Cambridge Innovation Center Turns 10; Looking Inside a Landmark for Boston-Area Entrepreneurs

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EnerNOC, one of the biggest Boston startup successes of this decade, because CEO Tim Healy visited Rowe at the CIC while scouting for office space. (EnerNOC went elsewhere, but Rowe says that’s exactly that kind of serendipity that makes it so logical for him to be part-time landlord, part-time venture partner.)

Selected CIC Tenants

IL Pharma
In Vivo Therapeutics
Gloucester Pharmaceuticals
Stryker Development

Trial by Fire

The CIC’s 10-year ride hasn’t been without its bumps. On the morning of December 8, 2006, an oil-filled electrical transformer in the basement caught fire, filling parts of the One Broadway building with thick black smoke. Ironically, the people trying to escape the building suffered the worst smoke inhalation; the building’s architects, it turned out, had placed the air intake for the emergency stairwell directly adjacent to the emergency exhaust port for the electrical vault.100 tenants were hospitalized.

The fire “shook us to our core,” Rowe says. “We were closed for five weeks, and we had 150 Cambridge startups on the street. Almost anything could have happened.” But with MIT’s help, Rowe and his staff were able to find enough temporary office space for everybody in the building, much of it at One Memorial Drive and 640 Memorial Drive. The CIC staff itself found temporary shelter in an abandoned deli at 290 Main Street (now home to Cosi). When One Broadway was cleared for occupancy in January 2007, all but five of the 150 CIC tenants moved back in.

And in the end, where else would they have gone? The Cambridge Innovation Center is unique in the Boston area—and may in fact be home to the single largest collection of startups in the world. The Plug and Play Tech Centers in California are the CIC’s closest competitor, hosting about 200 companies across six locations in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.

And in another 10 years, Rowe predicts, the CIC will be twice as big as it is now. “Our target is 500 companies,” he says. When I suggested that he’d have to build another building to hold that many people, Rowe said he’s already in negotiations to take up to 50,000 square feet of additional space. He also pointed out that there are plenty more floors to be assimilated at One Broadway, and that in the era of Web 2.0 and co-working spaces, many companies might have just one or a few workers. “There’s enough room,” Rowe says, “if we fill out the nooks and crannies.” And if he gives up his desk.

Selected CIC Tenants

Groundhog Technologies
Stamp Mobile
Universal Metaphor

Enterprise Mobile
Subatomic Studios

Selected CIC Tenants

Boston Aviation
Clearly Creative
Fama PR
Global Partners
Innova Consulting
Last Panda Creative
Prompt Communicaitons
Redstone Partners
Warner Research
White Rhino Partners

Greentech Media
KMC Partners

Selected CIC Tenants

Design That Matters
Global Cycle Solutions
Institute for Pediatric Innovation
Ivey Consulting
Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
Open Learning Exchange
Seeding Labs
Society for Organizaitonal Learning
Veritas Forum

Beyond Good Intentions
Body Politic
Carbon Challenge

Selected CIC Tenants

Cambridge Cloud Partners
Clear Methods
Conduit Labs
Good Data
Gupta Media
IP Vision
Linden Lab
Sustainable Minds
True Engineering
United Villages
Vertical Response
RES Group

Augur Systems
Exact Target
Maven Networks
My Happy Planet
Northern Light
Opus 3
Scan Scout
Starsoft Development Labs
Scholastic Networks
Top Coder
Untravel Media
The UpDown
Vertica Systems
Visible Measures
Wild Media

Selected CIC Tenants

BSDG Consulting
Deborah Halber
New England Country Foods
Steinberg and Associates
Twining Properties
Michael Schrage
Matthias Wagner

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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11 responses to “Cambridge Innovation Center Turns 10; Looking Inside a Landmark for Boston-Area Entrepreneurs”

  1. I’m not a tenant of the CIC, alas, but I’ve spent a lot of time there, and the thing that always strikes me is how cool it is to have a landlord with a generosity of spirit and can-do attitude. That’s so aligned with the nature of the tenants. I would argue that spirit stems directly from Tim Rowe himself, who lives those qualities in his own professional life. I’ll never forget the incredibly helpful conversation Tim had with me, a total stranger, when I was forming my business. I still remember most of what he said and have found it to be uncannily accurate advice.

  2. Cheryl says:

    Our agency, March Communications, was a tenant of CIC’s for three years. During that time, we occupied offices on three different floors as our agency grew. The flexibility to keep moving up allowed us to focus on our business, our clients and our people not the office maintenance and headaches that typically come with office moves.

    Being a part of a community of entrepreneurs was exiting and insightful. We still have many friends at CIC and many more about to move in.

    Tim and Geoff were especially helpful when we decided to brave the world and lease our own space over a year ago. Their approach to our departure was so refreshing. They were just as pleased as we were that our business was now able to sustain leased office space. Their advice was spot and appreciated.

    Happy Anniversary CIC.

  3. The year of 2009 marks your tenth anniversary!!! As a former member of the Security Staff at One Broadway, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and congratulate you and your staff in this historic moment!

    Ten years is a long time to maintain the excellent reputation your company has. Your staff has always demonstrated a highly professional manner and courtesy toward your clients. I know that the growth and success of your company is largely dependent on having strong and capable staff members, and recognizing the contribution they make in helping maintain the position you enjoy in this industry.

    During these last 10 years, your company name (Cambridge Innovation Center) has become almost a household word for clients and prospects in the Kendall Square community and around many other great places. Best of everything to you as CIC expand great services and achievements in the years ahead.

    Please know how very much I appreciate CIC and the staff. I’m hoping that Cambridge Innovation Center will remain successful for many years to come and once again would like to offer my congratulations on this 10th Anniversary Celebration!

  4. I would have to agree with the positive review of CIC on all counts. These factors have led to my housing 4 of my startups (inTouch Technology Corp.,, Untravel Media and X7 Labs) there at various points in time.

    Congrats to Tim & all the CIC staff!

  5. Jon Pierce says:

    Congrats to Tim and Geoff on 10 great years! The Cambridge Innovation Center is an institution, and the Boston startup scene wouldn’t be the same without it.

  6. We (Prompt Communications) moved into CIC several months ago, and it’s been an eye opener to how a team and an office environment can drive and foster innovation. Tim and his team are stars – their enthusiasm is boundless: just being in this building inspires me. Here’s to the next ten years!

  7. 10 years in any industry is a very long time. Well done and i hope you have 10 more!