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Kayak co-founder Paul English setting up startup incubator in Fort Point Channel

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 19, 2013 08:00 AM

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About nine months after the travel planning site Kayak was acquired by Priceline for $1.8 billion, co-founder Paul English is dialing down his day-to-day involvement. English announced at a company meeting earlier this month that from now on, he'll serve as part-time chief technology officer.

His new project: setting up a tech incubator code-named Blade. English has leased about 6,000 square feet at 250 Summer Street in Boston's Fort Point Channel neighborhood.

English didn't want to go into detail about the new incubator, but he and several partners have already been camped out in Downtown Crossing office of One Mighty Roar, a product development firm. Construction of the Summer Street space got underway earlier in August. English says he's planning an "outrageous" workspace that will transform into a club at 6 PM, with regular events that "celebrate creative people" like dancers, sculptors, and clothing designers. At the incubator, he plans to serve as a matchmaker between CEO and CTO pairs, launching about three new companies a year. "We'll fund them for the first six months, hire the first ten people, help them raise money, and then kick them out," he says. "The incubator is going to be my next ten years," he adds, saying that his goal is to create CEO/CTO pairs, like he and Kayak co-founder Steve Hafner, "who are happy and have done good things." Hafner plans to remain at Kayak for several more years, English says, but "I had no contract" to stick around after the acquisition.

"The stuff I'm working on these days at Kayak is recruiting, organization development, etc.," English says. "It is really important to me that Kayak continue to have as strong a team as possible." While he's throttling back to a part-time role, he emphasizes that "I will continue to have a long-term dedication to Kayak."

In addition to Blade, which will likely have a new name by the time it opens, English announced on Twitter recently that he has joined MIT's Sloan School of Management as a part-time senior lecturer, helping to design an MIT entrepreneurship class with Bill Aulet, a former entrepreneur and CFO who runs the Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. English has also been collaborating with programmer Bob Rainis on an iPhone app called RoadWars, which should be out soon. Rainis' LinkedIn profile describes it as an "iPhone app for rating driving ability," and says he has been working on it since October 2011. (Rainis earlier worked with Jeffrey Beir on an excellent iPhone app called RoadAhead, which provides drivers with detailed information about what they can find at each highway exit.)

English and Hafner co-founded Kayak back in 2004 in the Cambridge offices of General Catalyst, a venture capital firm. While its headquarters were later set up in Norwalk, Connecticut, English built a large technology team in Concord, Mass. (I wrote about English's approach to recruiting employees in 2011. In 2004, I wrote one of the first articles about the company.)

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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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