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A123 co-founder Fulop joins North Bridge as investor

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 28, 2010 04:59 PM

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A123 Systems co-founder (and serial entrepreneur) Ric Fulop is joining North Bridge Venture Partners this summer as an investing partner, managing director Ed Anderson tells me. A123's 2009 IPO was one of the Waltham VC firm's big hits in recent years, and Fulop left the Watertown battery-maker back in February.

"We're thrilled to have him as a part of North Bridge," Anderson says. "He's an energetic guy, a guy with a really broad view, and we think he's going to be a huge plus for North Bridge and the region." Anderson says that Fulop pitched his first company to North Bridge's partners when he was about 18, but adds that North Bridge passed on every deal until A123, founded in 2001. (Fulop is wearing the orange shirt in the photo, surrounded by the other members of the A123 founding team.)

What exactly Fulop will focus on as a North Bridge partner isn't yet determined. (The firm invests in sectors that include materials, semiconductors, healthcare, and services, and Fulop's previous ventures range from wireless services to software to semiconductors to, with A123, a new kind of lithium ion battery.) "We really expect our partners to become leaders in their domain over time," Anderson says.

In his low-key manner, Anderson crows about three of his firm's recent successes A123, Starent Networks, and Acme Packet returning $350 million in profits to North Bridge's investors over the last year. All three are based in Massachusetts. "We really believe that Boston still matters," Anderson says.

Update: When I spoke with Fulop, I asked him why he'd decided to join a venture firm as opposed to starting another company. "I like doing lots of things, and I felt like this would be a great way to be involved with lots of things," he said. As for why he left A123 earlier this year, Fulop said he'd made 12 trips to China in 2009, where he was overseeing about 1000 employees at five different manufacturing facilities. "This is probably better for the family," he said.

At North Bridge, "70 percent of their deals are at the seed stage, so they're really about starting new things, and that's what I enjoy the most," Fulop said. "I have ideas for three or four things that I think should be companies, and we'll go through the vetting process and see if they're real opportunities."

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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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