Notes from Dogpatch Labs’ Housewarming Party—and a List of Initial Inhabitants

10/20/09Follow @bbuderi

It was a cold and drizzly night (how’s that for original writing?) last Thursday, and I was running late. But Dogpatch Labs Cambridge was holding its housewarming party across the street from Xconomy World Headquarters, so I braved the elements to stop in.

I walked into a crowded house of 70 folks or so, boxes of pizza, ice tubs of beer, and a lot of energy in the funky space, which is nestled inside the offices of e-retail infrastructure company Allurent in the American Twine Building on Third Street here in Cambridge, MA.

Dogpatch is a workspace/incubator run by Polaris Venture Partners. I profiled the original Dog Patch Lab in San Francisco earlier this year, and then wrote about Dogpatch Cambridge when it was announced last month. There’s enough desk space for 15 or so people in a big open area. The idea is that entrepreneurs will come for a few months, work on their ideas, and hopefully emerge ready to take things to the next level. Polaris provides the space, Internet connections, and no doubt some advice free of charge, but takes no equity in the companies—trusting that good things will happen if the companies grow and need funding.

I grabbed a brew just in time for a short welcome by Polaris’ Dave Barrett, who told the crowd his firm was trying to create the same kind of nurturing atmosphere for nascent companies as in the heavily Internet-oriented San Francisco offices—except that Dogpatch Cambridge is meant to reflect the diversity of the local innovation community, with its expertise in energy and life sciences, as well the Web space. The lab will “pull on that” wider expertise, is how he put it.

DogpatchLabhousewarmingI then had a great time catching up with folks I knew, and meeting new entrepreneurs and other guests. Here are some notes and impressions:

—There are 16 Dogpatchers in what Barrett calls the “first pledge class.” (See the end of this story for a list of the current roster). Ten have started already, the rest are coming in this week. Over 100 teams have applied!

—Dogpatch keeps changing its name! It was originally Dog Patch Lab (singular). Then when the Cambridge branch opened, it became Dog Patch Labs. Now it is Dogpatch Labs. This is bad, because it makes it look like we journalists got things wrong in previous stories. (The Dogpatch website’s About page still says Dog Patch, by the way.)

—I also met Sami Shalabi, co-founder of Zingku, which did “supercharged” mobile text and picture messaging. Zingku was acquired by Google two years ago, and Shalabi works at Google in Kendall Square. He and Polaris’ Amir Nashat were college roommates at MIT.

–One of the newest Dogpatchers is Raj Aggarwal, of Localytics, which does analytics for mobile apps. Localytics was part of TechStars’ first Boston graduating class last month and just moved into the kennel last Wednesday.

—Speaking of TechStars, one Dogpatcher who wasn’t at the party (because he had a speaking gig) was Shawn Broderick, who manages TechStars Boston. As I reported yesterday, TechStars is hunting for new space for its 2010 session. So Broderick got a Dogpatch desk for himself—and introduced Localytics and other TechStars companies to the idea, which he loves. “I’m really proud of Polaris for stepping up and putting out a great red carpet for smart young companies. It’s really good thing for the community,” he says.

—Another party-goer was Jonathan Hayes, CEO of Media Lab spinout Dinube, a startup seeking to enable people in developing countries who don’t have access to banks to make payments using their cell phones.

— Rajat Suri, founder and CEO of ElaCarte, dropped out of MIT (where he was pursuing his joint PhD and MBA) in January to pursue his vision of making a touch-screen display for restaurant tables, so that guests can order and pay from their seats (and, I guess, so they can’t complain that no one came to take their order!).

–Borya Shakhnovich is CEO of a new company called Orwik that is out to make academic research more accessible to more people. It’s all part of the very interesting Open Access movement.

—Dogpatch will host workshops—open to non-kennel mates—on such subjects as self-service sales models that might be of interest to young companies and entrepreneurs. Its first confab between the SF and Cambridge labs is this coming weekend around the launch of Google Wave. Go to Dogpatch’s blog to stay up to date on their events.

DogpatchLabOpening—I saw more Polaris folks in one place than even at the LogMeIn IPO party last month at Fenway Park, including Alan Spoon, Amir Nashat, the aforementioned Dave Barrett, Alan Crane, and Kevin Bitterman. But I didn’t see Dogpatch founding father (and name changer) Mike Hirshland. He might have been in the steam room shedding pounds in his weight-loss race with Bob Metcalfe. (You can follow their twitter streams to stay up on the action: twitter.com/VCMike and twitter.com/BobMetcalfe).

The key takeaway for me was that an incubator/workspace like Dogpatch is a badly needed, and most welcome, addition to the entrepreneurial ecosystem here. Don Dodge of Microsoft posted a neat entry on his blog of “Boston startup events, resources, people you need to know.”

And you can see our list of new entrepreneurial programs that have opened around Boston this year here, every since Y Combinator left town.

Here’s the promised list of the inital Dogpatch residents:

—Russell Cook: previously co-founded beRecruited, an online site for high school athletes trying to be recruited by colleges.

—Albert Chow, EventHive: web app to enable live discussion across devices between audience members and speakers during presentations and conferences—integrated with Facebook and Twitter to share stream with others as well.

—Waldron Faulkner, GraphEdge: “social graph” analytics for Twitter and social networks.

Dog Patch Labs logo—Ashish Kundra, myzamana a dating and social site for South Asians.

—Raj Aggarwal, Localytics (mentioned above)

—Shawn Broderick, executive director, TechStars Boston (mentioned above).

—Angus Davis, Tellme co-founder, who has moved to Rhode Island and will be spending part of his time here. Barrett tells me that the TellMe entrepreneur will be the first official Dogpatch Fellow, a kind of mentor to others in the lab.

Barrett says he will be able to share a few additional names soon, including “a team working on a Social Media app platform, another developing SaaS analytics apps & another working on a Life Sciences project.”

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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