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Boston Venture Firms on the Move: A Roundup of Who’s Heading West (to CA), and Who’s Heading East (to Cambridge)

Xconomy Boston — 

Updated, see below—The January 2009 announcement by Y Combinator that it was leaving the Boston area and moving full-time to Silicon Valley gave a real jolt to the local innovation community. Then, only a few months later, Greylock Partners dropped a similar bombshell. The storied venture firm, arguably in the elite of the elite alongside Accel Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Sequoia Capital, and the only one based in New England, said in May that it was shifting its headquarters to the San Francisco Bay Area, where it had long had an office—though, unlike Y Combinator, Greylock said it would keep its Boston area office open.

Since then, while no other Boston-based venture firm that I know of has moved its HQ west, several have opened offices in the Valley, joining others, like Advanced Technology Ventures and Highland Capital Partners, that had already opened digs there.

Meanwhile, another group of venture firms—encompassing some of the same companies—began moving into Boston or Cambridge from the Route 128 burbs (usually, though not always, from the famed Winter Street office park that has long constituted the Sand Hill Road of Boston).

You can point to several factors for the moves, from leases coming due to the shrinkage of some funds and the need to quit big office spaces. But whether heading west to California or east into Cambridge and Kendall Square, the bottom line was the same: the desire to shimmy up closer to deal flow and the entrepreneurs on whom the venture capitalists’ jobs depended. In some sense, it was back to the future here in Boston, since many venture firms were originally based downtown and moved out to Waltham and environs as the Route 128 corridor sprang to high-tech life.

These comings and goings have been noted in each instance, sometimes with a lot of commentary, angst, and even applause. If you’re like me, though, you’ve had trouble keeping track of it all—including what has already happened and what is still planned. So here is my timeline of venture capitalists on the move—in two groups. One is for those who have opened offices in the Bay Area, the other for firms who have moved operations closer to the action here in Cambridge. The starting point is January 2009, when Paul Graham announced Y Combinator’s Cambridge pullout.

Venture Firms Head West

—January 2009: Y Combinator, which previously alternated between summer programs in Cambridge, MA, and winter camps in Mountain View, CA, announces it will stay in Silicon Valley year round.

—May 2009: Greylock Partners says it will shift headquarters to Silicon Valley. As of August 2010, the firm has been based on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park.

2010 — I can’t find any firm moves that took place last year. But that September, General Catalyst Partners managing director David Fialkow told me that fellow managing director Neil Sequeira was planning a move to the Bay Area, though he said at the time an office was not in the works.

[Editor’s note, May 19: Turns out I did miss one–Third Rock Ventures]

—September: Boston-based Third Rock Ventures opens an office in San Francisco.

—February 2011: General Catalyst officially opens Palo Alto office. Xconomy Boston editor Greg Huang spoke at length with Hemant Taneja the week Taneja was moving west to head GC’s new office on El Camino Real in downtown Palo Alto.

—February 2011: Highland Capital Partners, which already had an office in Menlo Park, says it will open a branch of its reinstated Summer@Highland incubator program in California as well as at its Lexington, MA, headquarters.

—Fall 2011—Boston-based Bain Capital Partners plans to open a Palo Alto office.

Venture Firms Head East (for many, the move is from Route 128 and environs to Cambridge/Boston)

—February 2009: TechStars announces that it will bring its entrepreneurial boot camp/incubator program to Cambridge, MA.

—September 2009: Polaris Venture Partners opens a branch of its Dogpatch Labs incubator in Kendall Square (the inaugural Dogpatch launched in San Francisco in 2007, and a third “kennel” recently opened in New York. Polaris remains headquartered in Waltham, MA).

That same month, Founder Collective, which had announced itself as a new seed stage venture fund the previous June and had listed its local address as co-founder Eric Paley’s house in Somerville, officially moves to an office in Harvard Square.

—January 2010: Atlas Venture says it will consolidate operations in a new Boston headquarters (though the firm will retain a London office). Atlas’s Boston office moves from Waltham to 25 First Street in Cambridge in November 2010.

—August 2010: Bessemer Venture Partners moves from Wellesley, MA, to 196 Broadway in Kendall Square.

—September 2010: Lexington, MA-based CommonAngels opens an office in the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square.

—March 2011: Highland Capital Partners, long an odd duck with its offices off Route 2 in Lexington, between Cambridge and Waltham, tells the Boston Globe it plans to move to Cambridge. (No move has officially been announced, but look for Highland to make the move sometime this fall).

—Around the same time, we hear through the grapevine that Matrix Partners is planning to move to Cambridge from Winter Street in Waltham, but nothing has been announced—and Matrix did not respond to our inquiry on the subject.

—May 2011: Charles River Ventures partner Izhar Armony tells Scott Kirsner his firm is also looking to move to Cambridge later in the year, after its current lease in Waltham expires.

[Editor’s note, June 9: Adding Polaris news]

—June 2011: Polaris Venture Partners tells Xconomy it will open a Palo Alto office on or near University Avenue sometime during the summer. The company previous had a small office alongside its Dogpatch Labs space on Pier 38 in Palo Alto.

Did I forget or omit something? Drop me a line directly or at editors@xconomy.com.

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