The Greater Boston area has long been a popular destination for startup companies. Nowadays, startup hotspots such as Kendall Square and lately South Boston’s Innovation District are stretched thin for affordable office space. These days it is standard for rents to top $50 per square foot in Kendall. As sky-high prices are pushing companies out of the region and into the Innovation District and other parts of Boston, these areas will inevitably deal with the same issue Kendall Square is facing.
Finding itself low on space and pressed for cash, one startup decided to take its operation to Davis Square in Somerville a few months ago. GrabCAD allows engineers to share files and models with their peers, enabling them to work on projects from multiple locations. GrabCAD marketing manager Rob Stevens says the company has been thrilled with the move thus far. “It has a really nice mix of amenities…it’s got coffee shops, restaurants, Hubway bicycle spots,” says Stevens.
Another Davis Square startup, The Grommet, has become one of the country’s most successful e-commerce sites. The website’s products, or “grommets” are locally made, with a great deal of emphasis placed on the craft, care, and design the creator puts into the product. For Grommet CEO Jules Pieri, Davis Square was an easy choice. Besides Brooklyn, Somerville has the highest concentration of grommets being created. With the presence of The Grommet and craft studios such as the Artisan’s Asylum in town, Somerville has become a regional epicenter for both makers and local retailers.
Music intelligence startup The Echo Nest has offices in San Francisco, New York, and London but is headquartered in Somerville. The Nest has over a trillion data points on over 30 million songs, making it one of the largest companies in the world in its industry. It recently announced its first Japanese partner, a huge development for its global expansion, and startup already counts Twitter, Spotify, EMI, and Nokia among its customers. Philippe Maman, a Tufts student who interned at the company, noted the prime location of Davis Square. “It’s basically the hub of Somerville, and it’s very accessible by public transport. Definitely worth considering if you’re looking to start a company,” says Philippe.
Evidenced by these successful startups, there’s still hope for aspiring entrepreneurs beyond Kendall Square and downtown Boston. By being the next town over and having lower rents, Somerville stands to reap the benefits of companies getting priced out of more expensive areas. Startups will not look to move far from the innovation taking place in Cambridge and Boston as well as the resources they offer, so areas such as Davis Square make sense for young companies seeking affordable office space.