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Angel Invest Boston

Through the Angel Invest Boston Podcast we seek to learn more about the creation of world-changing startups. Boston’s unique concentration of academic talent and entrepreneurial culture offer bountiful opportunities for conversations with people who have funded and built innovative companies. By recounting engaging stories, angels and founders convey lessons they have learned. These narratives illustrate the rewards of helping founders commercialize transformative technologies. We hope you too will find our dialogues entertaining and instructive. I’m Sal Daher, host of the Angel Invest Boston Podcast. After immigrating to Boston as a child and attending Belmont High School, I studied engineering at MIT and Stanford. Decades of work in international finance followed. During that time, I invested in a handful of ventures founded by friends and acquaintances. Now, I’m a member of Walnut Ventures and MIT Angels and spend most of my time as an angel investor taking stakes in about a dozen startups per year.
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Nov 22, 2017

Ty Danco is an outlier in a population of outliers. His interests are varied and pursued passionately. He’s founded two fintech companies, he’s invested in a gazillion startups and he’s been a hugely generous advisor to companies, in fact the chief advisor at Techstars. Oh, I forgot to mention he’s an Olympian and also deeply involved with crypto-currencies. In this really meaty interview, Ty and I covered a wide range of topics. He explained his ideas in his affably quirky way. This was a super fun conversation.

Quotes:

"Danco, why are you here? You're a marketing guy." And I said that I was here to see Lever Brothers and he goes, "You idiot, you signed up for Lehman Brothers."

“So, I took a leave of absence from school, and Wharton let me make up my remaining credits over the summer, and so I tried doing all three things at the same time. It was a success on paper, I did make the 84 [Olympic] team, I did complete the MBA, I did work at Lehman Brothers, but in truth I was overwhelmed, I did everything badly.

I ended up breaking my heel and didn't compete in Sarajevo. I learned nothing in my last classes at school and I was just lost and floundering my first year on Wall Street. So, there's a pretty obvious lesson there about the need to focus and my inability to multi-task. That's maybe why they say focus on one metric that matters, don't try to do five balls in the air at once.”

Topics covered include:

  • Ty Danco’s Bio
  • How Ty Danco Stated His Career – Lehman Brothers vs. Lever Brothers – Olympic Team
  • "Danco, why are you here? You're a marketing guy." And I said that I was here to see Lever Brothers and he goes, "You idiot, you signed up for Lehman Brothers."
  • Ty Danco Doing Too Much
  • Ty Danco and the Importance of Focus
  • Ty Danco on the Cover of Sports Illustrated
  • Ty Danco Moves from New York City to Burlington, Vermont
  • Ty Danco Discovers that, Thanks to Michael Bloomberg, It Was Possible to Do Investing in Vermont
  • Ty Danco Founds His First Startup - eSecLending
  • Ty Danco Recalls Wall Street Misogyny of the Past – Women Found a Haven in Hugely Complex CMO Deals
  • Ty Danco’s Company is Hit by the Crash of 2008
  • Sal Daher Asks for you to Review the Podcast on iTunes – It Really Helps!
  • Why Ty Danco’s Second Startup Failed
  • Ty Danco’s Angel Investments
  • Ty Danco Thinks Crypto-currencies Are Worthy Alternative Investments
  • Ty Danco Believes One Can Eliminate Many Losers - But at a Cost
  • Ty Danco’s Philosophy of Angel Investing
  • Why Mass Medical Angels Is the Only Angel Group Ty Danco Attends
  • Why Ty Danco Does Not Invest Based on Cold Calls
  • Ty Danco Reveals the Secret of Getting into Techstars
  • Ty Danco Likes VCs Involved in Every Deal, Why?
  • “Virtually all of my deals, 99% of the deals come not from me directly stumbling over something, but from a lead from my network.”
  • Boston Angel Pantheon: Michael Mark, Joe Caruso and Jean Hammond
  • What Are ICOs and Why should VCs be Scared of Them?
  • Some of Ty Danco’s Favorite Startups
  • Ty Danco’s Categorization of Mentoring Styles
  • What Sets Accelerators Apart in Ty Danco’s Estimation
  • Ty Danco Takes a Page from Manu Kumar in Starting His Next Venture

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Nov 8, 2017

While in prep school Matt Singer performed at a religious ceremony and became fascinated with the impact his music had on the congregants. This fascination led Matt Singer to major in music at Yale, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude, and to think of how to make a life in music. Matt hit the streets soon after graduating to start his music business. For ten years he built Dawn Treader Production with marquee names such as Paul McCartney, James Earl Jones and the New York Philharmonic. Relying on the emotional connection possible on TV, he sold the CDs he produced by the tens of thousands on QVC. In 2007 he joined co-founder Amanda Eilian, in starting a company that is now changing the way large enterprises communicate with their customers and employees via video. Videolicious makes it easy for employees to produce polished videos personalized to particular clients that make emotional connections. The platform is now used by 4,000,000 users in 100 countries, it’s even taught at 90 schools of journalism. Backed by Amazon and VC money, this startup is poised for continued growth.

This is the story of someone who followed what seems to be an impractical passion but managed to create something that is useful to large numbers of paying customers. Listen to this candid and introspective conversation with a young man who thinks deeply but acts practically. In particular, I liked what he had to say about how founders can prepare their psyche for the arduous journey of building their startup: “It turns out that anything that you accomplish in life actually brings a crush of responsibility, so you really just have to enjoy the journey because there is no magic carpet ride of happiness that comes with any accomplishment.”

 

Here are the topics covered and some quotes:

  • Matt Singer Bio
  • Matt Singer Actively Looks for a Way to Turn His Passion for Music into a Living, and Succeeds
  • The Story of The Talk Market Which Became Videolicious
  • How Matt Connected with his Great Co-founder, Amanda Eilian
  • What Videolicious Does Today
  • Sal Daher Reads a Review from Listener ChangDS and Ask Listeners to Leave a Review on iTunes
  • The Pivot that Turned The Talk Market into Videolicious
  • The Vision Stayed the Same, the Implementation Changed
  • Great Point about Finding Your Focus
  • “From the perspective of entrepreneurs, I think it's just good to note that you can have a vision but there are a lot of choices along the way in terms of who should you really sell to.”
  • Videolicious is Taught at 90 Schools of Journalism – It’s Becoming Ingrained
  • Instead of a Sales Binder Videolicious Allows You to Send Your Customer a Compelling Personalized Video
  • “Video is becoming the standard way that people create content.”
  • Videolicious’ Board Has Been Very Supportive – They’ve Been Amenable to Reasoned Arguments
  • “Yeah, you've heard that theme of focus, focus, focus, but exactly what that means is not always super clear.”
  • "Wow. What do I need not only just to get in the door, but also to keep them forever?"
  • How Matt Singer Got Amazon as an Early Investor in His Company
  • How Videolicious’ VC Backers Help with More than Money
  • The Interesting Route Videolicious Took to VC Funding
  • The Path Ahead for Videolicious – Making Video Creation Ever Easier & More Effective
  • Matt Singer’s Three Bits of Advice for New Founders
  • “Definitely finding a great co-founder is important… someone that you can really work with… work through thick and thin, because there's going to be ups and downs constantly and so it's great to have someone that can support you and you can support them.”
  • “…thinking through the entire lifecycle of your customer from the acquisition to renewal.”
  • Having a Long-term View Is Crucial in Selling to Enterprise Customers
  • Because Everybody Works from Home, Videolicious Looks for Self-starters
  • ” I do find that being able to tell the story and the vision is a good way to attract talent.”
  • Other Startups That Matt Singer Admires – Companies That Make Using their Product Super Easy
  • What Matt Singer Has in Common with C.S. Lewis
  • “…most technology is pretty disruptive for your average employee. It's different than what they're used to doing. That's what you have to contend with as a startup, you assume that's a big jump, even if your product in the isolation is easy.”
  • Matt Singer’s Parting Thoughts – A Truly Valuable Observation
  • “It turns out that anything that you accomplish in life actually brings a crush of responsibility, so you really just have to enjoy the journey because there is no magic carpet ride of happiness that comes with any accomplishment.”
Oct 25, 2017

Bettina Hein is the founder of Pixability, one of the fastest-growing companies in Massachusetts. She was also co-founder of SVOX, a profitable Swiss startup sold to Nuance Communications for $125MM. This record may make her success seem easier to achieve than it was. Bettina Hein overcame numerous obstacles to justify the sobriquet “Fearless Founder”. Learn from her as I did. She is an exemplar of resilience, grace under fire and plain common sense. She also has much to teach us about how a startup might best raise money. Whenever I ask angel investors about a remarkable pivot by a founder, there’s a good chance Bettina’s name will come up. Don’t miss this charming and instructive conversation with a star founder.

Here are topics and quotes from the interview:

  • Bettina Hein Bio
  • How Bettina Hein Found Her Entrepreneurial Path in Life
  • Bettina Hein Used to Write Computer Programs in Fourth Grade but Did Not Learn to Code in College; Why?
  • Professors Discouraged Bettina Hein from Pursuing a Career in the Sciences
  • “If I had to go back, I would probably get an undergraduate degree in either electrical engineering or computer science.”
  • “I think I wanted to be an entrepreneur very early on. There's just that example that was set in my family. There's no one in my family that has had a nine to five job ever, except my brother…”
  • Bettina Hein Founds an Entrepreneurship Initiative for Students at her University Called Start, that Leads her to Brains-to-Venture, Which Connects Her with Her co-founders in SVOX
  • SVOX Has a $125 MM Exit to Nuance Communications
  • Bettina Hein Starts Pixability – Looked for Co-founders But Could Not Find Any Willing Takers – How She made Being a Solo Founder Work
  • Pixability’s Storied Pivots
  • “We help large brands and their agencies place their video advertising and optimize it on YouTube, and we've expanded to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.”
  • How Pixability’s Platform Impacts the Viewing Public
  • “Consumers like it better, and brands get more out of it.”
  • Sal Daher Reads an iTunes Review from HealthTech617 – Asks You to Leave a Review on iTunes
  • Bettina Hein’s Advice on Fundraising for a Startup
  • Bettina Hein on How Things Change Once a Startup Gets Venture Funding
  • Bettina Hein Thinks Founders Are Scared of Having a Board So They Miss out on a Lot
  • “Many beginning entrepreneurs are scared of having a board. They fear the meddling in their business. They fear that people will force decisions on them, on the board. I have not seen that ever happen.”
  • “For me, often times the exercise of preparing for a board meeting is almost more important than the board meeting itself because it allows me to really think through the narrative of the company.”
  • Bettina Hein’s Way of Balancing Work & Family
  • Bettina Hein on Fundraising While Pregnant
  • Bettina Hein on Marketing Technology’s Crowded Landscape
Oct 11, 2017

Quotes from the podcast:

“Every startup investment is folly, but not every folly should be a startup investment…”

"How can I eliminate the real follies?"

“Banks are dominated by all these rules, and they're extremely risk averse. It's sort of like belt and suspenders, and yet, periodically, their pants fall down.”

“Someone who's selling is steeling herself for failure in every phone call…”

Sal Daher got a person who knows him really well, his brother in law Martin Aboitiz, to interview him in this 25th episode of the Angel Invest Boston podcast. The result is a wide-ranging and light-hearted conversation that tells a lot about how Sal sees the world of startups.

BTW, during the podcast Sal refers to the physicist Stephen Hawking as Christopher Hawking. This lapse was occasioned by Sal having spent time with Christopher Lydon (Christopher Lydon's Website) just days prior to recording. Sal's sure neither gentleman takes umbrage from the confusion.

The list of topics includes:

  • Sal Daher Bio
  • Switch from Engineering to International Finance
  • How Sal Started Investing
  • How Being a Banker and an Engineer Helped Develop Sal’s Investing Philosophy
  • ”When I look at markets, I understand that markets are not knowable, and so I don't look to guess where markets are going. I don't look to think that I know more than anybody else, or that I know more than the market.”
  • “Banks are dominated by all these rules, and they're extremely risk averse. It's sort of like belt and suspenders, and yet, periodically, their pants fall down.”
  • “I've developed kind of an approach of skepticism, you know Popperian skepticism of how much I can know.”
  • Sal Has Andrew Carnegie as a Model – Keep a Lot of Cash to be Able to Buy Bargains
  • “I can tell you right now, anything we're buying, we're buying it very expensively.”
  • Sal Thanks Listener GranTia for Leaving a Review
  • How Sal Decides on Which Startup to Invest
  • “Every startup investment is folly, but not every folly should be a startup investment…”
  • "How can I eliminate the real follies?"
  • “What I have to do is I have to play a defensive game, I have to avoid investing in losers.”
  • “Martin, I discovered a really amazing thing, being really smart and really knowledgeable has zero correlation with the ability to sell, zero, okay?”
  • “Someone who's selling is steeling herself for failure in every phone call…”
  • Regrets?
  • Anti-portfolio
  • Sal’s Favorite Pivots – Pixability & SQZ Biotech – Personal Pivots
  • “I'm a big fan of pivots, because a pivot is an expression of belief in the ability of human beings to fall down and get up again.”
  • Networking in Boston vs. the Bay Area
  • “There's no other place like it [Boston], and there's an unbelievable variety of things that go on. It is a little bit insular, it is hard to network here, but I can tell you that the angel investing environment, there's no angel investing environment that's as collaborative as the one here.”
  • “Now, venture capitalists aren't interested in follies, they're interested in sure bets.”
  • “How many companies can an angel investor successfully track and manage in his portfolio?”
  • People from Whom Sal Learns the Most
Sep 27, 2017

Epilogue to the Interview:

Martin Aboitiz asked me to add this to the notes:

"...I do have a regret though, that I did not mention four names during the interview:

Juan Manuel Garcia Carral, my CTO in Intermedia who suggested Healthcare as an industry worthy of application and data integration,
 
Dr. Richard Low of PraxisEMR, who first gave me a picture of the lack of data integration in Healthcare Juan Manuel's suggestion, and
 
my two other founders in Healthjump, Mark Ribeiro (our original CFO) and Shanti Aboitiz who was our Patient Advocate, both have moved on, but were pivotal in getting Healthjump started.
 
 
Sal's Notes:

In 2013, (I said 2003 in the podcast by mistake) my brother in law Martin Aboitiz sat in my dining room and sketched out this business he planned to start. I thought “majnun” which is Arabic for crazy! How would this guy who had built software companies in Argentina found a startup to help Americans have better access to their healthcare data? But I underestimated his resourcefulness and titanic tenacity. Four years later, Healthjump is at cashflow break even and has 7.5 million patients in its data warehouse. I’m glad because I have some real money riding on Martin’s company.

Listen to this lighthearted but informative interview. It was inspired, in part, by an excellent meal shared by the interlocutors the night before which included an outstanding paella (see photo) and some delightful wines. We talked healthcare, pivots, angel investing homeruns and flops and many other matters.

Topics covered include:

  • Martin Aboitiz Bio
  • Martin Aboitiz Gets Started in His Career
  • Lessons from Working in a World Bank-funded Project in the Philippines
  • Lessons from Doing Business in Argentina
  • How Did Martin Discover He Wanted to Be an Entrepreneur?
  • Martin Aboitiz’s Advice about Dealing with Failure – Really Good Stuff!
  • Martin Aboitiz’ First Startup – Intermedia
  • Martin Aboitiz Sets Up an Informal Incubator for Argentine Startups
  • Martin Aboitiz Founds Healthjump in 2013 to Make Medical Records More Accessible to the Patient
  • Problem: Healthcare Data is Sitting in Silos and People Don’t Have Access
  • Healthjump’s Pivot
  • Saber & Amadeus as Analogues
  • “Now in healthcare it's different because what we're seeing right now is the equivalent of the Hyatt across the street buying the bed and breakfast. That did not happen in travel but it's happening in healthcare.”
  • Lack of Healthcare Record Interoperability Is Pushing Consolidation to an Absurd Extreme
  • Healthjump is Helping Make Electronic Health Records (EHR) Software More Interoperable
  • Seven and a Half Million Patient Records Now Reside in Healthjump’s Data Warehouse
  • As More Practices Use Healthjump to Understand Their Data the Number of Patients Who Can Use Healthjump to Access their Records Grows – Network Effect
  • Healthjump is at Cashflow Breakeven
  • Martin Aboitiz Starts Angel Investing – Three Homeruns in a Row – Thought Angel Investing Was Easy
  • Martin’s Favorite Pivot Story - Twitter
  • Argentina as a Place to Build a Startup – OLX & Mercado Libre
Sep 13, 2017

Super angel Michael Mark and marketing wiz Kathryn Roy take questions on the topic of angel investing. This was recorded before a live audience at gorgeous Babson College, a university dedicated to teaching entrepreneurship. Sal, as usual, finds it hard to keep his opinions to himself!

Topics covered include:

  • Recorded on the Beautiful Campus of Babson College, Thanks to Margaret Jones & Nina Block
  • Michael Mark Mini Bio
  • Kathryn Roy Mini Bio
  • Michael Mark on What Angel Investing Is Not – Not the Best Way to Make a Lot of Money
  • Kathryn’s Thoughts on Making Money in Angel Investing
  • Question from Mark T.: What’s the Minimum Number of Startup Investments to Get a Good ROI?
  • Audience Question: What Are the Three or Four Things You Look for In a Startup?
  • Startup Founder Davey Bakhshi Asks a Question - Fundraising Pointers
  • Davey Bakhshi: Do you Invest in Founders from Other Countries?
  • Have a Real Sales Funnel for your Fundraising – Willy Loman Beats Einstein
  • Monthly Communication with Your Investors and Constituents
  • Lisa’s Question: What Would You Do Differently Today as a Founder Given the Changes?
  • Go to an Incubator
  • What Has Not Changed in Fundraising
  • Question from Listener Martin Aboitiz: What Startups Do You Regret Not Investing In?
  • “Another Train Leaving Every 15 Minutes.” – Michael Mark
  • Question from Kit, a Freshman at Babson: Can You Build Business without Raising Money?
  • Audience Question from Alan, an MBA Student at Babson: Notes vs. Priced Rounds?
  • Audience Question from Marcos, an MBA Student at Babson: How Long Does It Take to Build Trust?

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Aug 30, 2017

Ed Roberts started the scholarly study of startups. Learn from this brilliant academic pioneer and seasoned investor in Sohu.com and HubSpot about the keys to success in founding a tech company. Along the way you will be entertained and charmed by his most engaging narrative style.

He grew up in working-class Chelsea, Massachusetts. At Chelsea High, he received preparation that would allow him to explore the academic delights offered by MIT’s curriculum.

Four MIT degrees later he was on the faculty at MIT’s Sloan School of Management studying the impact of NASA’s research on the economy. From there it was a short hop to founding the study of tech startups. He also co-founded successful companies, including Meditech. His course on entrepreneurship incubated Beijing's Sohu.com and Boston's HubSpot. Ed Roberts was an early investor in both.

The oft-cited result that companies founded by MIT alums generate revenues equivalent to the 10th largest economy in the world is one of the products of his scholarship. He also delves into his work on the optimal composition of founding teams. Among the many topics covered in this bravura interview are:

  • Ed Roberts Bio
  • High School in Working-class Town of Chelsea Thoroughly Prepared Ed Roberts for Success at MIT
  • Sound Preparation from Chelsea High Allowed Ed Roberts to Explore the MIT Curriculum
  • Ed Roberts Meets Jay Forrester, Co-inventor of the Core Memory and Founder of System Dynamics
  • Research into Entrepreneurship Springs from NASA Project to Measure Impact of Its Technology
  • Ed Roberts Starts His First Company, Pugh-Roberts Associates
  • MIT Faculty Form Consulting Firms, MIT Grads Form Product Companies
  • Ed Roberts Founds Meditech
  • Engineers Debate the Need for a Marketing Person on the Meditech Team – Hired the Only Marketing Person They Knew
  • Sal Daher’s Pitch for Listeners to Give Back by Reviewing the Podcast on iTunes and Telling Others About It
  • The Most Significant Results from Ed Roberts’ Research
  • It’s Important Not to Keep Your Idea Secret but to Talk to Many People About It
  • Eric von Hippel & User Innovation
  • Ideas Are Overvalued – Person Who Has It Gets Too Much Credit – Pivots Are the Norm – Nobody Remembers All the Pivots – Example: Founders of HubSpot
  • Ed Roberts Invests in Founders, Not Ideas
  • Charles Zhang & the Founding of Sohu.com – Ed Roberts Was Surprised Charles Zhang Wanted to Return to China – Amazing Story!
  • “I’ve always focused on ground zero companies. I do not regard a ground zero company as a frightening and risky thing. I regard it as the place to be because that’s where the fun is, that’s where you can have impact and, to me, if you’ve passed my test, that you’re passionate, you’re dedicated, you’re trying to do something that seems worthwhile, you’re smart, you’re open. I’m going to be able to relate to you. Then, I don’t see it as a risky thing”.
  • Data on PhDs as Founders?
  • Why Are MIT Students & Alums So Likely to Invest in Startups?
  • 30% of MIT Alumni Go to Work for a Startup – Of Those 25% Go on to Found Their Own Company – Those Companies Outperform the Market
  • Second Companies Outperform First Companies; Third Outperform Second – Studies of Universities as Sources of Innovation – Chuck Easley Did Similar Study at Stanford

 

 

 

 

Aug 16, 2017

The collaboration of Ham Lord and Christopher Mirabile, two of Boston’s most consequential super angels, is widely admired. Its most visible fruit is the success of Launchpad Venture Group, which they manage together. In this revealing interview, they let us in on how this winning collaboration came to be and what keeps it productive as it approaches the end of its first decade.

Christopher Mirabile and Ham Lord are already familiar to our listeners.  Each has been interviewed individually on earlier episodes of the Angel Invest Boston Podcast. In the current episode, the two different personalities interact and give us a glimpse into what drives their working relationship.

Topics covered include:

  • Christopher & Ham’s Remarkable Collaboration
  • How They Connected
  • Division of Labor
  • Lucky to Have Jody Collier as Operations Manager
  • Complementary Skills & Creative Tension
  • What They Enjoy in Working Together
  • What Motivates Christopher and Ham
  • How Christopher & Ham Differ in their Investing
  • Gene Gregerson, an Engineer’s Engineer & Mobius Imaging – Astonishing Feat of Entrepreneurship
  • Blind Spots: How Having a Partner Helps Avoid Them
  • Integrity in the Founding Team is Essential – Due Diligence Screens Out Frauds
  • Geographic Focus Makes It Possible to Add Value
  • Dos & Don’ts for a Winning Collaboration
  • How Ham and Christopher Work Things Out When Problems Arise
  • Co-CEOs Raise a Red Flag but Can Work
  • Trends Christopher & Ham See
  • A Business Semyon Dukach Would Like!

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Aug 16, 2017

The collaboration of Ham Lord and Christopher Mirabile, two of Boston’s most consequential super angels, is widely admired. Its most visible fruit is the success of Launchpad Venture Group, which they manage together. In this revealing interview, they let us in on how this winning collaboration came to be and what keeps it productive as it approaches the end of its first decade.

Christopher Mirabile and Ham Lord are already familiar to our listeners.  Each has been interviewed individually on earlier episodes of the Angel Invest Boston Podcast. In the current episode, the two different personalities interact and give us a glimpse into what drives their working relationship.

Topics covered include:

  • Christopher & Ham’s Remarkable Collaboration
  • How They Connected
  • Division of Labor
  • Lucky to Have Jody Collier as Operations Manager
  • Complementary Skills & Creative Tension
  • What They Enjoy in Working Together
  • What Motivates Christopher and Ham
  • How Christopher & Ham Differ in their Investing
  • Gene Gregerson, an Engineer’s Engineer & Mobius Imaging – Astonishing Feat of Entrepreneurship
  • Blind Spots: How Having a Partner Helps Avoid Them
  • Integrity in the Founding Team is Essential – Due Diligence Screens Out Frauds
  • Geographic Focus Makes It Possible to Add Value
  • Dos & Don’ts for a Winning Collaboration
  • How Ham and Christopher Work Things Out When Problems Arise
  • Co-CEOs Raise a Red Flag but Can Work
  • Trends Christopher & Ham See
  • A Business Semyon Dukach Would Like!

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Aug 2, 2017

Writing software never seemed like work to young Ham Lord. In high school and then in college, coding is what got him rolling with his other courses; he loved it. This passion, and the happy coincidence of being at the right place (Brown University) at the right time (early 1980s) led to a brilliantly productive career in computing and entrepreneurship.

Ham’s early work in computer graphics would eventually lead to innovation in applying 3D imaging to the creation of new molecules. Later he helped build software with applications in medicine, oil & gas exploration and engineering analysis. He even did work that presaged today’s drone technology.

After 16 years as a software engineer and entrepreneur, Ham cashed in his chips and began a hugely consequential career as one of Boston’s super angel investors. He was the engine behind the relaunch of Launchpad, one of the country’s most respected angel groups. In a frank and accessible interview, Ham discusses the workings of this group, talks about companies that excite him and addresses current trends in the ambit of angel investing.

Topics covered include:

  • Ham Lord Bio
  • Ham Lord Discovers His Love of Computer Programming
  • How Ham Lord Connected with His First Job After Brown
  • Building a New Display for the F-14 Navy Jet
  • Why Ham Lord Founded His First Startup
  • AVS Rises from the Ashes of Stellar
  • Ham Lord’s Transition from Software Development to Marketing
  • After 16 Years Building Startups Ham Lord Takes a Sabbatical Year & Starts Investing
  • Ham Lord Discovers Angel Investing
  • Ham Lord Relaunches Launchpad
  • Ham Lord & Christopher Mirabile Get Together
  • What Does Ham Lord Look for in a Startup?
  • The Ones That Got Away
  • Ham Lord’s Favorite Pivot Story
  • Ham Lord & Cambridge Trust
  • Ham Lord Talks About Launchpads’ Early-stage Track, the Catalyst Program
  • Two Companies in the Machine Learning Space – Netra.io & Smartvid.io
  • Seraf-investors.com & Seraf Compass
  • Trends: Professionalization of Angel Investing & the Angel Capital Association

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Jul 19, 2017

The family of Wan Li Zhu did not see a future in China. His parents, persecuted by the one-party state, came to America when Wan Li was ten years old. China’s great loss became America’s brilliant gain.

Wan Li benefited from high-quality public education at Bronx High School of Science and went on to a perfect grade-point average at MIT. He studied under renowned quant wiz Andrew Lo and was poised for a career on Wall Street but was lured away by the prospect of hands-on responsibility for product features at Microsoft.

After a prodigiously successful stint, during which he was involved in building and marketing Dynamics CRM, MS’ fastest-growing product, he went to Harvard Business School. From HBS he was recruited by early-stage VC firm Fairhaven Capital.

The firm, known for its expertise in web security and digital advertising, now sees promise in various applications of artificial intelligence starting with self-driving technology. Wan Li is deeply engaged in bringing on the next generation of winning investments at Fairhaven Capital. Despite a busy professional life, Wan Li Zhu has found time to advise startups and to co-found MIT Angels in Boston. I learned a ton from my conversation with this wise, yet unassuming VC.

Here is a list of some of the topics broached:

  • Wan Li Zhu Bio
  • From Persecution in Communist China to Bronx High School of Science
  • Studied with MIT Professor Andrew Lo – Used Natural Language Processing to Assess Market Sentiment
  • Why Wan Li Zhu Went to Microsoft – Three Years at MS – Shipped Three Versions of the Product
  • Wan Li Zhu Connects with Fairhaven Capital through HBS Resume Book
  • Fairhaven Capital Is Thesis-driven – Attentive to Market Trends that Could Create Large Opportunities
  • How the Fairhaven Capital Portfolio Is Doing
  • What Wan Li Zhu Looks for in a Startup Investment
  • Experienced Founders Can Actually Time Markets
  • TVision Came Via MIT Angels – Measuring Engagement of TV Viewers
  • AirFox – Enabling Wireless Carriers to Offer More Affordable Data Plans
  • MIT Angels Company PathAI’s Deep Learning System Is Better at Detecting Tumor Cells than Human Pathologists
  • Latch – Enterprise-grade Keyless Access System for Apartment Buildings
  • The Investment Wan Li Zhu Regrets Not Making
  • Wise VC Wan Li Zhu Continues to Be Very Bullish on AI
Jul 5, 2017

Two brilliant scholarship kids became friends at Georgia Tech and went on to found a company that could change the world. This is the story of Matthew Stellmaker and Keith Hearon and of the good chemistry manifested in their friendship and in the creation of new polymers friendly to people and nature.

The idea came to Matthew when he was working at a large company that produces 50,000 tons of citrus waste per year. His friend Keith thought that he could do something interesting with the citrus rinds so Matthew got the company to fund the research into creating a use for this natural material.

These two young founders display remarkable self-knowledge and reveal discoveries in the art of founding companies that could help other founders, technical or not. It’s a valuable conversation that includes the following topics:

  • Keith Hearon Bio
  • Matthew Stellmaker Bio
  • Keith Hearon Views Himself as an Entrepreneur Who Uses Science to Commercialize Valuable Products – Inspired by Ken Gall, Founder & Inventor
  • How Keith & Mathew Became Friends
  • How to Find a Job in Architecture in a Down Market
  • Challenge of Langer Lab Further Energized Keith Hearon
  • How Poly6 Got Started
  • How Poly6 Zeroed in on its First Use Case
  • How Poly6 Zeroed in on its First Use Case
  • How Being Co-founders Changed Their Friendship
  • Should You Found a Company with Your Friend?
  • The Risks of Moonlighting
  • The Care & Feeding of Advisors – Busy People Generous with Their Time
  • Other Startups Matthew & Keith Admire

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Jun 21, 2017

Tivan Amour is reinventing how urban bikes are designed and sold. This is a tall order. The competition is ferocious. Wise counsel is justifiably skeptical of the possibility of success in this endeavor. Yet, Tivan is gaining traction with his approach. He may be defying the odds.

This young repeat founder bristles with energy but is also capable of contemplation. He is a growth hacker familiar with the Socratic Dialogue. He is hugely ambitious yet generous with the less fortunate.  It was great fun interviewing him and he taught me a bunch of things. Among these were the real value of Techstars to founders and some pointers on growing a customer base.

Here is a list of the topics covered:

  • Tivan Amour Bio
  • What Effect Did Working for AT&T While Still in College Have in Tivan’s Life?
  • Tivan as a Product Manager at Abercrombie & Fitch
  • Tivan Starts His First Company
  • Tivan Decides Boston Is Just Right for Him
  • What Tivan Learned from Volunteering at BUILD
  • How Tivan Structures His Day
  • Tivan’s First Company Pivots
  • Genesis of Fortified Bike – New Way to Market to Bike Shops – Cutting Out Distributors
  • Fortified Bike Goes into Techstars
  • The Real Value of Techstars to the Founder
  • Changing Co-founders
  • com Has Won Plaudits from Experts for Its Efficacy – Tivan’s Advice on Building a Website
Jun 7, 2017

Armon Sharei wants to train our immune system to fight cancer. We hear a lot of claims like this, however when a mega-pharmaceutical company like Roche inks a $500 million deal to work on it, we pay attention. At age 29, Armon convinced not only Roche but gimlet-eyed VCs to back him. How did he do this? How did he go from a boy living in Iran to being one of the stars of MIT’s storied Langer Lab?

Part of Armon’s secret is the ability to explain thickly complex ideas in accessible language that does not over simplify. He is that rarest of creatures, a scientist of the first rank that speaks lucidly and acts practically. I am grateful that Armon took time out from curing cancer to share his experiences with us in this inspiring interview.

If you are a scientist thinking of founding a company or an investor thinking of investing in a biotech startup you could learn a lot by listening to this interview with Armon Sharei (as well as the interview with biotech founder & investor Patrick Rivelli Patrick Rivelli Interview). Among the topics covered are:

  • Armon Sharei Bio
  • Childhood Spent in Iran & Dubai, Finished High School in Marin County
  • Why Armon Sharei Wanted to Be a Scientist
  • Why Leave Edenic Bay Area for Purgatorial Boston?
  • SQZ Technology Comes from Failed Attempt to Shoot Genetic Materials into Cells
  • How the Idea of Starting a Company Came About
  • “I think one of the main examples, which is kind of the subject we've been pursuing most deeply at the company in two different projects, is the idea of telling the immune system what to target in the context of cancer”.
  • SQZ Technology Excels at Getting Protein Fragments into Cells – Very Promising Method of Training Our Immune System to Fight Cancer
  • Sal Asks Listeners to Subscribe & Review on iTunes – Podcast Has Great Guests & Sound
  • Biotech Fundraising Is Hard – Armon Sharei’s Advice on Fundraising
  • Armon Sharei Finds a Lead Investor for His Angel Round
  • SQZ Biotech’s Pivot from Selling their Tech as a Tool to Looking for Therapies
  • “…over 70 or 80% of scientists want to put stuff into cells for some reason. I think aside from looking under a microscope there's nothing that they want to do more”.
  • Therapy Research Is Risky, But Tool Business Was Harder Than It Looked, Besides Armon Really Wanted to Do Science
  • The Board Was Essential in the Pivot from Being a Tool Company to Becoming a Therapy Company
  • How Does a 29 Year-old Negotiate a $500 Million Deal with a Major Corporation?
  • Hiring the Right People Is the Most Important Thing a Founder Does, Look for Cultural Fit
May 24, 2017

Still in his forties, David Chang seems to have a lifetime of achievement behind him. Six startup exits, stints with TripAdvisor, PayPal and Goldman Sachs as well as close connections in the world of VCs give David a most informed perspective on startups. In this candid and instructive interview, David highlights the dos and don’ts of tech startups in clear and engaging prose. He provides a wealth of suggestions on how to approach markets and technologies.

He immigrated to America from Taiwan as a child and grew up on Long Island. David Chang distinguished himself in computer science as an undergrad at Cornell. Later on he attended Harvard Business School after seven years on Wall Street.

Topics covered in this interview include:

  • David Chang Bio
  • Came to US from Taiwan with His Family at Age 3 – Grew Up on Long Island
  • Job Market Tight in 1992 – 38 Rejection Letters – 2 Job Offers – Wall Street vs. Silicon Valley
  • Applied to Harvard Business School Thrice - Third Time Lucky – Stays in Boston Working at a Small Startup
  • Dumb Luck Had Brought Him to a Phenomenal Company - edocs
  • Co-founds Mobicious – Just in Time for Financial Crisis
  • Quits Fulltime Stable Job – Decides to Start Company – Daughter Is Born – All in One Weekend!
  • Mobicious Sells for Pennies on the Dollar – Thought Would Never Work in Tech Again – Lands in Where, a Company into Location Awareness – David Beisel of NextView Ventures
  • Decision to Sell Where to PayPal
  • Genesis of Where Angel Fund
  • David Chang’s Biggest Failure as a Startup Operator – Lacked Focus on First Startup – Guardrail to Guardrail
  • The Role of Thrift in Startups
  • How David Chang Came to Make His First Angel Investment
  • Great Startups David Chang Passed On
  • Why Is David Chang Not a Full-time VC?
  • David Chang’s Advice to Startups Raising Money
  • Be Clear About What’s Your Basecamp and What’s Your Summit
  • What David Chang Looks for In a Founding Team
  • David Chang’s Favorite Pivot – TripAdvisor Stumbles upon the Idea of Doing Reviews
  • Startups David Chang Is Excited About
  • Nightmare Mistakes Founders Make
  • How Do Founders Decide to Raise Another Round or Shut Down? The Value of Knowing Your Place in the Market You Serve
May 10, 2017

It is rare that we hear reports from the frontiers of technology expressed so lucidly and accessibly by a real insider. This gem of an interview rewards the listener with Jay  Batson’s sensible and eloquently expressed explanations of the pitfalls of building products and companies. Jay recounts how angel investing taught him things he wishes he had known as a founder. He closes with wise words to recent college grads thinking of founding a startup.

Jay Batson started out as a land man helping oil and gas explorers secure drilling rights. Computerizing part of his work led to his first startup. This made him realize that he loved technology. He would eventually embody this passion for tech in the founding of two venture-backed companies which brought significant innovation by way of the open source movement.

Here are some of the topics included in this podcast:

  • Jay Batson Bio
  • Born to a Family of Entrepreneurs – Land Man Studying Law at Night – Tech Founder
  • Jay Batson Exits first Startup – Learns UNIX & C - Heads to Job with BBN in Boston – Massively Parallel Computing
  • Jay Batson Goes from Engineering to Product Management
  • At Forrester Research, Jay Batson Foresaw some of the Internet’s Potential
  • Desktop Internet Phone – Pingtel – SIP – Bits of Code We still Use Today
  • The Story of Acquia
  • Open Source Primer
  • Jay Batson Gets into Angel Investing
  • What Jay Batson Looks for In a Startup
  • What Jay Batson Has Learned from Being an Angel Investor
  • Technique Jay Batson Uses in Mentoring Startups
  • What Do Startups Most Frequently Not Do Well?
  • Jay Batson Relates the Story of Pingtel’s Pivot
  • Jay Batson’s Eloquent Statement of the Value of a Working Board of Directors
  • Jay Batson’s Advice to Recent College Grads Thinking of Founding a Company
Apr 26, 2017

Growing up in Northern Italy, Arrigo Bodda dreamed of becoming an architect. He chose instead to study law, a handy pre-requisite for a career in human resources in a country where staffing involves a lot of legal work. His corporate career neatly coincided with the emergence of the European Union, a phenomenon that deeply influenced his work and life. After much success in the executive suites of global enterprises, Arrigo now has the opportunity to pursue his passion for design and architecture as an angel investor with Walnut Venture Associates and as an entrepreneur.

In this lighthearted interview, Arrigo shares some of the valuable wisdom gained in navigating large multinational enterprises across cultures and across disciplines. He offers valuable suggestions for founders of startups seeking to do business with multinational companies. He also provides an appealing model of finding the right balance between following your passions and making concessions to reality.

Topics discussed in this podcast include:

  • Arrigo Bodda Bio
  • Living & Working in Europe vs. in the United States
  • The Secrets of Successful Cross-cultural Relations in the Workplace
  • How Arrigo Bodda found His Career Path – Deep Wisdom on Career Development from an HR Specialist
  • “The suggestion that I have for everyone that is listening now, and that they are thinking where I should make my first move, my recommendation is make your first move in a place where the people around you are better than you.”
  • European Union 2.0
  • Tips for Startups Navigating Huge Multinationals
  • The Value of an MBA from IMD
  • Starting a Company in Thailand
  • What Kind of Companies Arrigo Bodda Likes to Invest In
  • What Does Arrigo Bodda Look for in a Founding Team?
  • Don’t Invest in Startups Alone – Join a Group, It will Save you Money & Be More Fun than Investing Alone

 

 

Apr 12, 2017

Christopher Mirabile is an angel with a plan. This super angel wants to make angel investing more professional and methodical. He comes to this aspiration by way of being a consultant, a corporate lawyer and a CFO of a successful tech company. He is co-managing director of Launchpad Venture Group and sits on numerous boards. He has co-founded Seraf, a platform for tracking angel investments and helping angels become better informed. He is an engaging and thought-provoking interlocutor. Do not miss this energetic interview which includes the following topics:

  • Christopher Mirabile Bio
  • From English Major to Junior Management Consultant and, Eventually, a Corporate Lawyer
  • Law Firm to Tech Company, First as Chief Counsel, Ultimately as CFO Taking the Company Public
  • Turbulent IPO Leads to Decision to Become an Investor Rather Than an Operator
  • What Christopher Mirabile Looks for in a Startup
  • Christopher Mirabile’s Favorite Pivots: Pixability, Powerhouse Dynamics and Vela Systems
  • Christopher Mirabile’s Informative Columns and Posts
  • Boston Has the Best Ecosystem for Angel Investing: “I've seen a lot of angel investing, and, as far as I'm concerned, there's no city in the world I would rather invest in than Boston”.
  • The Angel Treaty – Angel Syndication – Collaborative Culture of Angel Investing
  • Christopher Mirabile on the Value of a Board to an Early-Stage Company
  • “I'm to the point now where if I run into a team that I otherwise like and I get any sense of hesitancy about building a board, that's a huge red flag for me”.

Episode Transcript with Subject Headings Available at:

Link to Angel Invest Boston Podcast Episode Pages

 

Mar 29, 2017

Peter Fasse has patents in his blood. He comes from a family of patent attorneys. He is a highly respected partner at Fish & Richardson, the storied Boston-based (now global) firm that represented Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers. Peter’s work continues that tradition by representing some of the leading technological innovators of today. Peter also invests as an angel in technology companies. In this practical and accessible conversation he revealed valuable insights and resources for founders and investors in technology companies. He also relayed some interesting and instructive stories of intellectual property success and calamity.

Among the topics covered were:

  • Peter Fasse Bio
  • Young Cornell Grad in Textiles & Fabrics Becomes Patent Office Examiner
  • Peter Fasse’s Practice
  • In What Areas Is it Important to Have Patents and Why?
  • Software Patents, Why Have Them and Why Not?
  • Supreme Court Taking Harsh Views on Patents
  • Patent Attorney Horror Stories – Theft, Suicide, Rogue Wave, Bear Mauling & Hasty Firing
  • How Institutions Can Claim Intellectual Property of Employees
  • Freedom to Operate – Should Be a Big Concern for Tech Startup Founders & Investors
  • “There's a common misconception that if you have a patent on something, that it allows you to practice and commercialize that invention, but that's not true.”
  • Different Levels of Freedom to Operate Analysis
  • Two Extreme Freedom to Operate Cases & Outcomes
  • Strong IP Position a Vital Ingredient in Sale of Tech Startups
  • Mass Tech Transfer Center (MTTC) Is a Great Resource for Technology Startups
  • Transcytos & SQZ Biotech
  • Most Patents Are Not Commercially Viable, But Fish & Richardson Has a Special Package for Highly Promising Startups – Fish Steps
  • Unsolicited Client Testimonial for Peter Fasse!
  • Why Investing Through a Vehicle Rather than Directly Can Make Sense
  • Trade Secrets – Formula for Coca Cola
  • Trademarks – Frequently Overlooked
  • Trouble with Chinese Partners – Capital Controls & Theft of Intellectual Property

 

Mar 13, 2017

Gong Ke came to America at age 13 with little English. Yet, barely a decade later she had graduated in computer science from MIT and was working at one of America’s iconic startups. Later she started her own consumer company which achieved impressive growth. While doing all this she also married and had three children. Google and Harvard Business School followed. She now works full time at Trip Advisor while sharing her business building experience with others at Mass Challenge, the Wily Network and Tech Stars. This remarkably dynamic young woman narrated compelling stories to illustrate her hard-won lessons. She provided three sterling bits of advice to founders, delved into what makes immigrants so successful as entrepreneurs and presented an excellent example of strategic thought in her career planning.

Among the topics covered were:

  • Gong Ke Gouldstone Bio
  • Gong Ke Gouldstone at Akamai – 9/11 Happens – Danny Lewin Tragedy Inspires a Lot of People
  • Hard to Raise Money for Tech Startup due to NASDAQ Crash – Decides to Do Bubble Tea Startup
  • MIT Grad Selling Tea; Parents Are Horrified!
  • Learned a Lot Working Behind the Counter – Degrees Don’t Matter – Listening to the Customer Is What Matters
  • Gong Ke Gouldstone’s Startup Was Profitable on Day 1
  • Amy Chua, alias Tiger Mom, “Triple Package”
  • Gong Ke Gouldstone’s Advice to Founders – (1) Know Why You Are Doing It & (2) Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Everyone About It
  • Motivation for Being a Founder – “Unleash Your Inner Company” by John Chisholm – Best Treatment of the Subject
  • Gong Ke Gouldstone Goes to Google to Learn What It’s Like to Work for a Big Company
  • Gong Ke Quits Google to Go to Harvard Business School
  • Gong Ke Goes to Her Current Position at Trip Advisor – The Other Side of the Table from Google
  • Is an MBA Necessary for Entrepreneurship?
  • Wily Network
  • Boston vs. Bay Area as a Place to Start a Company
  • Gong Ke Gouldstone’s Favorite Founders
Mar 1, 2017

Whenever I speak with Kathryn Roy I learn something. I learned a lot when I spent an hour talking to this remarkably incisive thinker. Kathryn has advised some of the most dynamic technology companies of our time including Lotus, Kronos, Phase Forward, IBM, Computer Associates, Avid and Constant Contact. The qualities that make her ideas prized in so many executive suites were in full display during this delightful interview.

Here are some quotes from our conversation.

  • “The hardest thing about marketing and messaging is figuring out what you're not going to say.”
  • Speaking about what she calls The Curse of Knowledge she says: “When you're steeped in a technical domain, you start talking to other people as if they have the exact same context in their heads.”
  • Speaking about what companies should put on their websites she says: “What's really important is to let the visitor see, at a glance, what could you do for me? What problem could you solve, and do you solve it for other companies like me?”
  • “I always tell the companies I work with: never brag about yourself. You can get a customer quote, and they can talk about you, but when you brag about yourself, it is totally discounted by prospects.”
  • “I think that's a challenge I see in a lot of companies, because you get marketing people and they want to work on fun things. They want to work on beautiful graphics. They want to have great events. The real benefit or the most important thing that you can do is understand the customer's needs, no matter how boring they are.”

 

Here are the topics covered during our interview:

 

  • Kathryn Roy Bio
  • From Math Major to Harvard MBA
  • Early Incarnation of Artificial Intelligence – Kathryn Roy’s First Experience in a Startup – Product in Search of Market – Classic Problem Described by Geoffrey Moore
  • Kathryn Roy Goes to a Dungeons & Dragons Company Next – Finds Her True Calling – Marketing & Behavioral Economics
  • Not Being Cut Out for Coding Did Not Discourage Kathryn Roy – She Knew Where She Could Better Use Her Acute Powers of Reasoning
  • Kathryn Roy Finds That There Is a Market for Her Kind of Thinking
  • Peace Corps & BBN Planet by Accident
  • By Teaching I Learn – Docendo Discimus – Kathryn Roy Decides to Learn More About Marketing by Teaching Marketing But Ends Up at BBN Planet Instead
  • Phase Forward – More Open Communication with Clients Bought Time to Succeed
  • One of Kathryn Roy’s Marketing Tricks: Give Away Something of Value to Customers Which Is Relatively Easy for You to Create – It Gets You Mindshare – Two Excellent Examples Given
  • Marketing People Want to Work on Fun Stuff – Graphics, Events, etc. – Should Focus Instead on Boring Things that Address Customer Needs
  • Kathryn Roy Finds a Natural Fit between Her Approach to Marketing & Consulting
  • Angel Invest Boston Brings You Outstanding Guests like Kathryn Roy, with Professional Sound Quality, at No Cost to You and with No Commercials – Give Back by Reviewing Us in iTunes & Spreading the Word
  • Kathryn Roy’s Three Bits of Advice for Founders
  • One – Make Sure You Have Critical Skill Within the Founding Team – Hard to Get Otherwise
  • Two – Narrow Your Focus to a Group of Buyers That Have Common Needs & Consider Each Other References
  • Three – Don’t Be Seduced by Fads
  • Founders Frequently Get Into Trouble by Not Recognizing the Differences between B2B and B2C Marketing – Taglines: Less Is More
  • “The hardest thing about marketing and messaging is figuring out what you're not going to say.”
  • How Kathryn Roy Became an Angel Investor
  • What Does Kathryn Roy Look for in a Founding Team?
  • Kathryn Roy’s Advice to Founders Hiring Marketing Teams
  • The Curse of Knowledge
  • Investors, Beware of Giving Advice in Areas beyond Your Expertise
  • Messaging Mistakes
  • If You Are a Company Under $100 Million in Value You Can’t Afford to Have People Remember More Than One Name for You
  • Kathryn Roy Talks about Pixability’s Pivots
  • Poly6 Narrow Its Focus
  • 3D Data
Feb 15, 2017

As an undergrad at Harvard, Ed Belove hung out with people at the campus radio station that liked to play with computers. This eventually led to a brilliant career that included building software products with the visionary Mitch Kapor at Lotus Development.

Ed co-founded a company that greatly expanded the Apple II’s ability to communicate. The company would eventually pivot to supplying the hardware for early Internet services such as CompuServe and AOL.

This successful trajectory allowed Ed to dedicate his time to building early-stage companies and doing philanthropic work. As a much sought-after angel investor, Ed puts his capital and energy to work on behalf of promising startups. If you are building a software startup, you would be well served to listen to the thoughts Ed expresses in this podcast.

During our conversation Ed Belove made mention of a document written by Alex Schiff, co-founder of Fetchnotes, a company he and I were very interested in. The link to the document can be found here: Link to Lessons Learned from Doing Fetchnotes

Here are some of the topics covered in our conversation:

  • Ed Belove Bio
  • Data General in the Early 1970’s Was a Hotbed of Entrepreneurship – Many Startups Came Out of Data General
  • Software As It Was Before It Ate the World
  • Data General Gave Away Software to Sell Hardware
  • Space War Video Game on PDP-10 Computers
  • “Soul of a New Machine” by Tracy Kidder
  • Now There Is a Huge Number of Software Building Blocks That Anybody Can Put Together – This Did Not Exist in the 1970s
  • Telex and TWX Emulation for the Apple II – Got Around Apple II’s Inability to Multitask
  • Ed Belove Went to Work Lotus Development – Mitch Kapor Was a Real Visionary
  • Ed Belove Runs into People Who Are Still Using Lotus Agenda
  • WorkFlowy!
  • Ed Belove, Lessons from Fetchnotes – Alex Horak & Alex Schiff
  • “Ease of use can't be overestimated”
  • Interchange Online – Put the First Major Paper Online, The Washington Post – Ziff Davis
  • AT&T Still Had a Monopoly Mindset despite Deregulation & Divestiture – No Hurry to Make Decisions in Fast-moving Market
  • “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen
  • “The Road Ahead” by Bill Gates, Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson
  • How Ed Belove Got into Angel Investing
  • Do Help Get the Word out About Angel Invest Boston by Leaving a Review on iTunes
  • What Ed Belove Looks for in a Startup
  • Knowing What You Don’t Know
  • CEOs Need to Have People to Talk to In & Out of the Startup – There Are Now Many More Resources than in the Past
  • CEO, Don’t “Manage” Your Board, Work with Your Board
  • CEO, Founder, Know Thyself
  • Shares, Notes and SAFEs, Oh My!
Feb 8, 2017

How does one go from cleaning chicken droppings in Iowa to being a videographer in Iran to heading one of America’s iconic technology companies? That question only addresses half of Frank Ferguson’s adventurous career; he would eventually co-found and build a remarkably successful business in one of the toughest markets, educational publishing.  I spent a bit over an hour in conversation with this idealistic yet intensely practical doer; I could have used another two hours!

In Episode 7 of the Angel Invest Boston Podcast we explored the ideas and traits that made Frank Ferguson a success on so many fronts.

My favorite observation from the conversation with Frank Fergusson neatly encapsulates his homespun recipe for success as an investor:

“You can get sucked in and fall in love with a lot of things, but then you have to ask, "Are these the guys who can actually make it happen?” What are the odds that these guys can keep together, not fight, get over it, be successful, run things correctly, not fall in love with their own things so much that they lose track of the financial realities of the business? Can they sell?”

Below is a listing of some of the topics covered.

  • Yes, That Bose Corporation!
  • Curriculum Associates, Which Frank Ferguson Built, Continues to Be Hugely Successful
  • Scraping Chicken Droppings in an Iowa Farm
  • From Iowa State University to Teheran Courtesy of Syracuse University & the US State Department
  • Frank Ferguson Thinks about Business School at MIT or Harvard Thanks to a Friendly Psychologist
  • With an MIT Sloan MBA in Hand, Frank Ferguson Goes to Work at Baird Atomic Near Harvard Square
  • Frank Ferguson Meets his Co-founders at Curriculum Associates Just as He Starts Work at the Bose Corporation
  • Frank Ferguson Invests $80,000 in Today’s Dollars in Curriculum Associates Circa 1959 - Money Saved through Frugal Living in Iran
  • How Frank Ferguson Connected with Amar Bose, Founder of the Bose Corporation
  • Frank Ferguson Invests in the Bose Corporation
  • Amar Bose Invites Frank Ferguson to Be President of the Bose Corporation in 1969
  • Frank Ferguson Moonlighted at Curriculum Associates while Running the Bose Corporation
  • Frank Ferguson Left the Bose Corporation When it Was Experiencing Growth of 70% per Year to Get Curriculum Associates off the Ground
  • Amar Bose, Brilliant but Difficult at Times
  • Frank Ferguson Succeeds in Educational Publishing, a Notoriously Tough Business, by Finding a Niche – Differentiated Instruction
  • Curriculum Associates Succeeds but Discord Arises Over the Purchase of a Water Cooler!
  • Competition Gets Rough in the World of Educational Publishing
  • Curriculum Associates’ i-Ready Succeeds by Measuring Progress of Individual Student to Help Teachers Better Support Students – Teacher Training a Pivotal Element of i-Ready’s Success
  • Before Teacher Training Was Required i-Ready Saw No Gains – With Teacher Training Student Gains Are Dramatic!
  • Ugly Truth – Fifth-grade Teacher Has Three to Five Year Grade Span in Her Classroom
  • Lev Vygotsky, Seneca The Younger & Andrew Bell of Madras College – “By Teaching We Learn”
  • “Talk to Me Baby – How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development” by Betty Bardige
  • Visionary Entrepreneurs Need to Hire Grunts Who Are Really Good at Execution – Frank Ferguson Was the Grunt & Amar Bose Was the Visionary
  • How Amar Bose Hired the Smartest of the Smartest for the Bose Corporation
  • Family with 11 Children Uses the Madras Method Whereby the Elder Learn by Teaching the Younger
  • Sign Up at AngelInvestBoston.com to Hear About Upcoming Free, In-person Events – do Review Us on iTunes
  • Frank Ferguson, Practical & Involved Philanthropist – Lionheart Foundation – Robin Casarjian
  • Frank Ferguson Does Nothing in Half Measures – Elon Musk Would Approve
  • Frank Ferguson - Angel Investor in the Bose Corporation and Curriculum Associates – Participated in the Baird Atomic IPO
  • Hugh Stoddard, Father & Son, Piali De & Senscio Systems Senscio Systems Website
  • Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking Fast & Slow”, “Nudge” by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler
  • Frank Ferguson Connects with Will Graylin, Invests in Loop Pay Now Samsung Pay
  • Will Graylin and ONvocal
  • Frank Ferguson’s Approach to Angel Investing – Invests Where He Finds the People and Technologies Compelling – Few Enough Companies So He Can Make a Real Difference
  • People Come up with Great Ideas, Great Markets but Sometimes Forget that there Is Friction in the World
  • Lessons from Iran for Angel Investors

Visit Angel Invest Boston Sign Up Form and sign up to be informed of upcoming free, in-person events. A text transcript of this interview is available in the Frank Ferguson page on the Angel Invest Boston Home Page.

Feb 1, 2017

Family considerations drove several of Patrick Rivelli’s career choices but did not prevent him from having brilliant triumphs. Success as a consultant was followed by success as an executive. This led him to found his first company and to fund another startup. The most eloquent evidence of his achievements was exiting two biotech startups in eleven years. If you are a seasoned biotech investor, I’m sure that grabbed your attention. Patrick was also instrumental in founding MIT Angels of the Bay Area and now leads the life science track at MIT Angels in Boston.

I learned a lot from this fun chat with Patrick. I hope it will be entertaining and instructive for you as well.

Note: When Sal talked about biotech booming circa 1996 he actually meant to say the internet. Biotech was still a backwater then.

Topics discussed include:

  • Patrick Rivelli’s Bio
  • Love Drives the Choice of Patrick’s First Job
  • Family & Luck Steer One’s Career
  • Consulting at Bain Leads to Private Equity
  • Bain Paid for Sloan MBA
  • Work at Bain Was Different After Patrick Graduated from Sloan
  • Patrick Gets Involved in the Life Sciences – Pharma Companies Had Medical Device Businesses Then
  • Biology Was a Backwater in the 1990s – Then Human Genome Was Sequenced by 2003
  • Consulting Was Taking a Toll on Patrick’s Family Life So He Took a Corporate Position
  • Patrick Goes to Work at a Medical Device Company in 1996 – First Internet Wave Just Starting Then
  • Netscape IPO & “The Nudist on the Late Shift”
  • Target Therapeutics Is Sold – Mass Firings Ensue
  • Patrick Has a Tough Period in His Career – Growth & More Self-knowledge
  • Patrick Gets Involved with a Startup for the First Time
  • Patrick Founds Smart Therapeutics
  • “…Nobody Wanted Medical Devices. Everybody Wanted Pets.com and Whatever.com”
  • “You Went from Nerd to Cool Dude”
  • Markets Always Overshoot
  • Boston vs. Bay Area
  • How Boston Has Changed Since the 1960s
  • Patrick Gets Into Angel Investing
  • Chestnut Medical Technologies Is Acquired in 2007
  • Patrick Gets MIT Angels Moving in the Bay Area
  • Boston Angel Ecosystem Is Highly Collaborative Despite Some Friction
  • Pivots
  • Investing in Biotech vs. Non-biotech Companies – Patrick’s Crucial Calculation – Very Instructive
Jan 25, 2017

As a venture capitalist Fred Bamber helped build such successful companies as Interleaf, Q1 Labs and Volt Server. Now working as an angel investor Fred is invested in such exciting companies as SQZ Biotech, Pixability, Streamroot and ViralGains. In his self-effacing and modest way, Fred reveals deep wisdom gained from 75 investments in his venture capital career. Here are some of the topics covered:

  • Fred Bamber Finds His Career Path
  • Avoiding the Military Draft Led Him to Work for His First Startup
  • Fred Bamber & Friend Found a Venture Fund – Consulting vs. Venture Capital
  • IPOs Then & Now
  • Investment in Interleaf Makes His First Fund a Success!
  • Two Ways of Connecting in the World of Venture Capital – Via Success & Via Failure
  • Several Losing Investments in Companies Seeking to Exploit the Piezoelectric Effect
  • Themes In Angel Investing – Investing in Brand New Fields i.e. White Spaces
  • ‘…Oracle has a huge go-to-market cost, and engineering is a tiny bit of it.’
  • Technology Causing Convergence of Consumer & Enterprise Businesses
  • Startups with Jeff Weiss - The Perils of Being Early – Early Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Rich Lane & Reflection Technology – Augmented Reality-like – Projecting Text into the Eye
  • Progress of Technology Is Painful – “Thread Across The Ocean” by John Steele Gordon
  • Michael Lewis & Drama in Business – Paul English & “A Truck Full of Money”
  • Paul English Finds His Inner Entrepreneur after Interleaf
  • Robert P. Smith & “Riches Among the Ruins” – Not Made for Working In Large Companies
  • VCs Should Be Humble
  • Fred Talks About His Investment in Volt Server
  • Uber & Washington, D.C. Cabs
  • Peter Thiel’s Critique of Entrepreneurship – “We Were Promised Flying Cars and We Got 140 Characters”
  • SQZ Biotech & Massachusetts Materials Technology
  • What Fred Looks For In a Startup – Technology, Coachability, Tenacity, Openess – VC vs Angel
  • Startups Should Report Frequently – Reports Should Tie In to Previous Reports i.e. Close the Loop
  • Angel Investor Should Be Father Confessor without the Ave Marias
  • Bettina Hein & Pixability – Example of Determination Combined with Openess
  • Beth Marcus’ Test For Listening
  • Fred Bamber’s Suggestion of the Perfect Number of Angel Investments in a Portfolio
  • Why Sal Daher Is Invested In About 42 Companies
  • The Role of a Board of Directors – Father Confessor
  • Fred’s Favorite Pivot – Q1 Labs (IBM)
  • Fred Also Likes Streamroot’s Pivots
  • Q1 Labs Pivot Runs Counter the Received Wisdom of Startups Needing a Narrow Focus to Succeed
  • “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore
  • “Why Knowledge Matters” by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
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