VCs, Vino and Volunteerism

Uncategorized Posted Feb 7, 2012 by Chris Carleton

Have been remiss in banging out this post.

The combo of being in mourning from the Pats Superbowl loss and a crazy schedule tempts me to punt on it – but the Greater Good and giving props where props are due overrules…

The tech-focused financial community and related ecosystem have thrown a couple of great bashes recently.  Both events got folks out and about after the January doldrums.

They also reminded us that mixing business with pleasure – especially when that involves raising visibility and money for some incredibly innovative and important non-profits – is always a great idea.

And when I get to catch them with fellow CHENer Kev Kosh, it’s even better.

First up, on January 19, was the Sixth Annual New England Venture Charity Wine Party at Cyclorama to benefit TUGG.  The acronym stands for Technology Underwriting Great Good.  To borrow from the web site, since they say it better than I could: “TUGG is dedicated to catalyzing and spreading social entrepreneurship in New England. By harnessing the power of the region’s technology ecosystem to source, screen and fund social innovation, TUGG helps young people to realize their full potential through entrepreneurship, education and life experiences. TUGG empowers both the individual and the community to identify important issues and collaborate to solve them.”

So more than 300 of us subjected ourselves to the grueling task of sipping some great wines, cruising a range of silent auction items (heavily weighted to wines, as you’d expect) and catching up with investors, entrepreneurs, reporters, PR folks, search firms, legal firms and other friends and acquaintances.

Importantly, we tablehopped around the Cyclorama to learn more about multiple volunteer organizations (couldn’t put my fingers on the list of those groups and didn’t see listed on the TUGG Wine Soiree Event Invite) ranging from one that capitalizes on tech to provide music lessons to kids who otherwise wouldn’t get that access to another  group called Every Picture Tells a Story, or EPHAS.

Founded by G. Ryan Ansin, he started EPHAS in 2010 following seven years traveling the globe making promotional videos for non-profits. His idea was both powerful and simple (the best ones always are!):  teach locals around the globe to take photos for and of themselves and their images will rival – if not surpass – whatever professionals from the ‘outside looking in’ would capture.

Next, load those images up to a site where they can be purchased.

Then, put the money back into the program to teach more people how to participate – enabling them to enjoy the financial and skills benefits that come along with it.

Kev and I were so impressed with Ryan and EPHAS – not to mention his unbridled passion for the mission and ability to go ridiculously long stretches without sleeping – that we made plans to continue our discussions with him after the TUGG event.

That leads us to the second event, Dan Primack/Fortune The Term Sheet’s Liquidity party (my vote for first prize for cleverly-named events!)

Since we were meeting up with Ryan that eve anyhow, we invited him to join us there.  Kev and I figured not only could we learn more about his group and answer some of his questions about how best to strategize and implement certain media relations activities…Ryan would also have the chance to talk to 500 new friends about EPHAS and how they might be able to get involved. It proved a success on all fronts, with our friend, Kyle Alspach/Boston Business Journal including a much-appreciated mention of Ryan and EPHAS in the most recent edition: Nine Companies I Talked to This Week.

The Liquidity party was a big hit last year. There seemed to be twice the crowd at Ned Devine’s this time ‘round. Somewhere in the ballpark of 500 folks – from the same circles as those attending the TUGG bash and many of the exact same folks catching both – spent a few hours sipping, schmoozing and sending more than $5000 to the  Greater Boston Food Bank.  You can check out pics from the night here.