Startups at 351 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, MA
Scott Kirsner had a fun article in Boston.com today titled The Red Line Tour of Innovation in Boston. Several of the stops were regularly hang outs of mine between 1983 and 1995 most notably #10 (Miracle of Science) and #11 (Toscanini’s) but also including #5 (MIT Media Lab), #6 (Muddy Charles Pub), #7 (MIT Lobby 7), and #8 (Central Square and the Necco Factory – back when they made Necco wafers.)
I lived at ADP at 351 Massachusetts Avenue for four years as an undergraduate at MIT. It was the first frat I went to when the freshman picnic ended (Mark Dodson grabbed me, shoved me in a white van, and said “you are coming with me.”) I stayed the first night and never left. Yes – it was a fraternity.
But we were also nerds. There was something in the water and a lot of companies were created. Scott got a few of them such as Colin Angle of iRobot, Jeet Singh and Joe Chung of ATG, and Frank van Mierlo of Bluefin Robotics, but I thought I’d add a few more. While the founders of Harmonix (the guys that brought us Rock Band and Guitar Hero) came from the Media Lab, one of them (Eran Egozy) also lived at ADP. As did my first business partner Dave Jilk, who is now CEO of Standing Cloud. And two of the founders of Oblong – John Underkoffler and Kevin Parent. Let’s not forget two well known VCs – Sameer Gandhi (Accel) and Mark Siegel (Menlo). Oh – and Carl Dietrich’s flying car from Terrafugia. We also lived next door (WILG – 355 Mass Ave) to some other impressive entrepreneurs including Megan Smith (Google and PlanetOut). There have been plenty of others through the years – these are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. If you should be on the ADP entrepreneur list, please comment on this blog and add your name for posterity (and Google searches).
My first company (Feld Technologies) used 351 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 as my office address for the first few years of its life (I officially started the company as a sophomore, although my partner Dave Jilk joined me shortly after I got my undergraduate degree.) But Feld Technologies wasn’t the first company I started at 351 Massachusetts Avenue – that honor went to Martingale Software and my partners Dave Jilk, Sameer Gandhi, Andy Mina, and Jeff Pierick. We raised $10k, bought a Lisa and a Compaq luggable, earned about $7k, and eventually folded the company and sent the $7k back to our investors.
During the four years I lived there and the two years I had an office at 875 Main Street, I ate an enormous amount of ice cream at Toscanini’s. To this day, Cocoa Pudding with chocolate fudge syrup on top rates as the best ice cream choice I’ve ever had on planet Earth.
One fall, after Feld Technologies had moved to Boston, we hired a recent graduate from Brown named Jonathan Lutes. While interviewing him I asked what he had done over the summer. He mumbled something like “screwed around a lot and built a bar called Miracle of Science with my brother Eric.” Yup – same bar – this was 1990-ish – and it was at 321 Massachusetts Avenue.
Sometimes I actually miss the smell of Necco wafers in the morning. It smells like ADP.