My name is Hardi Meybaum and I’m co-founder of GrabCAD. We help 100,000 mechanical engineers who use our product to share CAD (computer aided design) content and collaborate. We started in Estonia, and moved our HQ to Boston at the beginning of 2011. While we still have—and are not planning to move—a software engineering team in Estonia because of the great talent there, we are currently building a team in Boston, where I am now living with my family and loving it.
An incident in Amsterdam airport prompted me to write this story. I met a friend there and, after a short conversation about GrabCAD and Boston, he asked when we hoped to get to the next level and move to Silicon Valley. And this is a very common attitude in Europe. When I first came to the US, I spent the first half of my three-month stay in Boston and the second half in Silicon Valley. Based on CRM, I have met about 800 people in SF and Boston, so I do believe I have some reasonable background knowledge. So what is it about Boston that makes us so thrilled to be here?
People often plan for the very long term, and believe in building long-term relationships. That applies to friends, employees, mentors and investors. It’s easy to give someone off-the-cuff advice in a 40-minute meeting over coffee, but such advice tends only to be occasionally useful. Real value comes when you are talking about people constantly and truly understand the markets, the team and the founder’s vision—this is simply not possible in a short-term relationship, and I have seen this frequently in many other situations. We at GrabCAD believe that building a company is a marathon, not a sprint, and that having a team that doesn’t run away, after the first obstacle, to a more hyped company is a must for us; and we believe that Boston is a great place to grow such a team.
People are responsive, trustworthy and honest here. I have spent time with lot of successful people from Boston startups, and have learned things, even in first meetings, that people wouldn’t usually share with strangers. The experience of getting that trust and assistance pushes me in turn to share my own experiences with younger entrepreneurs. That creates a very unique #payitforward culture.
And finally, Boston investors, who are getting a lot of criticism for being conservative. Based on our experience, this is true… but maybe it’s not such a bad thing if an investor doesn’t write a check after the first meeting, but instead wishes to spend some time with you. That helps you to learn to know the investor, and to see if it’s a good fit from your perspective. Having those constant conversations helps you improve your business and think differently about your business. And finally, if you have built a trustworthy relationship, shown good progress in your business and received the investment, then the true partnership begins. We are extremely happy with our investors: they are very responsive, give honest feedback and spend time thinking with us about different aspects of GrabCAD. They spend time with us instead of moving away to the next deal.
I do think that Boston has a lot of work to do to market itself better to other regions, such as Asia and Europe, and to the students who come here to learn and then leave; but these are competences that we can build in the longer term.