Atlas Venture’s Fagnan Describes Consolidation as Tactical, Not Strategic

1/19/10Follow @wroush

Atlas Venture, an early stage venture investing firm with offices in Waltham, MA, and London, announced today that it will consolidate its operations, downsize its UK office, and bring almost all of its active investment professionals together under one roof in the Boston area.

That roof likely won’t be Atlas’s current office 890 Winter Street in Waltham, says Jeff Fagnan, a partner at the firm. So it’s conceivable that Atlas will join the minor migration of venture firms from the distant suburbs to Cambridge and Boston proper—areas often seen as the emerging center of gravity for the region’s software, Internet, and life sciences startups. Greylock Partners moved its regional office to Harvard Square last year and Bessemer Venture Partners is reported to be considering a similar move.

But Fagnan says the firm hasn’t chosen a spot yet. “We’re evaluating a few different locations right now,” Fagnan said by phone from the Waltham office. “Some are out this way and some are back that way.”

Wherever the firm goes, he adds, it would be mistake to read too much into the choice. “I definitely look at office space as tactical rather than strategic; I find it interesting that the whole venture firm office space thing is considered so newsworthy right now,” Fagnan says. “If any firm in New England has stuck to its knitting, it’s us. We are doing all seed and Series A investments and we’re committed to early stage investing. That’s not going to change, whether we’re in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or Cambridge, England.”

The decision to consolidate personnel in the Boston area is also tactical rather than strategic, Fagnan says. “We operate best when we’re around one table and we can collaborate and challenge one another and look each other in the eye,” he says. “We are going to continue to execute on European deal flow, but we feel like we can continue to do that out of an office in Boston. It’s a lot easier these days to do the best deals today regardless of geography. We’ve proven that with the West Coast, and London is actually an easier flight from Boston. We don’t see it changing our strategy.”

Atlas partner Fred Destin will relocate from the London office to Boston, the firm said in today’s announcement. Graham O’Keefe and Regina Hoddits, partners in the London office, have “transitioned to venture partner roles,” the firm said. Christopher Spray will remain as the firm’s ranking partner in London.

As it comes together in a new location and continues to invest money from its $283 million eighth fund, which closed about a year ago, it’s also likely that the Atlas team will grow, Fagnan says. “We’re hiring a new general partner on the technology side, and the life sciences team is also likely to add somebody. So you’re going to see an aggressive team with a fresh pool of capital.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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