David S. Chang shows up just about everywhere in Boston’s startup landscape. Perhaps best-known for his time at the helm of PayPal’s Boston office, Chang now fills many roles in the region’s early-stage companies, working with some as an adviser, consultant, or board member; buying into others; and helping develop entrepreneurs in roles at Babson College, Harvard Business School, MassChallenge, and TechStars. He’s easy to find at events — he had four speaking engagements during one week recently. He is a cofounder of PersonalVC, which matches startup founders with investors and experts, he is an adviser to Flybridge Capital Partners, and he has been an angel investor in about 40 companies. Chang, who moved to the United States from Taiwan as a child, told the Globe about how his journey into computer science and big finance led him into the world of small companies with bright futures.
1. Chang, 47, never leaves his work life too far behind. He is married to Shereen Shermak , an investor in the world of financial services and technology. They met professionally in New York while Chang was at Goldman Sachs.
“We actually have meeting notes from the very first time we met. So it was me, my manager, she was working at a consulting firm with us at Goldman at the time, and her manger. So it was the four of us in the meeting.”
“We ended up, obviously, dating and then getting married on the six-year anniversary of our first date. But it was all a work thing, which was kind of a crazy, crazy thing. Because we cross paths so often, and we don’t always talk to each other before we lay out our day, I can’t tell you the number of times we bump into each other, like at a coffee house, like, ‘Oh, what are you doing here?’ A lot of people, since we don’t have the same last name, will also be like, ‘Oh, do you know so and so?’ Yes. I’m married to her.”
2. The startup world has a way of closing in on Chang when he’s around his South End neighborhood. Not that he minds.
“In my neighborhood you’ve got people from multiple generations living side by side, and that’s not something that you usually see a lot, so on a usual weekend, we’ll just roll out and just not get into the car, and bump into people. Our personal and business lives completely cross over. On Saturday, we were just walking around, I think I ran into eight people just in a couple block radius. And so there’s no day I can walk out without a cap on my head if I haven’t showered. You just bank on running into people.”
3. A position at Goldman Sachs was Chang’s first job out of college, though he admits he wasn’t so sure at first what the company did.
“I through dumb luck ended up signing up for an interview with Goldman Sachs. I knew nothing about finance at the time. I thought Goldman Sachs had something to do with Saks Fifth Avenue, so I’m like, ‘Oh, retail, sounds like fun or whatever.’ Shows you how much I knew as a senior.”
4. Chang eventually studied at Harvard Business School, a decision that would keep him in the Boston area. After working at edocs, TripAdvisor, and m-Qube, he co-founded Mobicious, a mobile photo service that would later be renamed SnapMyLife. A random group of teenagers at a restaurant helped choose the new name.
“We were sitting at this table, and we were just trying to figure out, ‘Well what should the name of this thing be?’ And we had a couple different ideas. I think ‘mtagd’ was another one — like some really geeky ones. And there was a table of four 14-year-old kids sitting over there, and we’re like, you know what? That’s our target market. We just leaned over and asked, ‘Which name do you like better?’ and three of the four of them said SnapMyLife.”
5. Chang said his departure from PayPal helped set the stage for his next act. His involvement with PayPal’s Start Tank, which offers coaching, workspace, and networking help to startups, was one of his favorite parts of his experience there.
“Time was kind of up, anyway, in terms of my interest level. I had one role that I thought was really interesting, which was to run a good part of the accelerator program, but they ended up not really doing that [anymore]. So if that wasn’t going to come to fruition, I was happy to not do it. I ended up thinking, why don’t I just try to find the next thing?”Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.