Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Quick Report from WebInno 22

Web Innovators Group has turned into not just a great place to see demos from early-stage companies, but also a bit of a see-and-be-seen schmooze-fest among developers, entrepreneurs, attorneys, investors, and PR folks. The 22nd edition of WebInno tonight was especially good -- people enjoy opportunities to get out in July, when the event calendar is rather barren.

Here's a quick list of some of the people I bumped into:

HubSpot co-founder and angel investor Dharmesh Shah... Eric Hjerpe, Jo Tango's new kemosabe at Kepha Partners...Michael Gaiss from Highland Capital Partners...PR guru and Emerson College instructor David Gerzof...MyPunchbowl founder Matt Douglas...TechStars Boston kingpin Shawn Broderick, who was wearing a gentlemanly blazer and was gracious enough not to use the 'f' word around me... Akamai co-founder and Globespan managing director Jonathan Seelig... Tom Lewis from Bostonist... UI genius Karen Donoghue...Andreas Randow from the photography start-up Aggarwal from Localytics - a TechStar company that was one of the demo'ers tonight...Wade Roush, who is apparently involved in launching a new social network for recently-released prisoners called Ex-conomy... Evan Morikawa from Alight Learning, an Olin College student currently on HubSpot employee Ryann Price... her beau, Paragon Lake co-founder Matt plate and Tourfilter founder Chris Marstall...WaySavvy Travel founder Michael Raybman...Wellesley High School entrepreneur Mark Bao (aka Steven Bao)...PR dude Chuck Tanowitz...Daniel Weinreb from CommonAngels, who was bragging that he brings more deals to the angel group than just about anyone else...and WebInno organizer David Beisel, hanging out by the side of the stage and talking to all comers for a good hour after the demos ended.

Jeff Yolen, formerly an exec at Sphere and Real Networks, was wearing a nametag that said Vulcan Capital Managament, which of course is Paul Allen's Seattle investment firm. He explicitly told me that I am not allowed to tell you that he is working for Vulcan Capital Management until they issue a press release. So you didn't hear it here... but rather from his public LinkedIn profile, which lists him as a venture partner at... Vulcan Capital Management.

And Alex Lindahl of Acquia told me the best story of the night. While still a student at BC, he was pitching a start-up, TextWorks, to Highland Capital Partners. On the slide presenting the founders' bios, each founder had added a personal detail. Lindahl's was that he could bench-press 370. Highland partner Peter Bell said that part of the VC's job is to validate what the entrepreneur says. And, by the way, there's a gym downstairs. After the pitch, Bell and a few other Highland partners accompanied Lindahl to said gym -- and watched as he added weights up to about 345, before Bell told him he could stop: "I don't want you to hurt yourself."

Highland passed on the deal.

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Anonymous Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius | said...

Looking forward to becoming head of operations for one of the hot startups in Boston, so I can become somebody and get mentioned by Scott ;-)
I know advisory work to 1st time entrepreneurs and one failed Boston venture does not count.

That all said, WebInno, as always, was great for networking. Definitely helps, when people start recognizing your face and know what you do.

July 15, 2009 11:42 PM  
Anonymous Dharmesh Shah said...

Great to see you at WebInno tonight.

The event has gotten so big that I hear about a bunch of people I know that were there, but I never ran into them.

Nice to see all the early-stage startup energy. Good stuff.

July 16, 2009 1:27 AM  
Anonymous Fan Bi said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the event, met some really interesting people, was able to catch up with a few familiar faces, and even gave a couple of rocket pitches.

I wonder though, for most of the attendees, how many turn up with co-workers and friends and just end up spending the time with them, without really making the most of the networking.

You mentioned Michael Gaiss so I'm just going to pick on him. I recently rec'd an invitation to a small "Lessons Learned" networking session as part of their Summer@Highland program, but that was super exclusive (I was only invited b/c I could piggy back off the Babson Summer Program). But what about that aspiring entrepreneur that doesn't yet have the entrepreneurship program/ outreach Babson has.

I wonder how quickly Michael Gaiss left, and whether it would have been a terrible use of his time to speak to a random young attendee, and how much of an impact that would have made to that person. Could it have really energized or even inspire that young aspiring entrepreneur?

In all fairness, Highland does do a good job of at least trialing this Summmer@Highland program. But it'd be great for LPs to tell their VCs, capitalizing is your job, but you also have a social responsibility of developing an increasingly prominent generation of young entrepreneurs, both in the short-term and the long-term.

July 16, 2009 1:45 AM  
Blogger Scott Kirsner said...

Hi Fan-

I think there are a few local venture firms who are doing a good job reaching out to young entrepreneurs (can always do better). Highland is one, and on that list I'd add Flybridge Capital Partners, Spark Capital, and General Catalyst. I do wish the list were longer...

July 16, 2009 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Mike Gaiss said...

Hi Fan,

Thanks again for your interest in our event last week. Also appreciate the singling out here. ;>

First, just to clarify, our recent Startup Symposium on July 7th was actually open to a number of entrepreneurs from across the area. We did work with Dan Marques over at Babson to make sure the summer teams there were made aware of this particular event. Unfortunately, the capacity of our largest conference room constrained us to cap attendance at around 30. That being said, we opened up a number of slots to our Highland Entrepreneur Network group on LinkedIn. This 450+ member network is open to any entrepreneur that is interested in joining (visit

Don’t get me wrong; we’ll host exclusive entrepreneurial events for our portfolio companies (CEO Summits, Marketing Summits, industry roundtables, etc), universities (venture and entrepreneurial treks) or other entrepreneurial organizations (open houses and roundtables). Similar to our bi-coastal Connect@Highland events for Summer@Highland applicants and other aspiring entrepreneurs in early June, this just didn’t happen to be one of those. Agree with your point though and we continue to look for opportunities to open these up. On that front, we also plan to get together with Scott Kirsner in early August to specifically brainstorm additional ways we can do this around open houses / treks.

On this week’s WebInno, I actually had to leave shortly after the presentations wrapped up as I had another commitment and needed to get home by 9pm. By all means, it’s absolutely not a terrible use of time to speak with aspiring entrepreneurs (far from it). That’s part of the reason that I was there and an underlying driver for being interested in attending a myriad of entrepreneurial focused events across the region, whether at universities (Babson, BU, Harvard, MIT, etc) or across the rest of the New England entrepreneurial ecosystem (TiE, Xconomy, Mass Tech Leadership Council, MassNetComms, New England Clean Energy, etc).

In addition to hosting & speaking at events along with sponsoring a number of these organizations with both time (mentoring) & money, it’s also why we see the value in investing in additional entrepreneurial and people focused initiatives. These include our Summer@Highland program for university-affiliated entrepreneurs and their startups, Highland Career Network for connecting talented individuals with internships and other career opportunities at Highland-backed companies (come visit, and even our Entrepreneurship Central, for sharing advice, insight and perspective on entrepreneurship and the company building process that is available online at

That aside, definitely open to hearing of new/additional ways that we may be able to further contribute to the region.



July 17, 2009 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Fan Bi said...

The plethora of opportunities available to entrepreneurs is definitely evident at an institution such as Highland.

It's probably unreasonable to expect VCs to take a larger role in the 'not quite there yet' student entrepreneurs who are idea rich, but experience poor. Undoubtedly it goes outside the scope of VCs immediate fiduciary responsibilities, and rings a little of an entitled generation to always ask for more.

I appreciate your most thorough retort, and I apologize for unfairly singling. The observation about leaving was a broader comment that GPs often leave public events very early, and have this celebrity-like rushing to the exit. As aforementioned, time constraints exist, and perhaps it's outside real responsibilities.

My peers and I are big fans of Scott's, his endeavors in the Boston entrepreneurship community, his initiatives to engage students. I'm sure we all look fwd to the successful discussions between Scott and yourself.

July 18, 2009 1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The people in the back who would not shutup during the presentations were highly annoying.

July 22, 2009 10:41 PM  
Blogger eda said...



October 30, 2009 1:46 AM  

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