Angel investors play a crucial role in any startup ecosystem, by making bets on companies at their earliest stages—to help them develop prototypes, get through beta phases, and attract early customers and the next level of investors. It seems every time a Boston-area company announces it has landed some seed funding, a mysterious crop of angel investors is behind it. So we wanted to take a closer look at some of these key players around town—where their careers have taken them, what sectors they’re keeping an eye on, and how they go about deciding when to write those checks.

We present to you: the top angel investors from around Boston and New England.

Our method for determining which angels made the cut was more holistic than scientific. We started with existing sources, like techie Jon Pierce’s blog post on top Boston angels from a few years back. His readers suggested plenty of additions in the comments, so we took a deeper look at those and also tapped our contacts in the Boston innovation arena (and beyond) to get their take on who the current movers and shakers are. In the end, our criteria consisted of a mix of recommendations from the community and a vigorous track record of recent investing activity. Some of these angels invest primarily or exclusively through an angel fund, and we tried to note where that was the case.

One clarification: we focused on those who invest personally, so we excluded the managing directors of funds such as CommonAngels, LaunchCapital, Founder Collective, NextView Ventures, and Redstar.

The result is a group of 34 experienced investors, academics, serial entrepreneurs, and others who come from professions like finance and law. Collectively they’ve invested in many companies that have already gone through an exit—such as Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Zipcar, Blaze Software, and Copiun—as well as other more recent startups that are just heating up, like Yesware, DocTrackr, ParElastic, and Retroficiency. The fields of technology, life sciences, and cleantech are represented here, but there are also some more off-the-beaten-path plays, like a winery, a craft brewery, a tea company, and a high-tech apparel maker.

Our list is far from comprehensive. There are some angels who are well-known to the startup community, but for whom we couldn’t gather enough detail to include in our first pass. So we’re also relying on you, the reader, as a resource here. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the individual investors you’ve come across that we might have missed. We’ll update the story and add in your suggestions as appropriate.

In the meantime, the angels here kindly agreed to share insights into their investment philosophy and the kinds of entrepreneurs and companies they are looking to back. So take a look at this not-so-motley crew, and let us know what you think.

Robert Buderi and Greg Huang contributed reporting to this story.

Erin Kutz is an Associate Editor for Xconomy. You can reach her by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at (617) 252-0700.