Decade of innovation: celebrating the 10th anniversary of Madrona Venture Labs

By Mike Fridgen, Managing Director

Many of you know the story of how the late Madrona co-founder Tom Alberg invested in Amazon in 1995 and supported the company on the board for over 20 years. This set the foundation for how Madrona has operated for decades, a commitment to investing from “Day One for the Long Run” and was highlighted at last month’s annual LP meeting in conversations with day-one founders Mark Mader, CEO Smartsheet, Aaron Easterly, CEO Rover, and Sunny Gupta, former CEO Apptio.

This was Madrona’s mindset when founding a venture studio in 2014, to continue a successful history of incubating ideas, founding companies, and partnering with extraordinary founders. The idea was to build a systematic and repeatable process to help founders validate ideas, build early traction, and raise funding. And doing all of this with a commitment to delivering unique value to founders, enabling them to de-risk and fast-track their startup vision.

Fast forward to today, the 10-year anniversary of Madrona Venture Labs (MVL), and our team is operating out of our fifth fund. We have partnered with founders to co-create and invest in over 30 companies. These companies have gone on to collectively raise over $270m and have achieved a combined value of over $700m. The majority of these companies fall within MVL’s thematic focus on enterprise AI, including Uplevel, people-first engineering intelligence; Xembly, an automated chief of staff for every knowledge worker; Vouched, a digital identification solution; Outbound AI, conversation AI built for healthcare; Pendulum, the narrative-based intelligence platform; Archway, the modern core banking platform; Magnify, the operating system for the customer lifecycle; and Strike Graph, an automated security compliance solution. 

“MVL was instrumental in helping me launch Outbound AI with critical support in testing the idea, helping me recruit my co-founder, and finding the right VCs to our vision for the next part of the journey.”
Stead Burwell, Co-founder and CEO of Outbound AI”

We are invested in and proud of the local communities we have built. Leap, the largest founder community in Seattle, with over 500 members, brings together a diverse group of rising star tech leaders, former founders, and investors to collaborate on ideas and build connections. Launchable, an event series designed to facilitate the creation of innovative, venture-scalable startups, has helped create dozens of new companies, and winning teams have secured funding, added founding team members, and gained momentum at our events. The Startup Seminar at the UW Allen School for Computer Science is a class aimed at inspiring and empowering engineering students to begin their startup journey shortly after graduation and includes active founders, VC investors, and the MVL team.

As we reflect on the past 10 years, we are filled with gratitude for all the people—founders, advisors, and investors—who have trusted and believed in us. Founders like Mia Lewin, who partnered with us to build Style Genome (acquired by Wayfair) and who launched her own venture firm,, focused on backing diverse founding teams. Advisors like Elissa Fink and Spencer Rascoff, who have mentored countless founders and backed multiple MVL funds. The team at Madrona, early advocates Scott Jacobson and Paul Goodrich; recent MVL board members Hope Cochran, Tim Porter, and Soma Somasegar; four-time MVL company backer Steve Singh; and long-time mentor Matt McIlwain. And it all started, back in 2014, with then Madrona Managing Director Greg Gottesman, who coming off a very successful internal incubation of Rover launched the studio within the Madrona offices.

"MVL is the 'day one' in Madrona's continuum of supporting founders over the long run of their startup journey. Founders building a company with MVL get the full support of the Madrona team and the experienced builders joining their fund." — Hope Cochran, Managing Director, Madrona

My relationship with Madrona started in the late 90s when they backed my first startup right out of the University of Washington. Madrona went on to incubate and invest in two more that I was involved with as a founding member, Farecast (acquired by Microsoft) and Decide (acquired by eBay). I joined MVL as Managing Director in 2015 and have 25 years of long-standing partnership with the Madrona team, both as a founder and venture studio builder. My story embodies what we look for in our partnership with founders: enduring relationships, unwavering support over the long run, and the principles we outlined in the founder manifesto that we live every day. 

If you are considering the startup journey, we would love to hear from you. Here’s to another 10 years!

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