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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Now displaying: February, 2017
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 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 and”
  • “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