October 30th, 2009

OEN Venture Northwest 2009: Recapping pitches from Giftango, Elemental, Prolifiq, ShopIgniter, and Second Porch

OEN Venture Northwest 2009: Recapping pitches from Giftango, Elemental, Prolifiq, ShopIgniter, and Second Porch

I had the opportunity to attend Venture Northwest, Oregon Entrepreneurs Network‘s annual pitch day for early stage startups. You know, kind of like a DEMO or a TechCrunch 50. No cash prizes. But a great deal of opportunity to score some cash, given that the folks at Venture Northwest have the opportunity to pitch their ideas  in front of a roomful of potential investors from throughout the angel and venture capital communities.

Now, Venture Northwest isn’t a tech-centric thing. It’s a startup thing. But there were some interesting tech companies that pitched. So I thought I’d recap for you. Or more appropriately, steal borrow my own recaps from the Venture Northwest guest posts I submitted to TechFlash.

Here they are, in order of appearance:


It was interesting jumping from the major brands and Hollywood stars of Wicked Quick to Portland-based Giftango, which didn’t have the glitz and glam—but they did have a solid model and some well-known local customers in their own right.

But that’s not downplaying it. Remember, Giftango is no slouch. They’re in the midst of filling out a first round. And they’re already planning series B. And they’re looking forward to exit by being acquired.

Giftango helps companies offer gift cards—or “stored value” in the parlance. But they’re not handing physical cards. They’re delivering those “cards” via SMS

Like Portland-based Urban Airship, Giftango is an infrastructure play, providing the plumbing that allows this stuff to work—by helping folks get up and running quickly and easily.

Elemental Technologies

Portland-based Elemental Technologies—the company that’s developing both software and hardware to help folks encode video for the Web more quickly and easily—kicked off the second group of pitches.

Sam Blackman was very comfortable with the crowd. More like a keynote than a presenter. Elemental has been around for awhile. And has pitched a number of these folks before. Successfully, at that. They have raised $7.1 million to date with about $5 million in cash in the bank.

The talk tended to oscillate between highly technical talk littered with acronyms and practical applications of that technology. Personally, I found it incredibly interesting, but I couldn’t get a good take on how the crowd.


Beaverton-based Prolifiq is all about getting sales teams and marketing teams on the same page. And making marketing materials accessible to sales types no matter where they are.

Long story short, it gives marketing a place to put materials and sales a place to get them—with mobile devices.

Having worked in marketing for longer than I care to remember, I can honestly say that this seemingly simple problem is ridiculously hard to fix. And Prolifiq seems to have found a way to do it. It’s a product that any number of companies could use.

Don’t believe me? Well what about Forbes? They selected Prolifiq as one of the most promising companies for 2009.


One of the most anticipated pitches—at least from my perspective—was Portland-based ShopIgniter, a “real time, social ecommerce platform.” And it didn’t disappoint.

ShopIgniter provides an elegant ecommerce package, delivering exactly the functionality you would expect—but then they take it in a couple of different directions that make it all the more compelling. First, they allow sellers to publish their store as a native Facebook app, allowing them to tap into an entirely different group of users in an their preferred environment. And second, they have a sentiment-based Twitter search that allows sellers to more easily identify potential customers—and to more quickly resolve customer issues.

It’s the first product I’ve seen that promises to formally extend the reach of small and medium sized business sales into social networking—and in a way that holds the promise of direct revenue generation.

ShopIgniter is available on a subscription basis as software as a service or it can be installed on the users’ servers. They’ve partnered with Bend-based EllisLab, making it the first ecommerce solution for EllisLab’s popular ExpressionEngine and CodeIgniter platforms.

From an investor perspective, the numbers seem to all be pointing to the upside. Most interesting? Even though they are pre-launch, ShopIgniter claims that $2.5 million investment would help them be profitable in nine months.

Second Porch

It was a shame that the two strong social network plays got clumped into the same group for voting purposes. That said, in a region that’s known for investing in deep tech and apparel, it’s always great to see these more cutting-edge technology folks getting selected to pitch at all.

Portland-based Second Porch is a Facebook app that allows people with vacation homes to promote them to friends without being smarmy or spammy. It’s a great way for owners to make sure their homes are filled more often—and by people they trust. Not to mention, it’s an easy way for renters to find lodging.

In short, they’re making a trusted relationship generate revenue. And it’s an idea that people immediately understand. As such, they’re getting a ton of uptake from the popular press which is always good for a startup. Sometimes, it’s the most straightforward solutions that hold the most promise.

What’s more, they’ve got an attainable revenue goal—with the potential to grow much larger. At this point, profitability requires 2.5% of the vacation home market to participate with each making around 9 transactions per year.

Second Porch is looking to raise $700,000 in the short term and another $1.5 million in mid 2010. They’re planning to exit via acquisition.

Congratulations to everyone who got the chance to present

While there isn’t a cash prize, there is a crowd favorite. And Prolifiq walked away with that prize.

So that’s it. Those are all the cool tech folks from yesterday. What’s tha? You’re interested in a more comprehensive recap of the day? Well your wish is my command. Visit TechFlash for part one and part two of my complete write-up.

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