BostInno: “Once You’re in the Family, You’re in the Family”
As the Summer Ends, Highland Sends off 14 Companies (full article with pic of team Wellframe here)
For just over two months, 14 teams have been chipping away at their companies in Highland Capital Partners’ Kendall Square and Sand Hill Road offices. And as the Summer@HIGHLAND program begins to wind down, eight or nine of those teams can say they’re currently raising an angel round or will be starting the process within the next 45 days, while the remainder will continue working on their startup, according to Michael Gaiss, Highland’s senior vice president.
“We’ve never had as many teams as we’ve had this year,” Gaiss says, admitting they just couldn’t “make the call” after seeing so many talented applicants. Over 250 university-affiliated startups applied for consideration in this year’s program. Largely because, as Gaiss describes it, “The value proposition keeps going up.”
Not only were admitted teams offered $15,000 and complimentary office space, but they were also given access to a roster of over 40 events, including talks from Matt Lauzon, founder and CEO of Gemvara; Keith Rabois, COO of Square; Bill Clerico, founder and CEO of WePay; Bob Van Nortwick, business development manager at Amazon; Troy Brennan, executive vice president of CVS Caremark; and Victoria Ransom, founder and CEO of Wildfire.
Jacob Sattelmair, co-founder of Summer@HIGHLAND team Wellframe, said he wasn’t initially sold on the events, telling his team, “Let’s just skip them and focus on work.” After attending the first event, however, he admits he was sold and together they went to every single one. “One of the speakers is now an advisor to the team,” Sattelmair says.
Wellframe is currently organizing clinical knowledge and using human-centered design to build a technology-enabled treatment program for cardiovascular disease. Built into the Wellframe app are reminders to take medications, an accelerometer that can track steps, as well as the ability to send messages between the clinician, patient and the patient’s family, among other features.
“We’re re-engineering patient care outside of the hospital,” Sattelmair says, claiming hospitals need to find a better way to facilitate and maintain relationships with their patients in between appointments. The first patients will be entered into the Wellframe system come September.
The Wellframe team — comprised of Sattelmair, Trishan Panch, Vinayak Ramesh and Archit Bhise — come from different schools of thought, ranging from primary care to program management, as well different schools: Harvard and MIT.
When asked whether or not they feel as though they’ve created a network through the summer program, they all responded positively. “We now have connections we never would have had before,” Sattelmair says.
Nine out of last year’s 10 teams are still going strong, according to Gaiss. Just last week, he says one of the teams was in a meeting with a Highland General Partner talking funding. “Once you’re in the family, you’re in the family,” Gaiss admits.
Now, the focus of the program is on getting teams out into the marketplace and finding them a place to work. After hearing the success they’ve already found just after two months, however, they likely won’t have to look very far.
Melt predicts the coupons you’ll love. The team has been working exceptionally hard all summer and just had version 2.0 of their app approved by the App Store. Download it now and check-out their innovative interface for easy coupon discovery and intelligent coupon recommendations.
A big thanks to Jordan Lee of Collections for summarizing yesterday’s session with Maynard Webb. A great read and some outstanding advice:
The West Coast Summer@HIGHLAND teams (with Cambridge video-conferenced in) were treated to lunch with one of Silicon Valley’s most trusted operating executives, a man whose driving impulse is to look for the largest, most important fire burning at any given moment and do whatever it takes to extinguish it.
From the earliest days of his career, when he was working as a security guard and angling for opportunities to advance (such as learning how to program and break systems), Maynard Webb lived by one simple rule: chase down the difficult and unpopular challenges that everyone else seemed to be avoiding and deliver results no one thought were possible. From rescuing eBay from the brink of calamity as its Chief Operating Officer (and then helping it to grow from $140 million in revenue to over $6 billion in seven years), to serving as President and CEO of LiveOps and as a senior executive at Gateway, Quantum, and IBM, Webb has never shrank from a challenge.
Still Chairman of the Board at LiveOps, Webb turned his attention last year to a host of new pursuits. He founded the Webb Investment Network, which together with 75 seasoned affiliates invests in and coaches young entrepreneurs who have transformative ideas. He also recently joined Yahoo’s Board of Directors, underscoring his commitment to tackling the toughest problems around, and recently wrote a book called “Rebooting Work: Transform How you Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship,” which will be published in January.
The teams were held in rapt attention as Webb recounted his improbable personal story and drew lessons from his experience, several of which were especially relevant for us:
The danger of complacency – As a company grows, founders should never stop asking themselves, “Am I pulling my weight?” It’s not healthy for a company’s leadership, nor for its employees, if founders become complacent or abuse their seniority and free ride on the work of others. Relatedly, Webb also enjoined us to be our own toughest critics to ensure that we’re really contributing our all, and to be careful not to “confuse action for traction.”
The overriding importance of integrity – Founders face a raft of unique pressures that risk compromising their integrity. It’s important to look forward many years into the future and ask if you’ll be able to live with the decisions you’re making now. Reputation, after all, is as easy to lose as it is difficult to acquire.
Be brave, bold, flexible, and positive – Nobody wants to work with someone who’s cranky all the time, so keep your attitude in check. And given that change is inevitable, you might as well embrace it rather than resist it. Ultimately, an entrepreneur must be brave and bold enough to see the change they want to see in the world and then work furiously to get there.
At the end of lunch Webb was asked what helped him sort through his many different opportunities and what gave him the conviction to keep going. He paused for a moment and then shared a mental exercise that he would use when he was starting out. Imagine yourself in thirty years on a stage in front of all of the people you admire most in the world. You have to tell them the story of your life, and what you say will be met with one of three reactions. They might deliver faint praise (“well, not bad given the circumstances”), they might be underwhelmed (“that doesn’t quite cut it”), or you could truly knock their socks off so that they’re left scratching their chins in disbelief.
It’s clear that Webb is on track to achieve the third. Hopefully, with a bit of his wisdom adding wind to our sails, we too can strive for greatness.
Congrats to Gemvara for Being Named #48 on the Inc Magazine 500 List!
An outstanding reflection of their continued execution and success as a team. Hats off to Matt Lauzon and everyone at Gemvara for yet another significant accomplishment!
Looking back to 2007, here’s a picture of Matt and the early team when they were formerly known as Paragon Lake and just moved into the Summer@HIGHLAND program after graduating from Babson College. Matt has also been terrific making himself available to Summer@HIGHLAND participants and here is a video of our trip to Gemvara earlier this summer.
Recap from “The Wildfire Story & Entrepreneurial Journey"
Special thanks to Boris Babenko of Anchovi Labs for recapping our visit with Victoria Ransom & Alain Chuard of Wildfire:
This week the Menlo Park teams made a trip out to Redwood City to the headquarters of Wildfire. Considering that the company announced an acquisition by Google just a day earlier, we weren’t sure what to expect — champagne, balloons and debauchery? It certainly would have been well justified, but when we arrived we were surprised to see everyone still hard at work and focused.
After getting a tour of the Wildfire office (which is organized by noise level — noisy sales people sit in one area, and quiet engineers in another), and grabbing some lunch, we sat down in a conference room with Victoria Ransom & Alain Chuard, the two founders. Victoria started off by telling us a little bit about her background (started off with a psych degree, forayed into investment banking, finished business school) and then a brief history of how Wildfire got to where they are today.
Victoria and Alain first started a sports/adventure travel company, which was meant to be a “year off” kind of thing, rather than a serious effort. The business, however, took off nicely. Due to a lack of satisfactory existing solutions, they had to build their own CRM software for the company; this was their first experience with building software. A bit later, Facebook came out with business pages and the team jumped on the opportunity and made a page for their travel company. Since sweepstakes had been a successful marketing tool for their company, they incorporated this into their facebook page. At this point a light bulb turned on above their heads as Victoria and Alain realized a big opportunity existed — marketing via social media was uncharted territory and they had figured out how to do it well; surely there were other companies who wanted this but didn’t know how to go about getting it. This is how Wildfire was born.
Takeaways from “Growing Great Companies & Growing with Your Company”
Here’s a recap of our conversation with Andy Ory, founder & CEO of Acme Packet, courtesy of a Ilya Vakhutinsky of team CareDojo:
On Tuesday we had the great pleasure of hearing Andy Ory of Acme Packet talk to us about growing great companies. He not only serves as president and chief executive officer, but founded the company as well. Under his leadership, Acme Packet pursues its mission to enable service providers and enterprises worldwide to unleash the power of interactive voice, video, and unified communications over IP networks. He has directed Acme Packet’s growth from a young startup to the dominant leader in the industry and tried passing along some of the knowledge he picked up along the way over the sound of crunching tacos in the background. Mr. Ory is an incredibly charismatic speaker and was a pleasure to listen to. He touched upon a variety of things from disruptive innovation to the importance of relationships in business. He even grabbed a marker and brought the lessons to the whiteboard.
One of the key lessons he shared was the importance of mentorship. He said he was really grateful that his dad was so knowledgeable about business and could push him along. Today the mentality is that the best environment for an entrepreneurial minded person to thrive in is at the early stage part of a company’s growth, but Andy says that you don’t know until you’ve done it all. He said he loves where he is now, which is running a public company, and that every single stage has its pros and cons. He said he didn’t consider himself an operator, but is now in an operational role and that it was due to key mentorship that he was able to really be successful doing it.
Even outside of a personal mentor, relationships are fundamental in the world of business. Andy used a humorous metaphor with staplers and scotch tape to demonstrate how businesses with established relationships give each other priority, but over time disruptors can really take hold of the market. However, if incumbents can be agile and change their businesses it’s hard to edge them out. In this case he mentioned a few high profile companies, IBM and Apple, who have been able to move away from their original businesses and stay alive.
Early on, more often than not business leaders get too distracted by the details of the kinds of products or services they are selling to notice how central it is to build relationships not just with your customers, but also with your vendors, employees and even competitors. Without strong relationships, it is pretty much impossible to have real success as a business owner. Just like IBM and Apple, you need to have long-term customers and good vendor relationships that will outlast difficulties and challenging times. The takeaway is clear, relationships are critical.
Boston Globe: Highland Helps Interns Start Their Own Companies
The Boston Globe featured Summer@HIGHLAND in a profile on “cool summer internships” for students across Boston. Summer@HIGHLAND is a bit different that corporate internships and it was really viewed in the spirit of the closest thing to an “internship” for entrepreneurs that were further building their startups. Team Wellframe is highlighted in the picture and the online article can be found here.
Jacob Sattelmair and his partners worked on a mobile application that helps heart attack victims navigate and monitor their recoveries.
Why intern for somebody else’s company when you can start your own?
That’s the idea behind Summer@Highland, a program by Cambridge venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners, which gives student entrepreneurs free office space, expert guidance, and $15,000 cash — all with no strings attached.
The program, launched in 2007, has already hatched several successful companies, including Boston online custom jewelry maker Gemvara,which recently raked in $25 million during a round of fund-raising that ended last month.
Summer@Highland is open to undergraduates, graduate students, and recent graduates. This year, 257 teams from across the country applied for 14 spots. The winning teams operate out of Highland’s Cambridge and California offices for 10 weeks, developing their businesses while making connections with chief executives, founders, and venture capitalists brought in by Highland to give presentations and chat with students.
This summer, interns at Highland’s Cambridge office are working on a variety of projects, including a headband by a team called Axio that reads users’ brain waves and sends a visual representation of the data to a screen. Another team is writing software that would help build trust between strangers online who want to swap houses or carpool.
The latter project is the brainchild of Boston University juniors Nam Chu Hoai and Connor McEwan, both 20. Their idea, called Webcred, is to give users a universal online login that can take “trust” earned on any website — a positive buyer rating on eBay, for example — and display their trustworthiness wherever they go online.
Hoai and McEwan met as freshmen when they were assigned as roommates. Now they’re running a company, something that has proved more difficult than anticipated. In part, that’s because their idea has both technical and business obstacles to overcome, such as winning over websites that could benefit from the product.
“We’re sleeping in the office half of the nights. It’s frustrating at times,” Hoai said. “You have to be somewhat crazy to do this.”
Highland vice president Michael Gaiss says the company is looking for interns with passion, natural leadership qualities, and a history of entrepreneurship that might stretch back to childhood lemonade stands.
“I know they can go take more lucrative summer internships from Microsoft or Facebook,” said Gaiss, “so we’re really looking for those who want to forgo the more secure opportunities in order to change the world with their visions.”
Many of the business ideas will fail, Gaiss said, but that’s OK, too.
“Sometimes the best answer is, ‘This isn’t really going to take off,’ ” Gaiss said. “We’re helping smart people think through things.”
We’re mixing some more “fun” into “business” this week and also embracing some classic summer pastimes. On Tuesday, the Menlo Park teams will be heading up to AT&T Park for an evening with our west coast team and to catch the Giants against the Padres. Out east, we’ll be heading for a day on Martha’s Vineyard and spending it with Highland’s Bob Higgins and several special guests including Paul Severino, Jim Sims and Bill Foster. On Thursday, we have two more industry heavy hitters coming in to meet with teams. Allison Johnson, former VP of Marketing at Apple, will be discussing “Brand Building for Startups” in Menlo Park (this is similar to what we did our east in June). Back in Cambridge, Troy Brennan, CMO & EVP of CVS Caremark and one of the most innovative CMOs in the industry, will be briefed by out healthcare IT focused teams on what they’re doing while also discussing “Innovation at CVS & Working with Startups.”
Takeaways from "A Hero's Journey of Entrepreneurship"
Dave Hersh, founding CEO of Jive Software and early stage advisor & investor, visited our Menlo Park office today to talk about a “Hero’s Journey of Entrepreneurship.” We very much appreciated his time and Rebecca Hinds of Piccolo Technologies captured the essence of his discussion below:
Throughout history, humans have been drawn to stories of the heroic underdog who summons the courage to take unprecedented risks to achieve greatness. The late American mythologist Joseph Campbell famously proclaimed that such stories tend to share a similar underlying structure, which he summarized as the Hero’s Journey. According to Dave Hersh, former CEO of Jive Software and current Board Member at Crushpath, an understanding of this journey is particularly relevant and applicable to entrepreneurs. Through a sequence of anecdotes, revelations, and reflections, Hersh introduced the 2012 Highland Capital Summer Program teams to the entrepreneur’s Hero’s Journey.
The entrepreneur’s journey is akin to Campbell’s Hero’s Journey in that it, too, is instigated by a call to action. The entrepreneur is summoned, either accidentally or by force of will, to venture off from normality into an unknown domain. The entrepreneur identifies a pain point in the market and expresses an initial desire to subjugate it. This call to action tends to be followed by some manifestation of supernatural aid. The entrepreneur must successfully immerse him or herself in a network of advisors and mentors who represent the entrepreneur’s own aspirations and values.
It is important to recognize that the entrepreneur’s journey is, by no means, a carefree adventure. It necessarily entails a sequence of trials and tribulations that the entrepreneur must overcome. These trials and tribulations involve hiring decisions, budget cuts, and other strategic resolutions that are imperative to the holistic growth of the company Regardless of the challenge, the entrepreneur most adopt the mantra of a warrior and “do whatever it takes to move the company forward”.