Our Impact

2016 Predictions for Boston's Start-Up Scene

Posted by Katie Hauser on January 19, 2016

The following is the latest guest blog entry from Greater Boston Chamber members detailing valuable strategies and insight for the region’s business community. These opinions are independent of those of the Chamber.

As we kick off the New Year in Boston, we should be ready for another watershed year in the local start-up scene. In 2015, Boston continued impressive growth, with 531 venture deals worth $7.42 billion. That is a regional record, and an amazing $1.66 billion more than was raised in 2014, including some blockbuster rounds for notable locals. For example, DraftKings, the fantasy sports juggernaut on Franklin Street, raised $300 million and is now on a nationwide marketing blitz. SimpliVity, an information technology enabler from Westborough, raised $175 million, and Cybereason, a security firm from Berkeley Street, raised $84 million.

Biotechnology continues to be a centerpiece of the Boston start-up ecosystem, raising an outstanding $449.5 million in 2015. Codiak BioSciences, an exosome research firm in Cambridge, led the pack last year with a $83 million round. When the final numbers arrive, the NVCA estimates that 2015 will end up being the best year for fundraising start-ups since the dot-com boom of 2000. Boston has encouraged this growth by hosting festivals, like TechJam and HUBweek; world-renowned conferences, like SOLVE; and innovative government initiatives, like StartHub.

So, what can we expect in 2016?

1. More money and attention will be coming to Boston. Over the last decade, Boston has become an increasingly important player on the world stage. In July, CityLab ranked Boston as the fourth most important entrepreneurial center in the world, behind only Silicon Valley, New York, and Los Angeles; just two years earlier, Boston placed sixth. Boston companies also accounted for an estimated 9.8% of all venture capital raised in 2015, just behind New York (10.15%) and Silicon Valley (17.8%). I expect this upward trend in capital and prestige to continue, and Boston is well positioned to overtake New York for second place in world investments in 2016.

2. Overall fundraising will start to level out. Raw numbers will continue to move higher from 2015, of course, but the rate of increase will soften in 2016 as investors start to look critically at the returns gained from several years of spree investing. Public offerings have been quiet recently, and with a rocky stock market and rising interest rates, investors will use this year as an opportunity to re-evaluate their portfolios.

3. The IPO is going to make a comeback. The magic word in 2014 was unicorn, which is a private company with a valuation north of $1 billion. Uber has become the poster child, with a valuation north of $50 billion! While this has certainly been a wild ride, investors are going to start demanding some very big returns for their very big investments. Marc Benioff of Salesforce has already said that he will no longer put any new money into unicorns, demanding that these companies defend their insane valuations in the public markets. As time goes on, there is going to be immense pressure on these ventures to go public, and as investors starts to tighten, companies will once again look to public offerings in greater numbers in order to raise funds.

4. Security will take center stage. As the Internet of Things brings connected technology to more of our lives, and digital warfare and high-profile data breaches continue to make the news, security is going to become a top priority for consumers (and, therefore, start-ups). Security ventures, which are already on the rise, will become critical to the ecosystem and get a bigger share of the fundraising pie. Expect blockbuster venture rounds for a few security companies in 2016.

5. The rise of intelligent machines. Smart devices will come to truly dominate our world in the coming years. Connected machines in the home, the office, and the hospital (and probably the car and on the body, as well) will require advanced and dependable machine learning systems. With many high-profile players and oodles of money in the field, machine learning technology is going to scale fast and furious. In fact, despite failed promises for decades, we may finally see the first meaningful consumer robots and other autonomous machines become affordable and available in 2016.

Boston will continue to flourish, rising further in prominence in world entrepreneurship, as our glut of higher education, powerhouse talent, and regional energy continue to work in our favor. It will not be long before Boston takes center stage as the top destination for start-up development and high-technology throughout the world, and 2016 will be another stepping stone along that path to the top.

Bryan Healey manages a technical consulting firm, Healey Engineering, which specializes in start-up development. He is also a software development manager at Amazon, specializing in machine learning systems. You can e-mail him at bryan@healeyengineering.com.