Since five years, Julie sandler immersed herself in the world of startups as an investor, advisor and mentor, traveling across the country and meeting entrepreneurs in accelerators, incubators, makerspaces, etc.
But she hasn’t seen anything that helps entrepreneurs succeed like Pioneer Square Labs (PSL) – and now Sandler is leaving Madrona Venture Group to join the Seattle-based startup studio.
Sandler this week became CEO of PSL, an 18-month âstartup studioâ that uses a unique innovation model to quickly test and validate new ideas before recruiting a management team to create a spin-off company. She is PSL’s fourth CEO, joining co-founders Greg Gottesman, Geoff Entress and Mike Galgon.
Sandler has already spent six years at Madrona, one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading venture capital firms, and rose through the ranks to become a partner of the firm last January. In an email to friends, Sandler called it a “difficult decision” to leave Madrona, noting that she had had an “incredible experience there with a great team.”
But the Seattle-based venture capitalist said it was intrigued by Pioneer Square Labs. She has kept a close eye on the company since its launch in October 2015, especially since Madrona was an early investor in the studio and Gottesman, who served as Madrona’s CEO for 18 years, has launched PSL. Its co-founders – Entress and Ben Gilbert – also spent time at Madrona before launching PSL.
At the same time, Sandler developed a passion for helping people who were in the early stages of building a business. She noted the quality of entrepreneurs who went through PSL, as well as its growing entrepreneur-in-residence program.
âIt’s one of the most dynamic innovation environments I’ve seen, anywhere,â Sandler told GeekWire. âI haven’t seen anything as powerful or more entrepreneur-centric than what’s going on at PSL. “
Sandler was already helping entrepreneurs while working at Madrona, which also runs a similar ‘start-up studio’ called Madrona Venture Laboratories. But the opportunity to join PSL in its early days – she calls it a startup – was enough to convince the Harvard and Stanford graduate to make the switch.
“This organization is clearly on a roll,” she explained. âIt’s also early enough that I can really take on the role of an early member of the team and help develop the evolution of this model to serve entrepreneurs in our region in so many ways.
Gottesman said Sandler is uniquely positioned to help PSL create the “world’s best platform for entrepreneurs.”
âIn addition to being an incredibly intelligent, creative and inspiring leader, Julie is one of the most knowledgeable and entrepreneur-focused investors I have encountered in my 20 years of venture capital,â said he added.
Sandler, who has helped lead investments in startups like Integris, Poppy and Julep, said she had taken an “incredible turn in Madrona” and was looking forward to continuing to work with the venture capital firm. She said “the relationship is close”.
When asked about this relationship given Sandler’s transition, Gottesman noted how Madrona is an investor in PSL and has invested in some of the studio’s spin-off companies as well.
âWe are excited to continue to find ways to work together to help build Seattle’s ecosystem,â he said.
In a statement to GeekWire, Madrona chief executive Scott Jacobson echoed those thoughts.
âJulie has been a great contributor to Madrona, many of our portfolio companies and the Seattle startup ecosystem,â he said. âWe are thrilled for her in her new role at PSL and look forward to working together in the future to help create start-ups in our region. “
Sandler, 2014 GeekWire of the Year and 2016 Presidential Leadership Scholar winner, is also passionate about helping underrepresented women and entrepreneurs; she helped start the Seattle Women Entrepreneur Network, for example. Sandler said this would be an area of ââimportance to her at PSL and that she hopes to bring a diverse mix of entrepreneurs to the studio.
“There is a whole new generation of founders coming here to the Pacific Northwest, and especially Seattle, who are much more diverse in multiple dimensions than any generation in the past,” he said. she said, adding that she had never been so optimistic about Seattle. based entrepreneurship.
PSL employs 17 people and 5 entrepreneurs in residence. He created six companies, four of which were publicly announced:
- LumaTax, a company that aims to automate sales tax reporting for small businesses.
- Jet Closing, an app that streamlines the real estate closing experience.
- AdLightning, which helps digital publishing companies scan their sites for disruptive ads.
- Boundless, a startup that aims to help people navigate the U.S. immigration process.