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Mike Fridgen, the former CEO of Decide.com, has joined Madrona Venture Labs
Mike Fridgen, the former CEO of Decide.com, has joined Madrona Venture Labs

Seattle entrepreneur Mike Fridgen knows Madrona Venture Group pretty well.

After all, three of the startups he’s helped build over the years were bankrolled by the Seattle venture capital firm.

Now, Fridgen is looking to help Madrona create even more startups.

The Madrona Labs team: Amy Falcone, Geoffrey Elliott, Brian Fioca, Mike Fridgen, Brendan Ribera, Matt Terich
The Madrona Labs team: Amy Falcone, Geoffrey Elliott, Brian Fioca, Mike Fridgen, Brendan Ribera, Matt Terich

The former CEO of Decide.com and vice president of marketing at Farecast left his general manager role at eBay last week to become CEO of Madrona Venture Labs, the so-called “startup studio” that looks to incubate new entrepreneurial ventures in the region.

For Fridgen, the new gig is a kind of homecoming.

“It is very exciting for me,” said Fridgen. “I am passionate about early-stage (startups) and there is such an incredible team here at Madrona Labs that it all came together very naturally.”

Fridgen said he’s especially excited about the idea of having a broader impact across a wide-range of Seattle startups. Fridgen is also accustomed to the role that he’ll be asking others to play since he was tapped to take the CEO role at Decide.com in 2010, a company previously incubated inside of Madrona by computer scientist Oren Etzioni.

“It is the perfect fit,” said Fridgen of the new role. “This really plays to my strength.”

He got his start in business after graduating from the University of Washington, creating a startup called TripHub that was bankrolled by Madrona.

Fridgen most recently oversaw eBay’s fast-growing Bellevue engineering center, a role he took on several months after the online shopping giant acquired Decide.com in 2013.

Madrona established Madrona Venture Labs late last year with the goal of matching smart entrepreneurs with interesting business ideas — hosting those teams in the venture firm’s offices during their formative early days. It was originally led by Greg Gottesman, the longtime partner at Madrona who left that role earlier this year to start a similar concept by the name of Pioneer Square Labs.

Madrona is an investor in Pioneer Square Labs, and Gottesman remains a part time venture partner at the venture firm.

Fridgen, for one, does not see much overlap with Pioneer Square Labs.

“In terms of the market, there are so many ideas, and it is a huge market,” said Fridgen. “What we are doing at Madrona Venture Labs creates a lot more innovation and new opportunities. Bottom line: There are just so many ideas and opportunities, it is good for the community as a whole” to have both entities operating in Seattle.

To date, Madrona Venture Labs has incubated two startups. Seattle-based Spare5 operates a mobile application that allows users to earn small amounts of money by performing mundane tasks on behalf of companies. A second undisclosed startup is looking to launch early next year.

With Fridgen at the helm, Madrona Venture Labs plans to increase its output with plans to double its current staff of engineers, designers and product managers.

While Madrona Venture Labs is in the business of incubating new startups, it is bankrolled just like a typical Madrona portfolio company.

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