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.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On the events radar: Mass. Innovation Nights and Foo East

I hear that last night's Web Innovators Group meeting was mobbed... more than 1000 people. Kevin Kosh from CHEN PR has some coverage, including videos.

Two other things on my radar screen for March and April:

    Bobbie Carlton e-mailed this week to let me know she is starting a new demo night in Waltham that may or may not turn out to be similar to WebInno. (At the least, it'll start off by being smaller.) The first one is April 8th.


    O'Reilly and Microsoft are putting on Foo East later this month at Microsoft's new digs in Cambridge. I believe this is the first time O'Reilly has done a Foo Camp in Boston... and the participant list looks pretty prime.

And if you're not on the list for Foo East (I'm told it's over-booked), there are three totally open BarCamp "unconferences" coming up this spring:

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Feinstein & Fleming: Dynamic Small-Cap Duo?

I've been curious about what blogger and former VC Michael Feinstein has been up to, ever since I bumped into him over the summer at one of the OpenCoffee Club gatherings in Central Square. Feinstein, formerly at Atlas Venture and Venrock, is also a regular presence at the Web Innovators Group.

At the last Web Innovators Group, Feinstein was wearing a stick-on name tag that linked him to Clear Stream Ventures, and when I asked him if that was the name of a new VC firm he was starting, he told me it was a placeholder.

Things got more interesting last week, when I ran into a VC who told me that Feinstein had been to a Deloitte-sponsored lunch, and talked a bit about what he was up to.

After trying for a time to put together an early-stage fund using the Clear Stream name, Michael has now linked up with Bob Fleming, founder of Prism Venture Partners. (Fleming left Prism as part of Woody Benson's extreme make-over of that Needham firm, now known as Prism VentureWorks.) Feinstein and Fleming are apparently now working together to raise a fund to invest in small-cap public companies, using some space at the Waltham office of Foley Hoag, a law firm.

"I will confirm that we are doing something oriented around small-cap public companies," Feinstein writes via e-mail, adding that he and Fleming won't have anything to announce officially until 2008.

Feinstein did acknowledge that he'd been working earlier to try to set up a seed-stage VC firm, but that he may have missed the right moment for that: "I was probably too late compared to some of the new funds in Boston -- .406, DACE, Kepha, etc."

This will be an interesting project to watch ... and I'm eager to find out more...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

This Week's Meanderings -- So Far

I was at Web Innovator's Group last night .... big crowd, as usual ... really surprising how many of the folks who get up to explain their companies can't do it in a way that is either:

    A) comprehensible, or

    B) enthusiastic

(That applies mostly to the "Side Dish" ancillary presenters, not the "Main Dish" demo-ers.)

My favorite concept of the evening was, a site that makes it easy for anyone to create an online store containing an inventory of items they like. It looks like it's much easier to build a "Lemonade stand" than it is to set up an account with's affiliate program, which allows you to sell Amazon products. And many retailers still aren't hip to the idea of affiliates, so there's big potential for Lemonade to develop a big base of affiliates, and bring new retailers on board. Affiliates get paid a commission on any sales they generate, and can also earn bigger "bounties," for instance when they deliver a new customer to a company like AT&T. (The whole concept harkens back a bit to BeFree, one of the Web's first third-party operators of affiliate programs. But that was Web 1.0.)

The favorite entrepreneur of the night was Steven Bao. Bao is a sophomore at Wellesley High School who has created Student Concourse, a site that helps students manage all the school assignments they're working on, and collaborate with their classmates. He got a warm round of applause when he got up to explain what he's doing, and afterward, at his demo table, he was fielding questions like a pro. (Carolyn Johnson included Bao in this Globe story about young entrepreneurs.)

This morning, the Globe held one of its occasional small business breakfasts. We heard some great war stories from Rich Doyle, co-founder of Harpoon Brewery (in their early days, they decided to self-distribute, since no distributor wanted to carry their product) and Ian Lane Davis, founder of Mad Doc Software. Ian is the sole owner of the company ... which never took venture capital funding ... and today has 100 employees. He mentioned that they're now working on a version of "Bully" for the Xbox 360, a game originally developed by Rockstar Games, and several other projects he couldn't talk about.

Tomorrow is Future Forward in Weston. I'm told it's sold-out this year, and that there's a pretty substantial waiting list, so it should be a fun day...

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Video from Last Night's Web Innovators Group Meeting

I brought my videocam along to Monday night's meeting of the Web Innovators Group, and here's what I shot. Interesting to note the differences in how well people do at giving brief explanations of what they're up to...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,