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New venture capital firm Amplify Partners will make early-stage investments in software startups

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 31, 2013 07:00 AM

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There's a new door to knock on for software entrepreneurs trying to raise money: Amplify Partners, founded by Sunil Dhaliwal. Dhaliwal previously spent fourteen years as an investor at Battery Ventures in Waltham, where he put money into Netezza (acquired by IBM), Splunk (IPO'ed last year), and @stake (acquired by Symantec.) Dhaliwal says he plans to make early investments in "infrastructure-focused" software startups.

Dhaliwal says that he's interested in writing small checks ($50,000 to $1.5 million) at the stage when "there isn't a complete team. You're talking to technical guys, not the typical 42-long who walks into a VC firm and gets funding. There may not be product-market fit yet. But we want to set up a support system to help that kind of technical founder focused on infrastructure markets." He defines infrastructure as selling to the IT executives at a company — or an end-user who is doing an end-run around the IT department.

Amplify hopes to collect $40 million in capital to invest, according to a recent SEC filing. So far, it has raised about $16 million of that.

Dhaliwal tells me that he is especially interested in three trends: the move to cloud-based services; the explosion of data, and the storage and analytic technologies that will accompany it; and real-time infrastructure, which he defines as "optimizing and improving the performance of web-based infrastructure, whether it's back-end or front-end." He has made seven investments so far under the Amplify umbrella, in AppNeta, Continuuity, Datadog, Fastly, Wibidata, and two others that haven't been announced yet.

"I count eight incumbents that I want my entrepreneurs to target taking value from," Dhaliwal says. "Cisco, EMC, Microsoft, Dell, HP, IBM, SAP, and Oracle. The market cap of those eight companies is $1 trillion. It maybe is not the sexiest thing in the world to talk about taking on these companies, but there's real value getting created there."

Dhaliwal says that he wrapped up his commitments to Battery Ventures last fall, and started working full-time on Amplify in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Dhaliwal says he doesn't have office space yet, but hopes that the new firm will be based in Cambridge, where he lives. He's the only general partner at Amplify, but joining him as a principal is Farah Giga, formerly a principal at Valhalla Partners and a HP executive. She'll operate out of 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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