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The lowdown on how GE’s move will impact Boston startups

Jan 18, 2016Boston Business Journal, Council in the News

By Sara Castellanos

General Electric Co.’s announcement last week that it would move its corporate headquarters to Boston has implications for the local startup scene. After all, it was Boston’s vibrant startup culture and innovative spirit that was among the dozens of reasons that GE decided Boston was a good fit.

“We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations,” said GE’s Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt in a statement last week.

Here are five ways that the announcement of GE’s move to Boston will impact — and has already impacted — the startup scene.

  • GE’s move is validation for startups. Scott Bailey, the managing director of Boston-based startup accelerator program MassChallenge, said GE’s move symbolizes Boston’s bigger ambitions. “The fact that they chose Boston, for me, is just a huge opportunity for the city and it’s great recognition of the work going on here,” he said in an interview. MassChallenge executives like Bailey even had a role in luring GE to Boston. Bailey said the GE officials he met with a few months ago when they were looking for a new headquarters were excited about the young, up-and-coming talent pool, the amount of research and development work going on in Boston, and the overall innovation activity.
  • GE will help foster new startups. GE, which stands to be the largest company in Massachusetts with a $291 billion market cap, appears to see the startup community as a valuable partner. The company announced in a release last week that it will create an entity called the GE Digital Foundry, for “co-creation, incubation and product development with customers, startups and partners.” Not much is known about the incubator right now. More information about it will likely be unveiled at an event in Boston on Feb. 18, according to a GE spokesman.
  • VCs are supportive of GE. Lee Hower, a partner at venture capital firm NextView Ventures, headquartered in Boston and New York City, said GE’s headquarters move is big news for tech talent. For example, Hower said there will be “an even greater pool of talented software engineers, hardware engineers, data scientists and the like here,” after GE moves to Boston. “It’ll mean interesting job opportunities from the thousands of undergrad and grad students we have coming out of all our colleges and universities around metro Boston. It will hopefully lead to interesting opportunities for our tech companies here to partner with GE too.”
  • GE will partner with more startups. One of NextView Ventures’ portfolio companies, Boston-based GrabCAD , has already partnered with GE. The partnership was aimed at tapping into GrabCAD’s community of more than two million mechanical engineers to do a crowd sourced design competition for a 3-D printed component of a GE jet engine. “I think we’d see even more collaborations like this between GE and Boston based startups (when) GE is headquartered here,” Hower said.
  • Startups are also excited about the move. Moritz Plassnig, co-founder of Boston software startup Codeship, said he’s not worried about the tech talent war becoming more competitive when GE comes to town. “For the eco-system overall, it’s great to have another big important company here,” he said. To see what Massachusetts business leaders in tech, finance and education said about GE’s move to Boston, click the photo gallery above.



Increasingly, the Massachusetts High Technology Council is stepping up to create, execute, and lead critical statewide competitiveness strategies. Fostering a vision for our innovation economy under the MassVision2050 banner, the Council solidifies its position as a thought leader providing valuable insights to navigate emerging technologies, facilitates long-term planning, and reinforces the Council's commitment to excellence and action in the evolving Massachusetts tech-driven economy.

To learn more, contact Council President Chris Anderson.