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Mayor’s ex-chief of staff, Dan Koh, lands in the tech sector

Dan KohChris Morris for The Boston Globe

After narrowly losing a bid for Congress, Dan Koh has gone back to the private sector.

Koh became a high-profile addition to the leadership team at the Boston startup HqO, joining as a partner last week. Koh plans to bring the tech-minded approach he took at City Hall as Mayor Marty Walsh’s chief of staff to his new job.

HqO offers software to office landlords so they can interact directly with workers in their buildings. The HqO app can inform office employees of an approaching shuttle, for example, an upcoming yoga session, or the next free buffet in the lobby.

The team that launched the firm a year ago includes three partners who originally created BostInno, the tech-focused news site. They sold the parent company of that venture, Streetwise Media, to American City Business Journals in 2012, and left ACBJ two years later.


The partners included Chase Garbarino, now HqO’s chief executive; Kevin McCarthy, chief technology officer; and Greg Gomer, HqO’s head of finance.

For Koh, joining HqO is an opportunity to help landlords build communities within their walls, and to use technology to connect people the way he did at City Hall. Among other things, Koh helped push for a tech platform that allows city workers and residents to better track how basic government services, such as pothole-filling, are being performed.

“People want to be part of a community,” Koh says. “We can use technology . . . to unlock that potential.”

Garbarino says he didn’t waste much time after Koh lost the Democratic primary in September to Lori Trahan, who now represents the state’s Third District in the House of Representatives. (Koh had left the Walsh administration a year earlier to run.) “When somebody like Dan is a free agent in the open market, we ran as fast as we could to get him on board,” Garbarino says.


Garbarino also made another big hire, drawing Mark Rosenthal from Google just after Thanksgiving. At Google, Rosenthal led the programmatic ad sales team for North America.

More hires are on the way. Garbarino hopes to double the startup’s 35-person staff by the end of the year. The venture capital firm Accomplice led a $6.6 million funding round, announced in September, that included a few real estate firms, such as JLL and DivcoWest, as investors. HqO’s customers include National Development and Jamestown.

Meanwhile, Koh hasn’t stopped running – literally or figuratively. He plans to be in a marathon in Arizona this month, and he’ll again head to Hopkinton in April for the Boston Marathon. Plus he’s running for the Andover Board of Selectmen in March. — JON CHESTO

Union chastizes lawmakers

The Boston chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is suspending donations to elected officials on Beacon Hill in response to what it views as “legislative inaction” last year involving major labor issues. IBEW Local 103, which represents 8,500 workers, will return the $200,000 it had designated for 2019 political donations to its members.

Local 103 called out several issues that the Massachusetts House didn’t act on, including a wage-theft bill that would have given the state more power to weed out corrupt employers and a funding formula update for schools. Lawmakers also didn’t strike down an exemption that makes it easier for the state to outsource MBTA work or strengthen union rights for public service workers following the Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case, the local said.


“Our members are not going to continue to spend their hard-earned dollars supporting politicians who fail to prioritize basic legislation aiding working people,” Local 103 business manager Lou Antonellis said in a statement. “For too long, House members in particular have taken labor support for granted. It’s time they felt the pinch our working families feel from being ignored by the Beacon Hill elite.”

Local 103 said it will continue to support the campaigns of pro-union candidates and endorse political hopefuls who fight for working families. Last year, the union backed Ayanna Pressley, the former Boston city councilor who upset Congressman Mike Capuano.

“Business as usual is not acceptable,” Antonellis said. “We are looking for true advocates in elected office, who want to work with us to find solutions that lift up working people, decrease inequity, and expand the middle class.”

The Massachusetts AFL-CIO, which represents labor unions around the state, said it did not know of any other unions suspending political donations this year. — KATIE JOHNSTON

Not really retired . . .

For nearly 28 years, David Begelfer was one of the commercial real estate industry’s loudest voices in Boston. Now, he’s shifting into a somewhat quieter approach to business.

Begelfer starts the next chapter of his career this month with the launch of his commercial real estate consultancy, CRE Strategic Advisors.

At age 70, Begelfer decided to retire last summer as the chief executive of NAIOP Massachusetts, a trade group representing landlords and developers. He stepped down at the end of the year. But he’s not really ready to retire yet — just to slow things down a bit.


He’ll advise clients about the best ways to approach project permitting, community involvement, and long-term strategic planning. His Rolodex is deep, and he likes to talk — so his role is likely to involve corporate matchmaking, too.

When he became the local NAIOP chapter’s CEO in 1991, it had 150 members and a budget of $125,000, he says. Today, the budget is approaching $2.5 million, and membership is up to 1,700. Begelfer expanded it into the largest NAIOP chapter in the country.

Begelfer says he has left it in capable hands with the promotion of two lieutenants. Tamara Small is now the CEO, and Reesa Fischer is the new executive director. They will split up the duties of running the NAIOP chapter, which just became one of Begelfer’s first clients.

“It’s been a very intense period for many years,” Begelfer says. “I think I’m going to enjoy the quiet. Every moment doesn’t have to be filled up. . . . A new day is dawning. I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s going to feel like.” — JON CHESTO

Can’t keep a secret? Tell us. E-mail Bold Types at boldtypes@globe.com.