Dealmakers & their Dealbreakers: Boston
On Weds, June 29, Axios hosted an Expert Voices roundtable discussion in Boston, featuring local leaders in entrepreneurship and investing who considered the impacts of the current macroeconomic environment on investors and entrepreneurs in the region and shared perspectives on strategic dealmaking in today’s growth landscape. Axios’ business editor Dan Primack and Local Boston reporter Mike Deehan led the conversation.
Trends in remote work and their impact on the Boston innovation landscape
Care Academy CEO and founder Helen Adeosun described how remote work trends provide more opportunity for Boston to be a leader in innovation.
- “I believe not sort of in the marginalization of folks and moving people to Boston. I actually take a different vantage. I think Boston would be a greater and more powerful ecosystem if it is able to model in pulling folks from across the country and create a way for folks to participate in labor force and to the innovation economy from outside of the city as well.”
First Star Ventures managing partner Drew Volpe highlighted how Boston’s life sciences industry is embracing the shift to remote work.
- “Life sciences is definitely embracing remote. There’s tons of biotechs today that buy assets, use a CRO, to do basically all of the lab work and those CROs can be anywhere, they can be here, but increasingly they are saying, 'You know what? Lab space here is really, really expensive.' … I actually worry that Boston, I don’t know that it still won’t be a biotech hub in five years, but I think it will be less of one. I think South San Francisco and New Jersey and other hubs are starting to build up biotech assets and it’s a lot driven by housing.”
The resilience of the Massachusetts economy
Mo Cowan, Devoted Health chief legal and external affairs officer, shared his perspective on whether Massachusetts is heading into a recession.
- “I am anticipating continuing recessionary pressures, but I also think that’s where innovators and entrepreneurs actually excel, in those moments. Seeking solutions, promoting creative ideas, finding creative options and pathways through challenging times. I think Massachusetts is particularly primed well for that, because I think this is a hotbed of innovation … so I think there are macro challenges today; I think there will be more still. I think the geopolitical environment is going to increase those pressures and we will feel them here.”
Harvard Innovation Labs Bruce and Bridgitt Evans executive director Matt Segneri raised questions about what industries will be next in upholding the durability of the Massachusetts economy.
- “On the question of resilience of the economy, you know, I do think our success in life sciences that’s been durable is a function of the last two gubernatorial administrations who invested and supported deeply in this. My question is … to build a resilient economy … what are those next clusters that we need to ensure continued durability?”
On opportunities for entrepreneurship and investing in the region
Asymmetric managing partner Robert Biederman illustrated which industries are on the rise as strengths for the Boston region.
- “We’ve been in kind of a down cycle at the things we’re good at until now, which is largely kind of engineering and go to market … We’re now seeing the exact opposite, so things like infrastructure and security and robotics, which are relative strengths for this region, are upcycling … so I’m actually quite optimistic about this ecosystem. I think as more substantive companies matter more and less substantive companies matter less, this region has huge upside.”
Massachusetts state Sen. Eric Lesser raised concern about the region’s dependence on the success of the life sciences sector.
- “I think the bigger issue and the thing that I’m concerned about is if we’re so dependent on life sciences, what happens when life sciences changes … There’s nothing inevitable about a hub staying a hub. We all think that when we’re at the height of it. I think the big question is, what happens if life sciences shifts to New Jersey or to Texas … I think we’re a little bit victims of our own success in Massachusetts right now. The incredible innovation that’s happened here and the growth has led to $800,000 median housing prices, and that could snap.”
David Chang, Hunt Club GM of Expert Network, discussed whether investor location relative to entrepreneurs matters in today’s landscape.
- “We talk a lot about in the early stages, you want to have entrepreneurs close to the investors, but I actually find that it’s more important for those entrepreneurs to be close to their markets. So if your customer is in life sciences, then it really matters that you’re here and it kind of matters less where the investor is … so that location matters less, I think it is an end positive for people in this region.”
Jim Quagliaroli, Silversmith Capital Partners Managing Partner, explained how helping companies with their growth strategies informs his work as an investor.
- “All of those companies, they tend to be bootstrapped, they tend to have already developed their product, and we’re trying to lean into situations where we can help them grow, invest in sales, invest in marketing, help them with acquisitions.”
Thank you Silversmith Capital Partners for sponsoring this event.