Friday, May 2, 2008

Boston calling Dave McClure or your clones

Recently there was an invitation only workshop at Boston University addressing the question, "Is Boston's Venture Ecosystem Losing More Ground to Silicon Valley?"dave mcclure photo

At some point we might be privy to some of the discussions and conclusions reached during that confab, but for now, I would like to add an issue to the discussion.

Where are the active angel investors like Master of 500 Hats in the HUB? Silicon Valley is rife with successful entrepreneurs that have now turned to investing and advising the next generation of startups. Individuals such as Ron Conway, Reid Hoffman and the PayPal mafia, Paul Bucheit and several other xGooglers and the list goes on.

Maybe it is just a perception and there is a lot of activity in this area, just not publicly acknowledged. It might be attributed to adherence to that old Yankee adage that "your name should appear in the paper only three times: when you are born, when you marry, and when you die." as mentioned on the eCoastAngels web site. Or, the reason may be the dearth of successful Web and SaaS companies in the area. But it seems that even in relative terms, the Boston area lacks this kind of angel/advisor/entrepreneur. Is our attitude here to keep our success to ourselves rather than pollinate our neighbors? Lets see if there are more of these individuals than we know about.

So, I am hoping to bring visibility to the angel/advisory activity here in theHub. Following are a few examples of the individuals we need more of. The list is only a start and not exhaustive, please send me your examples of these individual and I will add them to this post.

Who do we have here in Boston filling this much needed space in the investment ecosystem? Well, certainly the premier contributor would have to be Paul Graham of YCombinator. They have the seminal investor/advisor model, which is proving successful. Too bad most of their companies have to move to SV to find investors. A case could be made that based on YC's track record, if someone started an angel fund, say Dart Angels, by throwing 5 darts into a Demo Day dartboard, and investing in those five companies, they could be successful. That is a shame that the YC companies can find no traction here in Boston.

One example of local individual angel/advisor here in Boston is Andrew Payne After successful stints founding Open Market and Revinio, he is actively investing in and creating new consumer Internet projects.

Dharmesh Shah is a driving force on the local startup scene, both as a founder and angel investor.

Now the call is out. Hey there VistaPrint, Bladelogic, Tripadvisor, Akamai, Upromise, Lycos, Open Market, Storage Networks, EMC, MQube .....etc. whats up?

Readers have nominated the following individuals for the list of Advisor/Angels

Don Dodge local Microsoft Exec and Angel/Advisor of local startups


  1. thanks for the link Tom.

    maybe the weather's warmer out here in spring / fall / winter? ;)

    regardless, i've certainly been impressed with what Paul Graham is doing (on both coasts), and i'm sure there are other great examples of entrepreneurs giving back to the local community.

    one reason there may be more activity out west is that there's been more & larger recent internet startup successes in silicon valley than in boston over the past ten years with giants like Google, PayPal, Yahoo, eBay, etc... which in turn help provide the capital to fuel the next generation of entrepreneur angel funding.

    still i think the overall market for angel investing is stronger everywhere than it was 5-10 years ago, not just in the valley... never been a better time to be an entrepreneur :)


    - dave mcclure

  2. Fair enough.

    I totally agree that it is extremely hard (if not impossible) to create the value-add that YC does in the early stages. That's why they're so popular. If I were working on my first startup, they'd be high on my list.

    I could write a bigger check (and have in the past), but I'm still not going to be able to compete with what a VC would do. Nor do I want to. My thinking behind the SpeedRound idea was that the "value" would be in the raw efficiency of the deal because raising larger rounds is just a pain in the butt and some entrepreneurs may rather just get back to working on the product.

    But, I could be totally wrong. If entrepreneurs can go on to raise a larger round -- or better yet, not even need/want the money, I'd be a strong supporter of that.

    The good news is that competition is beneficial to the entrepreneur. They need more options. There's no real downside to choices.

  3. [...] Boston angels suck wind compared to the Valley [...]

  4. Yes, or they invest in themselves and start DigitalAdvisor, etc... also, the size of the exits at Paypal and Google, might leave a little more extra cash to invest in early stage startups.