What’s New in Boston VC Land: Assemble, Hyperplane, Pillar
As the snow falls in our fair city, let’s take a tour of the winter wonderland that is New England tech venture capital. It should prove useful as a snapshot of what’s new and different in 2016 (plus some national context at the bottom):
—General Catalyst Partners has raised $845 million for its eighth fund. That brings the bicoastal firm’s total capital haul to $3.75 billion. General Catalyst is known for its investments in Airbnb, Snapchat, Stripe, and Kayak, among other companies. (GC’s Larry Bohn recently talked to us about investment themes for 2016.)
—GV (not to be confused with GC) is Google Ventures’ new name. The firm, also bicoastal, has been moving away from seed-stage investing, according to a Wall Street Journal story. GV recently invested in New Hampshire networking startup Plexxi. Its local tech portfolio also includes Tamr, Recorded Future, and Yesware.
—Matrix Partners has raised $500 million for its fourth China-focused fund. Other venture firms, including Highland Capital Partners, have also made a lot of progress investing in Chinese companies over the last few years.
—Polaris Partners’ Pat Kinsel is now leading a digital-notary startup called Notarize, with seed funding from Polaris and other investors.
—Assemble.VC is targeting a $75 million first fund, of which Fortune’s Dan Primack reported more than half has been raised in a first close. This is a new venture firm led by Michael Skok (formerly of North Bridge Venture Partners), John Pearce (ex-Demandware), and C.A. Webb (from New England Venture Capital Association)—stay tuned for more from this trio.
—Former North Bridge partner Jamie Goldstein has a new project called Pillar, which he calls “a new breed of investment group” in a post on Medium. No details yet; Goldstein’s post is about aligning VCs’ and entrepreneurs’ interests in deal structures, going back to Boston’s tech granddaddy, Digital Equipment Corporation.
—Speaking of North Bridge, Fortune reported last fall that the firm was no longer trying to raise its next early-stage investment fund. North Bridge has seen the departures of Skok, Goldstein, Ric Fulop, and others in the past year or two. The firm’s growth equity business seems to be ongoing.
—Project 11 Ventures has been getting more active, or at least more public about its investments. The seed-stage investment firm, led by Katie Rae, Reed Sturtevant, and Bob Mason, has backed startups like Elemental Machines, Sentenai, AlphaSheets, and DipJar in recent months.
—On the artificial-intelligence and big-data investment front, Hyperplane Venture Capital is starting to pop up more often. One entrepreneur I know called Hyperplane founder Vivjan Myrto “Boston’s cowboy VC, investing in crazy stuff.” (Definitely a compliment.) Hyperplane has backed Sentenai, Indico, and AlphaSheets recently.
—Here’s a nice piece in BostInno by Kyle Gross on whether 2016 could be the year Massachusetts bans noncompete clauses in employee contracts. It’s a movement championed by many local VCs and entrepreneurs (and resisted by EMC; we’ll see about GE). I’ll believe it when I see it in law.
—Lastly, there’s no escaping the signs of a downturn and venture capital “correction.” Tech and biotech stocks are down amid global financial uncertainties. Heavily funded late-stage companies are seeing declining valuations in the private market, and IPOs remain scarce, especially in tech. Startup funding has slowed down already, and we’ll see who suffers most—it seems safe to bet on the rank and file, as usual.