I had the pleasures of sitting down with Matt Lauzon last week to talk about the lessons he’s learned as the founder and CEO of Gemvara. I’m hoping this will be the first of several chats with some of the new crop of entrepreneurs and investors in BOS that are making things happen. Many thanks to Cort Johnson for helping me make this happen.
We talked about a lot of things – getting noticed, developing as a CEO, etc. But the best part was his story about “Paying it Forward”. I get the chills thinking about it. I’ve embedded that segment of the conversation above. Below are links to two other segments to our conversation.
By way of context, Gemvara is an online retailer of customized jewelry that is growing very rapidly. The company was seeded by Highland Capital and raised their series A and B from Highland and Canaan Partners. Matt looks a little giddy in the interview because that morning, he had just signed a term sheet from Balderton Capital for a $15M series C round to scale the business.
Our chat is structured into three parts, and I will point out some of the gems below.
Part I: Getting Gemvara Started
Matt founded Gemvara as an undergraduate student at Babson. What set Matt apart from other students starting companies and entering business plan competitions was his willingness to do the straightforward but slightly intimidating things that you need to get noticed.
See 1:36 to hear Matt talk about how he coordinated a tactical strike on Bob Davis’ inbox shortly before his meeting with him.
See 2:52 to hear how Matt cold called the VP of engineering at Bladlogic shortly after the company’s $800M acquisition and convinced him to join him as CTO when the company was not much more than a man with a plan.
Part II: Developing as an Entrepreneur (and getting replaced)
I ask a terribly inappropriate question up front about getting replaced as CEO shortly after their series A. See the first 2 1/2 minutes to hear what it was like to be replaced as CEO, and then to come back a few years later. Why did it happen? What changed? Why was he equipped to come back?
Some other great sound bites:
“I know more today than I did yesterday. But less than I’ll know tomorrow.”
“When the first great ecommerce companies were built, no one had ecommerce experience”
Part III: Paying It Forward
Matt gives his perspective on the state of the Boston startup ecosystem as a someone from “a small town in Maine”. He speaks candidly about the many good things and some of the things that are potentially more difficult. He closes with an incredible story at 3:38. It’s definitely the BEST PART OF THE INTERVIEW and talks about those who helped him early on and what kept him going in the really hard and discouraging moments.
By the way, in the spirit of “Paying it Forward” Matt is organizing an event in mid-May called Ruby Riot. Details are sparse, but based on the stealthy twitter chatter, I think it will be the “It” event for the local tech community in May.
Hope this video is interesting and instructive. Follow Matt on twitter here, and please let me know other folks you’d like to hear from in a comment below.
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