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The Friday Five: Boston's Tech Super-Connectors

Posted by Scott Kirsner  October 23, 2009 09:00 AM

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The Friday Five is a list of five things worth knowing about... and in the comments, lots more things that you add.

This week, it's five people I consider "super-connectors" in the Boston tech start-up scene. How do I define a super-connector?

- They have an amazingly vast network
- They're not reclusive: you're likely to see them out and about at networking events
- They're generous about making introductions for you if they believe in your idea

There are lots of people who are important and powerful in Boston, but many of them are too heads-down to be true super-connectors.

Now, a caveat: most of these people won't respond to over-the-transom e-mails or LinkedIn requests. You need to meet them in the right context (sometimes via an introduction from someone else), and they need to sense that you're the real deal.

Here's my list:

    - Joost Bonsen is one of the prime links between MIT and the outside world. He seems to know just about everything happening at the Institute, as well as most of the alums who've left to start companies, and a good number of investors, too. Bonsen helped to grow MIT's $100K Business Plan Competition, and he blogs at Maximizing Progress. Interested these days in urban design innovation, neurotechnology, and developmental entrepreneurship. Currently working at the MIT Media Lab.

    - Maria Cirino has been an exec at Lotus, Shiva Corp., and i-Cube, and was founder and chief executive of the IT security company Guardent, which was sold to VeriSign. She became an SVP there before co-founding .406 Ventures. Cirino has almost 500 connections on LinkedIn. Not too shabby... And she just started tweeting at @MariaCirino.

    - Microsoft executive Don Dodge lives in New Hampshire, is often in Boston, and lately has been spending much of his time in Los Angeles. Dodge started his career at Digital Equipment, worked for that company's AltaVista search spin-out, and later held positions at Napster and Groove Networks. He blogs at The Next Big Thing. Just this week, an entrepreneur was telling me how Dodge helped him raise money from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and New England Patriots executive Jonathan Kraft (who are both also tech investors). Tweets at @DonDodge.

    - John Landry: former chief technology officer of Lotus, tech advisor to IBM's CEO, former colleague of Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie. Landry is also an angel investor through Lead Dog Ventures, a trustee and part-time instructor at Babson College, an investor in several local venture capital funds, and a mentor for Tech Stars Boston. Tweets at @leaddog99.

    - Bill Warner worked at Apollo Computer before starting two important companies: Avid Technology, which changed the way TV shows and movies are edited, and Wildfire Communications, which was Google Voice about 15 years before Google Voice. He's an angel investor, a trustee at the Massachusetts Tech Leadership Council, and the prime mover behind their annual Innovation Unconference. Tweets at @BillWarner, and blogs here.


Who would be tops on your personal list of super-connectors? I know there are scads more worthy people. So add someone below -- with links, if you would, to their blogs or Twitter accounts...

(And yes, we will laugh at you if you try to nominate yourself.)

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8 comments so far...
  1. Thanks, Scott. I would put you on that list as well. You are amazingly connected, always gracious, and helpful to anyone who asks.

    Anyone can reach me by checking out my blog "Don Dodge on The Next Big Thing". My email address is in the "About" section. Also on Twitter @DonDodge

    Posted by Don Dodge October 23, 09 12:16 PM
  1. I'd have to nominate Bobbie Carlton. She has created a force with Mass Innovation Nights and seems to know just about everyone. You can find her blog at http://www.carltonprmarketing.com/blog and of course the Mass Innovation Night site: http://massinnovationnights.com/. On Twitter she's http://twitter.com/bobbiec.

    I learn something new every time I talk with her and am always impressed with her intelligence and insight.

    Posted by Chuck Tanowitz October 23, 09 02:24 PM
  1. I have to say Jeff Bussgang of Flybridge Capital Partners. He is generous with his web of public and private sector connections not only to people within the business/tech world but also to charitable and non-profit organizations he believes in. He tweets at @bussgang and blogs at http://bostonvcblog.typepad.com/

    Posted by Andrew Tarsy October 23, 09 04:18 PM
  1. I'll add seven to the list- generous connectors, attend and lead events that support the community, and have wide networks that cross industry and state lines:

    Abigail Barrow, Mass Tech Transfer Center, Charlie Cameron Hub Angels and Cooley Godward, Gabor Garai Foley & Lardner, John Hession Cooley Godward, Pascal Marmier, swissnex, Jim Matheson, Flagship Ventures, and Anupendra Sharma, Siemens Venture Capital.

    Posted by Pearl October 23, 09 11:12 PM
  1. Hands down, Jeff Yolen. At Vulcan Capital/Evri now--so he's spending a lot of time on the West Coast. So... he might be a little less visible in Boston these days. But he is the James Brown of business networking. He doesn't do it to rack connections...he does it because he sincerely enjoys it. @yoyolen on Twitter.

    Posted by Jules Pieri October 24, 09 12:27 AM
  1. I second Jim Matheson, for his willingness to share his time, expertise, and considerable energy, and I'll nominate David Beisel of Venrock, for founding the Web Innovators Group and supporting the entrepreneurs in that sector. For her work in supporting women in technology, a shoutout to Judy Chang (Brattle Group) for founding New England Women in Energy & the Environment (NEWIEE).

    Posted by Barb Heffner October 25, 09 04:05 PM
  1. I think you got five great ones Scott.

    Posted by Jeff Bennett October 25, 09 04:52 PM
  1. great choices Scott, especially Joost who is the Elvis of early stage venture connecting and an idea generating machine himself. Alec Dingee of MIT Venture Mentors is another fantastical person who must have helped start well over a 100 ventures in multiple sectors.

    Posted by Kiril Stefan Alexandrov October 27, 09 10:25 AM
 

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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