Handcrafted startups: Upstart Labs captures the Portland ethos with a hands-on approach to building companies

Whenever someone asks me what sets Portland apart from other up and coming startup scenes, one word always jumps to mind: craft. Portland is a town of makers. Of makers who pay particular attention to their craft. To detail. Be it code or beer or food or clothing.

So why should startups be any different? Upstart Labs (if it wasn’t already my favorite thing in Portland, right now, today’s news would seal that) has taken a very Portland—and very successful—approach to creating the next generation of Portland business.

And they’ve done it by eschewing the typical “spray and pray” shotgun approach investment strategy that drives many early stage investors. Choosing instead to focus on a startup or two at a time. Taking good raw ideas and technology and honing it—by providing funding and augmenting existing staff—to take companies to market in a way that’s more appealing to investors.

Shining example? Portland’s Chirpify, an Upstart alum.

They also feel they’re filling a much needed gap between existing accelerators like OTBC, PIE, and Portland Seed Fund and larger funding mechanisms like Oregon Angel Fund.

And they believe they’re uniquely positioned to fill that gap in a very big way. I tend to agree. And the other news they announced today only bolsters my confidence in them doing so.

Getting the band back together

Upstart Labs was cofounded by Greg Rau and Jenn Lynch, who had previously worked together—and successfully exited from—StepChange Group. But another critical component of that successful team had branched off to pursue other opportunities.

Not any more.

Kevin Tate, one of the cofounders of StepChange and most recently the chief marketing officer at ShopIgniter, has joined his colleagues again.

What brought Kevin back? Well according to GeekWire, he sees an opportunity:

Tate explains that Upstart Labs is different than an accelerator since they are not taking in classes of startups and running them through a formal process. However, he added that recent graduates of TechStars or Y Combinator could be good candidates.

And given what I’ve seen this team accomplish in the past, I expect big things.

Going Rogue

The next chunk of big news is that Upstart has attracted a co-investment partner in Rogue Venture Partners (more on them in an upcoming post). Rogue will work with Upstart to fund promising companies.

They’ve got two already, Measureful and Juked.

Getting Stump more involved in Stumptown

The final piece of news is a doozy. Joe Stump—former lead architect at Digg, cofounder of Urban Airship acquisition SimpleGeo, and cofounder of Sprint.lyhas joined Upstart as a venture partner.

Stump has worked for several notable startups in the past and will be Upstart’s new Venture Partner. Prior to joining the company, Stump was the Lead Architect at Digg, the founder of SimpleGeo (acquired by Urban Airship), and is currently the co-founder of Sprint.ly. And if that wasn’t enough, he is also an angel investor and advisor for more than a dozen companies. For those following the TNW Academy, last month Stump taught a class on ‘Growth Hacking’


I know, right?!!?

That’s an awful lot of awesomeness in one announcement, to be sure. But best of all? You can get in on the action. Upstart Labs is accepting startup applications via AngelList until February 15.

For more information, visit Upstart Labs.

  1. […] they did another thing. It was called Upstart Labs. And like the company before, they were early adopters. Participants in a new generation of […]

  2. […] at Silicon Florist, Rick Turoczy writes that in a town of makers like Portland, Upstart Labs has taken a new approach […]

  3. Upstart Labs is one of the most impressive things going on in Portland right now….we are lucky to have them!

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