• Madrona Venture Group Seals Up Its Sixth Fund in Seattle

    Matt McIlwainMadrona Venture Group, the 20-year-old, Seattle-based early-stage venture capital firm whose bets include Redfin, Apptio, iSpot.TV and others, has closed its sixth fund with $300 million. Yesterday, we chatted briefly with longtime managing partner Matt McIlwain about the fund and the investing scene in the Pacific Northwest more generally.

    Your new fund is the same size as its predecessor, closed in 2012.

    Same size fund, same strategy. It’s all systems go.

    Is the team the same?

    One of our managing directors, Greg Gottesman, is transitioning to a venture partner role. [Gottesman, who joined Madrona in 1997 and was previously CEO of the dog-owner community Rover.com] will still be involved but he’s been kicking around some new entrepreneurial ideas that he wants to pursue and he’ll be talking about them later in the summer. We also added three strategic advisors [Isilon co-founder Sujal Patel; retiring F5 CEO John McAdam; and Concur CEO Steve Singh].

    You’re obviously a big proponent of the Pacific Northwest investing scene. 

    I hate to use the word, but it’s really become a juggernaut of innovation in cloud, in big data, augmented reality, next-generation consumer… Related to that, the rise of Amazon and revitalization of Microsoft is attracting all kinds of talent to this region, which bodes well for us.

    How are you measuring the impact of [Microsoft’s newest CEO] Satya Nadella? 

    I was over at Microsoft last week getting a tour of its HoloLens [holographic goggles technology] and I was blown away by the demos. Operationally, there’s a huge difference, too. One of our startups, Smartsheet [which makes cloud and mobile-first productivity tools], had tried unsuccessfully a few years ago to integrate with Microsoft. [Under Nadella], the company has gotten traction with Office 365 and was just featured at a recent conference as an example of a great integration partner. The pace at which Microsoft folks are understanding and building integration with the startup community is significantly enhanced over the last 18 months. Satya has just set a different tone — more humble and more outward looking about what the ecosystem and customers want.

    Madrona was super active last year, investing $463 million into the Pacific Northwest with its syndicate partners. Are valuations still comparatively more reasonable up there?

    [Laughs.] Yes, they’re somewhat more reasonable, and the cost of living is somewhat more reasonable. We roll our eyes when square footage hits the high $30s; you [in the Bay Area] start rolling your eyes when it hits the high $70s. It also doesn’t hurt that we don’t have a state income tax.

    [As important] we have a growing [well of] deep talent here. Some people have come to work at Microsoft and Amazon but Facebook and EMC and Google also now have hundreds if not thousands of employees here. We’ve funded 15 companies that have come out of the University of Washington. Our LPs are also very excited about this multi-generational effect we’re starting to see. For example, we backed Isilon [the enterprise storage company that was acquired by EMC in 2010 for $2.25 billion]; now we’ve backed two teams to come out of the company, the next-gen storage companies Igneous and Cumulus. There’s just talent all over the place.

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