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Boston vies to displace Silicon Valley as tech destination
By NIV ELIS
28/05/2014
California may have Stanford, but Massachusetts has Harvard and MIT; Could the City on the Hill become the Silicony Hill?
 
In leading his second delegation to Israel as Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick has a clear message: Forget Silicon Valley.

“The fact is that we are creating jobs faster in Massachusetts than in Silicon Valley, we have a broader range of digital technology investments in Massachusetts than in Silicon Valley and there are more customers on the East Coast than the West Coast,” Patrick told The Jerusalem Post in an interview in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

It is understandable that Massachusetts would resent Silicon Valley’s brand recognition. People know the names of big consumer product companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple, which are headquartered in the Bay Area. Yet despite being home to many big, important companies, the Bay State gets little credit, in part because so many of the companies operate behind the scenes, such as EMC Corp. or PTC Inc.

“As both a Massachusetts investor and an Israeli investor myself, I have observed that there is a belief that Silicon Valley is everything. But in fact it’s only good for some things. The weather’s great. It’s the center of the social media world. But for most other things, there are far better partners,” said David Goodtree, a board member of the New England-Israel Business Council, which organized the delegation.

California may have Stanford, but Massachusetts has Harvard and MIT. Silicon Valley may be a catchy name, but couldn’t the City on the Hill become the Silicony Hill? Couldn’t the Cradle of Liberty become the Cradle of VCs? Couldn’t the city known as the Hub be known as, well, the Hub? The delegation hopes to impress Boston’s competitive edge upon Israeli innovators seeking to expand to the United States.

A group commissioned a study on the Israeli role in Massachusetts’s economy and found that the 200 Israel-founded companies there have raised $693 million in venture capital funds in the past three years.

Most of the state’s economic growth, which is 2.5 times the US average, comes from “innovations sectors” such as biotech, life sciences, clean tech, digital technologies and advanced manufacturing, said Patrick.

“We are visiting places and partnering with places where the economy is compatible, and that’s Israel!” It’s putting its money where its mouth is. On Wednesday, Boston-based PTC announced a $7 million in-kind software contribution to help the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology found a robotics lab, and on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology opened a seed fund with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

EMC’s SVP of global new business development Joel Schwartz said the ties to Israel were invaluable. “EMC as a company would not exist without our ties to Israel,” he said on Wednesday.

Israeli technology helped it grow from a $50m. company in 1990 to a $9 billion company a decade later. XtremIO, the Israeli tech start-up it bought two years ago for about $400m. despite it having no revenues, was poised bring in a quarter billion in revenues this fiscal year, he said.

Guy Seeman, a 28-year-old CEO preparing to launch a new pharma company, found the pitch persuasive.

“You can tell the political leaders are really committed to this, and that they see Israel as a significant opportunity for their economy,” he said.

Massachusetts was a good option for where to open the US branch, he said: it provided easier access to the US East Coast’s large client base, had a competitive tax code, and, most of all, was home to Harvard, whose innovation lab incubator just accepted the company.

Despite attempts to one-up Silicon Valley, Patrick made sure not to ruffle too many feathers, saying “Some of the most potent collaborations are between Massachusetts and Silicon Valley.”

California, after all, has 55 votes in the Electoral College that chooses the US president, and the Democratic governor is considered a possible presidential candidate at some point down the line.

Even if Hillary Clinton does not run, “Then I’m gonna support some other Democrat. I’m not running in 2016,” he told the Post, leaving the option open for a future bid.
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