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MTDC adopts new name, MassVentures, and will parcel out $14 million in new grants and investments

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 14, 2012 06:45 PM

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The state's venture capital arm, the Massachusetts Technology Development Corporation, is announcing at an event tonight that it will adopt a new name: MassVentures.

"There were too many similar acronyms out there, like the MTTC and the MTC," says president Jerry Bird, "and we just think MassVentures better describes what we do, and who we're serving."

Bird has also scraped together $14 million in new funds to invest in tech startups. Much of it comes from money that MassDevelopment, the state's economic development agency, has asked MassVentures to manage. About $3 million comes from liquidity events in MassVentures' prior portfolio companies, Bird says, and another $6 million comes from the state's new START program, announced earlier this year.

Over its 36-year lifetime, the MTDC invested about $83 million in 133 companies. "What we want to do is complement what the private sector is doing," Bird says. "I think our role is to go in with the angel groups, help capitalize the deal appropriately, and then help the company transition from that backing to a being venture-backed company. That's absolutely what happened at companies like LifeImage and uTest."

Bird says that the new MassVentures will remain focused, as the MTDC had been, on sectors like software, hardware, telecom, and robotics. "We're trying to make the statement that we're looking at things other than clean energy and life sciences, from the state level," Bird says.

Bird took over leadership of the MTDC last June. Since then, he has added several new members to the board, including Anita Brearton, executive chairman of FashionPlaytes, and Doug Levin, founder of Quant5.

And one more change for the new MassVentures: while in the past, the group has usually not led investments itself, instead joining in with other angel groups and venture firms, "we'll make it clear that we will lead deals. The board and staff have said, 'Look, if there's a funding gap we are trying to fill, how can we sit around and wait for a lead investor to show up?'"

The last three or four years have been pretty quiet at the MTDC, Bird acknowledges, as the corporation's bank account ran low. He's hoping to change that in 2012.

(I last wrote about MassVentures/MTDC a year ago. In November, vice president Dina Routhier left the MTDC to take a job at Autodesk.)

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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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