Dave McClure Throws Down Gauntlet to Boston Angels

Dave McClure day in Boston was awesome. I attended both events featuring the geek coder, turned marketer, turned Angel investor/VC, here in theHub. The first talk presented by Performable and hosted at Dopatach Labs was excellent and he did a good job of making it fresh. Once he found out that everyone had already seen his Startup Marketing fordave mcclure Pirates presentation he pivoted to other material which included a bit of my favorite Dave talk, a riff on a Kathy Sierra slide, titled F**k or Kill.  You can watch the Performable event here.

Then at the MIT Enterprise Forum Panel, Dave did not disappoint and really injected the energy into the discussion which might have otherwise been a more boring event. Sim Simeonov is to be congratulated for assembling an interesting group of panelists and especially for adding the entrepreneurs that had been through the venture accelerator programs, which was a brilliant addition.  Again you can view the event courtesy of DartBoston.

It was humorous to see that , Dave’s “blue wordage” was mentioned by the Boston Media, which is surprising because @sbroderick has certainly done his part to introduce Boston to a more emphatic mode of expression.

The point that Boston is lacking active angel investors for web startups was underscored by OneForty founder Laura Fitton’s @pistachio tale about the necessity of traveling to San Francisco to raise her angel round, and Dave voicing his amazement at the lack of active angel investors here. He threatened to come back more often to fill the gap. Let’s hope we see him once a quarter.

Now it is up to the entrepreneur community to produce some interesting companies and disruptive ideas. It is not a one way street, and we can’t only blame angels. When Josh Koppelman of First Round Capital came to Boston last summer and held office hours, the word was, he left thinking not much interesting was happening here.  This is from one of, if not the most savvy early stage web investor, that came here looking to put money into the Boston market, yet left without getting his pen out.

So yes, it is clear that Boston needs more angels willing to invest in the $ 50K to $1M range, but if you look at the past year, changes are taking place.  Google Ventures, Start@Spark and the new Founders Collective are actively seeking to invest in Boston. Realistically those three alone could fund a significant amount of seed rounds. Who is going to step up and take that money off the table?

It can be done and the angels do exist here. If you need to be reminded, take a look at the Flipkey story.

So what do you think? Is there enough angel money to nurture a thriving web application startup market here? Is it really the entrepreneurs fault that they haven’t come up with anything interesting? Can our established angel community pivot away from the traditional technology/IP oriented companies to embrace the consumer web and write faster checks?

Let’s hear some of your stories.

Thanks again to Performable for putting together the presentation at DogPatchLabs and for sending an email with the included McClure photo which I stole.

4 thoughts on “Dave McClure Throws Down Gauntlet to Boston Angels

  1. Tom,

    Interesting points. Having been there for all of it, I share your sentiment at the refreshing nature of all the events…where the common link was Dave McClure’s no-nonsense brutal honesty.

    To specifically speak to some of your comments:

    1) Office hours:
    It’s a shame he came last year. I guarantee thanks to sites like the one I built he could be flooded with people dying to meet him…and a few of them would likely even qualify as “interesting.” Someone needs to beg him back. I’m sure NEVCA can speak to the success of their office hours now: http://www1.mysignup.com/cgi-bin/view.cgi?datafile=nevcaventurecafebeta

    2) Start@Spark, Goolge Ventures,Founder’s Collective.
    I’m surprised you point them out as they seem to be pretty passive with those programs. Start@ Spark is just a marketing program and seems particularly risky due to the “kiss of death” set up (if they don’t join your series A round after that seed you…you’re done). I go to more events then just about anyone and I do not really see anyone representing those programs out there in the community. How can they get the right “interesting ideas” and deal flow without a presence? (Kudos to Eric Paley for being part of the CIC office hours). I’d also love to hear when the fundings start coming through from those programs…the first few will be essential in proving the success and demand for them; SCVNGR is the only I know of.

    3) Young Entrepreneurs
    One item that was mentioned on the panel that you didn’t bring up that’s important, is the young entrepreneur situation. Hemant specifically said he’d like to see more young talent in the ecosystem, but I do not see what we’re going to do with them when we bring them in. Will we hire the talent to join our companies? Does this community really take chances on bringing on young talent or invest in many young entrepreneurs beyond a select few examples (SCVNGR w/ Google and TechStars)?

    There’s plenty of food for thought from that day. Hopefully the positive momentum and in process programs can continue to build up as we all work to improve the community.


  2. Hey Jason,

    1. I don’t think the problem was filling out his office hours calendar, that was full. I think there weren’t any interesting deals for First Round to pursue.
    2. Fair enough, Yeah, I read Chris Dixon too, I just know that Spark is on the ground in Boston and sees most everything going on. It is still better than no money and I wonder if anyone has turned them down. I do agree that maybe it has turned out to be more of a PR thing as a year has gone by w/o any deals here in Boston. The other two the jury is still out on how many Boston deals they will do, but the money is there.
    3. I think he was talking about more young founders. Which I agree, Boston’s angels are not known to fund young founders.
    As for hiring, I can point you to hundreds of entry level and intern roles at the larger local tech companies. Early Stage Start ups are another issue and there is a catch 22, in that they cannot really afford to take the chance on hiring inexperienced talent.

    great comments, thanks

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