Sunday, August 13, 2017

In memoriam, George Schwenk, Breakfast Club Co-Founder

Active for over 40 years in forming, financing, and managing start-up companies, George Schwenk will be fondly remembered for his role in creating The Breakfast Club,  a pioneering gathering of private investors who contribute both their capital and their expertise to supporting entrepreneurs.

The Breakfast Club was founded in 1976 due to coincidence when NH residents and fellow MIT Alumni Mort Goulder and Dick Morley met 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 "Angels."

The Breakfast Club reviewed about two business deals a week and invested in about four companies a year. By 2005 the Breakfast Club had invested in more than 100 startup companies. Schwenk, who kept meticulous records, was able to track annual returns approaching 30 per cent over those 30 years.

As a member of The Breakfast Club, Schwenk was the recipient of the 1990 New England Entrepreneur of the Year award as a Supporter of Entrepreneurship. The Breakfast Club was also a National finalist in that category. In 1995, he was awarded an honorary membership in the INC 500 Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to multiple INC 500 companies.

In his career prior to the Club, Schwenk  was a founder of Modicon Corp., later a division of AEG, and of Termiflex Corp., acquired by WPI, Inc. He has been closely involved with eight INC 500 companies: Logicraft (1987, 88, 89), wTe Corp. (1987, 89, 90), Datasec (1988, 89), Ocean Isle Software (1994), Termiflex (1982), Kalow Technology (1994), eCopy (2001, 02, 03, 04) and SpectorSoft (2004).

Now primarily active in financial matters, he was previously involved in the technical areas, developing the software for the first computer controlled machine tools. He served as National Treasurer and Administrative Vice President of the Numerical Control Society from 1975 to 1978.

He held an SB in Physics from MIT and an MA, also in Physics, from the University of California and is a graduate of the US Army War College. Retired as a colonel from the US Army Reserve, he served thirty years in various intelligence assignments, finishing with the mobilization assignment of Deputy Director of Foreign Intelligence, G-2, Department of the Army.

Active in the Boy Scouts for over sixty years, he was Scoutmaster in Mason, NH for fifteen years and received the Silver Beaver for distinguished service to youth in 1984. He was also active in town government, including as Trustee of Trust Funds. 

Aftermath:  Angel Group Acceptance

The concept pioneered by the Breakfast Club, a group comprised of individuals who work together identifying and evaluating seed stage investments but  investing as individuals, has grown continuously and become one of the major reasons the US continues to be among the world’s leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation. As of today, summer 2017, there exists a national Angel Capital Association representing 260 angel groups and accredited platforms.  These groups consist of over 13,000 members holding over 91,000 entrepreneurial companies in their investment portfolios. 

Today, the oldest active Angel Groups in New England are the Walnut Venture Associates,  eCoast Angels, Hub Angels, and Launchpad Venture Group, all founded in 2000, twenty-five years after the Breakfast Club.

Selected Tributes to George from Angels and Entrepreneurs

From Jean Hammond:

Gentleman George

George …he made you feel welcome, he translated for Mort (when needed), he told people how smart Mort was.  But after you got to know him you realized he was sharp as a tack, he made the process work.   I spent the most time with him at a stage when the breakfast club was getting down to about 5 or 6 folks showing up and sometimes fewer.  I managed to make a few meetings, to decipher a few “group faxes” and to co-invest with some fun, smart, and dedicated-to-helping-the-entrepreneur investors.

George, I remember him as being the man with the records and regret failing to get him up-to-date info on that one more deal that we we are in together.  He was the guy that made sure we all finished the process.  And I can likely repeat verbatim his rational for converts with warrants instead of discounts, and the time the Breakfast Club members exercised warrants to force a minority shareholder rights issue.  I heard a bit about Numerical Control but I never even heard of Entrepreneur of the Year award or Scouting.

George was always the gentleman.  

1 comment:

Sam Pandey said...

Essentially, angel investors are the opposite of venture capitalists. Angel investors are also called informal investors, angel funders, private investors, seed investors or business angels.

Angels Investors