Cluster Activities (Continued)
2012/06/03 Leave a comment
The Massachusetts Tech Leadership Council is a really great organization. I’m not sure how they get their members to pony up for the services that they provide (I’d like to know for my activities in Pittsburgh!), but having a professional cluster organizer like Elizabeth Newstadt and an organizational hub for promotion of the entire industry is fantastic. I’ve heard that there are some frictions from the fact that the cluster crosses state lines and it is the “Mass TLC” as opposed to a New England-wide organization. Still, the degree of organization that the cluster centered on Boston has is astounding. A good deal of credit for this goes to the Mass TLC. As an example, the survey they do of the robotic cluster is fantastic. The other clusters should undertake similar surveys which would increase the value of Boston’s survey exponentially.
On the other coast, the San Francisco Bay Area is clamorous and still fairly ill defined–by which I mean there are a lot of people who may or may not be a part of the robotics industry. Many robotics people think of themselves as being in the medical device industry, software, or electronic hardware–but not necessarily robotics per se. On top of that, tons of people in the Bay who are not in robotics professionally provide the clamor and enthusiasm. For example, all of my personal friends that build and fly drones for fun live in California. I’m from back East, so the selection bias should run against the Bay. They just love technology, nerdiness, and doing “your own thing” in the Bay–and robots fit the bill perfectly. In fairly short order, I suspect that Andra Keay and the other folks behind the Silicon Valley Robotics Cluster and Robot Launch Pad will provide some of the rally flags to bring order to this energy–then the valley will be a sight to behold. The Silicon Valley robotics people I’ve met think that their community needs to catch-up to Pittsburgh and Boston, but this probably only makes them dangerous since my data is starting to show that they are equal anyone.
Pittsburgh is a small community. It is really great–everyone is super friendly and if you’re in robotics everyone knows everyone. If you find yourself in Pittsburgh, I would be happy to introduce you to them and they will be nothing but good to you. Things can happen really quickly because there is high degree of trust and community spirit. My personal take on the robotics community in Pittsburgh is that there are things that need to be done collectively to get to the next level (VC education, a robotics incubator, more diversity of academic research, etc.). The personal dealing model is going to be helpful, but not sufficient, to get the Allegheny robotics cluster to grow to the size that the region wants it too. More formal organizations, supported by bottom-up enthusiasm for things like happy hours, meet-ups, and demos is going to be required for the Pittsburgh robotics cluster to scale.