November 2nd, 2011

Portland Seed Fund stages inaugural Demo Day and… [insert horticultural pun here]

Portland Seed Fund stages inaugural Demo Day and… [insert horticultural pun here]

It seems like it was only three months ago that the Portland Seed Fund revealed their first class of startups. Oh wait. It was only three months ago.

And today, those startups emerged—some all growed up and some completely transformed—to take the stage at Ziba Design for the first Portland Seed Fund Demo Day.

Tons of visiting dignitaries, local investors, and a who’s who of the Portland startup scene gathered to watch the goings on. And when the smoke cleared, there were eight new Portland startups on the scene.

In order of presentations, they were:

Vizify pitched by Todd Silverstein CEO

Vizify is focused on making your online profile beautiful. In their words, it’s “an awesome new way to make a great first impression.”

[Vizify] helps you create a great online impression by building a highly visual and interactive profile of you using the fragments of your life contained in the online services you already use such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Vizify has been simultaneously participating in both the Portland Seed Fund and TechStars (Seattle).

The team is raising $750,000 with $250,000 already committed.

LaunchSide pitched by Nathan Taggart CEO

LaunchSide is a new advertising service designed to match early stage startups with early adopters. “We’re not doing mobile photo sharing or cloud,” Nathan said. “We have a real business model.”

LaunchSide connects companies to new customers online. they solve the problem that many companies, especially innovative ones, really struggle with — how to be “found” when customers don’t know to search for you yet. Initially focused on helping find early beta users, they are now moving into offering services for companies struggling with the transition form early adopters to mass market users. The founding team has more than 20 years combined in web-based customer acquisition applications.

The team is in the process of raising $250,000.

Hively pitched by Jason Lander CEO

Hively asserts that “measuring customer happiness is a challenge.” And they’re going to make it easier.

Hively connects businesses with their customers by helping them gather ongoing, real time customer feedback in a fun and engaging way. Hively is finding a niche by creating a simple method for gathering and measuring customer satisfaction. Customers can rate every experience they have by simply clicking a rating option — a smiley face for good customer service and a frown for poor. Hively also includes a scoring and employee ranking system in order to reward teams for providing excellent customer service. The company launched in September 2011 and already has over 50 customers, in multiple industries.

Hively is expressly not seeking funding.

Geoloqi pitched by Amber Case CEO

“We help people make great geolocation based apps”

Geoloqi is a platform for real-time geo-content. Even better? It’s platform and language agnostic.

Their cutting-edge product offers an API and mobile applications that lets developers easily build location-based apps and bring large datasets to life. Users can choose to subscribe to apps built on the platform such as privately sharing their location with loved ones or sending location-based reminders. Still in beta, the product just launched a Wikipedia layer that, when turned on, will send push notifications to your phone about notable Wikipedia articles around you. Geoloqi raised $300,000 from local Portland investors, in addition to the $25,000 they received from Portland Seed Fund.

The team is seeking a round of $2 million.

Homeschool Snowboarding pitched by Daniel Clancey CEO

Homeschool is creating outerwear focused on hyper breathability, durability, and timeless style.

“It has to work here in the Northwest,” said Daniel. “If it works here, it will work anywhere.”

Homeschool Snowboarding, the only non-tech company backed by Portland Seed Fund is run by Daniel Clancy, formerly a designer with Columbia Sportswear grew up as a surfer in Hawaii, but has has been boarding in the Pacific Northwest for over 15 years. With co-founder Jevan Lautz, the company designs and manufactures the most breathable activewear apparel available today. Homeschool has a full-line of base layer, middle wear and outerwear made from activated carbon from coconut shells, which provides greater surface area — and thus better breathability — than any other technology.

The team is seeking $1 million in funding.

Audioname pitched by Sheetal Dube CEO

Startup Weekend Portland alum and Bend Venture Conference winner, Audioname continues to add to its momentum. And CEO Sheetal Dube is seeing progress.

“It’s helped me positively impact how people are communicating with each other,” she said

[Audioname] enables people to record their name in their own voice and add it to their email signature and social profiles. An interesting point is that there are 7 billion people on the planet with names, and this will help them learn how to pronounce each others name and build better relationships. It not only will help bridge cultural differences, but also provide high value to direct marketers, sales professionals and anyone who needs to pronounce an unfamiliar name.

Comic Rocket pitched by Tim Shields CEO

Reading comics is a social activity just looking for an outlet, according to Comic Rocket.

“We can tell you in real-time what your friends like and what they’re reading,” said Tim. And it’s all thanks to Facebook.

Comic Rocket mixes Portland’s love of technology and comics. Founders Tim Shields and Andy Grossberg will soon be launching the next generation digital reader for back-issue comic books with plans to dramatically increase comic readership. Starting as an interactive Facebook App, users will not only read new and old comics online, but will see what their friends like and receive customized recommendations. Comic Rocket leverages deep experience in the comics space with over 30+ years in the comic book and gaming industries.

4-tell pitched by Ken Levy CEO

With a functionality that is, with “people who bought this also bought…” its target market is storefronts that are far smaller than Amazon. They are helping companies boost their e-commerce sales by steering customers to products they might like in addition to what they set out to buy. 4-Tell’s business customers report sales increases of 10 to 25 percent by using the constantly updated software. With almost 100 business customers so far, 4-Tell growing 25 percent month over month and having trouble handling all the demand. 4-Tell won $120,000 at the Gorge Angel Investors Network Competition last year, and has received generous angel funding, in addition to the money from the Portland Seed Fund.

“If we can do this for yarn,” said Ken. “We can do this for anything.”

And there you have it

For others weighing in, check Mike Rogoway’s post:

The seed fund is an experiment in using public money, doled out in small slices, to wake up Portland’s historically sleepy startup scene. It’s raised $2.5 million, two-thirds of that in public funds, and hopes to round out its fund at $3 million.

From 125 applications, fund managers chose eight startups judged to be especially well positioned for quick results.

They spent three months working with seed fund mentors on their business strategy, fundraising plans and products before Wednesday’s “Demo Day” in a packed auditorium inside Ziba Design’s Pearl District headquarters.

And Geekwire’s coverage:

The Seattle tech community is gearing up for Thursday’s Demo Day, the high-profile investment pitch session in which 10 companies from TechStars Seattle plan to put their best pitch forward. But Seattle isn’t the only place where Demo Day is taking place. Today, in Portland, eight new companies emerged from the 90-day Portland Seed Fund incubator.

As part of their participation in the program, each company received a $25,000 investment from the fund, a public-private partnership which is supported by the Portland Development Commission; Oregon Growth Account; City of Hillsboro; OEN Catalyst Fund; and individual angel investors.

Want more? Read the Portland Seed Fund’s post on Demo Day.

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