DFJ Grows Seattle Footprint With New Entrepreneur in Residence

Venture capital giant Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) has stationed its first entrepreneur in residence in Seattle.

Seattle native Bryan Hale, 32, will work with Seattle-based partner Bill Bryant, advising the firm’s portfolio companies, evaluating new investments, and, most importantly, looking for a startup of his own.

Hale spent the last five and a half years at Seattle-based Chef (formerly known as OpsCode), helping the IT automation company grow from seven employees—he was the first business employee—to upwards of 200. He had planned to spend only a few months there to see what a startup is like before enrolling in business school, but plans changed.

“Once you’re inside the four walls of a company, you really get a sense of the promise,” Hale says. “I got hooked on it.”

Hale’s previous experience had focused more on the exit end of the startup spectrum. He worked after college as an investment banking analyst for UBS, then as an early member of the Salesforce.com corporate development team. He spent nearly two years in a prior stint with DFJ as a senior associate before joining Chef, which the venture firm backed with a seed financing in early 2009.

Chef is growing like gangbusters today and is on many people’s short lists for the next wave of Seattle IT companies to go public.

Hale, who graduated from Seattle’s Lakeside School and Harvard, says the move is about seizing an opportunity to found a startup, or join a nascent one as a co-founder. So how do you go about that? There’s the standard formula of asking how changes past and future are impacting industries you’re familiar with and problems you’ve encountered.

“The more interesting side of it is just go out there and meet people,” Hale says, noting that big, interesting companies are often started by entrepreneurs working on frustrating problems that will keep them awake at night if they don’t solve them.

For Hale, exhibit A is Adam Jacob, co-founder and CTO of Chef. “He worked in the problem space that Chef solves, banging his head against the wall for years, wrestling with existing technologies to try to stitch together automation frameworks for companies, and finally in this fit of rage, built Chef,” Hale says, adding, “I certainly want to leave myself open to meeting folks like that.”

Bryant says posting DFJ’s only entrepreneur in residence in Seattle underscores the firm’s commitment to the Pacific Northwest. Bryant, a serial entrepreneur and successful investor himself before joining DFJ in 2007, was made a general partner in the firm’s eleventh fund, which closed at $325 million last year.

DFJ’s local investments include Chef, Redfin, Z2, Varolii, Adxpose, Clipboard, NanoString Technologies, and Spiral Genetics.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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