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Venture capitalist Tom Alberg
Venture capitalist Tom Alberg

Madrona Venture Group was one of the earliest investors in Impinj, helping to jumpstart the Seattle maker of RFID technology when it was founded 16 years ago.

That’s a lifetime in the venture capital business, but Madrona’s Tom Alberg — who has sat on the board of the company since 2000 — thinks the best times lie ahead.

Even though Madrona has accumulated a 9.4 percent stake in Impinj over the years, the well-known Seattle venture capitalist wants an even bigger piece of the company as it gets ready to go public this summer.

In a filing today with the SEC, Impinj disclosed that Alberg has expressed an interest in buying another 38,461 shares of Impinj at the time of the IPO, the equivalent of $500,000 at the $13 projected offering price. The underwriters of the offering have reserved the shares for Alberg, who would buy them at the time of the offering in the same way as other purchasers.

Inside the Impinj headquarters in Seattle.
Inside the Impinj headquarters in Seattle.

It’s a bit unusual to see a venture capitalist buy more shares at the time of the IPO. After all, VCs typically like to invest early — as Madrona did in this case when it started investing 16 years ago. By the time a company gets to the IPO stage, venture capitalists are typically thinking about liquidation of their shares.

But Alberg obviously sees promise in Impinj, which actually canceled its first attempt to go public back in 2012.

Now, Impinj is in a stronger position. The company posted revenue of $78.4 million last year, compared to $42.8 million in 2012. Its RFID tags and technologies are now used across industries such as healthcare, retail and manufacturing, with Boeing using it to tag parts in aircraft assembly and Macy’s using it to track inventories at retail stores. Even so, Impinj noted today in an updated filing that it anticipates a net loss this year.

Alberg’s later-stage investment in Impinj would not be the first time that Madrona has made a bet on a publicly-traded portfolio company. You may recall that Alberg’s colleague, Matt McIlwain, doubled down on Seattle-based Isilon when the storage company was getting beat up in the public markets. Madrona bought shares of Isilon in 2009 in the open market when the stock was trading at $2.18 and some were questioning its existence.

That investment turned out well for Madrona, especially after EMC stepped in 21 months later and purchased Isilon for $2.25 billion, or $33.85 per share.

Impinj, which has attracted more than $110 million in venture capital to date, is looking to raise $74 million in the public markets, pricing shares in the range of $12 to $14 per share.

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