Reflecting on the importance of Reflect's seed funding announcement

At first blush—and without context—something like today’s news from Portland startup Reflect might seem like a standard run of the mill funding announcement. The stuff the Bay Area sees umpteen times a day. But within the context of what’s happening around here in Portland? I see any number of interesting facets to this announcement.

So I thought I’d take a few minutes to provide some additional context on this news, from my vantage point.

First and foremost, let’s follow the money.

DFJ is the perfect partner. They’ve invested in some of the most iconic companies of our generation, including SpaceX and Tesla. They’ve invested in prominent developer-facing companies like Twilio, Mapbox, and Chef. Most importantly, they understand and support our vision for the future of developer APIs, user experience design, and big data.

Apart from that pedigree, there are a few other interesting things happening here with this investment:

  • DFJ has money at work in Portland again. (DFJ’s last active investment in town was The Clymb.)
  • Seattle’s Founders’ Co-op has even more money at work in town, adding to their portfolio of Portland companies.
  • At a time when the bulk of early stage investing in town has been coming from local investors, a Portland company has managed to attract a premier fund to lead their round.
  • Also interesting along those lines… the usual Portland and Oregon investors who have been carrying the bulk of the early stage investments in the state are conspicuously absent.
  • Perhaps most importantly, this was an oversubscribed round. When was the last time you heard about a Portland company being oversubscribed with funding interest?

Second, the people involved in this are super intriguing to me.

  • Few local folks boast as much early stage Portland startup experience as Reflect cofounder Brad Heller. He’s been at Jive, AboutUs, and Cloudability during their formative stages, as well as cofounding Revisu. I see Brad as one of the few local serial entrepreneurs who truly understands the challenges and opportunities of building a business in Portland. This should play to Reflect’s advantage.
  • Reflect cofounder and CEO Alex Bilmes was the first hire at Cloudability—but he was working from Los Angeles. Now, he’s building Reflect in Portland. With LA’s current startup scene, that nod to Portland is a big deal.
  • Investor Chris DeVore has been a long time supporter of early stage Portland startups both through investment and through Techstars Seattle, which he manages. Having more of his attention in Portland can only benefit us.
  • Bill Bryant from DFJ is joining the Reflect board. And speaking of boards…
  • Former Jive CEO Dave Hersh is joining the Reflect board, as well. While Dave no longer lives in Portland, having his presence here from time to time continues to prove valuable.

Third, this pursuit is right in Portland’s sweet spot: Building tools that help developers. We’ve seen Portland succeed, time and time again, with these types of companies. But this is among the first of the next generation of companies taking on that challenge. Which could play to their advantage as the other developer focused companies mature and become less startuppy (technical term).

Fourth, this marks a strong sequel showing for locally grown accelerator alums. Brad went through PIE with Revisu. Bilmes went through PIE and Portland Seed Fund with Cloudability. (And they’ve been through Techstars Seattle with Reflect.) And angel investor Alex Payne was a resident of PIE during its coworking days, as the cofounder and CTO of Simple.

Bonus point: Truth is, the Reflect announcement got my brain spinning more rapidly than most startup announcements. So rapidly, in fact, that I took to Snapchat to try and capture some of my initial thoughts. It’s rough. But it sort of works. So I think I’m going to try to do more of this. If you’re interested in getting more of this stream of consciousness blah blah, please feel free to follow me on Snapchat.

So there’s your context. For more on the funding announcement, try the following: