Welcoming Andy Palmer

May 3, 2017

Today, we’re proud to announce that Andy Palmer has joined Founder Collective as our newest Founder Partner (and be sure to read Andy’s post explaining his motivation for joining FC.) David Frankel recently explained what we look for in this role: entrepreneurs who are wholly-focused on building their own companies and partner with our firm on a part-time basis to invest in other entrepreneurs (and in Andy’s case, the Cambridge/Boston startup ecosystem).

Founder Partners are magnets for talent, insatiably curious, deal-savvy, and experienced angel investors. Andy couldn’t be a better fit for Founder Collective, as I detail below. For Andy, Founder Collective will help him continue the mission he started with Koa Labs — to support the Boston/Cambridge entrepreneurial ecosystem — while he maintains his primary focus as the CEO at Tamr, the company he co-founded with his partner and Turing Award Winner, Mike Stonebraker, PhD.

Andy built a unique career combining tech, life sciences, and data engineering that included serving as:

  • VP of Sales and Marketing at pcOrder.com during the dot-com boom
  • Chief information and Administration Officer at Infinity Pharmaceuticals
  • Co-founder and founding CEO of of database company Vertica (sold to HP)
  • Global head of software and data engineering at Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research
  • Founder of Koa Labs, a seed fund in Cambridge where he supported the founding of such great companies as PillPack, Recorded Future, Evergage, Kinsa, Desktop Metal, and dozens of others
  • Most recently co-founding Tamr, a data unification platform that reduces the time and effort to connect multiple data sources, with funding from NEA, Google Ventures, HPE, Thomson Reuters, GE and MassMutual

Andy is a nexus for entrepreneurs in Boston, and I’ve seen him change people’s lives and career paths by leveraging his experience and networks. The following attributes are just a small part of what makes him special.

Mission-driven

Andy learned how to program writing computer games in the 1980’s as a teenager. His love of computers and software has driven him throughout his career and fueled his personal mantra: “Getting paid to play with computers and software all day is too good to be true.”

Andy’s inspiration for being an entrepreneur came naturally: “My grandfather was an entrepreneur. He sold firetrucks — he loved everything about cars and big trucks. He supported our family, was an amazing role model and he got to play with trucks all day. I’m really just trying to be like my grandfather — but with me it’s computers instead of trucks.”

A Role Model

Andy is a sharp, deal-savvy investor, but he’s also one of the most generous people I’ve met in the Boston ecosystem. He’s made more connections that have led to lucrative deals and momentous career changes than most of the recruiters in Boston. Many investors use favors and intros as a form of currency while Andy proactively offers help with no expectation of return with great regularity. Personally, he’s been a role model for how to catalyze a startup community. Andy credits his long time partner and close friend Frank Moss for his behavior: “Frank taught me how to be a great entrepreneur while also being a great person and caring for others.”

Tech + Life Science + Consumer + Data

Like us, Andy looks for unique individuals working to solve compelling problems with focused use cases. More specifically, he’s deeply focused on the intersection of tech and data, with a special interest in companies that combine them with life sciences and consumer applications.

He’s all over these issues at Tamr and is working hard to improve the quality and actionability of data for his customers, explaining that “companies have spent 40 years collecting data, now they’re trying to use it. One customer thought they had a two hundred thousandmillion customers. It turned out they had half that number. If you’re wrong about your data is inaccurate, how do you do anything useful with it?”

Founder First

One of the many reasons we’re honored to have Andy on the team is that he has never been an institutional venture capitalist. Why? He loves building companies and playing with tech too much to give it up.

We designed our Founder Partner program precisely to accommodate polymaths like Andy so they can support other founders without letting go of their true passion and their primary interests. This structure gives entrepreneurs who take funding from us access to a team of professional investors that can help with general strategy, fundraising, etc. as well as founders like Andy who live and breathe big data and can offer deeper domain expertise.

“Entrepreneurship is a team sport; I believe that with my soul,” he says.

Humility

Humility and empathy with founders are core values at our fund. Andy is a kindred spirit in this regard. At Tamr, there are no assigned desks, and he’s as likely to be found at a table at a cafe as in an office.

When he built his co-working space, Koa Labs, the same thinking was at work. “We were very deliberate in building something rough around the edges,” he says. “One of the problems with most co-working spaces is that they’re too nice. You need intimacy, a rough lifestyle. You’re trying to do things that shouldn’t happen in a rational world. It’s hard to do that in a space that feels like corporate America.”

Andy rejects the notion that investors are kingmakers — it all comes down to the entrepreneurs. He elaborated “so many venture firms use a rule book devised by the early players in the business. They have all these assumptions about how much ownership they should have, what backgrounds founders should have, and most institutional venture investors have sold those assumptions to their limited partners. I believe we should question more of those assumptions. We don’t have to use that playbook. When you break the rules, question dogma, that’s when you get outsized returns. Coming out of grad school I worked for Joe Liemandt at Trilogy in Austin, TX. Joe is great example of an entrepreneur who doesn’t conform to other’s assumptions. I learned so much working for Joe at Trilogy.”

Welcome to FC Andy!

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