Category Archives: Uncategorized

Brendan Hannigan, Polaris Venture Partner

We couldn’t be more excited to share the news that we’ve added Brendan to the Polaris partnership team.

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Brendan’s a Polaris Repeat Entrepreneur – an exceptional cyber security executive and business partner with whom we’ve built a close relationship in working together to build two portfolio companies — and his addition to our team is a natural next step in our journey together.

As we announced today, in his role as Venture Partner, Brendan will focus on technology infrastructure companies – both funding and founding transformative security, cloud and SaaS companies. More pointedly, companies that have compelling cloud, data science and cognitive computing elements to them.

Brendan comes to us after a highly-successful tenure as General Manager of IBM Security, where he grew that division to be the largest enterprise security provider in the world, with $2B in annual revenue.

But before his big-company operating success, Brendan was an extraordinary entrepreneur and company builder. He served as President and CEO of Q1 Labs, a Polaris-backed security intelligence and analytics company which was acquired by IBM in 2011.  Under his leadership, QRadar, the company’s flagship platform, grew to be the #1 worldwide market share leader.

And before that, he was Vice President of Marketing and Technology at Sockeye Networks, another Polaris-backed company, acquired by Internap in 2003. Prior, he was head of Network Industry Research at Forrester Research.

We’ve had an incredible relationship with Brendan for over 15 years. He’s a great business partner with a deservedly-great reputation for his operating chops and his championing of innovation — both at small startups and global corporations.

He brings exceptional technology industry expertise and perspective to our Technology Investment team.

But as importantly, he — like the rest of our team, who’ve all been entrepreneurs, operators, or both – also brings deep understanding and empathy of the innovation and business-building journey. The journey that founders, management, employee teams and investor partners take together as a successful team.

Brendan’s addition is the latest example of a successful Polaris model in which we’ve recruited successful entrepreneurs, scientists & operators — outstanding individuals with whom we’ve enjoyed long-term relationships —  to identify, invest in and grow compelling companies.

Like Gary Swart, Pat Kinsel and Noel Ruane on our Technology investment team. And folks like  Amir Nashat, Paulina Hill, Alan Crane and Kevin Bitterman on our Healthcare investment team.

As a Venture Partner, Hannigan will spend his time investing in technology startups.  He’ll also seek opportunities, where appropriate, to add value as co-founder, executive chair, or CEO of those companies.

Brendan and Polaris have been together in the trenches as partners for many years. Walking the walk

We couldn’t be more stoked to continue our partnership at this new level.

Ready to team up with the brightest innovators to solve some of the most challenging opportunities in security, cloud and SaaS infrastructure.

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Pat Kinsel, Venture Partner

My Polaris Partners and I am are stoked to announce Pat Kinsel’s elevation from Entrepreneur–in-Residence to Venture Partner.

Pat’s been part of our Technology Team since joining us as Entrepreneur-in-Residence last year.  During that time, he’d been thinking through ideas for his next thing, while also actively involved in sourcing, vetting, and helping to lead prospective investments.

As importantly, he’s been expanding the network he brought to the firm — and building  new relationships with super-talented entrepreneurs.

Building the kind of close partnerships which are the keystone of how @polarisvc works.

As EIR, Pat’s passion for creating and developing technologies and ideas became increasingly-augmented by his active involvement in mentoring young entrepreneurs.  And by his interest in becoming an investor.  He’s made several personal investments and has been part of a number of our most recent projects and decisions.

His forward-looking focus as a Venture Partner will primarily be around SaaS, Data Analytics, Social, and emerging businesses focused at the intersection of consumer and business utility.   As I mentioned in TechCrunch today, he’s got serious chops around identifying and building disruptors to search and data mining technologies – and bringing them to market.

Pat joined us as EIR after Twitter acquired his Polaris-backed company, Spindle, last June. I worked closely with Pat as he co-founded Spindle along with Simon Yun and Alex Lambert, and got a great sense for his intellect, street smarts — and knack for really listening.

And for coaching from the perspective of somebody who’s been through many of the same challenges as the entrepreneurs he helps to guide and support.  For networking and collecting talent.

All integral skills to a successful early stage investor.

Most importantly to us, we saw how entrepreneurs in the Boston & Silicon Valley/SF communities responded to Pat.  How much they respected his input.  And how effective he was at getting them rallied around their ideas.

Since joining us, Pat’s been highly-involved in the Boston/Cambridge entrepreneurial community as a mentor and visiting practitioner at the Harvard innovation Lab and a mentor to Techstars Boston. He’s earned an incredible reputation with entrepreneurs in both Boston and Silicon Valley.

Prior to Spindle, Pat led teams at both Microsoft FUSE Labs and Microsoft Startup Labs, reporting into Ray Ozzie, then Microsoft’s Chief Technical Officer and Software Architect.  Pat was a co-inventor of several issued and pending patents in the areas of social search and collaboration.

We’re all looking forward to the contributions he’ll make to @polarisvc.

To identify transformative innovations and innovators.  And to help Polaris build more great partnerships.

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Just Be Straight Up

Recently, Mike Arrington had a great post about Brutal Honesty.

It got me thinking.

As in, being direct with folks in delivering good news and bad.  In conveying thought-through but sometimes painful opinion in the interest of, say, advising an entrepreneur.  Or contributing value around a start-up’s Board table.  Or a Partner Meeting table.

I’ve been accused of being nothing if not direct.  Besides genetics, my inclination has always been to deliver news and thoughts as directly as possible.  Mainly because that’s the way I best respond to data.  And it was the way I preferred to get input from advisors and Board members when I was on the other side of the table.

VCs tend to give a lot of indirect reasons for turning down an entrepreneur.  All of them, in the end, tend to turn the entrepreneur against the VC in question, and at times, against our trade itself.

Explanations like, “I can’t get my partners to get their heads around your opportunity”, “I support you but my partners are not there”,  “your opportunity is too early“ , or “you are doing a great job “ (when in fact that same Board member drones on about his many elements of management dissatisfaction in non-executive sessions).  Few are willing to give straight-up input.  Hard-to-deliver — but in the best interests of the common good.  It’s easy to be a cheerleader.  It takes effort to help.

Like the effort somebody should have exercised with Brian Wilson before he picked out this outfit for this year’s ESPYs.

Some VCs and other directors also tend to present good-intended advice.  But do so by talking about themselves and their experiences.  Again.  And again.

Though it might be well-intended, the message — if there is one — gets buried in the narcissism.   But better buried than dismissed, as when an (often inexperienced) investor or Board Observer without operating history gives an entrepreneur “straight talk” on what they are doing wrong or what is wrong with their business.  Without constructive examples, specific advice, first-hand perspective nor empathy. None of which is lost on management.

Bad news, good news, incomplete news, partially-digested news — all are best delivered straight-up.  And early. With specifics,  guidance & recommedations.

In the end, you’ve got to trust that being direct is both appreciated  & respected.  Certainly offered with the common good front of mind & purpose.

But straight-up feedback many times, though is a pretty unpopular concept.

Sometimes it just takes time for a message to be fully appreciated.


New Chapters

We’re really excited to today announce today three new homes.  Two for @dogpatchlabs, one for Polaris.

  • First, the new home for the San Francisco Dogpatch Lab.  We’re moving south to Silicon Valley.  Starting in November, @dogpatchlabs will be based in Palo Alto —  at 151 Lytton Street, off University Avenue.

Why Palo Alto, you ask?

Well, as much as we loved our time at Pier 38, for some time we’ve been thinking about how and where to further evolve the SF area Lab.  We picked the Pier as the home of @dogpatchlabs a couple of years ago in large part because of its location  —  right in the heart of a fast-growing neighborhood with great vibe for entrepreneurs & innovators.

That still is true for Mission, SOMA and the Pier area.  Ryan Spoon has done an incredible job over the couple of years in attracting, selecting and investing in some really special companies and teams.

But today, we feel also that PA — and specifically, University Ave. area — has now also quickly evolved into that kind of place.   The tech start-up vibe that has been building for the past couple of years across Consumer Internet, SaaS, infrastructure, mobile and other really interesting areas of tech innovation — as well as its standing as  a “home base” for Calif.  Life Sciences investment — is exceptional.

The breadth of tech activity developing every day in PA reflects the diversity in innovation that defines @dogpatchlabs in NYC and Cambridge.  The diverse areas in which Polaris actively works & invests.   Our vision and plan for @dogpatchlabs 2.0 in Silicon Valley  is to continue to attract & select great entrepreneurs and start-ups.  But also increasingly, from across these diverse areas.  Ryan and now also Gus Weber will lead the charge on the next chapters of @dogpatchlabs growth on the west coast.

PA is the gravity center for Technology in this country.  And it is the home of Stanford University.  And the University Ave. area is “ground zero” to much of the next generation of innovation.  This is absolutely not to take anything away from SF.  But start-up diversity and density clearly stand out in PA.

Much of what @dogpatchlabs is all about — enabling great folks to cross-collaborate in an “open source” environment — has been amplified by location.  Having a density of other like-minded innovators really close to each other.  That’s why the NYC lab is located in the heart of Union Square, the Cambridge Lab was placed smack in the middle of Kendall Square, and why the Pier was such a great place for Consumer Internet innovation.

  • And also so is the case with Dublin.  Why Dublin?

Like Palo Alto, the new Dublin Lab (also announced today) is located smack in the middle of in a neighborhood of exploding innovation.  It’s within steps of a workforce of thousands at Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Zynga, PayPal and others.

8 of the world’s 10 largest internet companies have significant locations in the Docklands area surrounding the Dublin Lab.  Many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have operations in the community.  And like Stanford in Palo Alto, the Lab will draw on the nearby talent springing from Trinity and University College, Dublin.  Great potential synergy,  a ready and motivated potential workforce, and great academic thought leadership are all present in Dublin.

Here’s our Release on @dogpatchlabs Dublin from earlier today.

Enda Kenny, TD, Ireland’s Taoseach (Prime Minister), declared at the Dublin Lab opening this morning that @dogpatchlabs has potential “to play a key part in the jigsaw to help to make Ireland the best small country in the world in which to start and conduct business”.

We  are really fortunate to have Noel Ruane on our team as Entrepreneur-in-Residence to run our Dublin efforts.  Like Matt Meeker (NYC @dogpatchlabs), Noel is uniquely qualified to relate to entrepreneurs — as a successful former entrepreneur.  And like Gus Weber (Cambridge & Palo Alto @dogpatchlabs), Noel has also successfully founded and grown an incredibly successful start-up community before.

We believe Dublin has potential to grow to become a hub and beacon for start-up innovation throughout Europe.

Noel’s already led the way  in selecting a great roster on charter residents for the Lab.  Residents who not only come from Dublin, but also from places like the UK, Russia and Eastern Europe.  And some team members that come right out of both Trinity and UcD.

And so we’re really looking forward to getting started.

  • And now, the new Polaris office in Palo Alto.

For all the reasons it makes sense to write the next chapter of @dogpatchlabs in the University Avenue area, it makes sense for the Polaris partnership to be based there on the west coast.  Brian Chee & Ryan Spoon will move their office adjoining the Lab on the Pier to the south.

And my partners Jason Trevisan, Peter Flint, Amir Nashat — and myself — each have a sizeable portion of our portfolios in the area.  And a healthy percentage of the entrepreneurs we closely work with are also nearby.  We’re all thrilled to have a great base of operations off University – not that we don’t love meeting folks at the University Café – but now it will be choice and not by necessity .

We’re jacked about all three announcements today and look forward to being incredibly-active contributors in each of the four @dogpatchlabs communities across the US – and now Europe :).