New venture factory Blade adds veterans of Zappos, iRobot, Cisco


The team has been expanding over at Blade, the startup factory in Fort Point Channel that doesn’t officially open its doors until later this month. Blade’s founding trio all came from Kayak, the travel-planning site that has its technology operations in Concord, but they’ve recently been adding veterans of iRobot, Millennial Media, Cisco, and Zappos.

The team at Blade will be a mix of entrepreneurs working on new companies — founder Paul English says there are three in the pipeline — and a “bench” of experienced execs available to assist with things like technology, design, and partnerships. English, pictured above, has raised about $20 million to invest in new ventures. The plan is to use that money to help get 10 companies off the ground; English says Blade will ask for a mix of preferred and common stock in each company. The preferred stock is for Blade’s financial investment, and the common is for sweat equity in helping build the business. “The amount of each is negotiable for each company,” English explains in an e-mail, “but for the common stock, I intend to earn that by applying significant bench strength to each startup. …In each case, I think the founders would say that the advisors we’ve given them are adding lots of value as active members of their teams.”

The newest addition to the Blade team is Brian Kalma, a user experience guru who has worked at Zappos, Gilt Groupe, and Gemvara; he signed on last week. Dennis Doughty, formerly at ad networks Millennial Media and Jumptap, joined in April, as did Nancy Dussault Smith. Smith had previously been VP of marketing communications at iRobot, the publicly-traded robotics company in Bedford. Also new to the Blade crew is Firdaus Bhathena. Bhathena has had venture-backed companies acquired by Cisco and Symantec, but his last startup, Ziptr, a secure communications service for lawyers and accountants, shut down last September.

Former Kayakers Paul Schwenk and Bill O’Donnell serve as Blade’s COO and CTO, respectively.

Last August, I wrote about the formation of Blade. English has lately been posting photos on Twitter showing the build-out of the Blade space, which he intends to be a petri dish not just for entrepreneurship, but for music, art, and fashion as well.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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