Erik Bullen

Erik Bullen


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Advisor, Investor, COO, Exec Coach, Board Member |
Founder and CEO | Strategy and Operations Exec

Delegate and be the coach – Erik Bullen

“Do you want to build this business because it’s about you or are you building this business because you want to solve this problem?”


Mission (Professional): Helping startups, venture/PE firms, and corporate innovators to drive growth, shape the future, and make stuff that matters. I do so by serving as a coach, advisor, consultant, interim executive, board member, or angel investor (or a combination thereof).

Mission (Life): To build a better world for my 7-year-old daughter. I do so through my professional work and by being the best dad and husband ever (aspiring – I’m trying!).

Things to know about me:

1/ The entrepreneurial bug bit me as employee #1 at a startup while going to university.

2/ I have a diverse set of experiences that shape my expertise and opinions including 1) roles as founder, executive, consultant, board member, and investor 2) functions in strategy, innovation, operations, sales, marketing, product, engineering, and customer success 3) working with organizations of all sizes and stages, from pre-seed startups to multi-billion dollar brands, and within a range of industries in the U.S., Europe, and Asia 4) and living at the intersection of tech, strategy, and design.

3/ I’m a strategist and operator. The role I enjoy the most and where I add most value is to partner with CEOs, GMs, and/or other senior execs to make them successful – and their life easier – by being a coach/mentor and by taking their vision and turning it into pragmatic strategy and executable operations. My specialties include building and scaling SaaS, e-commerce, and professional services companies; product strategy and development; sales, marketing, customer success and operations; culture and organization; innovation in theory and practice; fundraising; pitching; storytelling.

4/ Major causes where I give back my time, money and other resources: 1) cancer research/treatment 2) diversity, equity and inclusion in VC and tech 3) children’s education 4) entrepreneurship 5) the environment 6) fixing politics and 7) veterans.

5/ I’m an avid cyclist and fitness enthusiast.

6/ I’m working on my most important startup – my 7-year-old daughter – and aspire to be the world’s greatest dad and husband.

Getting in touch:

I’m very active in the startup and innovation communities and am always willing to help good people. However, if you’d like to connect, please give me context. It’ll help me to help you.

If you’re a founder, startup, venture firm, or enterprise that would like a consultation, let’s schedule an introductory meeting.

I also write and speak…with regular irregularity (see Publications section for sample speaking engagements). Contact me if you’d like me to contribute.



Erik Bullen

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the Supporters Fund Ask An Angel. I’m your host, Jeffery Potvin and today we want to welcome Erik Bullen. Thank you very much for joining us today Erik. i’m super excited to chat with you today because i’ve been watching lots of videos on you, lots of content. There’s a lot of great things out there and there’s a few things that I really want to dive into but the best way for us to start is if you can give us a little bit of a background on yourself, kind of where you’ve come from. and there is a long list of amazing startups, businesses all along the way, so I would love to learn more about that. and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Erik: Okay, sounds good. Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here, Jeffery. I’ve been in the startup and corporate innovation space my entire career. I was employed number one at a startup back in the early 90s. Those were back in the nineties when you could actually take components of PCs and sell them, the days of Dell and so on. and we went up against Dell, Apple, CompuServe and others. We sold it to colleges, university students, because everybody at that point needed computers, both typical desktops these days and then eventually laptops as well. so i was employee number one. I saw an ad for an associate essentially at my fraternity. Long story short, I took a 10-mile bike trip in the middle of, which was about 100-degree days, in Virginia. I went to William Mary to go for my interview with the founder, and wore the only seat I had. and i had a beaten-up bike and it went about 10 miles. Eventually, I had the interview and walked into Lee’s office who’s the co-founder and the first thing he said was, ‘hey.’ He looked like he needed a beer. so he goes to this full bridge, and his office is a typical startup founder office. it’s messy and it’s chaotic and so on. So I ended up joining the company. I really loved it. Italy Scruggs and I are still best friends to this day. He’s been my mentor for many years. we see each other usually non-covid years once a year, at least or twice a year, and we’ve been best friends since that time. so that really started me on the journey of really loving to build things and working for startups. For a number of reasons, I did eventually end up leaving the company and moving to the North Virginia, Washington DC area. For family reasons, I needed to move there. I worked for a while as a software engineer with Verizon. I really didn’t care about the corporate environment then. I ended up at a startup, in this case an agency startup, and then three months after joining, I went over to Amsterdam as the first employee to open up the Dutch office. I spent time there. and this is during the height of the internet agencies and eventually we ended up being acquired with 12 other companies with a PE supported company and went public as well. about a year later, I joined another startup in Amsterdam which was the US company based in Boston called Norvar, DNA of McKinsey Accenture, and then some startups as well to really focus on what’s kind of the precursor to design thinking to help companies to innovate. and whether it’s large companies or startups, it joined the company to grow the Dutch office and eventually the internet crash happened. and that’s how i ended up in Boston where i am today. so we went up to HQ and continued to build the company. Although we did close on the European side and then continued working with startups and corporate ventures as part of Norvar, which was eventually acquired by another company, we went through a second acquisition at that point. so fast forward through our career, subsequent to that, I’ve been a founder. I’ve been a board member, offending advisor for a number of different startups. and then also, a few years ago, was the CEO of a digital marketing staff startup. i exited that in august 2018 and then at that point for a number of reasons, including personal, my daughter at that point turned five. I said okay, I want to spend less time on the road. I was a consultant for a while as well. so i spent a lot of time going from Boston to scale and back and forth for about a year. So I also work for a company called Breitcov, which is an online video provider like global services there. So I was responsible globally for APAC in Europe and the US. so i was on the road a lot. and at that point in 2018, i said look, i want to spend more time with my daughter and my family. at the same time, spend more of a portfolio approach to things. Right now, I spend time early on three things. One is, I give back to the community. I mentor at TechStars Mass Challenge and several other accelerators as well. I’m also on the board of directors for an organization called Vent Capital. We provide venture capital training to minorities and women to find entry-level jobs into the VC world. I’m also on the board of advisors for an organization called the Capital Network which provides fundraising training for all founders but also specifically focused on female founders as well. and we have a program running right now. the second bucket of work that i do, i advise pre-seed stage complex directly and occasionally scale-ups as well, either as an advisor or focus on product operations and scaling and customer success. I, also on occasion, play fractional co. so i’m currently a fractional co for two companies. one is “Guidely” which is a marketplace for coaches, mentors and therapists. and also Bit Hoop which is a next-generation search language for b2b. and the third bucket is on the investing side which i think part of what we’re talking about today is i’m an LP. and two funds, Mendoza Ventures which invests in fintech ai and cyber security based here in Boston but has a national scope and also and has invested in companies in Canada both owned by minority and women as well and about right now, i think about 68 of the investments of Mendoza is into underrepresented founder – like companies as well. and then AI Capital which invests in applied AI on the angel side. I’m part of a number of groups. one is a launch of an adventure group which is based here in Boston, more of a traditional angel group with about 150 members, right now high net worth individuals, more of a traditional non-operator, I would say makeup doctors, lawyers, etc. other professionals, some former operators as well. and then TBD Angels which is fairly new, just founded last year in April and up to this point already has 220 members. we’re somewhat biased towards Boston because the founders are based in Boston including David Chang and some others who are serial founders. but we’re national in scope. We have a very diverse membership of about 38 women right now and we invest in a pretty broad range of sectors so we don’t limit ourselves. We think we can get better deals and interesting deals in terms of not limiting ourselves to some sectors or even geographies that some angel groups look at. so we’ll take a look at pretty much anything and as opposed to traditional angel groups which tend to have a cycle of, hey we’re looking to take a look at three or four companies a month. We have continuous deal flow as well. and we’re very technology enabled. so a lot of our communication is done, email, slack, etc. and all the pitches are video recorded. so members can look at them subsequent to that. and then another feature of the group is we only invest if we can at least invest fifty thousand dollars by all members and then we invest by spv, so it’s easier for the founders. Well, one line item on the cap table. since the founding have invested about 3.8 million so far, average about a hundred thousand dollars. i think the maximum deal so far has been about 550 into an ai company. so that’s hopefully somewhat of a background of what i’m doing these days.
Jeffery: amazing. and before we dive into that, one thing about you that nobody would know.
Erik: Yeah, I’ll give you two things. so my history. I’m half German, half American. I was