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Gus Weber departs Polaris for ESPN; Dogpatch Cambridge will move and come under new management

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 8, 2013 01:49 PM

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Gus Weber, a well-known figure in the Cambridge startup ecosystem, has left his role at Polaris Venture Partners, where he helped oversee Polaris’ network of Dogpatch Labs incubator spaces. Weber, who’d been a principal at Polaris for two years, started a new job last week at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, where he will oversee personalization across all of ESPN’s media properties. “Building a product on a scale of tens of millions of users is pretty darn fun,” Weber told me earlier today. Before joining Polaris, Weber had spent almost five years as the community liaison and "technical evangelist" at Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center in Kendall Square. (Weber is at the center in the photo, with Don Dodge and John Landry.)

In addition to Weber’s departure, there’s other news related to Dogpatch, the Cambridge facility that offers free office space — courtesy of Polaris — to about 35 small startups and solo entrepreneurs. It’ll move next month out of its current digs at One Cambridge Center (which are sub-leased from Microsoft) into space at 101 Main Street. The new Dogpatch Cambridge will be managed by Cambridge Innovation Center, even though it is separate from the CIC's main building. (101 Main, right near the Longfellow Bridge, is a hot property right now: VC firm Matrix Partners just moved its headquarters there, and Amazon.com has leased 105,000 square feet there for its secretive Cambridge engineering group.)

At Cambridge Center, "we’d been leasing from Microsoft, and Microsoft wants the space back,” says Polaris partner Dave Barrett, who blogged about the changes yesterday. “We’re not facilities managers, we’re investors.” The new space will probably house fewer startup teams than the current one: Barrett estimated its capacity at about 30. And since it will be managed by Cambridge Innovation Center CEO Tim Rowe and his team, “it lets us work with entrepreneurs, rather than filling up the fridges and keeping the network up,” Barrett says. So far, more than $75 million in funding has been raised by companies that have used space at Dogpatch Cambridge, most of it from investors other than Polaris. (Dogpatch Cambridge first opened in 2009.)

Update: While Barrett didn't bring up this change in our initial conversation, it sounds like rent will no longer be completely free at Dogpatch for all residents, but that Polaris may subsidize some of the costs for some of the residents. "We're subsidizing fees for existing residents to help them during the transition period to the new Dogpatch Labs at 101 Main," Barrett explained in an e-mail. "Going forward, we'll will have space for some incoming residents and other members of the community whom we plan to involve in the new Dogpatch Labs which we (Polaris) will also subsidize."

Polaris' crew has been shrinking in recent years, ever since the Watham firm closed a $375 million fund in 2011 that was much smaller than the previous pools of capital it had collected. Among those who've left are Mike Hirshland, Bob Metcalfe, and, now, Weber. (Alert reader Matt Ludwig points out that another onetime Polaris principal, Ryan Spoon, also left... and also wound up at ESPN.)

The TechStars Boston program, housed on the same floor of Cambridge Center as Dogpatch, will also likely move out sometime this year. But program officials tell me they don’t expect that to happen before late May, when the spring cycle of TechStars wraps up.

An aside that won't surprise anyone who commutes in eastern Mass.: Weber tells me that his new commute from his home in Berlin, Mass. to ESPN in Connecticut is only about ten minutes longer than his old one to Cambridge.

Update: Weber just published a blog post about his new gig.

And Xconomy reported on January 11th that Polaris will close two other Dogpatch incubator spaces, in New York and Palo Alto.

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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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