference, you will see that the experts, investors, established founders and service providers outnumber the new startup founders at least 3:1 if not higher. These people already know each other and don't want to spend the day hearing about each others Nantucket vacation. They want to meet founders with fresh ideas about how to change the world or at least about building something that people want.
I don't know why there aren't more new startups signed up for the event, but I do know that it is not really an innovation unconference without a lot of new companies and ideas to fuel a worthwhile exchange of energy and information.
So, take advantage of the opportunity to meet people like Rich Miner and Dharmesh Shah and all the other successful attendees that will be there to lend a hand.
Sign up here and make sure to take advantage of the special deals for students or startups looking for sponsorship.