On Tuesday, November 29, alumni and friends gathered at the Downtown Harvard Club in Boston for an evening of networking and dynamic discussions with accomplished alumni and Bryant Trustee Professor of Management Mike Roberto, D.B.A., on the topics of innovation and entrepreneurship.
"The terrific panel of alumni brought experiences both as entrepreneurs and as investors to this discussion," says Roberto. "We talked about how entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas to investors successfully, how investors evaluate new ventures, and the challenges of scaling a venture."
Alumni panelists were:
- Tomas Bergstrand '94, principal and founder of Archipelago Ventures, LLC, a Boston-based private investment firm that serves as a vehicle for diversifying assets into privately held investments. Prior to Archipelago, he owned and managed a custom boat-building business based in Massachusetts. He also served as chief financial officer at the institutional brokerage Enskilda Securities, Inc. in New York and held operational positions with the Swedish banking group SEB in Singapore and the U.S. Bergstrand holds a master's degree in finance from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
- David Donlan '00, chief revenue officer for Crayon in Boston. As a sales leader, he develops market intelligence strategies that cater to the mid-market firm and enterprise looking to increase sales and top-line revenue growth. Prior to Crayon, Donlan joined HubSpot in 2008. As employee number 20, he helped grow the company from 100 beta customers to more than 15,000, from 20 employees to more than 1,000 employees, and went from raising $100 million of venture capital to filing for IPO on the New York Stock Exchange with a market cap of more than $1.6 billion. Donlan has also led several prominent marketing and media firms from start-up to acquisition, including the AberdeenGroup, the Boston Herald, and Bitpipe. In these roles, he demonstrated sales leadership abilities to meet and exceed every benchmark provided.
- Sheila Narayan '89, managing director with Golden Seeds LLC, an angel investment firm that invests in early-stage women-led companies. She is a member of Golden Seeds' Boston Operating Committee and manages the monthly Office Hours education program. Narayan is active in Boston's entrepreneurial ecosystem, advising start-up entrepreneurs and judging various business plan and pitch competitions. She is also principal of Narayan Advisory Services LLC, an independent consulting firm specializing in the payments and financial services technology industries. Narayan holds an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
- David Pogorelc '85, a founder and co-owner of Core Investments, Inc., a firm focusing on real estate investments. With more than 30 years of experience, he's managed the extreme undulations that best describe the Boston real estate market. Pogorelc has developed a significant contact base in the Boston market that has contributed to the success of Core and its partnerships. Before establishing Core, Pogorelc was a founder and partner at Helm Investments, a real estate investment firm focusing on residential Boston properties.
Event attendees were engaged in varying states of entrepreneurship, from having started several to just thinking about starting their own ventures, and came armed with great questions and observations.
Panelists all agreed that successful entrepreneurs are passionate about their ideas, but they are flexible, according to Roberto. Additional notes:
- It's easy to fall in love with your initial concept and stop listening to feedback;
- The best entrepreneurs listen closely to what customers and advisers are telling them, and what signals they are receiving from the market as a whole. Then, they adapt quickly and effectively.