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Outing Boston's top angel investors

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 14, 2010 10:04 AM

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Just yesterday, an entrepreneurially-minded Olin College student was asking me how you can identify angel investors who might be likely to put some early money into a start-up. Unlike venture capitalists, angels don't usually have Web sites, not all of them belong to organized groups like Hub Angels or Golden Seeds, and not all of them like to go to conferences or sit on panels. My answer to the question of how you connect with them has always been, ask other entrepreneurs about the angels they know and have worked with.

So I'm glad Betahouse founder Jon Pierce is making it his mission to "out" some of Boston's more active angel investors. Earlier this month, he set up a (fairly unscientific) survey asking entrepreneurs and other in the local tech community to share the names of the region's "best" angel investors. 

On his blog, Pierce writes:

With abundant seed capital, entrepreneurs are free to test ideas. Many will fail miserably, to be sure, but a few will succeed gloriously, and with that success will spawn dozens or hundreds more entrepreneurs and angel investors.

He came up with lots of names that are familiar to me. The top ten?

Dharmesh Shah, Co-Founder, HubSpot
Andy Payne, Co-Founder, FanSnap
David Cancel, CEO, Performable
Brian Shin, CEO, Visible Measures
- Joe Caruso, Founder, Bantam Group
Lee Hower, Principal, Point Judith Capital
- John Landry, Founder, Lead Dog Ventures
Bill Warner, Founder, Warner Research
Jean Hammond, Founder, JPH Associates
Rich Miner, Managing Partner, Google Ventures


I wasn't aware that folks like Hower and Miner made angel investments, in addition to their work in the VC world. But Hower, a veteran of PayPal and LinkedIn, told me this morning that "when there are things that sit outside of what we do at Point Judith, I'll occasionally make a seed stage investment as an individual," mentioning Oneforty as a recent example. Miner said basically the same thing: if a deal he likes has been pitched to Google Ventures but the group has decided to pass for some reason, he's allowed to make an angel investment if he likes.

Miner also said that while he doesn't tout his angel activity, "I'm willing to be outed if it helps. It's one of our problems here [in New England.] Having angels lurking in the shadows isn't a way to be best-in-class. You have the sense that people make their money, retire to Nantucket, and sponsor Shakespeare plays in the summer. It's just not as visible as it should be."

The angel list is linked to an event Pierce is organizing on June 1st called Angel Boot Camp, which aims to introduce more people, ah, of means, to the possibility of becoming an angel investor.

(Pierce has also created this Twitter list, Boston Angels, that will enable you to follow nearly all the angels on the list via Twitter.)

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About Scott Kirsner

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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