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Latest venture capital firm scouting space in Cambridge: Charles River Ventures

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 13, 2011 09:56 AM

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Charles River Ventures partner Izhar Armony has a simple explanation for why his firm is hunting for new office space in Cambridge: "We need to be close to our customers, the entrepreneurs, and there has been a very real shift in the last three or five years from Route 128 into Boston and Cambridge. It feels like the majority of entrepreneurs are now in Cambridge and Boston, and we need to be where they are."

The firm hasn't signed a lease yet, and their lease in Waltham doesn't expire for a while, but Armony says the move will likely happen this year. He says that he and the other CRV partners who focus on Internet, mobile, and energy investments have been spending a lot of time at the new CriticalMass space in the Cambridge Innovation Center (which opened earlier this year), and he observes that "70 percent of our current portfolio companies are in Cambridge and Boston."

Charles River once had offices in Post Office Square in downtown Boston, and several of the firm's original partners lived in the city. But Armony says the firm moved to the western 'burbs in 1995 to follow the communications and IT entrepreneurs Charles River was backing. "Those companies were built out on Route 495 and 128," he says. "And I still think most of the storage and communications entrepreneurs we work with are going to be out there." Just one example: Affirmed Networks, the new wireless company from Sonus Networks founder Hassan Ahmed, is out in Acton.

But in Cambridge, CRV will be much closer to portfolio companies like Performable, Vlingo, OpenMile, CampusLive, Heartland Robotics, and 24M Technologies all of which are in Boston or Cambridge.

In other VC real estate news, I recently updated this post about Highland Capital Partners trading their Lexington digs for Kendall Square. While the firm still won't confirm it, several sources tell me they've found space on the top floor of One Broadway, the MIT-owned building that also houses the Cambridge Innovation Center. And at least one other suburban VC firm is sniffing around Cambridge, I'm told.

Over the last two years, Bessemer Venture Partners, Atlas Venture, and Greylock have moved to Cambridge from the 'burbs, and Lexington-based CommonAngels has opened a satellite office in the Cambridge Innovation Center. (Some might also consider Dogpatch Labs in Kendall Square a satellite of Waltham-based Polaris Venture Partners; that space opened in September 2009.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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