As CEO of Como Audio, Tom DeVesto has a business to run. But the audio guru found the time to meet every Tuesday with students at Cathedral High School during the past school year to share some of the secrets to his success.
DeVesto’s signature project for this group of students, dubbed the Innovative Panthers Club, was the creation of a Bluetooth speaker called the Roar. They sold it through a Kickstarter campaign that ended over the weekend.
DeVesto is known for cofounding Cambridge SoundWorks, and later launching Tivoli Audio. So he probably gets requests for donations regularly, like the one that Ted Priestly, Cathedral’s director of development, made after they met at a holiday party at PR executive George Regan’s house in 2017.
DeVesto didn’t just write a check. He volunteered to meet with interested students, about 10 of them, every week. (DeVesto also lives near the Catholic high school in the South End.)
“My biggest fear was that they wouldn’t come back next week,” DeVesto says. “I felt challenged every week to come up with something new to bring to the party. The thrill is that the kids kept showing up.”
Maybe the food helped.
“I would tempt them with pizzas,” DeVesto says.
DeVesto and the kids designed the Roar speaker together and sold it for $89 each on Kickstarter. The speakers will be made by one of DeVesto’s contract manufacturers in China and shipped to buyers by Labor Day.
So how did DeVesto and his team of teenaged stereo whizzes do? Well, the Kickstarter campaign raised $5,487, exceeding the original $5,000 goal to manufacture and ship the speakers, although only 48 backers contributed. (Any profits benefit Cathedral High School.)
The kids learned that success can come in many forms.
“When I started this thing, I told them, ‘if we fail, there’s a lesson,’ ” DeVesto says. “If you don’t try to do something, you’ll never be successful. There’s a lesson in all of that.” — JON CHESTO
Former governor Swift set to lead LearnLaunch
Jane Swift hasn’t just been away from Boston for the past decade, she’s also been working out of state for much of that time.
But the former governor is finally headed back to Boston. She is returning for a private sector gig as president and executive director of LearnLaunch. The seven-person nonprofit hosts education-focused events, helps ed-tech startups, and works to get personalized learning technology into schools. Swift officially starts her new role on July 1.
Swift will build on her experience as CEO of Middlebury Interactive Languages, a language learning business that had been owned by Middlebury College and education software firm K12 Inc. Swift and her family moved to Vermont for several years for that job.
But Swift left two years ago when K12 took full control of the venture and the family moved back to their farm in the Berkshires.
The LearnLaunch position will be Swift’s first full-time job since her time at Middlebury Interactive. She is taking over responsibilities that had previously been handled by LearnLaunch’s founders, who include Jean Hammond, Eileen Rudden, and Mark Miller.
“I think we could work more collaboratively with schools that are hoping to understand better how innovative tools can accelerate learning,” Swift says. — JON CHESTO
Girl Scouts chief excited to help girls be leaders
Growing up in Ireland, Caitriona Taylor never wore a Girl Scout uniform. But now she says she’s a Girl Scout for life.
That might have something to do with the new job she started on Monday when she became the chief executive of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, which serves up to 30,000 girls.
Taylor previously was Boston College’s director of campus recreation. She replaces interim CEO James Cronan, the group’s current chief financial officer. Cronan has been the interim boss since July 2018 after then-CEO Denise Burgess left abruptly after just a few months.
Working in the organization’s Back Bay office, Taylor says she will oversee about 100 full-timers and nearly 500 part-time workers.
Taylor says she’s excited to help girls develop confidence and character, “to learn how to explore, how to stand up, speak out, and change the world. It’s an important space where girls can really learn how to be a leader.” — JON CHESTO
Boston real estate veterans to join CBRE
The merry-go-round in Boston’s real estate brokerage business continues.
This time it’s industry veterans Joe Fallon, Brian Hines, and Chuck O’Connor jumping from Cushman & Wakefield to industry heavyweight CBRE. By most measures, Fallon has long been the city’s leading life-sciences broker, while Hines focuses on suburban deals and O’Connor represents downtown tenants. They’ll do more or less the same thing in their new jobs, but will be working on the platform afforded by the nation’s biggest commercial real estate firm.
“We are thrilled to be joining what is widely regarded as the best real estate firm globally, as well as here in the metro Boston area,” Fallon said in a statement.
The three men have been partners for three decades, working at a variety of firms — as brokers often do — including their own FHO Partners. In recent years, Fallon had been executive vice chairman for New England at Cushman, until CBRE, which has grown rapidly here in recent years, came calling.
“Joe, Brian, and Chuck are commercial real estate icons in Boston,” said CBRE vice chairman Steve Purpura, who himself brought a 48-person team of brokers from Transwestern last year. “We couldn’t be happier to have them join us.”
For what it’s worth, Cushman & Wakefield didn’t sound like it minds the departures. In a statement, managing principal Carolyn Sidor highlighted the firm’s growth and said “We made the decision that our future is not aligned with some members of our previous leadership team . . . We wish them well.”
— TIM LOGAN