In October 2015, Pioneer Square Labs launched. We led the financing, and I joined the board to work more closely with Greg Gottesman, Geoff Entress, Mike Galgon, and Ben Gilbert to build a long-lasting and enduring startup studio in Seattle.
Today, Julie Sandler joined Pioneer Square Labs as the fourth managing director. Julie previously was a partner at Madrona Venture Group and is deeply involved in the Seattle startup community. She has also been a leading voice for women in technology as a founding member of the Seattle Entrepreneurial Women’s Network and Startup Weekend Women’s Edition.
Basically, Julie is awesome. And it makes me super excited to get a chance to work more closely with her at PSL.
Foundry Group has a deep connection to Seattle. In addition to currently being investors in Pioneer Square Labs, we are also investors in Boundless, Glowforge, Mighty Ai, Moz, and Rover. Over the years, Techstars has expanded their footprint, now running Techstars Seattle as well as the Alexa Accelerator (powered by Techstars). And, as many of you likely know, Techstars acquired UP Global several years ago, which was headquartered in Seattle.
As I’ve gotten to know Julie over the years, I can’t think of a better person to join the PSL team. The PSL entrepreneur-in-residence program has become an attractor for quality entrepreneurs in Seattle – both experienced and emerging ones. In some cases, entrepreneurs come to PSL to work on a specific idea the PSL team has developed, while others choose to iterate on a product of their own and launch something new with the PSL team.
This has happened in an incredibly short time. If you had told me 18 months ago that PSL would have already spun out six VC-backed companies already, along with building out the now 17 person PSL team, I wouldn’t have believed you and would have suggested a time frame about double that. But the PSL team has achieved that and, with the addition of Julie to the team, is moving even faster on its mission.
Julie – welcome!
Pioneer Square Labs (PSL) launched today. We led the round and I’m joining the board. PSL, based in Seattle, is a not a VC firm, accelerator, or incubator, but instead is a startup studio, which is a company that creates companies.
The co-founders are Greg Gottesman, Geoff Entress, Mike Galgon, and Ben Gilbert. Greg is a co-founder of Madrona and long-time VC. Geoff worked with Greg at Madrona for a decade and is one of the most prolific and successful angel investors in the Pacific Northwest. Mike was the co-founder of aQuantive which was acquired by Microsoft for $6.2 billion. Ben was a co-founder of Madrona Labs with Greg.
PSL was announced today at GeekWire’s conference and there’s an extremely comprehensive post explaining how it works at Top Seattle investors raise $12.5M for new ‘startup studio’ Pioneer Square Labs. Marcelo Calbucci, who is part of PSL, explains in his post Next Chapter: Pioneer Square Labs, why he joined and what’s unique about the approach.
At Foundry Group, we’ve experimented with lots of different things around company creation and early stage investment. In addition to our direct investing, we co-founded Techstars which has had a profound impact on company creation around the world. Techstars now owns Startup Weekend and Startup Week, which extend Techstars impact on and support of the Entrepreneurs Journey. We’ve made over 60 investments through FG Angels – our AngelList syndicate – and are one of the most prolific investors on that platform. We’ve invested in over 30 VC seed funds and emerging managers, supporting even more investors and founders at the early stages.
We have a lot of investments in Seattle. Currently active ones include Rover.com, Spare5, Moz, Glowforge, Cheezburger, and Impinj (via our Mobius funds). Previous investments include Gist (acquired by RIM) and BigDoor (which failed). Mattermark, which is based in San Francisco, just opened an office in Seattle. Techstars has a big presence there, including much of the team from Startup Weekend. And we have another new investment based in Seattle that should close mid-October.
We’ve known and worked with Greg Gottesman for over a decade. We consider him one of our closest friends and most trusted partners in the VC world. We’ve had ups and downs together, which is critical to building a real relationship in this business (if everything is good, it’s bullshit, and if everything is bad, it’s no fun.)
When Greg started talking to us about the idea for Pioneer Square Labs, we were immediately interested. Two of our Seattle investments – Rover.com and Spare5 – came out of the Labs effort that Greg created at Madrona. While Rover.com preceded Labs (and was actually a Startup Weekend project that Greg led the team for), it was the prototype for Labs so we understood the concept well. Both Rover.com and Spare5 are doing great and validated the premise of the Labs concept for us.
The last piece of the puzzle was how to fund something like this. I encouraged Greg to have an extensive syndicate of VCs and angels as the goal was to build an engaged, invested community around PSL. The result is a magnificent group of 13 VCs and over 50 angel investors.
When we saw the opportunity to invest even more in Seattle, working with three of the strongest leaders we know in the early stage market with an amazing collection of VCs and angel investors, jumping in with both feet was a no-brainer.