April 29th, 2008

Let’s start finding the right VCs for Portland and the Silicon Forest

Talk to enough startups and the conversation eventually turns to that of funding. And the search for that seemingly elusive operating capital.

Ultimately, this discussion devolves into a lament about the frustrations of the VC dance, the cross-purposes, the potential loss of control of which entrepreneurs live in fear, and, ultimately, some inherent evil in the whole process.

We live with this folklore. And we continually repeat it. And reinforce it.

A series of horror stories about what could happen. Stories that we continue to spin, time and time again, until we begin to see them as universal truths.

And then we begin to believe that the concept of VC investment and the culture of the Silicon Forest are at odds with one another.

That we can’t get there from here.

And that’s why I’m glad to see posts like this one from early stage investor Jeff Pulver.

Because these types of stories counteract the folklore. Because the kinds of things he’s seeking don’t seem to be cold-blooded or mercenary. Because Pulver seems to be the type of investor who is right in line with Portland’s startup culture.

When meeting with an early-stage startup looking for funding, if I am interested in the company, I look to connect with the founders and find out the inspiration behind the company they are creating. I try to understand the problem they are solving and the opportunity they are seeing. I also look to see how as a team they get along, work off each other and I try to get a feel of their creative energies. I look for teams where each member is watching each other’s back and a core team whom I feel will be together for the long term. I look for people who are both smart and creative who can be focused when necessary and whose personality allow themselves to be open to change directions and re-map themselves when needed.

If there’s one thing of which we have loads in Portland, it’s creativity. Whether that creativity manifests itself in traditional ways like art and music, or in less traditional ways like crafts, cooking, brewing, vintner-ing, designing… or coding interesting Web apps.

We tend to wield technology like a brush or a pen. Using it as an outlet for our creativity. And then, we tend to relish partaking in others’ creativity, be it culinary or brewery.

And there are VCs out there who get that. Who aren’t big scary monsters. Who are interested in the same types of things you are interested in doing.

We need to remember that. We need to start wooing the right kind of VCs. For you. And for the Silicon Forest.

Investors who, like Jeff Pulver, “invest in people first and ideas second.”

Let’s get started with that, shall we?

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One Response to “Let’s start finding the right VCs for Portland and the Silicon Forest”

  1. Bill Lynch says:

    Nice post Rick, thanks.

    I have first-hand experience working with one of the best VC’s on the planet. What Pulver writes is exactly the experience I’ve had and it’s changed my opinion of VC’s.

    My advice to anyone: never pass up the chance to talk to a VC — they’re usually very smart people and former entrepreneurs and hopefully you’ll learn something. Also, before you take funding make sure to know what you value and stick to that.

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