Polaris’ Dogpatch Labs locates in heart of Europe’s digital capital

29 Sep 2011

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Dogpatch Europe's entrepreneur-in-residence Noel Ruane

US venture capital player Polaris has located its Dogpatch Labs Europe start-up hub in Dublin, which will provide free space and mentorship to promising tech start-ups. In the US, Dogpatch provided space for notable tech firms such as Instagram and Turntable.FM.

The move comes just days after Twitter revealed it will be joining the growing community of leading digital players born on the internet that view Dublin as a natural home for innovation.

The operation, which will be located in the heart of Dublin’s social media neighbourhood on Barrow Street, next door to Google’s Europlex and around the corner from Facebook and Zynga’s respective European headquarters, will provide support for between 40 and 70 entrepreneurs (10 to 20 companies) simultaneously.

It will be headed up by the IDA’s former man on the ground in Silicon Valley, Noel Ruane, as ‘Entrepreneur in Residence.’ Prior to joining Polaris, Ruane was founder and former CEO of Brandmail Solutions.

Dogpatch Labs was developed by leading technology venture capital player Polaris Ventures to provide creative space for entrepreneurs to connect and share ideas and experiences to get their start-ups up and running. Polaris is a Seattle and Massachusetts-based venture capital firm that has more than US$3.5bn under management.

Since the inception of Dogpatch Labs, in excess of US$140m has been invested in 100 companies. Thirteen companies have already been acquired.

Companies launched out of Dogpatch from its various hubs in New York, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Palo Alto in Silicon Valley include successful start-ups like Instagram, Formspring, JIBE, Turntable.FM and Thing Labs.

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, Ruane explained Dogpatch’s modus operandi: “Sometimes, Dogpatch has been described as a co-working space for entrepreneurs or a frat house for geeks … it’s all those things in its physical manifestation.

“Community is a word that describes it best. It’s an immediate community and we’ll have anywhere between 40 and 70 individuals comprising about 10 to 20 companies that will rotate in and out.

“We are inviting entrepreneurs to come in and we will pick the right companies to avail of what we have to offer.”

What’s on offer effectively is access to a community of peers and office space, but only high potential start-ups will gain access. “Typically we’re over-subscribed by 100 entrepreneurs.”

He continued: “It’s easier to explain what Dogpatch is not. It is not an accelerator programme. It is not an equity-to-play, no company is required to surrender equity; and it is not a pay-to-play space like Tech Hub in London. It is free.

“What’s in it for Polaris? For Polaris, it’s about getting close to these companies early on. For us, it’s a long-term play, there’s no immediate return. We would hope that the promising companies going onward would have had a positive experience and maybe, down the road, would work with Polaris Ventures as institutional investors.

“Basing at Dogpatch Labs is non-contractual. We would hope down the road that Polaris would be the preferred institutional investor but if not we would hope to have created great, lasting relationships.”

Ruane explained that in the US, the Dogpatch formula has worked well with more than 300 technology start-ups passing through its doors. “One hundred ten of these would have received funding in excess of US$100,000 each. Overall, US$140m has been invested in companies that have worked with Dogpatch Labs.”

Spearheading the next generation of European start-ups

Ruane added that the Dublin operation has already been up and running for more than three months and 10 companies have already been selected.

With all the digital media companies locating in Dublin, I point out to Ruane that I believe the time is ripe for a new generation of Irish start-up companies to emulate the successes of firms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

“I do believe that the younger generation coming through have the strength to do it.”

Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD welcomed Dogpatch to Dublin. “Today’s opening reflects the strong relationships being built in the venture capital community by Innovation Fund Ireland. Ireland is already a fantastic country in which to do business with our young, well-educated population, competitive business environment and strong track record in innovation.

“Encouraging high-potential start-ups will be a key part in making Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business. Dogpatch Labs Europe is a welcome addition to our growing hub of business innovators and incubation,” Kenny said.


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years