Commentary by Colin Angle

Industry Perspective

Colin Angle, Chairman, CEO and Founder, iRobot

Mass ConvergenceFounder and CEO of iRobot, Colin Angle

Massachusetts has long been a leading area for technology-focused companies to establish themselves and grow. Over the past decade, the state has seen growth across multiple sectors, including biopharmaceuticals, software services, robotics, healthcare delivery and computer hardware. Companies that began and are headquartered in Massachusetts, including the likes of Boston Scientific, iRobot, Bose, Wayfair and Akamai have long thrived here. The state has also seen the arrival of some of the largest out-of-state technology-minded firms like Google, GE, Amazon and Microsoft, all who have set up operations in Massachusetts. It’s clear that companies of all shapes, sizes and areas of expertise recognize the benefits that the region provides. It’s also no coincidence that these companies are finding a home in Massachusetts because many, if not all, need specialization across multiple disciplines to operate. It is the convergence of disciplines including hardware, software and information systems that enable these companies to succeed and create value. It is also the convergence of multiple sectors that is creating an ecosystem of diverse, yet like-minded companies, enabling continued growth and long-term success within the Massachusetts economy.

The emphasis on education within Massachusetts positions the state well for supporting the growth of convergence in the future. Massachusetts is home to a leading university system that graduates many of the most talented students and professionals in the world. In 2015, Massachusetts ranked number one in the U.S. in terms of STEM graduates on a per capita basis. As of 2016, 47.3% of the Massachusetts workforce possessed at least a Bachelor’s Degree, which ranks first in the U.S. With so many graduates from top-tier universities possessing technology-related expertise, the region’s talent infrastructure is well equipped to adjust and thrive as convergence plays a driving role within the Massachusetts economy.

Looking ahead to where convergence will play a major role in the future, the Internet of Things (IoT) holds tremendous opportunities for companies within Massachusetts, however they will need to work together to ensure the growth of all within the IoT. No one company can go it alone. This is an area where Massachusetts has thrived. The state has been very successful bringing companies and organizations together, allowing them to share knowledge, address large challenges, build successful business models and compete on a global level. Massachusetts is an emerging leader in the IoT, and the continued support of our state government and cooperation within the business community will be especially important here moving forward. By leveraging our community, we can powerfully scale.

The state also has a venture capital system which is very high functioning, and investment funding continues to increase, providing greater opportunities to start, sustain and scale companies. There are more startups per capita than anywhere else in the world here, one reason why Massachusetts ranked first in 2015 and 2016 in Bloomberg’s Most Innovative States list. The knowledge, diverse areas of expertise and creative thinking that startups provide to the larger ecosystem is extremely valuable in addressing convergence. Also important is that companies within Massachusetts have traditionally not only been focused on inventing and showcasing new technologies, but also on bringing them to market. This domain expertise is important, ensuring that companies develop products that provide value to customers, enabling future economic growth.

As a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and entrepreneur who founded and grew iRobot here, I have experienced firsthand the many benefits that Massachusetts provides for businesses as they seek to grow. As the CEO of a robotics company that depends upon a talented and varied employee base, and a company that works with others to address today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, I also recognize the importance that convergence plays. With Massachusetts serving as a global center of innovation, convergence will enable new markets, visions, business strategies and a grand future for the state’s economy, however cooperation within and amongst businesses is a must. Like robotics, convergence breeds success when the sum of the parts is greater than the individual.