Why Burlington is Great for Startups (VCET BostInno Feature)
By David Bradbury
This is the sixth and last story in our “Inno on the Road: Burlington” series, which is running several stories on Burlington (and Vermont) startups the week of August 13, 2018.
As a Mass. native, I know a few absolutes: Brady is the G.O.A.T., never commute on the Green Line in August, the Bruins are the only NHL team that matters, and the Hub really is the center of the universe with an innovation economy that’s the world’s envy.
Being just a couple hours north of the Seaport and Kendall Square, Vermont is not for everyone (thankfully, we don’t want to ever battle traffic or share fresh powder mornings); but for professionals seeking to start a company, join a scaling tech team, raise a family and make an impact, there is not a better place than greater Burlington, Vermont.
For the most part, Vermont is an “opt-in” place for entrepreneurs and individuals seeking professional challenge along with the personal connections that come from being part of a smaller community. Burlington is Vermont’s largest city; the entire state has 625,000 residents dotted across 6.6 million acres. Needless to say, instant recreational options for pre- and post-work hours aren’t too shabby either.
Since the nearly $1 billion sale of auto marketing tech company Dealer.com in 2014, the greater Burlington startup and scale up scene has taken off. Dealer (part of Cox Communications today) now employs around 1,000 locally and its alumni have gone on to fund and form fast growing companies like Fluency (digital advertising platform superpowers for agencies), DealerPolicy (the Kayak for auto insurance) and Faraday (AI marketing tech for B2C firms) among others.
While some tech sector clusters exist such as in healthcare (GE Healthcare, Marathon Health, OhMD, ThinkMD, etc) and in consumer products (7th Generation, Burton Snowboards, Vermont Farm Table, Ursa Major, etc.), there are many niche companies too that are leading the world with their technologies and products. Most all are hiring for great team additions too.
A few to watch include NextCapital, an enterprise digital advice platform for many of the largest asset managers in the U.S. and rapidly hiring for its offices in Burlington and Chicago. Despite no ocean in sight, Greensea, is again doubling its workforce to meet demand for its globally leading navigation and control systems for underwater and at surface ROV robots. Named as one of the best companies to work for by Outside Magazine, Inntopia offers travel technology and analytics for top destinations and resorts. Relative newcomers include the University of Vermont spinout, Benchmark Space Systems, which produces micro propulsion systems for small cube satellites. Each company was founded by entrepreneurs, serial tech executives and scientists who chose place first when launching their businesses.
Supporting entrepreneurial infrastructure and partners have also stepped up significantly in recent years. It is pretty common for Governor Phil Scott, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger or U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy to help early, often and meaningfully (not just cut ribbons) with companies at any stage here in Vermont.
Without ego or walled gardens, local institutions such as the University of Vermont, Middlebury College, Champlain College, and Norwich University are collectively focused on deepening Vermont’s talent pool, commercializing research, and engaging their alumni and faculty in support of student startups. This connectedness is how a small place like Burlington competes and thrives today.
There are some great space options also for starting and scaling a business, such as VCET’s11,000-square-feet co-working and accelerator space (where I serve as President) within the Consolidated Communications Technology Hub, the uber cool Karma Bird House and the brand new Hula Lakeside innovation park, which offers 16 acres of breathtaking and affordable lakeside office space along with amenities like the Burlington Surf Club for a picnic, paddle or swim.
Balance is easy to talk about, tougher to find whether on your snowboard, mountain bike or at work. The greater Burlington, Vermont scene is where I find my balance while helping to form, fund and scale technology companies.
To check out all the stories in our “Inno on the Road: Burlington” series, start here.