Boston Mayor Marty Walsh isn’t scared of Silicon Valley. “I like competition,” he confidently said Wednesday morning at ed-tech nonprofit LearnLaunch. “We want to make Boston the tech capital of the world.”
To help achieve that, Walsh visited Boston’s Back Bay, where LearnLaunch is incubating more than 35 ed-tech startups and 100 entrepreneurs. He was joined by Melissa Dodd and Mark Racine, chief of staff and CIO of Boston Public Schools, respectively, turning to them for input after each handshake with an up-and-coming founder.
“Do we know how much of a sampling of kids we’d need?” Walsh said, evidently eager to get the technology being built out of LearnLaunch into the hands of the city’s students — “in every school for every neighborhood.”
Walsh walked around LearnLaunch’s co-working and accelerator space, which seven new startups moved into on Monday, following a presentation by co-founder Vinit Nijhawan, managing director of Boston University’s Office of Technology Development.
“We need the Boston Public Schools to become early adopters of our companies’ technology,” Nijhawan urged, looking to Dodd, Racine and Walsh, all of whom were nodding in agreement. “Everyone is trying to figure this out. … But we’re trying to be at the center of this.”
Walsh countered Nijhawan with a request of his own.
“I need you to think about how to keep people here in Boston,” he said, referring to the city’s entrepreneurs. “They get established and then they leave.”
They wouldn’t leave, however, with the proper support. Nijhawan used the growing life sciences cluster as an example. The Hub is home to the world’s best hospitals — innovative facilities willing to test out new technology. Because of their enthusiasm, companies have continued moving to the city. With the wealth of intellectual capital here, between the Boston Public Schools and dozens of colleges and universities, there’s no reason the same shouldn’t be said for the ed-tech space.
“We have the market here,” Nijhawan said.
And Walsh is working to make that market grow. The mayor said he wanted to see buildings up and down Boylston Street, and in every surrounding neighborhood, full of startups.
“It’s exciting to hear him say he is going to support entrepreneurs and buildings for startups,” said Jillian Kando, CTO of EdTrips, noting that what startups struggle for is space. “That he took time out of his day to come here is really encouraging.”
EdTrips COO Laura Wallendal agreed, adding, “We need all the help and support we can get. This is a step in the right direction.”
After following Walsh around the LearnLaunch space and hearing him speak with entrepreneurs, it’s evident the mayor’s mission is to bolster the innovation economy. Following his trip to LearnLaunch, Walsh also visited MassChallenge alongside Mass. Governor Deval Patrick to celebrate the opening of the startup accelerator’s new Seaport home, as well as its London expansion.
Between both events, his commitment couldn’t be more clear.
“The future really is here in this room,” Walsh noted at LearnLaunch, looking around at the sea of entrepreneurs who are helping change the way the city’s children are educated. “You have a partner here in the City of Boston.”