Fort Point’s Evolution into an Entrepreneurial Hotbed
Today, Fort Point is giving other innovation hubs, including Silicon Valley, Austin, and NYC, a run for their money – literally.
From an abandoned seaport to a hotbed of innovation, the transformation of Boston’s Fort Point area has been dramatic. After years of neglect, a steady influx of startups and large-scale corporations are moving in, setting up shop and reinvigorating the Fort Point neighborhood. What was once a maritime business port is now a horizon of shiny new office buildings, co-working spaces and happy hour spots. Today, Fort Point is giving other innovation hubs, including Silicon Valley, Austin, and NYC, a run for their money – literally.
The neighborhood’s history dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the Boston Wharf Company moved in and dubbed the area a place of trade and business. The Boston Wharf Company traded sugar, molasses and wool, and they used the area for manufacturing and warehouse storage. As the 1950s approached, the textile industry in New England dwindled, and many of Fort Point’s businesses did as well, including Boston Wharf.
As business declined, artists moved in – attracted to the lofty industrial living spaces – transforming Fort Point into the largest art community in New England. While not all business productivity disappeared in the waterfront neighborhood, enough of it did for the city government to make official revitalization plans. In the late 1990s, Public Works projects encouraged renewed interest and investment in Fort Point, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority officially planned zoning and rebuilding for an industrial district.
Fort Point is holding its own – it’s one of the most economically productive areas in the nation.
Shortly after the millennium, Boston’s city government revealed plans to make Fort Point a hub for innovative tech businesses. And in 2010, Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino and the city developed 1,000 acres on the waterfront specifically for an “Innovation District”. Current mayor, Marty Walsh has continued this push to create a thriving innovation hub. As a result, today Fort Point is an epicenter for world-class entrepreneurs and innovators. Complementary co-working spaces, venture capital offices and incubators nurture the area’s most innovative minds.
Compared to other urban business areas, Fort Point is holding its own – it’s one of the most economically productive areas in the nation. In fact, since Fort Point was dubbed part of the innovation district in 2010, the area has produced more market value per square foot than innovation districts in New York City, Austin and Silicon Valley combined. From 2010 to 2016, Fort Point actually made $31,635 per square foot, compared to Silicon Valley’s $11,105*.
Fort Point startups have also attracted significant investment deals – nearly twice as many deals per square foot than Silicon Valley did in the past two years**. Entrepreneurs with businesses outside of Boston have been relocating to Fort Point for a shot at investments. Similarly, many Boston-based entrepreneurs are now deciding to stay put instead of migrating to New York or San Francisco.
Fort Point is now home base for many thriving Boston-based startups, including Catalant, as well as more established tech companies like LogMeIn, Circle and ZipCar. Even the industrial behemoth General Electric now calls the location home, with North Carolina-based software giant Red Hat moving in nearby as well. The two companies are building up world-class innovation labs, facilities with cutting-edge technology and executive centers to bring more innovative and intelligent individuals to the area than ever before.
The evolution of the Fort Point area, and its ability to attract the innovative companies, from startups to large enterprises, is a very promising sign for Boston. To grow, entrepreneurs don’t have to take their ideas to Silicon Valley or New York City. The talented individuals creating and growing businesses in Fort Point are the future of the neighborhood and the city. With continued market capitalization, investment opportunities and overall success, they’ll ensure the Fort Point area fosters innovation for years to come.
* Based on difference in total market capitalization of startups and companies across each market between 2010 and 2016 per square foot of total office space inventory in the market. Capitalization for NYC and Austin is calculated based on relative sizing of total equity funding compared to Silicon Valley’s capitalization. Silicon Valley includes the San Francisco market.
Source: CB Insights, Economist, Mattermark, Pitchbook, Catalant Analysis and Research
** Based on total number of deals over 24-month period between Q4 2014 and Q3 2016; deals include equity funding originated from VCs, Corporate VCs, Private Equity firms and Angel Investors. Deals per 1,000,000 sqft of office space inventory. Silicon Valley includes the San Francisco market.
Source: CB Insights, Catalant Analysis and Research