Making the Switch: Sean Ammirati Goes From Serial Entrepreneur to VC Principal @ Birchmere Labs

Sean Ammirati is leading up Birchmere Labs.

Serial entrepreneur Sean Ammirati made headlines in March when he switched gears from building successful tech startups to now sniffing out start-up opportunities as a partner at the newly created Birchmere Labs studio fund.

Ammirati has a proven track record of building startups, having started mSpoke and then selling it to LinkedIn. Most recently as COO, he grew ReadWriteWeb to 25 employees and sold it to Say Media in San Francisco last December.

Now, Ammirati is moving to the venture capital (VC) side of the startup equation with his new gig at Birchmere Labs.

“The timing was right to make a move,” Ammirati says. “So far, it’s been a lot of fun. The reaction from colleagues and friends here and across the country has been very positive and heart-warming.”

“As our core Birchmere investment model has increasingly focused on tech-heavy companies, we felt we were missing many great investment opportunities outside our space.  Serendipitously, Sean Ammirati became available after his recent sale of ReadWriteWeb just as we were contemplating how to address the consumer internet space,” said Birchmere Partner Sean Sebastian.  “The chance to launch Birchmere Labs as a new initiative under Sean’s leadership was just too good to pass up.”

Working with Birchmere is not a new relationship for Ammirati. In fact, he first met Birchmere Ventures Partner Ned Renzi, of all times, during 9-11. They started their relationship during a 40-hour drive from Arizona to Pittsburgh. Ammirati’s move to Birchmere made local headlines of course, and even managed some coverage in TechCrunch.

Ammirati explained that Birchmere has been a great investor with a well-known reputation, here and around the country. The VC has found its success with a focus on IP-driven innovation, especially around clean tech and medical fields.

Birchmere Labs will be much different than the classic VC firm, Ammirati explains.

“Birchmere Labs is focused on a different type of startup,” he says. “We focus on startups where the barrier to entry is an active social community. So while companies are easy to start, when they get to scale that is the moral equivalent of a patent portfolio for those companies.”

Ammirati says Birchmere Labs will focus on two things: starting actual companies that are community-driven, commerce initiatives; and it will make investments into these types of companies, as well as web and mobile ventures.

Birchmere Labs is based in Pittsburgh, but has a focus any place it sees the right opportunity. “We don’t have a bias for or against Pittsburgh,” Ammirati notes.

Local entrepreneurs, fear not!

“I’ll spend time in Pittsburgh. I’m an active advisor in AlphaLabs and Adjunct Professor at Carnegie Mellon,” Ammirati says. “I’ll continue to be very involved in the tech community in Pittsburgh as Birchmere has always been.”

“Ultimately, we’ll be judged by the quality of our portfolio,” says Ammirati. “I’m excited to help people build some valuable companies.”

Listen to a TechVibe Radio Podcast with Sean for more details.

Words by Jonathan Kersting

Photos by Sandi Fairbanks


Avere Systems Joins TSANet Multivendor Support Alliance

Avere Systems  joined the Technical Support Alliance Network (TSANet), the IT industry’s only fully operational, technical global infrastructure, proven to fast-track multivendor cooperation and significantly reduce call time-to-resolution.

Established in 1993 by technology companies, TSANet is a worldwide, vendor-neutral infrastructure that operationalizes multi-vendor collaboration involving complex interoperability issues.  Using the TSANet process, members agree to collaborate when a multivendor problem exists.  TSANet allows partners to have a common entry point when contacting partners’ support centers in multivendor support incidents.  TSANet is a behind-the-scenes process and end-users are typically unaware that TSANet is being used as a mechanism of communication for the solution to their problem.

“TSANet seeks to maximize member company efficiency in solving support problems to more effectively resolve servicing issues and allow for improved overall customer service,” said Sid Saleh, Chief Executive Officer of TSANet.  “By making it faster and easier for a customer to get resolution to their problem within heterogeneous computing environments, we are able to improve the support experience in a collaborative way with significant savings in both time and money to the members involved.  We are pleased to welcome Avere Systems as a member of the TSANet community and look forward to their contributions to the collective organization.”

“By joining an organization like TSANet, Avere is able to extend our commitment to customer support by ensuring maximum efficiency in resolving support issues in multi-vendor environments,”  said Jeff Butler, Director of Customer Operations at Avere. “We look forward to working with TSANet and our fellow members for the benefit of our joint customers.”

Avere Systems’ products help organizations to improve the performance of their current NAS infrastructure and lower the cost of NAS acquisition while delivering superior economics, efficiency, visibility and business agility.  Its FXT Series of high-performance, scale-out NAS appliances is the first-ever solution to deliver the benefits of performance tiering and scale-out clustering to any NAS environment. Avere FXT appliances define a new NAS services product offering, providing value-add NAS functionality to both existing and new NAS deployments and both single-vendor and heterogeneous NAS environments.

Metis Secure Introduces New Emergency Help Station at Point Park University

Metis Secure Solutions, an innovator of location-based emergency notification systems, today introduced their Emergency Help Station. This new innovative alerting device, with an environmentally hardened exterior, expands the application of their award winning patent pending emergency notification system to locations such as outdoor parks, underground tunnels and parking garages.

The first customer of the Metis Secure Emergency Help Station is Point Park University (Pittsburgh, PA), which will utilize the notification system in the Urban Park being built as part of the Academic Village at Point Park University, a $244 million campus and neighborhood improvement plan. According to Point Park University Vice President of Operations, Bill Cameron, “We selected Metis Secure because we were impressed with the speed and effectiveness of the solution and wanted one single emergency notification platform across campus. The park is only the first phase.  We plan to implement the Metis Secure system throughout the rest of our campus to inform and protect our students, faculty, staff and visitors wherever they are.”

Mark Kurtzrock, President and CEO of Metis Secure said, “The Emergency Help Station uniquely enables Point Park to communicate with park visitors and advise them to seek shelter indoors if there is a severe weather event or some other local emergency.  It also allows park visitors to quickly and easily reach university police in the event of a medical emergency or accident.”

In the same way that the Metis Secure in-building devices alert with voice instruction, text display, lights and sirens, the New Emergency Help Station will breakthrough outdoor noise and deliver emergency information to people in need, or University Police in seconds, not minutes. All communications are monitored, delivered and recorded utilizing the Metis Secure Command Center software, which enables University Police dispatchers to view the status and location of the Help Stations through campus maps and building floor plans.

Intertech Security, a security systems integrator, will install the Metis Secure system during the park construction over the next several months. The Mellon Institute on the Carnegie Mellon University campus in Oakland and Slippery Rock University also utilize the Metis Secure system to ensure they can inform and protect students, residents, employees and visitors during times of emergency.

Juniper Networks Reports Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2010 Financial Results

Juniper Networks, who recently opened Pittsburgh offices, reported preliminary financial results for the three and 12 months ended December 31, 2010, and provided its outlook for the three months ending March 31, 2011.  The company’s fourth quarter and full year 2010 results reflect record performance by the company as measured by non-GAAP net income and revenues.

Net revenues for the fourth quarter of 2010 increased 26% on a year-over-year basis and increased 18% sequentially, to $1.190 billion. For the year ended December 31, 2010, Juniper’s revenue increased 23% on a year-over-year basis to $4.093 billion.

The Company posted GAAP net income of $190.2 million, or $0.35 per diluted share, and non-GAAP net income of $228.6 million, or $0.42 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2010.  Included in both the GAAP and non-GAAP net income per share is approximately $0.03 per share favorable impact due to the extension of R&D tax credit.

Non-GAAP net income per diluted share for the fourth quarter of 2010 increased 31% on a year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter basis. For the year ended December 31, 2010, GAAP net income was $618.4 million, or $1.15 per diluted share, and non-GAAP net income was $710.5 million, or $1.32 per diluted share.

Non-GAAP net income per diluted share, for the year ended December 31, 2010, increased 43% on a year-over-year basis. The reconciliation between GAAP and non-GAAP results of operations is provided in a table immediately following the Net Revenues by Market table below.