5 Boston-area venture capitalists hunting for the next big idea

Scott Savitz
Scott Savitz


Game Changers

The entrepreneur isn’t the only one leading the quest to deliver the next big thing. The venture capitalist, a breed of investor with an affinity for high risk, is very often involved with innovative companies from the earliest days. These five Boston venture capitalists — who are either new to the local venture capital community or new in their positions — are some of the most notable ones seeking to help grow game-changing startups locally.

Scott Savitz

Firm: Data Point Capital, Boston

Position and background: Founder and managing partner; launched firm in mid-2012 after leaving Shoebuy, an online retailer he founded in 1999.

Specialty: Internet technology. He’s most interested in Internet startups with the potential to rapidly become large businesses. Investments include startups changing the way athletes find coaches (CoachUp of Boston) and the way e-commerce sites provide live help to customers (Vee24 of Cambridge). Data Point Capital also aims to put a new spin on the venture capital model, Savitz said, by having a dozen successful entrepreneurs as investors and collaborators in the firm’s work.

Sunil Dhaliwal

Firm: Amplify Partners, Cambridge

Position and background: Founder and managing partner; launched firm in early 2013 after leaving Battery Ventures.

Specialty: Business-to-business information technology. He’s going after companies looking to challenge the existing business-software giants such as Microsoft and IBM. Cloud computing and “big data” are starting to transform how businesses use technology, and the traditional players can’t keep up with startup innovation, according to Dhaliwal. That creates a massive opportunity for investors — at least for those able to dig into some technical complexity, he said. Investments include Cambridge’s Conjur, which aims to provide better security for the ballooning quantities of data being hosted in the cloud.

Kevin Bitterman

Firm: Polaris Partners, Waltham

Position and background: Partner; started with firm in 2004, promoted from principal in April.

Specialty: Biotechnology and health care technology. He’s chasing companies with scientific breakthroughs that produce treatments for multiple diseases. That’s in contrast to the prototypical biotech firm that produces individual products for single diseases. Examples include Editas Medicine of Cambridge, where Bitterman serves as interim chief executive. Editas, which was just named Hottest Startup in the health care category by the New England Venture Capital Association, has developed a way to potentially reengineer any gene in the human genome, a development that holds the promise of treating any disease with a genetic underpinning, Bitterman said.

Katie Bolin

Firm: Spark Capital, Boston

Position and background: Associate; joined firm in February, previously an analyst at Google.

Specialty: Consumer technology. Bolin wants applications and services that create new experiences or improve everyday life for consumers. Examples include the so-called quantified self, which involves tracking a consumer’s health and fitness data with apps such as Boston’s RunKeeper, for which Spark Capital is an investor. Bolin said she also has an eye out for new types of “magical or VIP experiences,” popularized by services such as Uber, which started out by providing a private driver summoned by a mobile app.

Walt Doyle

Firm: Highland Capital Partners

Position and background: Venture partner; joined in December; previously general manager of PayPal’s Boston unit, which formed out of Where Inc., a startup he had led since 2005.

Specialty: Consumer technology. Doyle is going after mobile applications that profess to change how consumers live their lives. Examples include Drizly, a Boston startup that allows users to order alcohol deliveries from local liquor stores in Boston, New York City, and Chicago. “These are services that are at your fingertips now that change the way you interact with the world around you,” said Doyle, who is chairman at Drizly.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
Follow Kyle on Twitter