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AOLer Fletcher Jones Inspires Incubator Lab

Aug 7, 2012

As Senior Director of AOL's Strategic Partnerships, Fletcher "Fletch" Jones knows how to bring together powerful parties to collaborate on a greater vision. Working with a number of AOL's larger relationships that power websites like DailyFinance, AOL Jobs, and AOL Real Estate, Jones and his team focuses on deal performance. "Business Development does the deals and then someone has to work with the partners and the AOL GMs to make sure the potential of the deal is realized for both parties," said Jones. "I'm an advocate for the partner within AOL and for AOL when dealing with the partner. It's an enjoyable role because of the relationships required both inside and outside the company as well as the real, measurable business metrics involved."

Jones utilized his relationship management skills when collaborating with fellow AOLers, Bud Rosenthal and Brian McMahon, to found Fishbowl Labs, a startup incubator for the D.C. tech community that lives on AOL's Dulles campus. How did Fishbowl Labs begin? "The idea itself – to provide free space on campus to local startups – was not a new one," said Jones. "It is something we'd proven out in Palo Alto and New York. Many in Dulles had asked the question – why not here? I think the reality is that you just need someone or a small group of someones to take the initiative and see it through. Bud Rosenthal, Brian McMahon and I worked on the idea and pitched it to local VC and startup community for probably nine months before the first company moved in."

"The Fishbowl," named for its glass walls, is a perfect space to showcase the startup community. When looking for startups to join the lab, Jones and team look for a strong cultural fit within AOL and the other startups already in the portfolio. Jones explains that "they also look at the problem the startups are solving for and the technology and ideas they employ. What we don't worry too much about is whether their business is going to scale into the next LivingSocial. Since we aren't investing, we can put an emphasis on the culture fit and knowledge transfer and still win big."

When discussing the Dulles tech scene, Jones shares that "people would be surprised by the number of technical folks working in basements and garages in northern Virginia. We got our first six companies in through word of mouth alone. Recent stories by Washington Business Journal and TechCocktail have also created a real surge in interest. A 'Build it and they will come' mentality is really how it's playing out for Fishbowl Labs right now."

Jones joined AOL through the acquisition of Netscape Communications in 1999 and has worked in product management, marketing and business operations roles over the years. A former rower at the University of Michigan, Jones still enjoys exercising as well as coaching and home improvement. His favorite AOL product is AOL Mail and "like many, has had the address for a long time and it's part of my identity." Jones is also addicted to caffeine "and can't operate without coffee first thing in the morning."

Learn more about Fishbowl Labs by reading these articles by BizJournals and TechCocktail or follow them on Twitter at @FishbowlLabs.