Most entrepreneurs (including myself) are not in their ’20s….

A post by Meredith Somers @ MIT last week here caused me to think about my own entrepreneurial journey.  I had entrepreneurial tendencies early in my career – always trying to emulate my grandfather (reference here) – however I didn’t “co-found” a significant company myself until I was in my 30’s.

I love to back smart young high risk/return folks straight out of college (or even younger).  Over the past 10 years @ Koa Labs and Founder Collective – I’ve been involved in backing many young entrepreneurs.  At Koa our investment criteria included “first time entrepreneurs with technical/scientific background” – which skewed the age of founders in the Koa portfolio toward the younger side.

However statistics matter and as MIT Sloan professor Pierre Azoulay and PhD student Daniel Kim point out in their research – the average age of entrepreneurs who’ve started companies and gone on to hire at least one employee is 42 years old.

In my opinion – the key takeaway of this research is that there is a distribution of entrepreneurial talent in the world.  There are “extreme entrepreneurs” insert cliche reference here to Musk, Gates, Jobs – but these individuals are all many standard deviations out from the center of the entrepreneurial distribution.  Most of us fall somewhere closer to the center and and it can be dangerous to interpret the behavior of the folks that are extreme entrepreneurs as a model for what will work for the rest of us.  Key message – figure out what works for you rather than trying to emulate the outliers.

As I reflected on what worked for me on my journey, there was one thing that stood out as a key – active mentors.  After grad school I did at least 3 significant gigs which I have now come to think of as “entrepreneurial apprenticeships“.  In each case I had fantastic mentors that taught me what I needed to know in order to be my own type of entrepreneur.  First working with Joe Liemandt, Christy Jones and Phil London @ Trilogy &, then Frank Moss @ Bowstreet and Steve Holtzman @ Infinity Pharmaceuticals.  These mentors and the lessons that I learned while working with them and the people they attracted molded my entrepreneurial instincts over more than a decade after grad school.   The list of lessons was long and hard won over 10+ years including :

  • The ins and outs of bootstrapping and venture financing
  • Challenges of setting & managing expectations with investors, employees, customers, spouse & kids
  • The emotional roller coaster of believing that things can be better – technology, people, business – and then fighting against all odds to make it so
  • People in startups need to be inspired emotionally AND it is essential to treat their emotional commitment and personal sacrifice with respect/honor
  • The list goes on…

When I partnered with Mike Stonebraker & his academic cohort to co-found Vertica back in 2004 – I felt that I had an “unfair competitive advantage” not only because of amazing the technical ideas/inspiration from Mike & team – but I had learned so many hard lessons working on 3+ startups and was prepared to put those lessons to work on a project I co-founded.

Perhaps the takeaway is that for many of us who have entrepreneurial tendancies – our entrepreneurial journey is likely different from that of the extreme entrepreneurs –  Jobs, Musk, Gates – and in my case was primarily driven not by youthful energy but more by  many “entrepreneurial apprenticeships” which were not only rewarding professionally – but also provided some of the best friendships in my life.

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Patent Troll Reform Vetoed by Governor Baker – onto next legislative session…

As many of you know by now, Governor Baker vetoed the legislation – bill S.2622 – that would have ensured state protection in MA against patent trolls.  The bill had passed both the House and the Senate.

While I am very disappointed by the Governor’s decision, and believe it was unfairly influenced by the lobbying of large companies that found the legislation to be mildly inconvenient, we are not done fighting.

Please see this Letter to the Editor today in The Boston Globe by Eric Lesser, Eric Paley & Shirley Paley.  Their leadership and persistence on this issue is truly remarkable.

It is my understanding that Senator Lesser intends to move forward with this Bill again during the next legislative session, and many believe there are reasonable parameters in which the Governor would support this reform.

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Another step closer to patent troll reform

Thanks to all who have supported S.2622.
Late last night the Mass Legislature passed the anti-troll legislation as part of the Economic Development Bill!
Thanks to Senator Eric Lesser for his amazing work shepherding this bill through the legislative process.
This is a very significant milestone.
If Governor Baker doesn’t veto – this could happen.
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Patent Troll Reform – next steps after Senate victory this past week

Thanks to everyone who provided their support last week regarding the Patent Troll reform legislation that is working its way through Beacon Hill. We have good news to report!
The bill S.2622 passed in the Senate, and now the focus is on the House of Representatives.
emails and phone calls will be effective in helping to reinforce the importance of this bill for the long term economic health of our state and our commercial ecosystem.
If you are not sure who your representative is?
Here is a tool to help determine who to contact based on your street address:
You can email or call both the state rep where you live and where your company is located!
In addition to your own, please also email the following three reps, as they have the most influence :
Speaker of the House, Bob Deleo –
Chair, House Ways and Means, Jeffrey Sanchez –
House Chair, Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies –
The email that I sent is below – feel free to use as a reference:
Hello Representative __________,
I have spent my career in the high-tech industry and seen first-hand how the sector has generated hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs and billions in revenue that has enriched our state. I believe the sector is at risk from “Patent Trolls” who use fear, obfuscation, and the threat of remote trials to squeeze money from emerging startups and needlessly distract the leading companies that power our economy.
As a constituent of yours, I urge you to use your power in support of legislation that would curb these bad actors and preserve our ability to serve as an innovation capital of the world.  Please make sure this important legislation that is included in the Senate version of the Economic Development Bill also is supported by the House.
Andy Palmer
Co-Founder and CEO, Tamr
Co-Founder, Koa Labs
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Call to action : time to fix the patent troll problem

This 2016 open letter was a call to action to fight patent trolls in Massachusetts and protect our innovative companies. The best people in the startup ecosystem in Boston are supportive. 
Senator Eric Lesser has provided leadership to get a new bill passed.  The bill S.2622 is being debated on Beacon Hill this morning and has a strong chance of passing with the right support. A refresher on the legislation is TechCrunch interview with Eric Lesser on the legislation.
Please lend your voice to the conversation. Here is a tweet you can use as template:
Protect innovation in Massachusetts by supporting patent troll reform, which is being debated by the @MA_Senate right now! Learn more: HT @senjasonlewis @cindycreem @karenspilka @jamieeldridgema @soniachangdiaz @wbrownsberger @sen_chandler #MAEcoDev


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Congrats to the team @ PillPack

I’m thrilled for my friends TJ and Elliot at PillPack on their announcement today with Amazon.

From the moment I met TJ and Elliot back in 2013 – I believed that if anyone was going to reinvent pharmacy it was going to be these two amazing entrepreneurs.  As one of the very first PillPack customers – I’ve believed from day one that PillPack is the future of pharmacy.

It was an honor to have the opportunity to spend time with TJ, Elliot and the PillPack team over the past five+ years.  Their entrepreneurial journey is a case study in how to build successful, mission-driven company from the ground up and I’m thankful to them for including me.

The future of our heathcare system in the US is a bit brighter today as the world recognizes the benefits of PillPack’s innovative approach to improving the lives of patients.

I look forward to seeing many more great companies from the Boston startup ecosystem that will have a dramatic impact on our US healthcare system – some of my favorite people/companies include :


Posted in Entrepreneurship, Founders, Health Care, Information Technology, Innovation, Start-Ups, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maxwell Health acquired by Sun Life Financial

Congrats to Veer, Vinay and the entire team at Maxwell Health on their acquisition by Sun Life.

Posted in Health Care, Information Technology, Innovation, Start-Ups, Uncategorized | Leave a comment