The Upside to Low End –

Head on over to bustling Winter Street in Waltham, Mass. Tucked inside the Route 128 corridor, it’s fast becoming the East Coast version of Sand Hill Road. Sure it may be less than two miles long and lack a single restaurant, but the tree- and reservoir-lined street is now home to no less than nine venture capital firms.

Most of the firms moved to the locale before it was hip to be thrifty. Now they’re enjoying the benefits of low rent as limited partners pressure firms to cut costs. The key location on Winter Street is the Bay Colony Corporate Center (see photo, right), a four-building business park spread out over 58 acres. Bill Elder, who works for commercial realtor and Bay Colony owner The Shorenstein Co., says that space in his facility goes for $30 to $40 per square foot. That’s a bargain when you consider Boston high-rise space goes for $40 to $50 per square foot. (Unlike Silicon Valley, the commercial real estate pickings are pretty slim in the Boston area, leading to steep prices even on the low end.)

In addition to cost benefits, the Winter Street location is generally closer to investors’ portfolio companies and suburban homesteads. Perhaps the street’s only downside is a decided lack of eating options, outside of cafeteria food at Bay Colony. For VCs who want more exotic fare, they can drive down to The Green Papaya for Thai food or just hop in the reservoir and look for some freshwater fish.

The Winter Street ClubAdvanced Technology Ventures…….Castile VenturesCharles River Ventures………….GreylockLongworth Venture Partners………Marconi VenturesMatrix Partners………………..North Bridge Venture Partners
POP QUIZTed DintersmithGeneral PartnerCharles River Ventures

What’s the best place to eat lunch?There is a very close race for last place among local restaurants. We bring in lunch everyday.Where is the closest spot near your office where you can actually see the Charles River?Probably three miles south just beyond the Mass Pike. But we’re on the Cambridge Reservoir, so we still feel good about being CRV!Why is Winter Street better than Sand Hill Road?Our buildings would stand up to a 35-mile-per-hour wind, we have a great view of woods and water instead of a parking lot, and we don’t drive past lots of billboards advertising on the way to work.

POP QUIZBob MetcalfeGeneral PartnerPolaris Venture Partners

What’s the best place to eat lunch?The best place to eat lunch is right at Polaris, thanks to Anastasia. [She’s the firm’s “front desk coordinator.”]Why is Bay Colony a VC mecca?Bay Colony is a VC mecca because (1) it’s already a VC mecca somehow because of mysterious accidents of long-ago geographical history, (2) you can see a beautiful lake and Boston from here when it’s not snowing, (3) the Massachusetts Turnpike and I95/SR128 give convenient access to high-tech startups, (4) VCs mostly like living in the suburbs out here (Lincoln is like Woodside, Wellesley is like Los Altos, Newton is like Menlo Park, Cambridge is like Palo Alto and/or Berkeley, Boston is like … Boston), (5) the real estate is appropriately luxurious, and (6) do you really want to use the word “mecca” given what’s happening in the world?Why is Winter Street better than Sand Hill Road?Boston has an inferiority complex about Silicon Valley and too often out comes silliness like: “Winter Street is better than Sand Hill Road.”