Why I’ve Decided on Boston for Emerj HQ

Daniel Faggella

Daniel Faggella is Head of Research at Emerj. Called upon by the United Nations, World Bank, INTERPOL, and leading enterprises, Daniel is a globally sought-after expert on the competitive strategy implications of AI for business and government leaders.

Why I've Decided on Boston for TechEmergence (Emerj) HQ

There’s a lot going on here at TechEmergence (soon to be rebranded to Emerj), and after receiving a string of LinkedIn messages about the re-brand and near-term future of the company, I wanted to put together this note about three important topics:

  • 2018 progress update
  • What prompted the move from West Coast to East Coast
  • Why Boston is the best headquarters
  • Re-branding the company, and what’s next

Let’s dive in.

2018 Progress

  • Since the beginning of the year, our monthly audience of AI-focused business leaders has increased by 400%, with the same amount of growth in our email subscriber numbers
  • We significantly increased the percentage of C-level executives in our audience, mostly CIOs, CTOs, CEOs
  • Our advertising and promotional offerings have now been used by dozens of public and private companies who need to reach AI-focused executives
  • We spent six months developing a sophisticated “B2B AI Ontology” for sorting AI companies and case studies, to be launched in Q3 along with the new website

With a goal of 10x-ing our audience size before the end of the year, hiring is paramount, and picking the right headquarters is a crucial aspect in finding the right talent. This takes me to my recent move.

From West Coast to East Coast

Boston Dan Faggella Move
Me and my wife Lauren on June 9th, 2018, driving through the badlands of South Dakota. I let my cat out of the car at this stop to stretch her legs a little. Took us 5 days to drive from SF to Boston.

It was around two and a half years ago (back in 2015) when I left Boston for Silicon Valley.

I had my eCommerce business making over $1MM in revenue, I had a great remote team managing that business, and I had time to knuckle down a bit more on TechEmergence. Three things seemed to be true at the time:

  1. I would sell my eCommerce business very soon, maybe for $300,000 or so down, and another $300,000 or $400,000 over time.
  2. I was appealing to a layperson audience for TechEmergence.
  3. I would soon need to raise money for TechEmergence, in order to stay afloat.

As it turns out, all of those core three assumptions were incorrect. Namely:

  1. It would take me over another year to sell my business. This took a lot of time and was frustrating because it took me away from TechEmergence, but I sold for $1MM with 90% down. A longer wait, but a larger exit payout than expected.
  2. TechEmergence became focus entirely on an audience of business and government leaders, not on an audience of techies and laypeople.
  3. I actually didn’t need to raise money after the exit, our financial runway was healthy.

While I was growing the team remotely and growing the audience faster than ever – my business / startup coaches (many of whom either are or have lived in the Bay Area) were giving me similar advice. Something to the tune of:

“If your exit money will hold you over and you don’t need to raise money… and if the near-term hires you need are more in the area of research than programming… and if you’re not a consumer tech company… you should seriously consider not being physically in SF.”

So that got me thinking…

Why Boston

Interestingly enough, part of my decision to move to Boston sprang from my deep-dive into the Boston AI ecosystem late last year. Interviewing dozens of founders (and some researchers and investors) gave me a strong sense of Boston’s strengths, and many of them lined up well with the goals of my company.

Other deciding factors didn’t come from my Boston research or interviews, but came from my own consideration of the businesses needs.

Here are the major reasons that I decided on Boston as HQ:

  • The Right Talent: San Francisco has no shortage of talent – but “talent” is a broad term. In the reasonable near term, our hires here will be in editorial, marketing, and research roles. I’ve gotten more applicants for these kinds of roles in Boston than San Francisco. In part, this is due to the clusters of research firms on the East Coast, but it’s also because it’s easier to pay Bay Area rents as a programmer than as a researcher or editorial lead.
  • 30-40% Lower Burn Rate: Costs are astronomically lower in Boston when compared to the Bay Area. Everyone in Boston complains about how expensive it is, but that’s only if they never lived in SF. If I was burning VC money, paying for SF expenses is all part of the game. Being as these are my own funds I’m working with here (from my previous exit), it makes sense to spend wisely. If I can spend more on salaries and less on other overhead, I’m in for it.
  • B2B thrives in Boston: SF is clearly the center for consumer tech – be there or be square if you’re making the next Facebook. B2B tech and B2B research is more of an East Coast schtick – and it’s perfectly viable to be successful B2B in Boston.
  • Proximity to Our Customers and Users: There are two main groups that we cater to here at TechEmergence:
    • Business leaders who need to apply AI to their organizations, and integrate AI into their business strategy
    • AI product and service companies that help business leaders achieve their goal
      • As it turns out, about 33% of the customers of our advertising offerings (mostly AI product companies, startups, consultancies and event companies) are in Europe. Waking up at 6:00 am on the West Coast to talk with Romania or London wasn’t a lot of fun, and Pacific time tended to limit the hours of overlap that I had with an important part of our customer base. In addition, most of our business users are on the East Coast.

        Emerj USA users
        Our biggest cluster of readers and subscribers is between DC, NYC, and Boston. This area represents a huge density of companies in our most important sectors, namely healthcare and finance.
  • Ralph MF-ing Waldo: Okay… so proximity to Emerson wasn’t really a factor in making my decision of where to move – but it’s certainly an upside that I’ll be closer to Concord, MA. Emerson introduced me to Montaigne, to Plutarch, and to many of the other philosophic and literary figures who have molded my life and mission immensely. I feel much more capable of reflecting on the philosophical implications of AI and transhumanism when I’m in Concord or in the Berkshires.

There are aspects that I don’t like about Boston, including:

  • Winter: No explanation needed. It’s charming and everything, but it’s annoying – and sometimes hinders flights and work.
  • In Boston, It’s Okay Not to Be Huge: Getting big isn’t necessarily the goal in Boston. There are some great upsides to a focus on other things (like research, working on “hard problems”, or having a more balanced life), but big is indeed what I’m aiming for. The cause requires the company to grow, and there’s a chance that it will be more of an uphill battle to onboard people who are hellbent on growth, in addition to being adhered to a moral cause.
  • Future Funding Rounds: Raising money is probably part of the long-term runway for the company. I don’t see that being necessary or preferable in the next 18 months, but it’ll probably become an appealing option in the future. The valley really is the place to raise, so we’ll eventually have a satellite office there, and/or I’ll be flying there frequently in funding becomes imminent.

All in all, however, Boston has many more pros than cons as a base of operations for a company with massive aspirations and a massive mission.

So here we are!

Outside of some speaking engagements (a United Nations event in July, and a Notre Dame University talk about AI ethics in September), I’m focused fully on staffing up here in Boston – though we’ll continue to hire remote for a variety of research and content-related roles.

What’s Next / Rebranding

I’ll be writing another entire article about the impending re-brand from TechEmergence to Emerj, including the reasons for the name change and change in URL – but suffice it to say that the change will represent a huge expansion in the features and depth of our B2B AI research and insight.

At present, our goals involve:

  • Finishing the re-brand and launch of our new website (out sometime this summer – more on this soon!)
  • Grow our growth and editorial teams with fresh talent
  • Double down our B2B AI research output in the industries that matter most to our readers and subscribers (healthcare, finance, retail)

We have a lot more upcoming features to announce in the next 3 months – and I want to thank all of our readers who ping me on LinkedIn regularly with comments about what you like and don’t like. Those comments get brought up in weekly meetings and quarterly planning, and they become part of our plan to mold the company – and our offerings.

For those of you in Boston – hope to see you around :).

Time to buy a winter jacket while they’re still cheap.

Chat soon and here’s to a great week ahead,

Daniel Faggella, CEO, Emerj (Formerly TechEmergence)


Header image source: Wikipedia

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