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Davoli obtained a history degree from Ricker College and held a variety of early jobs, including as a substitute teacher in Boston’s public schools. As he considered his career options, Davoli began to study computer software by taking courses at Northeastern University.
In 1981 he started working for Stone and Webster, and in 1986 he founded a database consulting firm, D & N Systems, with a partner, Dave Newsom. In January 1990, in Davoli’s first successful high-tech exit, D & N Systems was acquired by Sybase a few months before that company went public. D & N Systems changed its name to SQL Solutions, and Davoli stayed on to run it as a separate operating subsidiary.
In 1992, Davoli was recruited to become CEO of Epoch Systems, a Sigma Partners portfolio company with a hierarchical storage management product. In 1993 Davoli sold Epoch Systems to EMC Corporation for $140 million. This solidified Davoli’s reputation as a successful entrepreneur and CEO. Davoli left Epoch / EMC about a year after the acquisition, and started doing angel investing and advising local startups.
At about this time, Charles Ferguson had founded Vermeer Technologies which was in the process of creating FrontPage, new and innovative software for creating web pages. Ferguson was seeking out the best advisors he could find in the area, and was recommended to Davoli, who joined the Vermeer board as an independent director. Vermeer was purchased by Microsoft in January 1996 for $130m.
Between the fact that Epoch Systems had been a Sigma company, and that Wade Woodson of Sigma had been the lead investor in the first round of investment in Vermeer, Davoli was now well known at the VC firm. He was recruited to join the Sigma team in 1995, on a track to become a full partner in the firm.
Once on board at Sigma Partners, Davoli started funding some of the most successful technology companies to emerge in the Boston area in the mid to late 1990s. Many of these were founded by entrepreneurs who had emerged from the two companies of which he had been CEO: D & N Systems / SQL Solutions and from Epoch Systems. Since D & N Systems / SQL Solutions was an early strong player in the relational database field, and Epoch Systems was in a similar position in hierarchical storage management, they were both natural breeding grounds from which strong startups would emerge.
Incidentally, one of Davoli’s greatest investment successes, Vignette Corporation, was founded by two ex-Epoch Systems employees, Ross Garber and Neil Webber, but had nothing to do with computer storage. Garber and Webber sought out Davoli to provide seed investment funds to start their company, but did not even really know what they were going to do. With Davoli’s blessing, and some of Sigma’s money, Vignette got started and developed into a fabulously successful investment in the new field of content management software.
Davoli has invested in many other successful companies across the USA, including Internet Security Systems, m-Qube, StorageNetworks, Octane Software, TRADEX and new investments Rave Wireless and Recycle Bank. He has been listed several times on Forbes Magazine's exclusive "Midas" list and is seen as one of the top early-stage IT venture capitalists in the country.
Davoli’s investing style is to back smart entrepreneurs with a great deal of energy and capability, and good knowledge about the arena in which they are starting their business. Unlike some other investors, Davoli is very comfortable investing in services businesses, such as Virtusa, Glasshouse Technologies and m-Qube.
Outside his investing activities, Davoli has many other interests. He is an oenophile, and has taken this as far as completing a diploma program in Wine Studies at Boston University. Davoli is on the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts and is an eclectic collector of modern art. He is an active philanthropist and political donor, supporting many charitable as well as Democratic and liberal causes. Finally, Davoli is a musician who studies and plays country blues, country and jazz guitar, and takes great pride in his growing collection of guitars.
- Davoli's biography on the Sigma Partners website
- Legendary Hub venture investor, musician works on his next hit. Column in Boston Globe July 18, 2010 by Scott Kirsner (see also, Kirsner blog post on this article)
- Business Week cover story on Davoli from July 2000