Philip H. Beauregard invests in people, ‘true believers’
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Philip H. Beauregard invests in people, ‘true believers’

There are people out there trying to change the world.

And as a venture capitalist, Philip H. Beauregard wants to help them.

The industry of venture capitalism can be intensely competitive and the rewards can be enormous. As a partner with Impellent Ventures, Beauregard, a 42-year-old New Bedford native, is convincing investors to trust him by financially fostering early-stage technology companies with the aim of significant future returns. In some cases, these returns can take as long as a decade. On rare occasions they can happen almost overnight. But according to Beauregard, the success of a start-up company goes beyond money — it requires the proverbial “blood, sweat and tears” with no guarantee of reward, which makes it a risk-laden endeavor. In other words, it can be an expensive gamble.

Before they were household names, Google, Facebook and Microsoft were relatively unknown start-up companies in need of support from people who believed in them and their product. Today’s venture capitalists are in search of the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg — any eager young minds whose creations could have a profound global impact, which would result in a profound economic impact for those who invested in them.

As a businessman, Beauregard wants to make as much money as possible. But as someone who has earned his stripes in the financial trenches and is also a father, son, and husband, he says he finds added value in helping people in ways that come with making a profit. He invests in products, but he also invests in people. He is using his experiences and insights in the realms of business and technology to assist those who can benefit from his knowledge, connections, and vision. Beauregard doesn’t like seeing people make the same mistakes that he has, and he says his clients can benefit because of that.

Beauregard knows the virtues of investors because he has seen the benefits first hand. The two companies he founded — Objective Logistics and Rekindle — were both backed by the high-profile Google Ventures, which at the time was led by Android co-founder Rich Miner.

A good year for Beauregard’s coffers and his mental health was 2015. At the age of 34, he sold Objective Logistics to Carbon Black, a cyber security company, and soon sold Rekindle to HubSpot. The influx of resources allowed him to temporarily enjoy the fruits of his labor, but “yearning to be creative” and “ever unsatisfied,” in 2017 he started yet another business, this time with his older brother Pierre, launching Brothers Artisanal, a New Bedford-based company that sold one of their edible passions — meat jerky. The company aimed to create “the best meat jerky in the world.” Today the company is still in business, selling exclusively wholesale.

Not soon after, in September 2018, Beauregard began the first of three consecutive jobs as an executive — first with the Boston-based software company Robin, followed by a Boston agricultural technology company, Freight Farms, and then with the Washington, D.C., company, ICX Media.

And in 2021, when he approached longtime friend David Brown to get advice on starting his own firm, Brown invited Beauregard to become a partner with him at Impellent. And so in the winter of 2021, Beauregard took the step into the world of venture capitalism, joining the Rochester, New York-based company. Today Impellent has a national reach with hubs in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Brown describes Beauregard as “highly motivated” and a “hard charger.”

“Phil has cut his teeth as an entrepreneur several times over and is deeply committed to helping others through that journey. He is always finding ways to help entrepreneurs hit shortcuts and avoid the tough learnings he’s had over the years. I have always admired his community-first focus, yet his tenacity in growing businesses.”

In 2022, Impellent had an unforeseen fortuitous development come their way when they were joined by a third partner — famed hip hop MC, Tariq Trotter, also known as Black Thought of the music group The Roots. The band is popularly recognized as the house band on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Trotter’s perspective, insights and connections, combined with his interest in the financial world, provides investment opportunities that Impellent could not have had by itself. What Trotter lacked in professional business training he made up for with desire and a passion to learn and grow. Beauregard has been happy to play a role in his partner’s development.

“Phil is very disciplined and driven, he’s a leader and a team player,” Trotter says. “He’s a family man in a way that I admire and his comedic timing doesn’t suck. Over the years I’ve come to think of him as a brother.”

Beauregard grew up in the West End of New Bedford and graduated from New Bedford High School before attending the University of Pennsylvania to study business at the Wharton School.

Today, Beauregard lives in Clarksburg, Maryland, outside of Rockville, Maryland, near Washington D.C. His wife, Zilla, is a gastroenterologist and the couple has two children — a daughter Azra, 4, and a son Zayn, 3.

Beauregard talked with The Light about experiences he’s had in his business tenure, why he decided to get into the risky world of venture capitalism, as well as what it’s like to be an Ivy League graduate working alongside a famous hip hop musician.

New Bedford Light: What does Impellent do?

Phil Beauregard: What we do as VCs is actually quite simple: we use not-our-money to invest in not-our-ideas. We are entrusted by some of the most wonderful, smart, and amazing people in the world to invest their money into very, very early-stage companies. Think two founders in a garage, hacking away at a Mars colony or a cure for cancer. Our whole purpose is to go out and find the absolute best people with the best ideas and try to help them grow their companies to the point that they are listed on the NASDAQ or NYSE. Google and SpaceX and Amazon all started small. And so we hope to be the people that find those upstarts and play a small part in their story on behalf of our limited partners. 

NBL: Why do you think you’ve been successful and what have you learned about being a venture capitalist?

PB: I think it would be pretty early to say if I’ve been successful. The reason is that venture capitalism notoriously is one tough industry to break into. There are a few thousand VC’s in the United States. But in addition to that it’s got very long feedback loops — the typical early stage fund is a 10-year investment view and a very low liquidity view. So these companies that you invest in, they are not publicly traded, so it usually takes anywhere between eight to 12 years for a company to go from womb to tomb. What I mean by that is for a company to start to the point where a company is large enough where you can have a substantial exit, whether by means of merger and acquisition transaction where another company buys it, or it goes public on an exchange. So what does that mean for me? That means that I don’t know whether I’m a good investor until my portfolio has 10 years to ripen on the vine. Our investors have a lot of faith in us and a lot of loyalty and all that other fun stuff that needs to go into betting on the next generation of massive, trillion-dollar companies.

NBL: So what attracted you to venture capitalism?

PB: I think that old habits die hard. I’ve always been pretty entrepreneurial. I’ve always loved that stage that Peter Thiel dubbed as “zero to one,” when a business is first incepted to the point where it really starts to kind of take off and users start really loving what that company is creating, whether it be a game like “World of Warcraft,” or an app, Instagram, or to a certain extent Tik Tok. Or an enterprise software suite like Microsoft Office or MS Windows or anything else along those lines. Or Zoom. So I’ve really, really loved that early stage where companies are kind of fighting for their lives, not over-resourced, and people are doing extraordinary things. And for me to be able to be a part of that in so many different ways and with so many companies and creating the future is wildly exciting and extremely fulfilling, especially if I can help them not die or stop them from making the billion mistakes I made as a young entrepreneur.

NBL: What attracts you to a company? How does someone get on your radar? What are you looking for?

PB: This is going to sound very strange, and perhaps even a little arrogant, but it’s true and I’ll explain it. The mere fact that someone is able to get in front of us, because we see so many deals, because we see so many emails, because we see so many wonderful human beings that are shooting their shot and trying to pitch us their idea … We have to say “no” to 99% of those concepts, and those ideas, and those emails, and those outreaches. They can come in multiple different forms — they can come via cold email, they can come by a LinkedIn message, they can come by a DM, they can come via law firms.

So I think one thing that every venture capitalist has … [is] massive networks in the business, technology and innovations world, so you constantly have inquiries coming in, pitching you concepts and ideas — people that want money and help and connections to those other people. And at the end of the day I really just think that the sheer vetting of that and the amount of stuff that we see, by the time that someone gets on a Zoom call with us, they’ve done a hell of a lot to get there and that in and of itself shows some dogged intestinal fortitude.

There are relatively traditional ways. We ask for a warm intro — if you don’t know one of us, try to find someone who does who can introduce us. Don’t get me wrong though, we’ve taken and funded companies that were cold emails and cold intros that were people who just shot their shot and reached out and we noticed something interesting about it.

NBL: You use a lot of humor on your website and in your materials. Why is this and does it help to attract a certain kind of founder or entrepreneur?

PB: First of all, my wife says I’m “unintentionally funny.” Usually she means it as an insult, so maybe that’s a little part of it. I think that part of our brand, what makes Impellent different, I think we like to be kind of true to ourselves as is humanly possible, and show the world that we’re flawed — people that sometimes make terrible jokes, and sometimes fall on our face. Sometimes we’re wrong. When we were growing up we liked video games and we listened to hip hop. We embrace all that stuff. We don’t want to be seen as a group of people that is inaccessible.

With all that being said, David (Brown) and I are total dorks compared to our third general partner, who happens to be one of the greatest MC’s of all time, one of the fathers of modern hip hop. Tariq’s way cooler than all of us. I think our brand is a little bit edgy and we’re trying to access not just the students that are coming out of Stanford and Harvard and Carnegie Mellon. I think we’re trying to appeal to anybody that’s sitting in their parents’ basement or sitting in a lab, or in a garage somewhere, or a co-working space coming up with their next big thing, even though they went to community college, which doesn’t preclude their ability to create the next multi-billion dollar company and the next step forward for the human race.

NBL: Of all the companies you’ve invested in, which ones are the most exciting and interesting to you and why?

PB: That’s like asking me who my favorite kid is, so I’m simply not going to answer it. I don’t mean to cop out — we’re invested in companies that absolutely blow me away. We’re talking about companies that are revolutionizing dermatology. A lighting-fast grower that is taking on the brick and mortar world of out-of-home advertising and trying to bring it into the digital age. We have a company that is literally allowing the average human being to create augmented and virtual reality. It’s amazing what the power of computing is doing these days, what people are creating. 

We have companies that have created eyeglasses where you can shift the front so that it changes the style and function of the glass — in reality it’s just a magnet. You can wake up one day and say, “I want to wear a pair that looks like this or that.” They’re affordable and accessible. But even if it sounds mundane it isn’t. A lot of kids and adults alike struggle with self-esteem and to them looking the way they want makes them objectively happier. That company is our largest. It’s called Pair Eyewear and it’s growing like crazy. 

Who our favorite is an impossible question for a venture capitalist to answer because we currently have 46 portfolio companies that are running concerns of various sizes. So you can imagine how many dynamic people comprise those companies. We can’t pick just one.

The big thing is that they’re so much better than we are — they’re smarter, they’re faster, they’re younger, more dynamic, they’re more innovative. Each and every one of them. I feel like I’m surrounded by the X-Men. You never know which one of these folks is going to be the next Tesla, Musk, or Thomas Edison. It’s crazy.

NBL: What are some of the challenges of being in business that people don’t see?

PB: When you’re a “successful entrepreneur,” especially right after selling companies or having a liquidity event or having an exit, you don’t necessarily come out of it feeling in tip-top shape or the fruits of your labor, or some sort of great success. The way that you feel is that you’ve been in a washing machine and tumbled for the better part of a decade. And the reason is because entrepreneurship is hard. It’s not as glamorous as what you see in the overnight success stories, whether it be in the newspapers or online or the things that you hear. 

Every single success is a 10-year overnight sensation in the making and 9.9 of those years are typically your cliché of blood, sweat and tears. It really takes a toll and it takes its pound of flesh, especially when it’s your first time, because you’re not necessarily prepared no matter how much you know academically about the process. You’re not specifically prepared for the onslaught that is running a company.

Now, all of that being said, I would never change anything and the wisdom and experience have served me well, being able to mentor and shepherd first-time entrepreneurs and portfolio company founders through the ups and downs of building large companies.

NBL: How have you seen the world of investing grow in your years as a venture capitalist?

JB: Venture capitalism has grown exponentially since I even entered. I’ve always tangentially been exposed to VC, but my first two companies were VC-backed so I entered that kind of ecosystem early in my adult life. So I got to see and learn alongside the greats of the industry as the industry was getting larger and more people were focused on technology entrepreneurship and funding these technology enterprises and it became a little more mainstream. 

The average human knew what it was, but it’s exploded recently — it’s gone from like a thousand firms to well over six thousand in a matter of five years. It’s really cool actually. In every way, shape and form it’s competition.

First thing first — competition is awesome. I’ve always been a competitive person. I think it only serves to make you better at what you do, and in addition to that it fosters a system of collaboration that will push the economy of the United States forward. There’s so much going on there. It’s affecting all walks of life whether you know it or not. I think that venture capitalists are probably just another mechanism to get money from one place, or resources from one place, to the place that it should be, which is in the hands of the entrepreneurs. In the hands of the people who are truly great.

NBL: What cuts you out to be a venture capitalist?

PB: I’m not kidding when I say this, it’s not false humility. I don’t know if I’m good at it. The reason I say that is because it’s very easy to suffer from imposter syndrome when you’re not getting feedback on a regular basis.

When you become a general partner in a VC business and you’re one of the people running the firm — I haven’t had a boss since I was 26 years old … So what that means is that I haven’t been told by somebody that I actually value that I’m an a-hole for a very long time, outside of my family members and my partners at the firm. They’ll say, they’re working alongside me, “I think you could have done this a little differently.” You take that because you respect that person. Of course I’ve had mentors, but I’m not sure how good I am. But I know one thing — I’m going to be freaking great. And the reason is because failure is not an option for me. I take my licks and I’ve had outcomes that aren’t that great compared to other outcomes, but I’m always climbing and that’s something that I want to keep doing. 

Now, I think that my portfolio company entrepreneurs and people that are deciding between us and another VC firm, they’ll choose us because we have a lot of friends that are very cool that we can connect them with, that run some of the largest companies up and down the East Coast of the United States of America. But in addition to that, just three years ago I was in the trenches with these folks. I wear the scars of battle and they’re still fresh. So I know what people are going through and I know where a lot of the hidden traps are and I can see around corners that they can’t because I’ve lived it.

NBL: What do you hope to accomplish with the rest of your career? What’s on your horizon?

PB: I hope that I can secure the futures of as many wonderful people and families from a financial standpoint and happiness standpoint as is humanly possible. And what I mean by that is that I hope that me acting as a conduit, an invited guest — somebody that maybe can carry the load or act as a little form of a servant to these entrepreneurs, will allow them to create as many jobs and so much happiness and satisfaction in their companies and in their workplace amongst them and all of their employees. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions. I hope that I can have a little of an effect on that so that people can go home like I can to my amazing kids, amazing wife, and sit out on a deck and say, “Life is good.”

NBL: You have two kids – how do you manage to balance work and life?

PB: I do not. My wife does. I’m not kidding when I say this — my wife is a saint. She is busier than I am, she’s a gastroenterologist that has real lives in her hands and she comes home for her second shift. I’m on the road meeting with investors or entrepreneurs, networking so that we can keep our deal flow going. She comes home for her second shift with our two toddlers who are not easy. My wife is a freaking hero.

The way I reconcile it, I’m helping to create their futures, hopefully, and in addition to that I hope that the time I do spend at home, which I try to do every moment that I can, I’m not always absent and that’s the blessing of being at the level of seniority that I am. I’m also able to be as actively engaged when I am home as is humanly possible and make sure that I’m not distracted and I practice very, very hard and staying the hell off of my cell phone when I’m around my family. I’m not always successful but that’s one indicator that I try to stay true to.

NBL: What attracted you to this field of investing? Why did you take this professional risk? Are you a risk taker by nature?

PB: Investing was really the perfect vehicle for me to help usher companies into the next phase of innovation at this point in my career. I’ve been in the trenches. I have a robust network of folks who are a whole lot cooler than I am — and I feel like I can impart both a bit of hard-fought wisdom and capital connectivity to the next generation of folks who want to change the world.

I wouldn’t say I’ve taken a major risk — the founders in my portfolio take the risk. I’m just the invited guest who plays it safe by being on the sidelines. Investors are not the heroes. The entrepreneurs are. In fact, it’s probably the least risky thing I could be doing at this point. My chips are not all in one basket. I’ve got a portfolio of world beaters.

As far as being risk loving in general, from a career and vocation standpoint, I’d certainly say I fall a standard deviation away from the mean. I like moon shots, and can accept a crater in the earth in case of failure. I actually view failure to be a badge of honor in most cases. The man in the arena and such.

NBL: Why do you get up every day and go to work? What do you like about this job and what are the biggest challenges?

Philip Beauregard with his wife Zilla and their two children, Azra, left, and Zayn. Credit: Contributed

PB: I get up and go to work every day in service of my family, and then the founders I get to work with — all of whom I need more than they need me. I am energized by them.

I love just about everything I do. I’d say my only complaint is the amount of travel away from my family that I have to engage in — it can be really hard on my wife and young kids. That sucks. I’m always trying to minimize that portion of my job. It’s a necessary evil in our line of profession.

NBL: What does Tariq bring to Impellent?

PB: Tariq brings absolutely, for lack of a better term, extremely diverse perspective to our investing philosophy. He brings an unmitigated stream of deal flow that we never would have gotten because who cares about sending certain ideas and engaging VCs like us if you don’t really kind of associate and/or kind of empathize with us. Me and David are two middle-aged white guys. No matter what we want to think about ourselves, none of that matters. And so Tariq has an unbelievable compendium of knowledge, expertise and everything he’s been through — what he represents to his people. Bringing that to Impellent and allowing us the opportunity to tap into not only his celebrity network but also his people. And what I mean by that isn’t specifically urban populations, just a whole different swath of Americans is otherworldly to us.

On the investing front though, Tariq invests in companies on our behalf. He sits on boards. He will tell you that he’s learning. That’s what he represents to us.

NBL: What does it say about the industry of venture capitalism when an Ivy League guy joins talents with a hip hop musician from Philadelphia?

PB: I believe that VC is changing and we’re seeing a realization of the craft — meaning it’s becoming more esoteric and accessible to the masses. Sure, we have a long way to go from a diversity perspective, but Impellent is an example of an island of very different misfit toys coming together to ply their craft. It’s quite inspiring. I mean, shit, I get to work with one of my best friends and one of the greatest MCs/artists of all time. How cool is that? Both of my partners are like family to me these days.

NBL: What are the perks of having a partner and a friend who is a hip hop star?

PB: Tariq is first and foremost exactly what you said — he’s a friend. I consider him to be one of my best friends at this point and he, like any other friend, is always available when I need somebody to laugh with or a shoulder to cry on. It just so happens that the shoulder I’m crying on happens to be one of the best MCs of all time and one of the fathers of modern hip hop in the United States of America.

That, in particular, becomes lost on me occasionally, given that I’m blessed with the opportunity to hang around him and work alongside him. But when I do take a step back for a 10,000-foot view, I really can take in how intelligent, impressive, and otherworldly this human being is at his craft, and how thoughtful and kind he is in his professional life, and just being around him is a perk in and of itself.

Now all of that being said, occasionally it does offer us the ability to hang out with some other celebrities who are equally as impressive in their own fields, and we do, here and there, get to get some tickets to some really, really cool shows and hang out with some really cool people, and that’s nice.

For Impellent, Tariq really opens up an entire world for all of our entrepreneurs that none of us could have opened up previously before he was with the firm.

NBL: How do you use your skills and experiences to convince people to invest in companies you think are worthy? How do you find your investors?

PB: Finding investors is an exercise in searching for true believers at the outset. Those who take a chance on you and know that they may lose a battle but can still win the war. It’s no small thing to take someone’s money — including ours. We hold that exchange as sacred in a way, and the ultimate sign of belief and respect. Hopefully in the end, everyone wins. There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done, however. So we’ll see how this all goes.

NBL: When you invest in a company it goes beyond making a profit. Does this approach set you apart from most other firms?

PB: I believe that VCs who were once operators themselves tend to have a bit more empathy and can understand the ups and downs of building a movement, a company. That enables an investor to help a founder through the good times and the bad. You have to care about your investments and their leaders. Of course. It’s impossible not to. In the end it’s all a bunch of humans behind these machines.

NBL: How did you get introduced to David and Impellent?

PB: I met David in the Boston tech ecosystem when we were both just getting started building companies and communities. We worked together on some stuff, and invested pittances alongside each other. We became friends and held mutual respect. Perhaps most importantly, we shared values. Family, honor, diligence, integrity, perseverance. When the time came and the stars aligned we jumped at the opportunity to work with each other. Same with Tariq.

NBL: When you were growing up in the greater New Bedford area, were there jobs or experiences you had that helped shape your interest in business? Why did you go into business?

PB: I’d say working at Freestones City Grill and watching the Seguins toil at running a successful restaurant was fun, hard work, and eye-opening. My father (Philip N. Beauregard) built his own law firm alongside his partners. In a way, I was surrounded by entrepreneurship. Everyone is. You really don’t have to look far to see ambition in your everyday life.

NBL: You visit the northeast on a regular basis, Westport and Rhode Island. Since you’ve been away from this area what do you enjoy about this region?

PB: I’m smiling as you ask that question because I’m able to picture it. The salt water runs in my veins. I grew up in the West End of New Bedford. I spent my summers on Horseneck Beach tooling around with my buddies in between the sand dunes and sneaking out to camp fires. Nowadays I’m able to enjoy the fruits of some labor and get to the Back Eddy restaurant, but it’s still the same form of ice cream at Dairy Chef, and scallops straight from the New Bedford port, and just the beauty of cobblestone streets and art that turns into the sunset in Westport. I don’t think there’s much more to ask for than that.

Editor’s note: This story was amended, June 3, 2024, to correct a comment from Philip H. Beauregard. He said: “I think that venture capitalists are probably just another mechanism to get money from one place, or resources from one place, to the place that it should be, which is in the hands of the entrepreneurs (not the investors).

Sean McCarthy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The New Bedford Light.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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