Paul English has built a speakeasy for the startup set.
Standing in an unnamed alley in Boston’s Fort Point Channel neighborhood, English points to the lighted doorbell at the entrance, and says he doesn’t plan to have a sign trumpeting the name of his new venture. Instead, visitors will see only the subtle metal cut-out of the letter “B” above the bell, and know they are about to enter a business incubator that English and his collaborators call Blade.
Blade is a third act for English, co-founder and former chief technology officer of the travel planning site Kayak.com. Backed by $20 million from the venture capital firms Accel Partners and General Catalyst, English intends to launch two or three new companies a year, focusing on a market segment that Boston has long ceded to Silicon Valley: consumers.
“Any entrepreneur who wants to do mass-market consumer startups, I want them to think about Blade,” says English. “We want to show that if you want to do consumer technology, you can do it in Boston.”
But if there’s anything tougher than trying to get a single company off the runway, it’s trying to design an aircraft carrier to vault them into the sky in quick succession. And English isn’t unaware of that. In developing the idea for Blade, he sought advice from the founder of LinkedIn and famed Silicon Valley moneyman Michael Moritz, asking each, “Why will I fail?”
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