You Know Dasher and Dancer — But Do You Know This Startup Slang?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because reindeer aren’t only in the North Pole.
By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu
I’m at a yuppie café in downtown San Francisco, with an organic, fair-trade, non-GMO, gluten-free latte in hand. I overhear some venture capitalists at the next table waxing lyrical about what sounds like the world’s freakiest tech zoo. “Snapchat is a unicorn, Expensify is a lean cockroach and Evernote is a dying donkey.” The latest animal to join the startup lexicon?
A “reindeer” is a company that has created more than $2 billion in market value within the past five years.
This newly minted pet name comes from Jeff Bussgang, a seasoned venture capitalist at Flybridge Capital Partners in Boston. He identifies nine public reindeer within Boston — known as the Silicon Valley of the East — along with 99 other private startups that are currently in the “reindeer pipeline.” Turns out the North Pole and New England do have something in common. Some of the biggest sleigh pullers in Boston include HubSpot, Demandware and Fleetmatics. The red-nosed Rudolph? Hotshot travel website TripAdvisor. Together, the nine high-flying reindeer, with all their mythical might, help anchor the city’s burgeoning tech scene, Bussgang says: As magical creatures, they’re “very special when found.” In fact, Boston boasts the highest venture capital investment per capita outside of Silicon Valley.
Mimi Evans, a financial specialist based in Boston, doesn’t exactly believe in the magic, though. Boston’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is too “conservative” for the kind of slapdash innovation that takes place in Silicon Valley. “We tend to be provincial,” she says. “Money requires a lot more proof of concept before they throw it at startups.” In a more risk-averse culture, a venture capitalist might be hard-pressed to find the next Zuckerberg. On the flip side, Evans also recognizes that reindeer are sturdy and built for the cold. It’s this pragmatic mindset that incentivized Boston-based companies like TripAdvisor to develop a burlier build and grow more sustainably than, say, a Zenefits, whose dash to the top could turn it into a unicorpse.
With this in mind, Bussgang says to keep your eyes on the skies. Because if you look hard enough, you may see a few Boston reindeer overhead.