As one of the region’s most prominent angel investors and tech mentors, David Chang has always been fascinated with how to build and tap into professional networks.
Now, Chang will put that fascination to work on a full-time basis, as general manager of recruiting startup Hunt Club’s “expert network.” It will be his first full-time gig since the student-loan business he previously led, Gradifi, was acquired by E*Trade for $30 million at the end of 2019.
Since the Gradifi sale, Chang has been living what he calls the “portfolio life,” advising students and startups, including those funded through an investment group he cofounded in 2020 called TBD Angels. (The name was originally a placeholder, for “to be determined.” It stuck.)
However, something was missing. He has been eager to “return to the office” — that is, getting back to the operational side of things, as a startup executive.
“I’m more of an operator, where you dig in on something, and get a team around you to do it,” Chang said.
So when Chang heard about an intriguing opportunity at Hunt Club, he was receptive. Chang was already familiar with the 200-person startup: It’s among the 60-plus firms that TBD has backed in the past two years. Chang is also among the 15,000 or so experts in its network. He quickly hit it off with Hunt Club’s Chicago-based chief executive Nick Cromydas.
This will be startup No. 7 for Chang. Several were acquired by bigger firms, such as eDocs (sold to Siebel Systems), m-Qube (acquired by Verisign), and Where (bought by PayPal).
When a company hires Hunt Club to fill a spot, it scans a database of 7 million or so contacts connected to its experts, who are rewarded financially for helping with recruitment leads. Hunt Club filters that group down to a list of top potential candidates and reaches out to the appropriate “experts” to make an introduction.
“The whole thesis is: A trusted connection will be able to get you into a role better than cold outreach,” Chang said.
Chang said he will build a Boston-based team that will focus on growing the network. Good thing he now has a huge pool of possible applicants to pick from and a tested technology to find the best ones.
Red and White for Roy
From Rowes Wharf to Boylston Street, the Back Bay to the Seaport, buildings all over town were lit up last Thursday night in Boston University’s scarlet and white. It was a fitting tribute to the Travis Roy Foundation, which is in the process of being wound down.
Several buildings were lit up after Travis Roy’s death in October 2020. This time, there were roughly 30. Roy famously turned a tragedy into a triumph after he was paralyzed on the ice during his first hockey game for BU in 1995. He then dedicated his life to assisting others with spinal cord injuries, starting his foundation and helping it raise $21 million over the years for individuals and their families, and for medical research. He didn’t want the foundation to continue after his death.
This time, the city was lit up to coincide with the 11th and final Boston Wiffle Ball Challenge, an event on Thursday that raised nearly $1 million at BU’s Nickerson Field for Roy’s foundation and the Franciscan Children’s hospital.
“Lighting up the city [is] giving people the idea of what the human spirit can accomplish,” said Arthur Page, a foundation trustee and partner at the law firm of Hemenway & Barnes.
Roy’s inspirational speeches made him a well-known presence in the city. Andy Hoar, president of brokerage CBRE’s Greater Boston office, said it was easy to find landlords and others in Boston’s commercial real estate industry to participate Thursday, particularly those who were already familiar with Roy’s story. Roy’s simple message: Be kind to others in life; you’ll get more out of it.
“You get Travis in front of 250 people, you could hear a pin drop,” Hoar said. “His story was so impactful. He was such an optimist.”
Stifel brings its broad view to Boston
What do data-storage giant Iron Mountain, electronics manufacturer Kopin Corp., environmental services firm Clean Harbors, solar panel installer Ameresco, and 3D printer rivals Markforged and Desktop Metal have in common?
Two things: They’re all based here, and they’re all on investment bank Stifel Financial’s eclectic guest list of 400 participating companies for Stifel’s “Cross Sector Insight” conference, at the InterContinental Boston hotel this week.
Investor conferences typically focus on particular industries, such as healthcare or defense. But Stifel goes wide with this to draw portfolio managers and venture capitalists who invest across a variety of sectors. More than 1,500 people are expected.
“We try to connect all those dots of what might be going on in the economy, and how those sectors interact with each other,” said Hugh Warns, Stifel’s head of global equities.
Warns said Boston is a natural host city for Stifel’s signature conference, given the concentration of fund managers and private equity investors. There’s one small hitch: Day 2 coincides with Game 3 of the Celtics-Warriors NBA Finals showdown. Stifel will set up TVs so attendees can cheer. Country music duo Brothers Osborne will play and wrap up as the game begins “so we can roll right from the concert to the game,” Warns said.
Dinner, for a cause
Boston’s “best dinner party with a conscience” is back — but not quite the same.
Community Servings, a nonprofit that provides specialized meals to people who are too sick to prepare food for themselves, will hold its first in-person LifeSavor fund-raising event on Wednesday since 2019.
In previous years, it would kick off with a cocktail party at the Langham hotel. Donors would then head out to dozens of participating restaurants, giving their time and menu items for the cause. This year, chief executive David Waters said his group wanted to give the restaurateurs a break, considering the challenges they have faced during the pandemic. So this time, about 300 guests will gather for a party at the Museum of Fine Arts. They’ll be handed a take-home meal on their way out, prepared by Community Servings staff. Sharon McNally of Camp Harbor View and Jeff Bellows at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts are the event’s co-chairs; its presenting sponsor is MFS Investment Management.
Waters expects to raise about $550,000, compared with a typical amount of $1 million. But that isn’t dampening his enthusiasm, especially knowing his organization has about 2,200 people to feed — twice as many as before the pandemic.
“So many of our gatherings ... have been virtual over the past two or three years,” Waters said. “I think this will really be a family reunion.”
Salvucci present at the creation, again
Just don’t call it a highway project.
That’s the important takeaway from supporters of a $2 billion plan to bring the Mass. Pike to ground level, straighten it, and build a new transit hub called West Station in an old rail yard in Allston owned by Harvard University.
Transit guru Fred Salvucci was among the local dignitaries who toured the site last week with state transportation secretary Jamey Tesler and Mayor Michelle Wu. Salvucci, of course, had Tesler’s job in the Dukakis administration, during the early days of the Big Dig.
When asked by a reporter what it felt like to be at the start of another big highway project, Salvucci quickly pointed out that this one is a “multimodal project” (a reference to West Station, and new bike and walking paths).
From that perspective, Wu got it right when she posted a photo on Twitter of Salvucci looking longingly at the turnpike viaduct, from a vehicle window. The mayor’s caption: “Find someone who looks at you the way Fred Salvucci sees the site of a future all at-grade, multimodal transportation hub to knit our neighborhoods back together.”