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Where to find angel funding in Boston

I’ve often heard that there is a shortage of seed-stage investment capital in the Boston area, especially in the consumer realm.  Nabeel Hyatt, founder of Conduit Labs put it pretty succinctly:

“This is in IMHO *the* biggest impediment to a stronger startup culture. There is no ecosystem of consumer angels in Boston, at all.”

There are quite a few large venture firms in our region, but not as many who will a) write a bunch of $50K-$250K checks to help a very early stage company get going or b) can invest in deals that might not have venture scale potential but is still a sound business.  Some venture capital firms are active in this sector, but for a number of reasons, can’t fill the void completely.

I was trying to do some research on this market, and found that it’s actually pretty hard to figure out who could provide angel funding in this town.  So here is a list of the folks that I know are active at this stage (with a bias for my sector of focus).

Professional Seed Investors

These are folks who’s primary goal as a business is to fund seed-stage companies.  This does not include large VC firms (ie: any fund with $’s / investing partner > $30M).

It seems that there is clearly a dearth of players in this sector.  The groups above have wildly divergent strategies and typical check sizes.  I think the more groups like this that are successful in the Boston ecosystem, the better.

Angel Networks

These are networks of high net worth individuals that pool their resources and deal flow.  There are often coordinators for the networks, or set events when these angels come together to evaluate opportunities.  A lot of folks have discussed the pro’s and con’s of these networks, so I won’t get into that here.  Xconomy has a nice summary of these groups here.  I’ve heard that quite a few of the members of these angel groups also invest individually.

Individual Angels

If I were raising angel money, I’d try to tap value-added individuals first.  It’s a lot of work, but I think getting someone with relevant experience to commit money and time to your new company is very helpful.  As a venture investor, we love investing with value-added individuals. I also find that companies that have these sorts of individuals involved tend to make better progress before raising an institutional round.  This is an incomplete list, so please add more folks in the comments.  If anyone here would rather not be on this list, please feel free to email me directly at rob at sparkcapital dot com and I will remove you.

  • Bill Sahlman – well known HBS professor and angel investor.  I don’t think his list of investments is typically published, so I won’t disclose them. But anyone who has taken his class knows that he has invested with Jeff Parker for years.
  • Shikhar Ghosh and Guli Arshad – former entrepreneurs and executives.  Investors in companies like Skyhook Wireless and BzzAgent.
  • Dave Balter – CEO of BzzAgent.  Investor in a few companies, also an active advisor to quite a few others.  Involved in Perk Street Financial and I believe Runkeeper.
  • Steve Kane – Founder and CEO of 3 successful startups. Investor in companies including Pangea Media and Conduit Labs.
  • Andy Payne – Successful entrepreneur and OpenMarket co-founder.  Investor in companies including fansnap and care.com and Shareaholic.
  • Dharmesh Shah – CTO and Co-founder of HubSpot.  Investor in companies including Visible Measures and OneForty.
  • Brian Shin – CEO of Visible Measures.  Investor in Shareaholic and Hubspot.
  • David Cancel – Founder of Compete.  Investor in Shareaholic and involved in a bunch of other companies like Geezeo, Visible Measures, and FlipKey.
  • Stephen Kaufer – CEO and founder of Tripadvisor. His personal investments are not widely publicized, but I’ve seen a few companies that he has invested in personally and he is listed as an investor at weddingbook.
  • Scott Griffith – I have no idea if he is investing personally, but I know that he has helped companies as an advisor, including runmyerrand which recently received further angel funding.
  • Don Dodge – Fomrer Microsoft executive and serial entrepreneur.  His personal investments aren’t that public, but he is an investor in CitySquares.
  • Ed Roberts – Chair of MIT Entrepreneurship Center.  Investor in Shareaholic and Visible Measures.
  • Bill Warner – Founder of Avid Technologies, investor in Posterous.
  • Jean Hammond – Member of a few angel groups and founder of GoldenSeeds. Investor in JAM Technologies and Zipcar.

Anyone else I’m missing?  Please add them in a comment.  And of course, I’m always in the market to hear about early stage investment opportunities and get to know local angels better.

Rob Go

Thanks for reading! Here’s a quick background on who I am: 1. My name is Rob, I live in Lexington, MA 2. I’m married and have two young daughters. My wife and I met in college at Duke University - Go Blue Devils! 3. We really love our church in Arlington, MA. It’s called Highrock and it’s a wonderful and vibrant community.  Email me if you want to visit! 4. I grew up in the Philippines (ages 0-9) and Hong Kong (ages 9-17). 5. I am a cofounder of NextView Ventures, a seed stage investment firm focused on internet enabled innovation. I try to spend as much time as possible working with entrepreneurs and investing in businesses that are trying to solve important problems for everyday people.   6. The best way to reach me is by email: rob at nextviewventures dot com