By Karoline Saastad. Translated by Rebecca Amalie Skogø.
Hello, my name is Karoline. I’m a student at NTNU School of Entrepreneurship and co-founder of the startup WAID. During the summer of 2019, I went to Boston as part of Gründerskolen – a summer school designed for students wanting to learn more about entrepreneurship. And that’s why I’m here in Boston, but also to see what kind of opportunities there is for my startup in the US.
Boston is known for its ecosystem for entrepreneurship and is one of the most important ones in USA – especially within the field of robotics, medtech and biotech. Boston is also one of the biggest when it comes to science and technology as well – which makes sense seeing that both Harvard and MIT is located here. By enthusiast, Boston’s environment is described as a young and engaged community. There are approximately 2500 startups and a vast amount of resources available for everyone with an entrepreneurial mindset.
As a student in Boston for only 10 weeks, the amount of resources and information feels overwhelming. I therefore wish to contribute with five essential tips for everyone that wishes to orient themselves in this exciting and gigantic ecosystem when having a limited amount of time.
Top 5 resources in Boston
1. The Universities
Boston is known as one of the biggest universities in the world. At the tip of your fingers you have expertise from the world’s leading universities and professors at Harvard, MIT and Babson. For students coming from NTNU its good to know that NTNU have a strong and close relationship with Boston University. My tip is to reach out to professors in the fields you want to learn more about.
2. Accelerators and co-working spaces
While studying at Boston University, I spent a lot of time at BUild Lab. This is only one of many accelerators and co-working spaces you can benefit from (as long as you ask nicely, of course). At BUild Lab you’ll find many exciting startups, people with knowledge about the startup environment, and people with expertise in different disciplines. Other places I would recommend you to visit is Harvard’s iLad, The Cambridge Innovation Center and MassChallenge.
3. Events and meetups
Boston is a city made to entrepreneurship. Therefore there are tons of events you can go to everyday. My tip is to have an agenda about what you want to learn more about, and seek out events that is relevant for exactly that. In Boston everyone uses Eventbrite and Boston Calendar, so probably a good idea to check this out. I would also recommend Venture Cafè, General Assembly and Boston TechJam. This are places you can visit to get a better idea of how the ecosystem works while also expanding your own network. Venture Cafè and General Assembly host also courses and lectures.
4. Mentors and experts
As part of Gründerskolen, everyone were assigned a mentor in one’s field of interest. If you go to Boston on your own, there are other possibilities to get in touch with possible mentores and experts both at the universities, accelerators, co-working spaces and events. I perceived the people in Boston as very forthcoming, and most people love to talk about what they know. At events such as Venture Cafè and General Assembly, I experiences that people showed interest in mentoring if you’re open for it. There are several perks to this. When you’re staying for a short period of time, this will create a shortcut to relevant events, the opportunity to have direct contact with relevant people, and to create ways of find expertise you would otherwise find as easily.
5. Go out of your comfort zone
My last and probably most important tip is to go outside your comfort zone. Get rid of your Norwegian habits, and go and talk to strangers and ask for help! In the US, people are much more helpful and open, and they want to help you. Dare to contact strangers! But keep in mind how you use your time. I experienced that people are more than willing to listen to what you have to say, but they also love to tell you what they do. To create a more effective networking session, you need to be clear about what you need, what you want to learn, what you need help with, and last but not least – know when to wrap up the conversation.
I hope my tips will help anyone wanting to go to Boston – not only by giving you the knowledge about the opportunities you can explore in the city, but also help you kickstart your stay.