It was a beautiful Boston afternoon for our annual Strawberry Shortcake Social. We owe many of these traditions to Susan, our receptionist, who looks after us as superbly well as she does our guests. The gathering also served as a nice send-off for Team Axio before their flight to San Fran for a big week out in Silicon Valley. Mark (far right; member of our IT team), looks to be carefully eyeing up the bowl of strawberries and debating whether to go for seconds. Can’t say we blame him - it was delicious.

It was a beautiful Boston afternoon for our annual Strawberry Shortcake Social. We owe many of these traditions to Susan, our receptionist, who looks after us as superbly well as she does our guests. The gathering also served as a nice send-off for Team Axio before their flight to San Fran for a big week out in Silicon Valley. Mark (far right; member of our IT team), looks to be carefully eyeing up the bowl of strawberries and debating whether to go for seconds. Can’t say we blame him - it was delicious.

Here’s a recap of our conversation with Andy Ory, founder & CEO of Acme Packet, courtesy of a Ilya Vakhutinsky of team CareDojo:

On Tuesday we had the great pleasure of hearing Andy Ory of Acme Packet talk to us about growing great companies. He not only serves as president and chief executive officer, but founded the company as well. Under his leadership, Acme Packet pursues its mission to enable service providers and enterprises worldwide to unleash the power of interactive voice, video, and unified communications over IP networks. He has directed Acme Packet’s growth from a young startup to the dominant leader in the industry and tried passing along some of the knowledge he picked up along the way over the sound of crunching tacos in the background. Mr. Ory is an incredibly charismatic speaker and was a pleasure to listen to. He touched upon a variety of things from disruptive innovation to the importance of relationships in business. He even grabbed a marker and brought the lessons to the whiteboard. 

One of the key lessons he shared was the importance of mentorship. He said he was really grateful that his dad was so knowledgeable about business and could push him along. Today the mentality is that the best environment for an entrepreneurial minded person to thrive in is at the early stage part of a company’s growth, but Andy says that you don’t know until you’ve done it all. He said he loves where he is now, which is running a public company, and that every single stage has its pros and cons. He said he didn’t consider himself an operator, but is now in an operational role and that it was due to key mentorship that he was able to really be successful doing it. 

Even outside of a personal mentor, relationships are fundamental in the world of business. Andy used a humorous metaphor with staplers and scotch tape to demonstrate how businesses with established relationships give each other priority, but over time disruptors can really take hold of the market. However, if incumbents can be agile and change their businesses it’s hard to edge them out. In this case he mentioned a few high profile companies, IBM and Apple, who have been able to move away from their original businesses and stay alive.

Early on, more often than not business leaders get too distracted by the details of the kinds of products or services they are selling to notice how central it is to build relationships not just with your customers, but also with your vendors, employees and even competitors. Without strong relationships, it is pretty much impossible to have real success as a business owner. Just like IBM and Apple, you need to have long-term customers and good vendor relationships that will outlast difficulties and challenging times. The takeaway is clear, relationships are critical.

The Brothersport Games work area out in Menlo Park is well optimized for collaboration and team productivity.  That  being said, some may even call it a little messy.  On the latter point, how does that compare to the now legendary London Conference Room in Cambridge that houses Axio, CareDojo and Webcred? Well we shared the pic with some of the residents.  As one put it: “lol they got nothing on us.”  And another more succinctly: “The London is more than just a messy room… it’s a state of mind.”

The Brothersport Games work area out in Menlo Park is well optimized for collaboration and team productivity.  That  being said, some may even call it a little messy.  On the latter point, how does that compare to the now legendary London Conference Room in Cambridge that houses Axio, CareDojo and Webcred? Well we shared the pic with some of the residents.  As one put it: “lol they got nothing on us.”  And another more succinctly: “The London is more than just a messy room… it’s a state of mind.”

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Robbie Greenglass of Highland played a huge part in helping to make the Summer program in Cambridge a success.  From reviewing & vetting applications, working closely with teams throughout the summer, getting to know them better socially (those Monopoly games will be remembered for a long time), and being involved in so many of our events & activities, he was instrumental part of the experience.  Robbie took a moment to reflect on the summer below:

"Back in April, I walked in to a meeting at Highland after watching about 100 video submissions for our Summer@Highland program. With close to 300 applicants in total, we needed to split up the batch and start narrowing down the list to a handful of teams that are going to become our office mates for Summer. Having virtually met each team for only 3 or 4 minutes in a video, I had no idea what to expect when the summer actually started. Every summer has its surprises (like last summer when I got 11 people stuck in an elevator in NYC for over an hour), highs, lows, and most of all, an amazing amount of energy injected into Highland’s offices. While we had moved into our new Cambridge office last October, this summer was our first program in the new office. And at least for me, it was an amazing one!

From Day 1, Highland was transformed by the new members of our family. Our relatively quiet office in Kendall Square was turned into a co-working space with some incredibly bright new minds. The lights of the 16th floor stayed on much later into the night than usual…  For me, I got the chance to work with almost all of the teams here in Cambridge (those Handybook guys were always on the phone when I tried to stop by). And it has been one of the best experiences I have had so far at Highland.

I would usually take a stroll to see the teams a few times a week to see how everyone was doing. Here is the usual landscape: Our London Conference room was home to three teams. From team Webcred, Nam would usually be asleep on the air mattress (with JetBlue eye mask on), Connor in a daze because he was up all night teaching his college classmates how to code so they could come work for him.  Arye and Laura would be packing up their silver briefcase with Axio headbands to go demo their concentration monitoring device, all garbed out in Axio t-shirts and hoodies. Ilya would always be stressing that the Home Care space has way too much regulation in place, and Faheem, well, who knew where the hell Faheem was! 

Walking down the hall, we would get to the usually dark office of Team Wellframe. However, the darkness was not for lack of people in the office. These guys get the award for most all-nighters. And I am sure that will not be the only award these guys ever get as Jake, Trishan, Vinnie and Archit are about to hit the hospital market by storm with their new Cardiac rehab app.

Stepping out of the darkness and walking a little further down hall we would get to MyBetterFit. Ahh MyBetterFit. These guys really liked to redecorate their office. One day, a new couch appeared! Then, a second bean bag chair! And while there was sometimes the misunderstanding of what “This food is for Highland Partners Only” signs meant, MBF was hard at work building a next gen application for women choosing birth control (and if you ever need to find the good kind of Pop Chips or Pirates Booty, they would be hidden somewhere in their office).

Finally, we get to Handybook. As I said before, they were always on the phone! So, I never got to say hi. But they have an impressive amount of sticky notes on the glass door. So they got that going for them, which is nice.

The Summer@Highland teams turned our office into a bee hive of activity. With speakers in throughout the summer, trips to Martha’s Vineyard, late night games of Monopoly (Arye, don’t forget that I have future monopoly deals with you), and a lot of laughs, it was an amazing experience for me. It has truly been a pleasure to meet and work with every one of these teams. They are all an impressive group of entrepreneurs, and I only hope that our paths continue to cross. For me, the 100 days of summer flew by way too fast. I wish we could start all over again!”