Pioneer Square Labs just added some serious entrepreneurial clout to its managing director lineup.
The Seattle startup studio today named T.A. McCann as its fifth managing director, joining Geoff Entress, Mike Galgon, Greg Gottesman, and Julie Sandler as leaders at the 2-year-old organization.
McCann is a longtime Seattle entrepreneur, starting companies like Senosis (acquired by Google), Gist (acquired by Blackberry), and Rival IQ. The former Microsoft executive is also an active angel investor, backing local companies like Volt Athletics, VendorHawk, and Guidant Financial.
McCann was an early angel investor in PSL when the studio first got off the ground in 2015, using the concept of rapidly testing and validating new ideas before recruiting an executive team to build out a spinoff company. The firm last week expanded, raising an $80 million venture fund called PSL Ventures.
Last year, McCann started thinking about ways he could make a bigger impact within the Seattle tech community. He ultimately decided to join PSL because of his long-term relationships with folks like Gottesman and Brad Feld, general partner at Foundry Group who also was an early backer of PSL.
It was a chance to “spend a little time with a lot of companies, as opposed to a lot of time with one company,” said McCann, who is featured in GeekWire’s new “Elevator Pitch” show.
“I love the early phase of a company when it’s really messy and you’re trying to find the beginning of product market fit,” he added. “But when you do your own company, you only go through it one time. At PSL, we go through that phase once or twice a month. Being able to do that process at a high frequency is very attractive for me.”
McCann said the “blend of skills” within the PSL managing director team was also a big reason for why he joined, pointing to company-building and investment expertise.
“When you start thinking about, as an entrepreneur, surrounding yourself with people who can help you on all these different [areas], the managing director team at PSL is pretty hard to match,” he said.
McCann said most of his time will be spent with PSL Studio, working with founders and a team of engineers, designers, and marketers to spinout new startups, versus on the PSL Ventures side.
“If there’s one person in Seattle I’d want to start a company with, it’s T.A.,” Gottesman said in a statement. “He hones right in on where a founder most needs attention and then systematically goes about helping, whether that’s recruiting engineers, building product, pulling together financings, or landing an initial set of customers. We could not be more excited about T.A. joining our team.”
PSL Studio launched several startups in the past two years, including companies like AdLightning and Boundless. The studio itself has raised $27.5 million to date, including a $15 million round in January, from more than a dozen U.S. venture capital funds and 50-plus angel investors — a who’s-who list that includes firms like Bezos Expedition and Greycroft Partners, in addition to individuals like Expedia and Zillow founder Rich Barton, former Concur CEO Steve Singh, and ARCH Ventures co-founder Bob Nelsen.
The new $80 million fund will allow PSL to invest in startups that they like, but don’t necessarily fit into the Studio model. PSL Ventures will invest $500,000 to $2 million in early-stage tech companies — pre-seed, seed, and Series A investment rounds — with a focus on Pacific Northwest-based startups working on technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, voice, cloud computing.
“Seattle has a chance to lead, or is already leading, in the category of machine learning and AI,” said McCann, who is also interested in quantified health.
McCann said he’ll still do angel investing but will plan to bring most of his potential investments through PSL, given that it can provide more funding and support than an individual angel could.
McCann been an entrepreneur since childhood — his first “business” was at age 11, doing yard work and boat maintenance. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Washington Foster School of Business and a long-time Techstars mentor. McCann graduated from Purdue, where he was a collegiate swimmer, and is a competitive sailor who was on a team that won the America’s Cup in 1992.