Pioneer Square Labs Aims To Turn Ideas Into Businesses

By Rachel Lerman
The Seattle Times.

People skilled at running companies might not be the best at coming up with ideas to start them. On the other hand, those who are great at thinking up business ideas might not be the best at running companies.

That’s the thinking behind a new startup studio in Seattle, which will develop and test ideas for businesses and then hand them over to experienced leaders to run and grow.

A small group of Seattle entrepreneurs and investors, backed by a hefty list of venture-capital firms and angels, has launched Pioneer Square Labs and raised $12.5 million to get the machine moving.

The studio is the brainchild of Greg Gottesman, a Madrona Venture Group venture partner; Geoff Entress, a Voyager Capital venture partner; Ben Gilbert, co-founder of Madrona Venture Labs; and Mike Galgon, co-founder of aQuantive.

While working with Madrona Labs, which has developed and spun out companies such as quick-task app Spare5, Gottesman started wondering what he could do with the model at a larger scale.

“We’re going in with the understanding that if we could match a really interesting idea with traction and an incredibly talented team, great things could happen,” Gottesman said.

This is far from the first attempt at such an idea for Gottesman. He co-founded dog-sitting site Rover.com, and handed it over to Aaron Easterly to run. He helped develop Spare5, now run by Matt Bencke. Entress and Gottesman helped revamp online real-estate company Redfin in its early days and brought in CEO Glenn Kelman.

Gottesman freely admits that he is not the best one to grow companies. But he is undeniably adept at coming up with successful ideas.

“I think it’s unusual you find people who would be a great long-term CEO and who also came up with a great idea,” said Bencke, CEO of Spare5. “Greg is the guy who is always coming up with great ideas.”

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