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Polaris to triple size of Dogpatch Labs in Cambridge

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 5, 2010 10:53 AM

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I've been hearing for a few weeks now about an expansion-in-the-offing for Dogpatch Labs Cambridge, a start-up gestation space in East Cambridge run by Polaris Venture Partners. But Polaris' Dave Barrett was only willing to confirm the news this morning and the expansion is bigger than I'd expected.


The current Dogpatch space, available rent-free to a handful of chosen start-up teams for stays of about six months, fits about twenty desks (and is roughly 2100 square feet.) The expanded Dogpatch, at more than 7000 square feet, will have room for closer to fifty desks. Plus, there will be "hangout" space for entrepreneurs and techies who haven't yet secured a permanent spot at Dogpatch. The new space, on the fourth floor of the American Twine Building, will be online in early May.


"We're trying to really foster a community that's not just a Dogpatch community," Barrett says. The new space will also enable Dogpatch to hold larger workshops and meet-ups, he says. There's "quite a bit of demand" for desks at Dogpatch Cambridge, Barrett says, and the expansion will bring Cambridge up to about the same size as the two other Dogpatch Labs, in New York and San Francisco.


The other big news this week is that Dogpatch has its first "sponsoring partner" in Microsoft, which will hold some events at all three Dogpatch sites, and also introduce (subtly, I'm sure) Dogpatch denizens to various Microsoft tools and technologies. (Barrett sits on a board of venture capitalists who provide advice to senior Microsoft executives.) Barrett says he expects to announce a couple other sponsoring partners this year, who will help Polaris cover the operating expenses of the three labs.


Barrett says the Cambridge space currently houses eleven start-up teams; two ventures have so far raised outside funding though Polaris itself has yet to fund a start-up at DPL Cambridge. (Polaris has supplied seed funding to five start-ups at the other DPL locations, however.) Barrett says there are a few companies that have team members working in more than one of the DPL locations, such as Assured Labor (Cambridge & New York) and kWhOURs (Cambridge and San Francisco.)


Residents of Dogpatch don't formally promise Polaris a right-of-first-refusal to invest in their companies. Barrett says his measure of whether DPL is a success is whether entrepreneurs get financial backing "by anyone not just Polaris that allows these seed projects to get to the next step." Polaris' only commitment to residents is the free office space.


Barrett says DPL Cambridge has already been home to a wide range of start-ups, in areas like energy, life sciences, social media, and software-as-a-service. He and Polaris principal Jonathan Lim hold office hours there every Thursday afternoon (2 to 5 PM sign up on the Dogpatch blog or just show up), and other Polaris partners like Bob Metcalfe, Kevin Bitterman, and Amir Nashat are occasional visitors.


How do you gain entrance to Dogpatch as a start-up? "The route that seems to be really compelling," Barrett says, "is when current Dogpatchers recommend folks, or if you know people at TechStars or DartBoston or some of the other entrepreneurial communities in town." The preference is "not just for cool people with cool ideas, but people who want to share who want to mentor and be mentored. Chemistry is a big factor, too," says Barrett.


For the first time tonight, DPL Cambridge is holding an invite-only "demo night" for investors, who will get a chance to see what the Dogpatchers have been working on. (Two of the presenting companies aren't based at Dogpatch.) Lim, who helps run DPL Cambridge, says demo nights will take place a couple times a year.


DPL Cambridge originally opened last September.

Localytics founder Raj Aggarwal has been a resident since then; his mobile analytics company is one of the two Dogpatch start-ups that has raised outside funding.  "It's nice to be in a space where you've got some cool companies, and can bounce ideas off them," he says, "and you also have access to the Polaris guys, who have been helpful in terms of introductions." Localytics, with five employees now, is just about to hit the six-month mark at DPL Cambridge and is in the market for new space.

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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