Matt Lauzon, the Biddeford native on a mission to seek justice from the former Biddeford police officer he says sexually abused him when he was a teenager, has received an upswell of support from an unlikely group. Well … unlikely if you aren’t aware of Lauzon’s day job.

Matt Lauzon

Matt Lauzon

Rallying around Lauzon and his cause are members of Boston’s startup community, of which Lauzon is an active and well-known member since having launched two Boston-based startups since moving there more than a decade ago to attend Babson College. Last week at the New England Venture Capital Association annual award dinner, some of Lauzon’s colleagues in Boston kicked off a fundraising campaign to help sexual abuse victims in Maine. It’s already raised roughly $16,000.

“Matt is one of these high-profile guys, a younger guy 30 or 31” — he’s 30 — “but he’s had pretty good early success with his first company Gemvara, and more importantly he’s a very big advocate, I’ll say, for the community,” says Bob Hower, a managing partner in G20 Ventures, a VC firm in Boston that is an investor in Lauzon’s newest startup,  Dunwello. “He really has a big following here in Boston among both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.”

Lauzon founded his first company, online jewelry retailer Gemvara, in 2006 while still a student at Babson. He raised $51 million in venture capital before stepping down as CEO in 2012. He’s currently CEO of Dunwello, an online professional recommendation platform, which he founded in August 2013. Along the way he’s been named to Inc. Magazine’s 2011 “30 Under 30″ list and Business Week’s “Top Entrepreneurs Under the Age of 25″ and formed ties with many within Boston’s vibrant startup scene.

Lauzon claims he was 13 or 14 when he was sexually abused by Biddeford police officer Stephen Dodd. He kept that secret until late last year when he contacted police in Maine. Frustrated by the slow pace of the investigation, Lauzon took to social media in March to begin drawing attention to his allegations.

Hower met Lauzon a year and a half ago and has got to know him well. They have breakfast once every two weeks to chat about Dunwello. When Lauzon first spoke publicly about his allegations, Hower expected the elected officials in Biddeford would be quick to hold Dodd, who was suspended from the police department and investigated by the Attorney General’s Office after a similar abuse allegation by a different person in 2002, accountable. But he, too, has been frustrated by the speed of the investigation.

“The more this has kind of rolled on and the more background I got from Matt the more it feels there’s no one really advocating for Matt and what has turned out to be a whole host of victims in Biddeford,” Hower said.

So he decided to do something about it.

Hower created a website, standupfor.me, and started a fundraising campaign. He and a colleague, Michael Troiano, kicked off the fundraising campaign in front of 800 people last week at the New England Venture Capital Association annual award dinner. The campaign raised $14,000 in its first day as the word spread about Lauzon’s story and what he was fighting for.

Troiano published his and Hower’s remarks on Medium. Others have chimed in on social media.


People like Hower also activated their networks to spread the word beyond Boston. James Geshwiler, managing director of another Boston-based VC firm, CommonAngels Ventures, picked up the phone and called Betsy Peters, an entrepreneur and an active member of Maine’s startup scene. Betsy, in turn, spread the word through her channels.

The campaign and the traction it’s received can be looked at as a commentary on the power of personal networks, but to Peters it’s also an example of the nature of individuals who call themselves entrepreneurs.

“I think when people talk about entrepreneurs, they are people who believe that those who can, do, and those who can, should do, as well,” Peters says. “They inherently believe in their ability to make change. … I have the power to create something from scratch so how do I use my time, talent and treasure to make the world a better place?”

Hower acknowledges that the stereotype exists that entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are only out for themselves.

“Maybe that’s mostly true,” Hower says, “but we’re also interested in doing what’s right for the general community.”

The standupfor.me flow of funds has slowed since that first day (it was just shy of $16,000 on May 20), but Hower is confident it will reach its $25,000 goal.

There’s no firm plan for how to use the money, beyond the objective of supporting and advocating on behalf of sexual abuse victims in Maine. Hower says they’re in the process of forming a board of directors — all of whom will be from Maine — who will ultimately make the decision about how to disburse the money. Of course, it all depends on how much they raise.

“But at the very least we’ll try to connect people with resources for counseling and legal representation in order to come forward and advocate for themselves, because without victims coming forward not much changes,” Hower said. “We‘re not trying to recreate the wheel we just want the money to help the people who need help.”

Hower intends to stay involved, but in the end this is about Maine, he says.

“We helped to get it kicked off because Matt has lived here for the last few years and has a strong network here, but it will be an organization run by people from Maine.”