Building A Strong Startup Scene Through Collaboration

Industry insight: Scott Bailey, Managing Director at MassChallenge, Boston


Ahead of MassChallenge's presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit in New York this December 5-6, we spoke to Scott Bailey, Managing Director at MassChallenge, Boston.

Scott Bailey is Managing Director of MassChallenge’s flagship program in Boston. In his role, Scott oversees the Boston competition and accelerator. Scott has served as a key member of the MassChallenge team since its early days in 2010. Most recently, he held the position of the Senior Director of Partnerships, raising $4M+ of cash and $10M+ of in-kind sponsorships in 2014 to support the organization. In addition, Scott has worked closely with MassChallenge founders cultivating a vast network of supporters that are committed to the organization and its startups.

How did you get started in your career?

I initially became interested in entrepreneurship while at UVM. After graduating, I moved to Boston to take an unpaid internship at MassChallenge the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet. Since then, I've held just about every role at the organization, which helps early-stage entrepreneurs launch and grow for zero-equity. We're headquartered in Boston, but have accelerator programs around the world, including in the UK., Mexico, Switzerland, and Israel.

What are the main challenges that companies face when they deliver innovation?

At their core, corporations and startups are very different, so often, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to engage. Sometimes, corporates work with startups as customers, partners, or even mentors/advisors. It’s also difficult for corporates to identify the right startups, and that’s where accelerators like MassChallenge come in. We act as a filter and matchmaker for more than 100 corporate partners across all of our programs.

How would you describe a successful innovation strategy?

We have recently published a joint report with Imaginatik on the State of Startup/Corporate Collaboration, and what we uncovered from that data was that in order for corporates to be successful, they need to focus on identifying opportunities to provide long-term, mutual value to the startups they're engaging with. To do this, it's helpful to establish some sort of structure by appointing a startup champion, a liaison, or internal stakeholders that can monitor and guide opportunities. It's also important to streamline processes - be loose, fast, and generous so opportunities can be uncovered, or corporates and startups can at least fail fast. 

As for startups, our data shows that they need to be deliberate in their asks, think strategically, from a corporate point of view, and identify new channels of engagement.

What are some of the challenges early stage startups face when it comes to getting funding? Is this becoming more difficult?

There are quite a few barriers to entry for early-stage startups, including cost, regulatory environments, and access to key players. It's important to bear in mind that the funding landscape is in transition. Some investors look for fast-growing companies so they can make a quick return. 

How has the tech scene evolved over the last few years and what do you see for the future tech landscape in the 'Big Apple'?

The key to building a successful startup scene is to engage key players across the entire innovation ecosystem (startups, investors, policy makers, academic institutions, and others). It’s clear that the ecosystem is evolving in New York, and there have been several initiatives which have been working on helping to steer this, like Smart City and Equitable City.

Looking ahead, I think New York will continue attracting top talent, perhaps specific to industries that play to its strengths. New York has a really strong advertising technology space and a growing number of early-stage hardware companies. 

What industry would you put your money in, from both a profitability perspective and general innovation perspective? Why?

We’re seeing tons of potential in digital health. In fact, we recently launched PULSE@MassChallenge, a startup-friendly innovation lab that helps digital health startups launch and grow. We're focusing on connecting patient-centric entrepreneurs to the resources and partnerships (hospitals, payers, etc.) they need to succeed.

The collapse of unicorns like Theranos has been hot news recently. What are your thoughts on this particular case, and what can we learn from this for future investments?

There’s been a lot of unicorn stories over the last year or so, including the collapse of Theranos. Collectively, we need to find a way to better measure startups’ potential instead of assigning these sky-high valuations that are nearly impossible for companies to live up to. We should focus on measuring impact and also be working closely with startups to help them validate this.

How important are collaborations and partnerships in driving innovation from within?

Collaborations and partnerships are incredibly important. Both corporates and startups see engagement as critical and strategically valuable, and this challenges a lot of the assumptions we have about how innovation happens in today’s economy.  

At the Chief Innovation Officer Summit, Scott is going to participate in a panel session Helping Technologies Cross the Valley of Death, where panelists are going to be discussing innovation from internal R&D, how to set up accelerators/proof-of-concept centers to move technologies across the valley of death.

Also, Mike LaRhette, President of MassChallenge will be presenting at the event and will be talking about the impact of startup/corporate collaboration, highlighting key findings from the MassChallenge report, including:

  • 99% of startups have a desire to work with corporates - in fact, 67% say it’s 'mission critical'
  • 67% of corporates prefer working with startups at earlier stages
  • 44% of corporates think strategic fit is the most important factor in success/failure of a given startup relationship

You can hear more from Scott, Mike, and other industry leaders at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit, taking place in New York this December 5-6.

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