40 Under 40 The Class of 2014

Paul Silva

President, Click Workspace; Manager, River Valley Investors; Co-founder, Valley Venture Mentors, age 37

Paul-Silva-01It was a gift from his mother.

That might be motivation enough for Paul Silva to wear the bright yellow ‘rubber duckie’ tie that takes a small but increasingly significant role within his wardrobe. But he has other reasons — or at least one big one.

“Whenever my students are having a graduation ceremony or they’re presenting at a competition, I’ll wear this tie, and I usually have a rubber duckie with me, and I squeeze the duck,” he said. “It’s meant to relieve students’ stress; if the guy in front is wearing a rubber duck tie, how bad can it be?”

Silva has had to pull the tie from the closet more often in recent years, as his responsibilities, and business cards, within the broad realm of entrepreneurship and venture capital multiply. Currently, he is the president of the incubator and co-working space in Northampton known as Click Workspace. He calls it “an office without a boss.” He’s also manager of the River Valley Investors (RVI) angel-investor network and co-founder of the Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) entrepreneurship-mentoring program. He also advises the UMass Amherst Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Smith College Draper Business Plan Competition. Last fall, wearing his now-famous tie, he was emcee for the inaugural pitch contest at the Western Mass. Business Expo.

And while this father of two young girls carries a rubber duck with him to a host of events, Silva is quite serious about what he does, and he summons words and phrases from his college work in computational physics, such as ‘critical mass,’ to describe how the region has made strides to inspire entrepreneurship and then keep young business owners in Western Mass.

Summing things up with more humor, though, he said some have called him the “romantic comedy of entrepreneurship.”

“I’m at the colleges, I’m at the intro, where boy meets girl, someone has an idea and meets a business partner, and they start to explore it,” he explained. “They go to VVM to revamp their idea, and then they go to RVI, and if it all works out, they get investors, they get married. Then the hard work starts, and I’m not involved anymore.”

Until he reaches into the closet for the tie again.

— George O’Brien