20 resources to break into the Boston innovation ecosystem

Chances are you haven’t been able to ignore the buzz happening around the Boston innovation ecosystem over the past few years. From the biotech boom over in Kendall to the rise of towers in the Seaport District, it’s pretty evident that something is happening.

Fortunately, there are a ton of organizations and people who have been working at building up the innovation and creative economies here in Boston for years. And, they are dedicated to helping you–yes, you–break into it. Whether you just moved here to Boston, are launching a company, or if you’re simply looking to check out something new and interesting, there are a number of resources to not only get you started, but get you engrained in the community here. While this list is by no means comprehensive, we thought we’d start you out with 20.

Our criteria:

  • Must host or list events/networking opportunities
  • Open and accessible (not member exclusive)
  • Connected to the innovation or creative economy at-large; not purely self-promotional

Without further adieu, here the’s rundown:

  1. BostInno: If you like memes and being totally in the loop on what’s going on here in the innovation scene in Boston, BostInno is your resource. The “In the Know” and “The BostInno Beat” newsletters give you a rundown on happenings each morning. They host a number of events on their own — from Tech Madness (coming up this March) to State of Innovation and 50 on Fire, but they’re also great about providing weekly breakdowns on a variety of events in the tech and innovation ecosystem here in Boston.
  2. Boston Startups Guide: Launched in 2011, the Boston Startups Guide is a killer resource for making connections in the startup community here in Boston. Mainly a digital platform, it features startup companies, job listings, news, and even creates custom guides to resources on co-working spaces, coding bootcamps, and more.
  3. City Awake: Now the “civic innovation lab of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce,” City Awake is focused on supporting innovators who are shaping the civic landscape here in Boston–through initiatives like their Ventures accelerator and the Collaborative and Classy Awards, a 3-day event that celebrates and connects the social sector. We were psyched to hear that the City Awake Festival is also returning in 2017.
  4. Design Museum Boston: A museum that is not actually a physical museum. Design Museum Boston’s mission is to “educate the world about design,” — they do so by hosting multiple events each month all over Greater Boston–from innovation summits and Design Museum Mornings to field trips and exhibitions. Most events are free for members, low ticket (~$10–20) for non-members.
  5. The Engine: A new MIT initiative focused on prioritizing breakthrough ideas over profit and building a community of people solving serious problems. While The Engine doesn’t officially open until April, they’ve already hosted a few events and info sessions. We anticipate we’ll be hearing a lot more here and that this is a good one to keep an eye on.
  6. General Assembly Boston: GA Boston not only offers education and career building classes and programs, but they’re also a fierce collaborator in the Boston community, coming together with other organizations such as Just Us Gals and Resilient Coders to offer weekly events focused on skill-building, diversity, and the innovation scene here in Boston. What we’re excited for right now? Cabin Fever — a weeklong series coming up this month exploring everything from the future of food to travel hacks.
  7. Greenhorn Connect: Greenhorn Connect is a web portal aimed at connecting “Boston startups and enthusiasts” to a number of resources, events and opportunities in the region. This is one of our go-tos when it comes to tracking down must-attend events and happenings.
  8. Greentown Labs: While Greentown Labs is the largest clean tech incubator in the U.S., they’ve maintained a refreshingly down-to-earth and approachable vibe. Whether you’re revolutionizing the way we get our energy or are a simply friend/fan of cleantech, you’ve got a home here. Greentown hosts bi-monthly “EnergyBar!” networking events devoted to helping people in (or interested in) cleantech meet and exchange ideas. You can also find a pretty handy calendar listing of other related events on their site.
  9. MassBIO: MassBIO has been around for over 20 years, and continues to provide a wealth of services and support for the life sciences cluster here in Greater Boston. Over 975+ biotech companies, academic institutions and foundations are members (yeah, we were a little blown away by that number, too). You can peruse the member directory and news or attend a number of events open to the community.
  10. MassChallenge/PULSE@MassChallenge: This one goes without saying. Born in Boston and now in five markets across the globe, MassChallenge has accelerated over 1,200 startups to-date. Not only that, they’re relentlessly focused on helping to build innovation ecosystems around the world, and Boston is no exception. You can get an insider’s look via open houses, monthly talks, and their big Startup Showcase each spring–Entrepalooza.
  11. Mass General Hospital Healthcare Transformation Lab: The Healthcare Transformation Lab was created “to improve the experience and value of healthcare” through collaboration and new technologies. They host a number of symposiums and panels open to engineers, entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, and the public, and launched the Co.Create program in collaboration with MIT Hacking Medicine, to support Boston-area grad students innovating in healthcare. Also check out: Tufts MedStart and the BHW iHub.
  12. Mass Innovation Nights: Mass Inno. Nights is a monthly series that features ten local companies each month. Since they started, they’ve helped launch over 900 new products. It’s a great way to meet up-and-coming startups and businesses, and help support the community here. We’re also huge fans of the “stone soup” metaphor they use to describe their events.
  13. MassTLC: Positioned as “the region’s leading technology association,” MassTLC includes a membership base of over 550 companies–so you know you’re likely to meet someone interesting at their events. MassTLC does host some events exclusive to members and has a set of signature events of their own including NewCo Boston and Boston TechJam, but they also have a community events calendar on their site with many free and open events for the public. You can also find more information on key tech clusters, peer-to-peer groups, and other resources on their site.
  14. MedTech Boston: Whether you’re a health care professional or are simply curious about the latest in care, MedTech Boston is a phenomenal resource. Focused on “highlighting exciting medical innovation work,” and in particular on “controversial” new offerings, you can find fascinating blog posts, event listings, and competitions/challenges in this space.
  15. Meetups: An oldie, but a goodie. Sometimes there’s nothing better than hunting through the world of Meetup to find other like-minded (or better yet, totally different) groups in the innovation/creative spaces.
  16. MIT Enterprise Forum: While the MIT Enterprise Forum is a global organization, the local Cambridge chapter was where the magic began. They host a number of open events, challenges, and mentoring opportunities for those “who are taking risks to found or invest in new startups today.” Events have included everything from discussions on driverless cars and connected things to startup showcases and competitions.
  17. NEFA: The New England Foundation for the Arts is a group that focuses on “cultivating and promoting the arts in New England and beyond.” In addition to hosting a number of programs to support artists, they have a unique position on fueling the creative economy through exchange and public discourse. While their events do not always take place directly in Boston, they’re a great resource for connecting with folks in the creative economy.
  18. StartHub: A fairly new public-private partnership between the City of Boston, Venture Cafe, Gust, IBM and a number of other partners, StartHub.org is already one of the most reliable and comprehensive platforms aimed at connecting and supporting the innovation community. Features include startup spotlights, hundreds of events, job listings, investor profiles, workspace breakdowns, and more.
  19. Startup Institute: Launched at the center of the tech ecosystems in Boston and New York, Startup Institute offers programs to provide their students with the skills needed to launch into the innovation industry. Beyond their programs, they also host a number of free or low-cost open events, as well as campus visits for you to come and connect with their community.
  20. Venture Cafe Foundation: The Venture Cafe Foundation is one of the long-standing conveners and supporters of the innovation economy in Boston. Through the Cambridge Innovation Center (including the weekly Venture Cafe sessions), District Hall, the Roxbury Innovation Center, and more, they have hosted over 4,800 events and over 250,000 visitors to date. All information, locations, and innovation services are completely open to the community and there truly is no shortage of interesting programming or opportunities to be found here.

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