Vertica/HP Veteran Chris Lynch Joins Atlas for Big Data Investing

5/16/12Follow @xconomy

Chris Lynch, the tech exec who said venture capital was not for him, is the newest member of the technology team at Atlas Venture, the Cambridge, MA-based firm announced today.

In March, Lynch left his role as CEO of Vertica Systems, a year after the data analytics company was acquired by Hewlett-Packard for $300 million.

At the time of his departure, Lynch told my colleague Greg Huang that he was looking to work hands-on with Boston-area big data entrepreneurs, but not in a VC role. So what changed?

“I’ve seen so many more deals than I ever thought I would,” Lynch says. “I thought I’d be working a lot harder to find a needle in the haystack, but it’s been a haystack of needles that have dropped on my head.”

Lynch has made about half a dozen angel investments, in companies like Mortar Data, Kinvey, PowerInbox, and Azuki Systems. But he says working with Atlas will give him a “broader platform to leverage so I can do more deals faster than I could do on my own.” He didn’t initially pursue VC after leaving Vertica because he thought there “weren’t any firms that were interested in investing at the venture level to form these [big data] companies.”

Co-investing with Atlas on a couple of his angel deals (Kinvey and PowerInbox) must have changed his mind, though. Lynch also worked as an entrepreneur in residence in 2010 at Atlas, which has been busy investing at the seed and early stage level and has previously backed big data companies like DataXu, Recorded Future, and Hopper.

Lynch will be working full-time with Atlas, but the firm shied away from naming a specific title for him. “We don’t really see a whole lot of need for titles or hierarchy,” said Jeff Fagnan, a partner in the technology group at Atlas. (We’ll ignore his title for the purpose of this story, though.)

For Atlas, scooping up Lynch was a talent play, says Fagnan. Not long ago the firm added Ryan Moore to its technology team. “Ryan was kind of the top general partner free agent out there at the time that a bunch of firms were chasing,” Fagnan says. “Our single motivation is to have all the best people as part of the platform. With Ryan and Chris, we’re building up to take advantage of what’s happening in the Boston-Cambridge marketplace.”

Most of the deals Lynch has been scouting are in the Boston area, but others come from Austin, New York, and northern California, he says. So, you ask, does Lynch have any big data investments in the works for Atlas? Not yet, but he is bringing over companies he saw as an angel investor to evaluate as potential deals. “I’m keeping the guys very busy,” he says.

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