Boston Harbor Angels Introduces MPR Product Development as its Next Generation Service Provider

September 10, 2015

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There’s a lot of discussion these days about the lifecycle of a product from the initial idea until it ends up in the hands of the user.  How will the user interact with the product and packaging; how will they feel about it? But what about what happens before that? What about the lifecycle of a company and the hurdles a startup needs to overcome in order to bring a product to the market?

In today’s market, nine out of ten startups fail, and every expert seems to have their own list of reasons why. The timing was wrong; the leadership was inexperienced; funding ran out; the company didn’t grow fast enough, etc. The list goes on and on.

What often goes unrecognized is that there are groups working together to create an ecosystem uniquely designed to help startup companies achieve their goal and reach the market.  Boston Harbor Angels (BHA) is a great example of such an organization. In partnership with technical experts such as MPR Associates, Nutter McLennan & Fish, and Bulfinch, they’ve created a collaborative ecosystem to assist entrepreneurs in every step of the process.  According to Eric Claude, VP of MPR Product Development, “We’ve seen too many great ideas not make it to the people who need them, and we’ve realized that it takes a village of support to help innovators be successful; that’s why we’re part of this ecosystem.”

MPR brings to the table 25 years of product development and commercialization success. “BHA is focused on building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Massachusetts and New England, and developing partnerships with best-of-breed service companies. MPR is an excellent complement to BHA and the companies we work with; MPR is now our preferred provider in product development for life-science companies,” notes Boris Batchvarov, Managing Director of BHA.

Founded in 2004 by Mic Williams and watchfully managed by Boris Batchvarov, BHA’s goal is to find companies who not only need financing but who would benefit from some expert advice. Applications to present are submitted online and the monthly screening meetings serve as a dry run and first competition of sorts. Nutter’s long history of working with emerging companies on Intellectual Property and corporate financing makes them an excellent fit for the group.  A dozen investors with varying backgrounds and specialties gather in the board room of Nutter, McLennan & Fish to observe and critique the eight companies that have been pre-approved. Each company selected to pitch is given the opportunity to attend coaching sessions prior to the screening and it’s often easy to tell which have taken advantage of the expertise offered. It’s a tough room, but a fair one with people whose main goal is to foster innovation and next generation of technologies. The four who excel during the screening are given the thumbs up for the following week’s member meeting at Babson College. There they have the opportunity to pitch to upwards of 70 accredited investors who are looking for the next big company to work with.  In the past 11 years BHA has made over seventy investments in companies in medical devices, IT, consumer products, business products, and specialty materials, Internet, and aviation.  The focus is on early-stage companies, typically seeking to raise $250K to $1.5M, funding a portion of the round and syndicating the deal with other angel groups or early-stage venture funds.

One company to have achieved tremendous success, with help from BHA, is Corbus Pharmaceuticals, a Massachusetts-based startup, who set out to improve the quality of life for those diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.  According to Boris, "BHA has an investment process and skilled professional management in place to help startups reach the next level. Corbus Pharmaceuticals, formerly JB Therapeutics, was part of our investment process, and BHA members are early investors in JB Therapeutics. Our deal lead, Jeff Arnold, helped the company syndicate the early stage investment round with local angel groups. The company successfully completed a $10.3 million private placement equity financing in June of 2014.”

Once financing is secured, MPR works to “de-risk” the commercialization process through rigorous planning and predictable execution.  The secret sauce is a world-class team of designers and engineers coupled with a mature development process that manages risk and optimizes time to market. A broader network of partners covers regulatory, reimbursement, and manufacturing support.

Boston Harbor Angels’ notable investments also featured a biotech insulin company Smart Cells, which was acquired by Merck for $500M, as well as data storage company Carbonite, which went public in 2011 at a $325M valuation. Boston Harbor Angels rounded out the top three as both their “hit rate” and exits were among the best of all angel groups.

Thanks to the dedication of each group, the symbiotic relationships in this ecosystem are a winning formula.  It’s sure to be replicated as innovation hubs across the country work to better support their entrepreneurial communities.  

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