BONUS EPISODE: Celebrating the First Anniversary of Spirits & Startups in Boston
Scott Murphy | Producer, Founders & Funders
Over the last year, we’ve shared a series of bonus segments from Spirits & Startups, Alumni Ventures Group’s investor appreciation event. In October 2019, AVG returned to Boston to host its latest installment of the series. Producer Scott Murphy joined the team in Boston to capture the sights and sounds of the event. Listen to our podcast from the event or read a summary below.
Disclaimer: This is not a solicitation to sell securities, which is only done through appropriate disclosure documents and only to appropriately qualified investors.
This is Scott Murphy from Alumni Ventures Group, one of the most active venture capital firms in the world. I attended our largest Spirits & Startups event yet at our new Boston location in Post Office Square. I had the fantastic opportunity to talk with the entrepreneurs behind AVG portfolio companies, our AVG team members, and investors. Keep reading for a recap of this exciting evening.
Hors d’oeuvres at Spirits + Startups. Keith Patankar photo.
“It’s actually our fifth event and second time here in Boston, so this is kind of like our first anniversary of Spirits & Startups,” said AVG’s Events Coordinator Kaitlyn Lavallee. She also planned functions in Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco over the past year. “We are moving more towards getting celebrity keynote speakers that are CEOs of our portfolio companies. We are having more interactive panels that include people from our headquarters, as well as our remote investment teams and getting founders and investors in that mix as well.”
Panel discussion with (left to right) Peter MacEwan, VP of Portfolio Services at AVG; Cumulus DS CEO Matt Kleiman; E25Bio CEO Jeff Takle; and Castor Ventures Managing Partner Chris Sklarin. Keith Patankar photo.
Our recent Boston event kicked off with a panel featuring CEOs from two MIT-connected portfolio companies, Jeff Tackle with E25Bio and Matt Kleiman of Cumulus Digital Systems. Joining Matt and Jeff onstage was Chris Sklarin, Managing Partner for Castor Ventures. I caught up with Chris after the panel to discuss the event.
“I think this kind of event puts a really human face on the venture capital experience,” he said. “I know for our investors, they really appreciate having chance to meet some of the management teams, and hear from the companies directly. Having a chance for our investors to meet each other and also meet the companies is what is the most important.”
Chris also pointed out how this event offers AVG’s portfolio companies a great opportunity to network with AVG’s Expert Community, a group of accomplished industry professionals who have an interest in contributing to our entrepreneurs’ success. This includes people like Don Drury, who uses his background with SaaS companies to consult with startups about market strategy, positioning, and messaging.
“I’m very happy to engage with any of the founders and the early stage sales and marketing leaders, and say, ‘how are we going to build this engine, and how we do we really get that message right to connect with the market,'” Don added.
Don echoed Chris’s comments about the benefits of attending Spirits & Startups, highlighting the networking potential of the event.
“I think the event is going great; I’ve made a lot of good connections here tonight,” Don said. “I think that what AVG is doing to open the world up to smaller investors is just absolutely powerful. The democratization of investment opportunities opens a whole world up where you can look at things you’re passionate about and really believe are going to succeed, and I think that is a great growth model.”
Green D Ventures Managing Partner Laura Rippy introducing Tamr CEO Andy Palmer. Keith Patankar photo.
After talking with Chris and Don, I set out to find an investor willing to share their perspective on AVG and the event itself. My search led me to Donald Porter, a Stanford alum and investor in Spike Ventures, AVG’s fund for graduates of the university.
“These are always great informational meetings,” he said. “It’s great to see the new companies that are breaking out and all the brilliant ideas that they are bringing forth into the world today. They’re inspiring people to do better things and make great improvements in world.”
Green D Ventures Managing Partner Laura Rippy took the stage later in the evening to introduce the event’s keynote speaker Andy Palmer, Co-Founder and CEO of AI company Tamr and Founder of seed fund Koa Labs. Tamr is a next-gen data curation platform based in Harvard Square, which Green D invested in after Laura and Andy connected over their time at Dartmouth. I sat down with Andy before he took the stage to discuss the power of that alumni connection.
“The power of those networks are just absolutely incredible, so leveraging those networks for the benefit of making investments seems like a no-brainer to me,” said Andy. “When we were first approached by the folks at AVG about investing in Tamr, I was really excited to just be a part of the AVG story.”
Using alumni connections to access deals is a key focus for AVG, which has nearly 20 funds for alums of elite schools. According to Andy, what makes the AVG story unique are the people behind the portfolio, which he said was on full display at Spirits & Startups.
“The AVG team has done such a great job at curating the networks of so many different schools and bringing the best people that are the most interested in early stage investing and entrepreneurship together,” he said. “It’s always fun to come to these events.”
Andy Palmer delivering his keynote address. Keith Patankar photo.
As the night started to wind down, I reconnected with Kaitlyn, AVG’s Event Coordinator, about what the company has planned next. “Our next one is in New York on December 11th, and following that, we will be in LA in February 2020,” she said.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for our next Spirits & Startups podcast covering our NYC event in December. The AVG team looks forward to welcoming new and familiar faces to these events and continuing the conversation about smart, simple venture investing.