Innovation Blog

How Startups Can Unlock the Power of Academia


In truth, all these elements contribute to Bostons stellar startup ecosystem. But while other American cities may have more tech startups per capita or VCs with deeper pockets, theres one area where Boston outshines them all: its universities. Boston has the highest student population per capita of any major U.S. city and almost a fourth of adults in town have a graduate degree.
Bostons rich academic landscape made it the perfect place to start and grow our company, Footnote. We unlock the power of academic knowledge by collaborating with scholars to share their research and expertise with a broader audience. Though we partner with academics from across the country, Bostons universities have been a key part of our growth: a third of our contributors so far are from local schools like Harvard, MIT, and BU.
While not every startup is as focused on academia as we are, Bostons higher education institutions can be a valuable resource for entrepreneurs of all kinds. Were just a short walk or drive away from some of the most brilliant minds in the world, doing innovative research on everything from robotics to economic policy. And its not just the usual suspects at Harvard and MIT who are producing knowledge and innovation; incredible work is being done at Boston University, Tufts, Babson, Northeastern, Boston College, Wellesley, Brandeis, and a host of other schools.
Dont be afraid to reach out.
People go into academia because they love to think and talk about ideas. So, while professors and grad students can be very busy, many of them are eager to share their work with interested parties.
Tap into your existing networks.
Look though your network of friends and colleagues or reach back to your alma mater and you might be surprised how many people you connect with who are working in or around universities.
Get out and learn.
Boston universities host enough lectures, conferences, exhibits, and other events to keep your calendar full every day of the week. Events like these are a great place to connect with academics or, at the very least, learn something new.
Engage online.
An increasing number of scholars are active on social media, blogs, and other online communities. Start by following the Twitter feeds of local universities or academic hashtags like #saturdayschool and #scholarsunday.
Do your homework.
Academics are more excited to connect if you demonstrate some familiarity with their work and make it clear why you want to talk to them in particular.

We hope these tips encourage you to take advantage of one of Bostons best resources its universities and scholars. Their job is to create new knowledge and what weve found at Footnote is that theyre eager to share it.

– Joseph Morone Co-Founder & CEO, Diana Brazzell Co-founder & Executive Editor, Footnote Inc.

Have a great week and be sure to come back to the MassChallenge Blog for more advice, insights and startup profiles from the Startup Accelerator.
The abundance of world-class universities in town means the local talent pool is full of outstanding researchers and scholars. Academics are everywhere in the MassChallenge offices, from Michael Connell, a Harvard Ph.D. developing innovative education apps at Native Brain, to Giant Otter Technologies founders Jeff Orkin and Geoff Marietta, who combined their research at the MIT Media Lab and Harvard Graduate School of Education to create games that build social skills.
Even if your startup doesnt have strong roots in academia, we encourage you to think about how you might tap into this unique Boston resource. The citys network of brilliant scholars can help provide advice and guidance, offer fresh ideas and perspectives on your product or service, or maybe even join your team.
To get you started, here are a few tips weve learned from working with academics at Footnote:

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