Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cambridge Innovation Center


I am again enjoying the smooth ride going down from Boston to NYC. I have visited the Cambridge Innovation Center. It is located next to the MIT campus. It occupies seven floors and the owners are describing it as a startup hotel. Indeed, it is hosting five hundred companies.

The proximity to MIT is attracting large number of technological startups. They share huge high-rise building. CIC provides the full infrastructure, furniture, electricity, connectivity, printers, free coffee, and snacks. The working open space offices are surrounded by meeting rooms of different sizes starting with one man calling booths. All are equipped with tables, phones and connectivity. Next to the door of each of the meeting rooms is an iPad for scheduling. Very useful, it allows you to find who is coming for the meeting, how long it is scheduled for etc. The cheapest space in the co-shared office costs $300 a person a month. The CIC managers do not need to advertise the demand is high. They are looking for extra space to accommodate even more companies. When the dot-com bubble burst the MIT owned building was almost deserted. This was the best time to rent the space at a great price and it is how the CIC started, twelve years ago. This was also the time when the new startups were emerging.

The attraction to build startpus is not only the Boston genius loci and the closeness to MIT. It can also be attributed to the technological advances. It has never been so easy to shoot a movie in HD professional quality. A band can put high quality recordings on the web and avoid the big labels to become popular. Everybody owns a PC and all the rest what you need to create an application is almost for free on the Internet. The easy access to technology is giving chance to everybody, it is democratizing, it is enabling and motivating to create something new. Of course everybody has the chance but not everybody will win, you need more than just the technology. The trick is to find the right idea to find the best strategy, be inventive, innovative. CIC is a good place to meet many people pursuing this path and start to socialize with them. This not only motivates but also helps to find new angles and views. Discussion and inspirational spirit this is the generic essence for making progress.

Jan a representative of Czechinvest for the east coast has arranged for me a meeting in CIC. The contact person was Christa, who takes care about the Czech starups coming to CIC. I was expecting a girl in oversized t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. To my surprise walked in through a glass door a real lady with an aristocratic touch. And I was right, I have discovered later during our long discussion that Christa is of an Austrian origin a descendant of the Czech kings. She gave me a very insightful introduction to the MIT business, what is behind the enormous success. First of all it is the concentration of the best professors. They can choose from the best students. The alumni are the best paid in the field and they are getting the top positions in the best companies. Also the MIT research results are attracting industry. Many worldwide companies are looking for the MIT researchers. MIT became an icon of the high technology design and many companies advertise their presence in MIT. The moguls buildings are nicely surrounding the campus. The top know-how and the concentration of the best researchers is attracting lot of funding. The large investments are visible everywhere in the campus. May be, the most amazing is the Gehry deconstructivistic building, very colorful and flashy? The building is also hosting the department of artificial intelligence with large spaces for experimenting. After that I had a lunch in a cafeteria. Inside is the building offering great space it is very fragmented with a lot of detail but very comfortable.

It was very valuable to see how many people try to create their own companies, what the spirit is and how it works around MIT. We are lucky Czechinvest has found Christa, the best person. The only thing remains, to get as many Czech companies to CIC as we can.

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