Who Knew? Xconomy Uncovers the Strange-But-True Details of Boston’s Innovation Leaders

Sure, they might be technological visionaries, multi-millionaire entrepreneurs, imposing CEOs, legendary venture capitalists, and the like. Everyone around them knows what they do professionally. But did you know one of them was also a Top Gun fighter pilot? Or that another accompanied Yo-Yo Ma on piano at the wedding of Bill Nye the Science Guy? And then there’s the wealthy investor who endowed not a classroom or a laboratory—but a men’s room.

Here at Xconomy, we’re all about telling the story of the Greater Boston innovation community—and let’s face it, we have a taste for the offbeat. So we’ve been hanging out at water coolers, listening in on the rumor mills, and pumping folks for information to get at those juicy details about the innovation elite that usually don’t show up on a company’s executive bio page.

So who endowed that men’s room? Read on to find out. And if you know something we don’t know about one of this area’s key tech players, by all means pass it along (self-disclosure welcome) by e-mailing us at editors@xconomy.com. We plan to share the information bounty at irregular intervals.

Here’s our inaugural installment:

David Aronoff, general partner of IDG Ventures Boston, was a ski jumper from age 5 through high school. He grew up in Lyndonville, VT, home of “Bag Balm,” a lubricant that helps cows avoid chapped teats.

Xconomist Bill Aulet, Entrepreneur in Residence at the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, played professional basketball for the Colchester (UK) Moels (it was the 1980-81 season, so anyone can take him now) and was player-coach for the second half of the season.

Many people know that Jonathan Bush, Jr., chairman and CEO of Athenahealth, is related to the President, but did you know just how cheeky he is about that fact? “The President is my cousin, and he lobbied hard for the role and succeeded in the end. We took him. Sometimes we think about putting him back,” says Bush.

John Chory, WilmerHale partner and chair of the firm’s Venture Group in Waltham, graduated as a distinguished cadet from West Point (top 5 percent of his class). He served five years as an active duty intelligence officer, including time in Korea’s DMZ, achieved the rank of major, and is Airborne qualified.

MIT grad and venture capitalist Brad Feld, managing director at Foundry Group and Mobius Venture Capital in Colorado, recently paid $25,000 to endow a men’s room at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Feld blogs that despite having bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT, that school rejected his offer to do the same. “No such challenge at CU Boulder,” he writes.

Polaris Venture Partners co-founder and managing director Jon Flint served on the Impeachment Inquiry Staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee (think Richard Nixon) and on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force. Bonus detail: While on the congressional Impeachment Inquiry staff, he worked alongside Larry Lucchino (now CEO of the Boston Red Sox), former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, and Hillary Clinton.

Mark Fusco, CEO of Burlington, MA-based AspenTech, was the first defenseman to win the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s best collegiate hockey player. (He played for Harvard.) His brother Scott took the same title three years later.

ThingMagic CEO and chairman Tom Grant is married to Massachusetts state legislator Mary Grant.

IDG Ventures general partner Michael Greeley, who grew up in Hong Kong, can swear in Cantonese.

Helen Greiner, co-founder and chairman of iRobot, takes up a different sport each year. The latest: kiteboarding.

Alain Hanover, who runs Navigator Ventures in Cambridge and is also the acting CEO of Food Quality Sensors International in Lexington, is co-owner (with his son, Daniel) of Columbia, winner of the 1958 America’s Cup, the first 12-meter boat to win the race, and the oldest surviving America’s Cup winner in the world.

Michael Hawley, formerly of the MIT Media Lab and a board member of Color Kinetics, won the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in 2002. He also accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma in performing the wedding march at the 2006 wedding of TV host Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Chip Hazard, of IDG Ventures (where, evidently, quirkiness is endemic), remains the only venture capitalist with his own action figure—so far as we know.

Diane Hessan, CEO of Watertown, MA-based Communispace, is co-founder of The Sound Bytes, an a cappella group that writes and performs songs about business at conferences.

Paul Maeder, general partner at Highland Capital Partners, holds a commercial pilot’s license and builds and flies ultralight aircraft.

Jim Matheson, a partner at Flagship Ventures, was a Navy Top Gun pilot. Call name: Fuzzy.

Polaris partner Bob Metcalfe was once interviewed by Courtney Love, who reportedly wanted to learn more about Metcalfe’s Law.

Jeff Taylor, Eons founder and CEO and Monster.com founder, worked 15 years as a DJ and once claimed to own 8,000 records.

Xconomy publisher and Riga Ventures founder Steve Woit has angled himself a fantastic antique fishing fly collection. His prize: a fly tied personally by Grover Cleveland.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and chairman. You can email him at bbuderi@xconomy.com. Follow @bbuderi

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