Boston Trek 2003

The annual HBS Boston Trek this year, spanning from January 30th to the 31st, packed a lot of activity in two short days. Students were able to visit companies in the fields of Technology, Biotech, Marketing and Venture Capital. As part of the experience, students were also given the opportunity to schmooze with local CEOs and other high-ranking people during a gala dinner Thursday night with Mike Hirshland of Polaris as the Keynote.

The outlook in the local technology market was somber, but there were still some rays of hope. While smaller upstarts such as Photonex have been hit the hardest by the effects of the sluggish economy, they remain poised and in a solid enough position to take advantage of changes when the market goes on the upturn again. Some of the larger companies have been able to weather the storm well. Analog Devices has been able to make it through the downturn with no large-scale layoffs despite the loss in their telecommunications business.

Six biotech companies participated including one of the sponsors Antigenics. Students had an exciting visit to Biogen on the day after FDA approval of their groundbreaking treatment for psoriasis, Amevive. Biogen talked to the students about the business model they used in their early days which enabled them, one of the first biotech companies, to survive the various ups and downs of the industry. At GPC Biotech students were also treated to a tour of the labs. Scientists turned HBS students found this part of biotech particularly intriguing.

Demetri Zaphiris (RC) claimed “With all the ‘travel’ treks, it’s easy to forget how many fantastic opportunities exist in Harvard’s own back yard. BostonTrek provided a unique chance to interact with some extraordinary firms in the Boston area, and of course network with people who are at the forefront of their respective industries. It was a great experience.”

Over 160 people attended the Boston Trek networking dinner on campus, including 50 guests from participating companies. Tables at the dinner were comprised of students and company executives providing a real opportunity to talk about various industries and careers with our neighbors in the Boston community. During the dinner, Mike Hirshland explained that this was actually a great time to be investing in companies, from a venture capital perspective. He noted that in this climate, bench strength and depth is critical. He also talked about how discipline is now important again in investing and that investors are stepping back to the basics after the past several heyday years. Also noted as critical elements of successful investing were fund size with the ability to offer further rounds of investing, diversification, relationships with corporate partners, and taking the time to help the portfolio companies.