April 22nd, 2014
Soft landing: Portland startup Glider acquired by FPX, product to continue
Startups move quickly these days. Portland startup Glider was no exception. The formation, rapid ascent, and exit of Glider—a startup that worked to help streamline the tangled mess of contracts, signatures, and approvals—took only a couple of years to complete the cycle. And today, with an acquisition by Dallas-based FPX, Glider moves on to its next phase, where it will continue its work as part of a larger entity with access to more resources.
While the terms weren’t disclosed, folks close to the deal see the exit as good news for the founders, investors, and the Portland startup scene, as a whole.
“We can’t talk about the terms, but it was a good exit for us,” Portland Seed Fund’s managing director Jim Huston told the Portland Business Journal. “Now Glider has the resources to continue to grow the company in Portland. It’s a good thing for Portland.”
For me, the best part of the story is the wacky journey that brought Glider to this point. Folks always say that good entrepreneurs take advantage of the resources at their disposal. All the possible resources. And that’s just what Glider’s team managed to do as it built its business.
The journey it began was a far cry from where it ended up.
You see, Glider really began when cofounder Eli Rubel decided he wanted to build a startup. In Portland.
So Eli got involved in the startup scene. Started meeting people. Started hanging out at PIE. All while trying to figure out a business that would allow him to put his energies toward building a startup.
It wasn’t an easy journey. But a Portland Startup Weekend helped him find the team that would become the founding team of the company. Most notably, cofounder Justin Thiele—a PIE alum and serial entrepreneur. Only at that time, they were working on a photo album startup called Tell It In 10.
But Tell It In 10 wasn’t really getting the traction they wanted. But the team was good. And they had potential as founders. In fact, they were a compelling enough crew that they gained entry to the Portland Seed Fund.
With seed funding, they had some runway to refine their concept. But they weren’t seeing the traction they wanted. And so they started working to find another business to pursue. And they brainstormed and brainstormed. And pushed ideas. And tested concepts.
Until they looked at their own experience as entrepreneurs. And realized that terms sheets and contracts and the like were just an archaic—and sometimes laughable—mess. There had to be a better way. And so they tried to use that pain point as inspiration to solve the problem. I can still remember cofounders Eli and Justin babbling excitedly about the concept at SXSW in 2012.
It seemed like they had something. And honestly? It sounded a lot more viable than Tell It In 10.
Up above the clouds
What they had became Superbly. And that company managed to land a round of funding by an investor who had bet on Portland startups like Puppet Labs and Urban Airship, True Ventures. Giving them more runway and more time, just as they had before, to refine the new concept.
And then they found another resource that could provide more help. To the north of Portland. When Superbly’s team garnered the attention of another notable accelerator, TechStars Seattle. So they moved to Seattle for three months. To continue to work on the idea and build. And tweak. And when they took the stage in Seattle in November, something else had changed.
The company was now Glider. And it was bordering on a very viable solution.
So they came back to Portland. And kept working. And got some office space and did some fundraising.
And then, Glider found another resource. In the form of TechCrunch Disrupt. Where they were able to reveal their new product, new focus, and more funding: $1 million.
Please prepare for landing
With that, the growing team hunkered down and built and sold and partnered and made a go of it. Until they happened upon a partnership that seemed like more than a partnership. And that closed the loop. FPX acquired the company and plans to keep the product alive—and growing.
Two Portland startups in TechStars Seattle have resulted in two acquisitions. The other was Vizify, which was recently acquired by Yahoo! Not a bad record. At all.
And it was really nice to be there. Along for the ride. Somewhat vicariously, as it were.
A lot can happen in 30 months.
For more information on the acquisition, read the FPX release.