The Boston Tech 30
Our picks for the most influential movers, shakers, thinkers, and connectors on the local technology scene right now. —Kyle Alspach
When you see the list of company boards that Fagnan serves on, it’s not surprising to hear he usually gets about four hours of sleep a night. His ubiquity in Boston tech is tough to overstate; his firm, Accomplice, which Fagnan split off from Atlas Venture in 2015, has for years been the most prolific venture capital backer of Boston-area startups. Among them are star companies such as DraftKings and Veracode, for which Fagnan’s firm led the very first funding rounds. “Quite frankly, we filled an early-stage funding gap when we started. Boston VC had turned very conservative,” says Fagnan, who joined Atlas in 2004. “We took risks—risks on very early markets, nascent tech, and unproven founders. We wanted to be the antithesis of what the Boston venture scene had become.”
Related: The Power of Ideas with Jeff Fagnan
When Goodman joined Constant Contact in 1999, the concept of selling “software as a service”—for a monthly subscription rather than an upfront license—was not exactly in fashion. Constant Contact had to both invent it and prove it worked. “The metrics we were really making up at the time are now just completely commonplace,” Goodman says. In the ensuing 17 years with the small-business marketing software firm, Goodman led Constant Contact through an initial public offering, growth to more than half a million customers, and to an acquisition for $1.1 billion this year.
She’s saving the lives of American troops, one drone at a time.
Greiner’s work in robotics changed the game for the military once before, and she’s now looking to do so again. A cofounder of iRobot, where she began as vice president of engineering and later served as president, Greiner says her proudest achievement was the PackBot, a mobile robot capable of going into unsafe areas so that troops don’t have to be sent. The robot is “credited with saving the lives of hundreds of soldiers,” Greiner says. Her current company, CyPhy Works, is again deploying lifesaving robotics for the military—this time in the air. Because CyPhy’s drones are able to stay up longer, aerial surveillance meant to protect members of the military can be more successful. “CyPhy Works has developed innovations in the drone space that give drones long endurance and better flight,” Greiner says. “We are expanding the Boston robot ecosphere from ground and underwater into taking flight.”
When asked what she’s proudest of in her career, Hessan mentions that along with growing C Space into a global software player and steering the popular professional ed program Startup Institute through a crucial phase, she’s also found time to serve on a dozen boards over the years, including for Tufts University and Eastern Bank. In a past life, meanwhile, Hessan coauthored a business bestseller, Customer-Centered Growth. All of which helps make her the business guru of Boston tech—though she says her mission is really one of inspiration rather than prescription. “I have a goal that I will inspire 100 of my employees to become CEOs, and I work on that daily,” she says. “I am now at six!”
The first thing to know about what makes Heymann an influencer is that she’s the embodiment of friendliness. She’d have to be to pull off what she did with the reboot of CommonAngels, a well-known startup investing outfit in Boston. CommonAngels had long run on the involvement of local tech leaders, who had a lot to offer startups in terms of experience but who weren’t known for velocity in check-writing. After her 2013 arrival, Heymann managed to transform the group into Converge Venture Partners, a VC firm focused on striking deals quickly. And she did so without turning off the core of tech veterans, who continue lending their expertise to startups as part of the new model. That’s crucial in this age of “connected money,” in which entrepreneurs expect both funding and connections from their investors. That killer combo, Heymann says, “is our DNA.”
In addition to changing the way many of us plan our vacations, TripAdvisor gets much of the credit for popularizing a now-ubiquitous Internet feature: the user-written review. The Needham-based company, cofounded by Kaufer in 2000, beat Yelp to that game by years with a focus on publishing user reviews of hotels and restaurants. In a recent blog post, Kaufter argued that “our community’s voice has done more to improve service standards than professional reviews ever could.” The approach has paid off nicely for TripAdvisor, too: The company has had a market capitalization in the range of $8 to $10 billion for years, making it easily the most valuable consumer Internet company headquartered in the Boston area.
Every entrepreneur aims to make visionary bets about where markets are heading, and they’re almost never right—unless they’re Paula Long. She cofounded and led the Nashua, New Hampshire–based EqualLogic, which helped set the standard for modern data storage before it was acquired by Dell in 2007 for $1.4 billion. Her approach to divining the future is to uncover information technology problems that beg for a simpler solution. “I am at war with complexity in the IT space,” Long says. That campaign continues at her current startup, the data management firm DataGravity, and with the companies she advises, such as the storage startup ClearSky Data.
Look back at Boston’s biggest company names during the course of the mobile technology revolution, and you’ll find Lum in the middle of many of them. M-Qube was a trailblazer in mobile marketing, Quattro Wireless became the basis for Apple’s mobile ad unit, and Adelphic Mobile, her current startup, is pioneering a new approach to mobile advertising using machine learning and high-performance computing. Beyond her work as an operator, Lum has personally made investments in 29 startups in recent years, among them Crashlytics, which was acquired by Twitter. The plan from here, she says: “Invest in many more.”
Sheila Lirio Marcelo
Marcelo doesn’t see the conflict between doing good and turning a profit. Care.com, an online marketplace that makes it easier for caregivers and families to connect, is how Marcelo is working toward that double bottom line. “I like to think that Care.com has helped expand the definition of a ‘marketplace’ by adding a social mission,” says Marcelo, whose company generated its first profits at the end of 2015. That followed what was perhaps Care.com’s biggest achievement on behalf of Boston tech: In 2014 the company’s initial public offering broke the drought of IPOs from VC-funded tech companies in the region. Meanwhile, Marcelo “travels and speaks all over the world—especially in her beloved Philippines—and has inspired many women to dream big,” says Diane Hessan, CEO of C Space.
In the academic hub that is Boston, it’s not surprising to find a tech culture that often values solving tough technical problems over earning big bucks. Ory is proving they can go hand in hand. His company, Acme Packet, pioneered a key advance in Internet networking equipment in the early 2000s, which Ory and cofounder Patrick MeLampy would turn into an industry standard—and ultimately sell to Oracle in 2013 for $2.1 billion. Now, the pair’s new startup, 128 Technology, is “rethinking routing—the critical enabler of Internet communications,” Ory says. While Ory “has the highest combined EQ and IQ score of anyone I know,” his braininess harmonizes with savvy practicality, says venture capitalist Bob Hower. “Andy always wants to change the world, but he’s also willing and able to stop, assess, and reconsider the strategy.”