Observations of the Boston Tech Scene

One of our goals with the Launchpad blog is to chronicle the launch of Rocket Insights and our flight path over time. We've been in business about four months now, and here are some observations we've made so far about the Boston tech scene:

Boston is rocking. Our initial observation is that Boston is a pretty awesome place to be building products right now. Tons of startups are building new products and some established companies are really pushing the envelope. We’re seeing a lot of energy and excitement in the community in general and whether or not we're in a "bubble" we think this will continue for some time.

Consumer apps are alive and well. Judging from what we're seeing there is a good amount of consumer apps being built right now. The old adage that you need to be in the valley to do consumer apps is growing weaker every day. We think this is a good thing.

Mobile is not standalone. We’re finding that almost all projects we’re working on are platformish...meaning that there are multiple components and they include mobile apps, web apps, and APIs to tie them together. We suspect we’ll be building like this for the foreseeable future because it's how you create a cohesive user experience overall.

Every dev/product team is different. We’ve talked to several dozen teams in the last month and we’re finding huge differences in all of them. Some teams are extremely tech-focused and need help with product research/insight. Some teams have great product ideas but aren't able to execute consistently. Some teams have a beautiful app already but it’s just not easy to use. Some teams are too political to get real work done. It’s really amazing to us how different every team is...and so for us it becomes important to get a real sense of how each team operates as fast as possible so we can know where we can complement, dig in, and help out.

Products are HARD. Because teams are so different and software is getting increasingly specialized, the hardest problem facing most teams is building an appropriate product. We're doing a lot of design exercises with folks to make sure they're building the right thing...too often products just aren't the right scope for the job. (almost all products are overwrought...in our experience building a simple, working system first is the right approach).

It’s still all about trust. We’re getting most of our inbound leads from our personal networks and people we've worked with in the past. We knew this would be the case but we’re a little surprised at the difference between personal intros and people who simply find us somehow. It’s really about trust. People building ambitious things want and need to work with people they trust. So when a potential client gets an introduction to us from someone they trust, that makes a huge difference and our relationship builds quickly. For clients with no introduction, we have to build up trust more slowly. We're finding this is a good thing to keep in mind...since we're here for the long haul we aren't trying to rush things.

Everyone is hiring. Everyone is trying to hire great design and development talent. It is hard, time-consuming, and expensive. And even if you get someone great it is still a challenge for them to fit in your unique culture. We've helped several teams grow by making introductions and such, but it is still clearly a supply problem: there just isn't enough talent to go around right now.

Summary: products aren't easy but it's an exciting time to be building them in Boston!