2020 update: though this guide has become somewhat outdated, in light of the current social distancing guidelines and their impact on the events scene, an update to this guide is low on the priority list. We’re leaving this version up for now for reference, and suggest you subscribe to the BSG newsletter, Connected, for more current opportunities to pitch or watch startup pitches online.
Boston’s startup community is connected and continuously refreshed by the regular events that bring together founders, talent, investors, media, and supporters. It’s not hard to find startup events in Boston, but it can sometimes be difficult to filter through the noise or know which ones you can count on having a good crowd.
And unfortunately, not all event organizers have the community’s best interests in mind — while many for-profit events provide value to attendees and organizers alike, pay-to-pitch events in particular are notorious for charging resource-strapped startups high prices for little actual value. So here are 8 events in Boston actually worth checking out.
Demo Nights & Startup Pitches in Boston
Boston Innovators Group – Started by venture capitalist David Biesel (now of NextView Ventures), BiG is one of the longest-running startup pitch events in Boston. It happens once each quarter, with three “main dish” demos giving a presentation to the large audience attending, plus “side dish” presentation tables featuring additional startups within the networking area. Because of this event’s longevity, it’s a massively well-attended event, and one of the most well-known to local investors.
“I thought it was a great event. A nice casual environment where people could come up to you, chat, and see your product. We met a lot of great people, a few investors (mostly TechStars), and had great conversations. It hasn’t led to anything major, but it was good to extend our network, and demoing at BiG was valuable PR collateral.”
– Cory Margand, Co-Founder & CEO (SimpliShip)
“BiG’s one of the bigger stages in Boston to pitch your startup to a group of early adopters. It’s noticed when you present there, especially as a main dish. I managed to talk with a few startup founders who are potential fits for our product, got a few tweets about us presenting, and spoke with a couple angels along with the partners at Nextview Ventures.”
– Andy Cook, Cofounder & CEO (Tettra)
Unpitch – This non-traditional event is organized by the New England Venture Capital Association as a way to give founders direct access to active investors, at no cost to the entrepreneurs:
“Unpitch is a chance to have lunch with an Angel investor or VC in a casual, no-pressure environment, discuss your business, get meaningful feedback on your ideas, and make connections that will help you get to the next stage.”
The format is a meeting over lunch with 3-4 entrepreneurs per investor, with open networking time before and after. Keep an eye on the site for updates, NEVCA tells me there will be a 2016 Unpitch in December (and a new .edu version in November).
Mass Innovation Nights – Since 2009, this event has featured over 900 new products with a monthly product launch party. Run with the on-going support of Carlton PR & Marketing, this event consistently gets the word out to the community, drawing ~200 attendees each time.
“The crowd overall was helpful, willing to engage, high quality, and full of people that could have been potentially helpful. It’s tough for a niche product like mine to know which events will pan out, but I liked this one a lot.”
– Laura Fredericks, Founder & CEO (Describli)
Boston New Technology – The bread & butter of this meetup group is their monthly startup showcase, featuring demos from 5+ startups with networking before and after. Formed in 2007, BNT now has over 11,000 members with their meetups regularly hitting venue capacity at 300 – 400 RSVPs.
Tech in Motion – This national event series has local chapters across most major cities, organized as a collaboration between recruiting firms Jobspring Partners and Workbridge Associates. The Boston chapter on Meetup.com is 8,000 members strong. They organize a variety of events, including a Demos & Drinks night usually twice each year.
Mobile Monday Boston – Another national event series with local chapter, Mobile Monday Boston is specifically for the mobile industry, featuring apps, development platforms, and other mobile technologies. These events are infrequent, but ongoing since 2006, with a mailing list and a twitter account you can follow for a heads up on the next night of networking & speakers presenting.
Drinks on Tap – A more frequent meetup for the mobile community in Boston is Drinks on Tap, organized by mobile development agency Raizlabs. Every other month, Raizlabs hosts demos, drinks, and discussions about mobile development, drawing ~200 attendees for each event.
Boston Tech Breakfast – On the other side of the schedule, this monthly morning meetup features up to five technologists each month (startups, big companies, and side-projects alike) who present to the 100+ attendees.
This guide will receive updates in the future; you can make suggestions or follow for updates on LinkedIn or twitter. If your startup demoed at one of the events above and would be willing to share your experience / results, please email jay [@at@] jayneely [.dot.] com.