Open Source Entrepreneurship & the Virtual Founder Community

When we (Polaris Venture Partners) created Dogpatch Labs we did so with the goal of creating a great environment for sharp founders to develop great ideas, formulate their businesses, & tap into networks which they otherwise would have difficulty leveraging.  Fostering that environment calls on a couple of concepts.

One is open source entrepreneurship.   This means that we really focus on attracting & selecting innovators who want to both collaborate & share with one another.  It means we not only look for great folks, but also those who keenly want to work in that kind of environment.  We look for founders who might want to mentor as well as be mentored.  And a selection of founders who are working on projects which other Dogpatchers find both intellectually stimulating as well as valuable to their learning in the journey to build their businesses. A bit of our role in assembling each Dogpatch “pledge class”  is not just exercising business & technical judgement but also amateur chemistry. We look for folks with varied backgrounds,varied experiences & functional expertise. In all three Dogpatch locations you will find first time founders, repeat founders who can share their war stories and people with diverse expertise including product, marketing, business development and engineering.   And folks who might have either/both technical & topical expertise.  Think cloud services, social media marketing, freemium product development, etc. 

One of the first things that is obvious to founders who come in for the first time to meet us during our regular Office Hours is that our physical space is open & desks situated in close proximity to each other.   

One of the first things Dogpatchers notice after they’ve moved in is that the doors are open to other entrepreneur communities & other investors.  Dogpatch is part of a Virtual Community building in each Lab location.

In Cambridge, we’ve made an effort to invite groups like DartBoston to host events @ Dogpatch Cambridge to encourage entrepreneurs to work “across community lines”.  We’ve invited BetaHouse & CIC residents to meetups to facilitate networking.  Dogpatchers & TechStars jointly plan social events with each other.  I’m a mentor for TechStars & SmartCamp. And TechStars guys sit or have sat at Dogpatch desks.  Silicon Valley Angels & topical experts have run workshops in Dogpatch Cambridge.  Angel Demo Nights in all three Lab locations have invited & welcomed Angel,  “Super Angel” & other early-stage investors into Dogpatch.  We want compelling companies residing in Dogpatch to be backed by the investors — Polaris & otherwise.  As a fact, over 15 Dogpatch companies have already been backed by investors other than Polaris.  And we’ve backed 5 others.  And there are currently 6 companies raising capital in Cambridge alone at the moment.  

We’ve started to announce platform partners like Microsoft who will become members of the Dogpatch community.  And we have several teams in Cambridge which have member of their teams sitting at desks in either DPL Union Square or DPL Pier 38. 

The Virtual Founder Community & Open Source Entrepreneurship are both fundamental concepts behind Dogpatch – and drive a lot of what we’re doing & hope to accomplish in the future.

Dave Barrett is a General Partner with Polaris Venture Partners.  This blog post was originally published on April 9, 2010.  You can find this post, as well as additional content on his blog called I Know That You Know.