Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Recalling Mort Goulder, Angel Group Pioneer

Mort Goulder, a towering figure in the formation of angel investment organizations, passed away five years ago this month at the age of 87.   Having worked closely with Mort, I wrote a short bio and collected tributes from many of his colleagues, some of whom are still very active in our angel groups today. Here are samples from 2008.

Mort and I at the very first NE ACA Regional Summit in 2005

Mort Goulder was one of the fathers of angel investment organizations.  He founded the Breakfast Club in 1976, one of the very first angel investment groups in the United States, a group that is still very active. Since inception, both the Breakfast Club and Mort individually have invested in more than 100 deals. Mort seldom discussed his personal wins and losses, but other members of the Breakfast Club have been able to track annual returns approaching 30 per cent over past 30 years.

Mort also gave of his time to help others understand the value of angel investing and the investment model used for the Breakfast Club. His mentoring activities encouraged and supported the establishment of other angel groups in the Northeast, particularly including the eCoast Angel Network and the Northeast Angels.  Being both a successful entrepreneur and angel investor, he served as an inspiration to generations of entrepreneurs.

But what distinguished him most was his sense of purpose.  Speaking at the first New England Regional Angel Conference in 2005, Mort observed that the American entrepreneurial system had been very good to many of us, and he said it was our responsibility to “give the other guy his chance.”

Selected Tributes to Mort from Angels and Entrepreneurs

"His joy while talking to an entrepreneur was visible and if the entrepreneurs could display intelligence and innovation those of us around the table could see the ideas bounce back and forth. Sometimes sparks would fly. It was extremely exciting.
When I meet him I knew -- this is who I want to emulate.

His advice to these folks as they faced the ups and downs of growing a business was practical, encouraging and down to earth. I think of him as helping the team uncover the truths for that specific set of problem. He was a natural truth seeker.

He was an intellectual adventurer and a torch bearer for all of us the believe entrepreneurship will unleash new approaches – driving commerce, providing jobs and solving one-by-one problems facing human kind. The fearlessness of his style of early stage investing was inspiring. I believe that he was the Johnny Appleseed of entrepreneurship in New England putting out seeds that created and inspired all parts of the ecosystem - innovators and investors. The fruits will show up for decades. He was generous in all senses of the word. I was privileged to know him and be his friend." 

Jean Hammond, Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Co-Leader, Golden Seeds Boston Forum

"Mort was an early investor in Bitstream, where I served as Secretary and General Counsel for the 1993-1996 periods. Mort held observation rights and, as such, served as the original model to me for Board Observer. He attended every quarterly meeting and, on a small board fraught with intense personalities, made his genial, unassuming presence felt more at the subconscious level than otherwise. With Mort at our side, Bitstream went from a period of big losses to IPO. Mort truly 'fought the good fight.'"
William F. Swiggart, Swiggart & Agin, LLC

"As I sit here and think about of all the people out there who have influenced my life, it is hard to find anybody like Mort. A friend, a mentor and a really good person. He has bettered so many entrepreneurs, so many lives, so many families. NH entrepreneurs have lost their finest."
Alex Bakman, Founder, V-Kernel, Founder, Ecora

"I knew Mort for but a few of his last years and he became a warm and valued friend in those few years. An inspiration to me and to all who were fortunate to know him. He will be missed."
Frank Ferguson, President, Curriculum Associates, Inc.

"He was truly unique ------ a one of a kind. Unforgettable
I will always remember the twinkle in those bright blue eyes. It telegraphed his love for the adventure of life He fully engaged in it, even at an age when most men retire and slow down.
His enthusiasm was contagious. Mort loved technology, entrepreneurs and their start-up companies. To invest in start-ups at his age was the greatest affirmation of the triumph of confidence and hope over pessimism and despair. It was a high privilege to be his friend, Breakfast Club colleague, and co-investor in many ventures. I will sorely miss him." Arthur Fox

"For those of us who are not yet Mort's age, he was a great role model or how to age without getting old." David Friend, Chairman & CEO, Carbonite, Inc.

"Breakfast at Nashua Country Club or Denny's will never be the same. His hand in making start-up technologies into thriving businesses will be sorely missed. It was a true privilege to have known him."
Peter Antoinette

"I've spent the last two hours reflecting on what a great influence Mort has had on me over the last 20 years, since he and I separately invested in Innovative Telecom at the behest of another beloved departed Brantz Mayor. I had a lock on ITC"s equity to avoid cram downs by virtue of a loan that I made during a critical time. It was holding up subsequent financing. Mort and I met for the first time then, and he convinced me that my lock was not the way venture capital was done. By the strength of his caring to explain it to me, I gave up the lock and subsequent financing through Frank Alex, then at Zero Stage was put in place. That was the start of innumerable breakfasts invitations and investments. Arthur Fox's words in memory are truly heart felt, insightful, and inspirational."
Taylor Soper

Breakfast Club Pioneers receiving plaques.   L. to R. George McQuilken, Jerry Schaufield, Professor William Wetzel, Taylor Soper,  Mort Goulder, George Schwenk, Arthur Fox, David Steadman
The Breakfast Club.

To my knowledge, the Breakfast Club was founded due to  coincidence when Mort Goulder and Dick Morley  met one another on a cruise.  George Schwenk and Doug Drane joined them to form the group, which met over breakfast at the Country Club in Nashua, NH.  Bill Wetzel, then at UNH, named them (and us) "Angels."

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Gary S. Miliefsky: I think of Mort every day. He was my mentor, my lead angel and my friend. I know he's watching over us and George Schwenk has really taken the ball and run with it to keep the Breakfast Club alive. Great and humble men!

Twice funded by the Breakfast Club and hoping to make it one day to "membership" status :-)