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Veterans of Where, mobile startup acquired by PayPal, starting angel fund

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 23, 2013 09:37 AM

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There's a new band of angels in town.

Veterans of the mobile marketing startup Where — acquired by PayPal for about $135 million two years ago — are getting together to make investments in startups via the new Where Angel Fund. It'll be up and running next month, with a goal of making 10 or 12 early investments over the next 12 to 18 months, says David Chang, Where's former VP of product and now head of the Boston office of PayPal. The fund will make investments of $50,000 to $75,000, and focus on areas like mobile apps, adtech, consumer technologies, and digital media.

The fund will be operated using a new equity crowdfunding platform called Launch Angels, run by Shereen Shermak — who happens to be married to Chang. Shermak was previously the co-founder of BuysideFX, a foreign exchange trading startup.

"We’re all very passionate about early stage startups," says Chang, adding that some Where alums had talked about getting an angel investing group together right after the acquisition. "We have a little bit of liquidity — not a crazy amount — but we collectively know a lot of people in the early stage community." But Chang says nothing ever gelled "because of the legal issues and paperwork involved in putting together a fund. The idea kind of fizzled." Still, many of the old Where execs did their own angel investing as individuals.

But running the fund with the support of the Launch Angels platform, which just launched this fall, made much of the administrative complexity vanish. Among the Where veterans who will be part of the new fund, in addition to Chang: Craig Forman, Dan Gilmartin, Niall Hawkins, Doug Hurd, Arik Keller, Paul Barnhill, Jing-ta Chow, and Sarah Hodkinson. Some other members of the local tech scene are also joining in, including Nanigans CEO Ric Calvillo, Adam Towvim of TrustLayers, and Adam Medros and David Krauter of TripAdvisor. (Former Where CEO Walt Doyle isn't involved — but he just joined Highland Capital Partners as a venture partner.)

Shermak says that the members of the Where Angel Fund will consider a mix of startups hoping to raise money on an array of equity crowdfunding sites, as well as other investment opportunities identified by the individual members. "We'll take those deals and do due diligence," she says. "The companies chosen will be the best of the best."

Shermak says that Launch Angels is "actively raising" a second fund called the Early Traction Fund, focused on companies that already are generating revenue, and another fund to invest in women-led companies. She expects both of those funds to close in the first quarter of 2014, and begin making investments next year.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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