Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs has raised $80 million to invest in tech companies throughout the Pacific Northwest, and not just companies that spin out of its own studio.
The financing round is the first investment fund for Pioneer Square Labs, which was formed more than two years ago to come up with ideas for new startups, find entrepreneurs to lead those companies and then spin out the businesses. Pioneer Square Labs, which itself has raised $27.5 million to run the studio, has now launched six companies.
The venture capital fund was something startup founders had been asking the Pioneer Square Labs leaders to start for some time, said managing director Julie Sandler. Founders who already had young companies, and therefore weren’t a match to join the studio model, still wanted to work with the Labs team, she said.
Pioneer Square Labs plans to invest between $500,000 and $2 million in individual, young tech startups, then offer the companies resources from the Labs team – whether its expertise in finding customers, hiring engineers or designing a product.
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That’s a scaled-back version of what Pioneer Square Labs offers the companies it launches itself, Sandler said.
Madrona Venture Group, one of the largest venture capital firms in the area, also focuses on investing in Pacific Northwest startups. It raised a $300 million investment round in June 2015.
But startup founders in the Seattle area still often criticize the small amount of funding available from local venture capital firms. Many say they regularly have to turn to Silicon Valley and New York venture capitalists to fund their companies.
Pioneer Square Labs managing director Greg Gottesman noted that the Seattle area is known for top-notch engineers and entrepreneurs. But “where I think we fall short is on the capital side,” he said. Hence, the new fund.
Labs’ four managing directors all contributed to the fund, as did undisclosed foundations, institutional investors and tech executives.
The fund will also invest in spinouts from Pioneer Square Labs’ studio, though it won’t be the lead investor in any of those funding rounds.
“When it comes to the studio, we’re very much looking to outside venture investors to lead those investments,” Sandler said, noting that will give entrepreneurs a choice in their own investors.
Pioneer Square Labs has already made its first investment from the new fund, though it isn’t announcing any details yet.