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Under Byers, Interise is branching out to more of Massachusetts

A new CEO at Corvus; Hogan Lovells beefs up its M&A practice; Why Liberty Mutual’s in-house ad shop is taking on outside clients

Interise chief executive Darrell Byers.Chris Morris

Boston nonprofit Interise has helped legions of small businesses across the country. Now, under the leadership of chief executive Darrell Byers, the group is looking to expand its StreetWise ‘MBA’ program to help more businesses here in Massachusetts.

Byers is in the final stages of preparing a program that will offer Interise’s seven-month course in four Gateway Cities (mid-sized cities with below-average median household incomes) starting this fall, expanding to eight in 2023. This expansion will build on the success he’s seen with the first round of classes that just concluded for 15 business owners in Boston. These programs are geared for entrepreneurs of color, women, and other small business owners in low-income communities; in part, they help better prepare businesses to bid on contracts with prospective public- and private-sector clients for everything from catering to construction. To be eligible, a small business needs at least two employees, two years of experience, and at least $250,000 in annual revenue.

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The money for the Gateway Cities expansion comes from a $3 million earmark of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds in a spending bill that Governor Charlie Baker signed late last year. Byers credits House Speaker Ron Mariano for securing that money. Byers will work with Keith Motley of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts and Henry Thomas of the Urban League of Springfield to recruit participants. They’re expected to pick the first four Gateway Cities within a week, Byers said.

Byers, who is Black, knows a thing or two about how hard it is to run a small business. He owned a business called New England Filtration Co. but had to shut it down in the early 1990s after a key client, the General Motors plant in Framingham, closed and the region’s economy dipped into a recession.

Byers then went into a career in fund-raising, getting his start at WGBH. He eventually became vice chancellor for fund-raising at UMass Boston before moving to San Francisco for a job there. He was lured back to Massachusetts to be the new chief executive at Interise in 2019. As the first of his family to go to college, Byers said working for nonprofits enabled him to give back and honor the help that other nonprofits provided to him along the way.

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And he never forgot the many lessons he learned from his days as a small business owner.

“I think back then, I was really, if you will, just living in the moment,” Byers said. “[Interise’s] three-year growth strategy teaches you to plan out. If I had something like that, it could have been a game-changer. I kind of look back and chuckle about how much I didn’t know.”

Taking flight at Corvus

Corvus founder Philip Edmundson is hoping his fintech startup will soar even higher under his successor in the chief executive’s role, Madhu Tadikonda.

Tadikonda, a former AIG executive who joined Corvus as its president a year ago, took over as CEO last week. Edmundson, meanwhile, became executive chairman and will remain involved on a full-time basis, helping lead its international expansion. Corvus focuses primarily on providing cybersecurity insurance, and its list of venture capital investors includes Insight Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, and .406 Ventures. (Tadikonda will remain based in New York, though he will rent an apartment here and work in Boston a few days each week.)

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Edmundson named the company after the genus of birds that includes ravens and crows, inspired by their tool-making abilities and other examples of intelligent thinking. So far, clients seem to like the insurance tools that Corvus provides: Growth has been steady since its founding in 2017, with recent office openings in Frankfurt and London, and about 300 people working at the firm around the world today.

Hogan Lovells aims to be big in Boston

Mergers and acquisitions lawyer Alex Aber spent the first two decades of his legal career at Foley Hoag in Boston. He had thought he might spend his last two decades there too.

But then Bill Curtin called. The head of mergers and acquisitions at global law firm Hogan Lovells wanted a bigger presence in Boston and figured Aber would be the perfect choice to help with that. As Aber puts it, he “fell victim to the Bill Curtin sales pitch.”

Aber wasn’t the only one. In fact, two other former co-chairs of Foley Hoag’s M&A practice left to join Hogan Lovells this year, Adrienne Ellman in New York and Joe Basile in Boston.

Hogan Lovells first entered Boston in 2017 through its merger with local law firm Collora, whose primary focus was litigation. Given Greater Boston’s prominence in the life sciences and high-tech sectors, Curtin said it was crucial to expand his firm’s M&A capabilities here as well.

“We share this vision of growing the Boston office,” Aber said. “There’s this huge opportunity here.”

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A different kind of recruiting ground

Big investment banks often recruit from the campuses of competitive colleges. But Matt Gellene, head of consumer client management for Bank of America, has found another fertile place for recruits: Year Up.

It’s one reason why Gellene has helped lead Year Up’s efforts to persuade other financial services firms across the country to participate for more than a year, and why he agreed to give the keynote speech to Year Up’s latest graduation of Greater Boston students on July 26.

The Boston-based nonprofit led by Gerald Chertavian puts young adults, mainly individuals who did not finish college or did not even attend, into a year-long track: essentially six months of education and then six months of an internship. Gellene said BofA hires the majority of its Year Up interns for starting-level jobs, often as bank tellers. “You’re getting great employees,” Gellene said, “and you’re able to see these folks progress in their careers.”

Branching out, from insurance to beer

Harpoon has hired Liberty Mutual but not for insurance coverage. Instead, Liberty Mutual’s in-house creative ad agency, known as Copper Giants, is running point on the Boston brewery’s latest ad campaign, to highlight its Rec. League beer.

It’s an unusual twist for an in-house agency to work with a completely separate brand. In fact, Liberty Mutual managing director Cliff Stevens can’t think of another in-house agency that does it. Stevens said he and his Copper Giants team had been considering branching out and found the opportunity to work with Harpoon on the group’s first external project too good to pass up.

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The short video spots, filmed with Boston production company Wanderlust at Granite Links Golf Course and a home in Quincy, feature “little victories,” such as a protagonist finally hitting a golf ball after several whiffs or coming home from the dentist with “only” two cavities. The premise: Why not celebrate life’s “little victories” with Rec. League? The digital ad campaign started before the July 4 weekend and is running all summer.

Stevens said Copper Giants is in talks with a few other brands “about project-based opportunities” this fall and early next year, but the group still wants to keep its Liberty Mutual work as its primary focus.

Still no sign of those wacky Liberty Mutual mascots, LiMu the Emu and Doug. Maybe Stevens and his team will consider a crossover episode for their next external campaign.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.