Category: 97204

iovation secures $15 million

Portland-based iovation, the company with whom I hate to start sentences, has announced the closing of its latest round of funding. The round contains an additional $5 million follow-on from SAP Ventures and the brothers Samwer’s European Founders. The round is, well, rounded out by a promised $10 million from Intel Capital that was announced last November.

Mike Rogoway at The Oregonian‘s Silicon Forest blog reports:

SAP and European Founders both have good ties abroad, which Iovation [sic] is counting on to help the Portland Web security firm expand overseas.

iovation (argh!) says they “pioneered the use of device reputation for managing online fraud, abusive behavior and multi-factor authentication.” I say, they have stuff that helps online companies prove you are who you say you are and not some bot. But, easily the best description? “iovation exposes known fraudsters and abusers.”

One of Portland’s new breed of startup success stories, iovation been especially successful in areas where high traffic and small amounts of cash are in play, like online gaming and ecommerce, areas where spoofing and bots can result in millions of dollars of lost revenues.

Or, as I like to think of it: with iovation, the plots of Hackers and Office Space become completely implausible. (Please note: I refuse to listen to any comments that claim the plots of those movies were implausible prior to iovation.)

For more information, visit iovation.

(Hat tip Lisa MacKenzie)

Portland widget startups on the cusp of something big

Portland is well-known as an creative town. Especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. It’s hard to avoid the moniker with a powerhouse like Wieden+Kennedy in town.

But, anyone who lives here realizes that it’s not just W+K. There are marketing and advertising agencies and boutiques of every size dotting the Portland corporate landscape.

Within that environment, it’s not surprising that marketing and advertising wend their way through the culture of the city. Lately, however, I’ve begun to see this marketing influence popping up in a rather unexpected—but extremely interesting—space: Portland’s Web startups. Specifically those startups that focus on widget development.

It seems that the heretofore lowly widget is taking on the role of something more than a cute small-footprint app. It’s beginning to appear that it may be more than just a way to serve up some content, remotely. Today, in fact, it’s becoming clear that the widget is starting to take on a very important role in the world of marketing communications as one of the most tangible means of interacting with customers.

And two Portland startups on the leading front of widget development have the potential to capitalize that trend.

Earlier this week, Portland-based SplashCast revealed that the company’s Facebook widgets for popular recording artists were outperforming traditional online advertisements. Well, that might be an understatement. SplashCast pegs that performance at “75 times better than the clickthrough rate of traditional banner ads.

Now, to put that in context, SplashCast is seeing about 3% clickthrough rates on those Facebook apps. And that 3% is 75 times better than banner ads are performing.

But, the dismal downfall of banner ads as a format is not the focus, here. The point is that banner ads are an accepted and prevalent format for advertising that don’t hold a candle to the performance of widgets.

Later in the week, SplashCast continued to tout this finding by beginning to describe their apps, not as widgets, but rather “social advertising”:

SplashCasting represents a new form of online marketing called social advertisements – tools marketers use to reach the growing demographic of social network site users.

Social advertising. I might have left it at that, had not another Portland-based widget-building startup taken a tangential and complementary position on the issue.

That startup is StepChange (conspiracy theorists may begin churning on the “companies named with a capital ‘s’ and capital ‘c'” theories, forthwith), a small consultancy that both develops widgets for a number of customers and has some widget-based side projects in the offing, as well.

StepChange is beginning to notice a similar trend. And StepChange’s insight only lends credence to the position that SplashCast is taking on the world of widgets:

While we’ve done some basic Flash/Feed widgets, most of our design and development work has been on Social Media Apps that function more like true “applications” – with our clients requiring a relatively high degree of administration, content management, targeting reporting and integration.

I think these kind of ‘super-widgets-turned-applications’ need a better name, so I’m going to start calling them Distributed Marketing Applications.

In my opinion, the position that StepChange and SplashCast are taking is one that makes absolute—if not completely obvious—sense: social media marketing should be, well, social.

Social media is about interactivity. And feedback. And conversations.

Traditional online advertising—with its dancing gifs and whack-a-mole come-ons—just isn’t cutting it anymore. Traditional advertising is not, for lack of a better term, “interactive.” It’s one way. It’s broadcast.

And those who are deeply engaged in social media are hesitant to consume—if not completely avoid—those grating and annoying advertising formats, leftover remnants from last century’s dotcom failures.

Today’s Web consumers are wanting more. And they’re wanting something with which they can interact.

Widgets—and by extension Portland’s widget developers—offer that interaction for users. They offer something more than broadcast. They offer the potential for communications that are far more interactive.

To put it quite plainly, widgets offer us a form of marketing communications that we, as those being marketed to, “can actually do something with.” And if Portland’s widget developers can crack that code for the untold billions interested in interacting with us as customers, then they stand to have marketing and advertising executives beating a path to their door.

StepChange’s Kevin Tate makes a bet:

I’m also willing to bet that, as more and more companies look to extend their existing sites and services into Social Media, we’re going to see a significant market need for these types of platforms.

I’m beginning to agree with him. And I’m excited to see Portland continue to serve its role as a creative town. And, as a leader in marketing and advertising for what could truly be the next generation of ads.

New Feature: Silicon Forest Job/Gig board

It’s officially Spring. And Spring is always a good time to plant some new stuff.

As I strive to make this site more useful for both the folks who are trying to create startups here in the Silicon Forest and the folks who are interested in following those startups, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: there are a lot of people looking for other people to help them.

And sometimes, they’re looking for people to work for them.

So I thought it might be helpful to launch a gig board of sorts. And then I posed a hypothetical question on Twitter. And the response absolutely convinced me it was the right thing to do.

So, I scrambled to create the Silicon-Forest-startup-oriented job and gig board.

Now, it’s not terribly pretty (neither was this blog up until a short while ago), but it is functional.

In the interest of time, I decided to use a canned solution for the proof-of-concept. Call it an agile mentality or use Guy Kawasaki’s phrasing. Either way, it seemed best to get it out there so we could start gathering requirements. But I would like to build something custom that better meets your needs.

So please bang on it, and then let me know what features you would like to see. And if I can’t accomplish that with the canned solution, I’ll work your ideas into the custom solution I’m planning to commission.

Oh, and at this point the job board is completely blank. Which is sort of detrimental to the whole “job search” thing. And, really, who wants to be the first to jump into the pool? [Update: Thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick (Web designer) and MyStrands (Community Manager – Evangelist) for taking the plunge!]

Well this may help. Until the end of March, anyone can post up to three jobs completely free of charge by using the discount code “earlybird” at checkout.

What have you got to lose?

Now, I know many of you have more than three jobs to post. And the “underwriting the Silicon Florist” survey directed me to get creative about finding ways to fund the continued development of this site. So, I’ve started the cost of a job posting at $50 for 2 weeks.

That seems reasonable without being exorbitant. So, let’s see how that goes.

Again, I’m looking forward to your feedback. And I’m hoping that we can make the Silicon Florist Job and Gig board a valuable resource for all of the startups here in the area.

Don’t forget “earlybird” gives you a chance to try it out for free. So please do.

Silicon Forest claims two of the largest Web 2.0 investments in 2007

Earlier this week, I tried to shoot a hole in news that the “Web 2.0 sky is falling” by highlighting that Web 2.0 investments may be down in the Silicon Valley and Texas—but Web 2.0 venture amounts are up practically everywhere else, including the Silicon Forest.

Today, TechCrunch continued to take a look at the slowing:

In 2007, the median deal size was $5 million, up 22 percent. And the median pre-money valuation was $10 million, up 66 percent (from $6 million in 2006). Both deal size and valuation for Web 2.0 companies remained below the average VC deal across all industries ($7.6 million and $16 million, respectively)

But again, there’s a silver lining to this Silicon-Valley cloud. For us, at least.

Take a look at where the top investments landed. Lo and behold, there are two Silicon Forest companies on the list. Corvallis-based MyStrands appears on the list twice with nearly $50 million combined investment, and Portland-based Jive Software appears courtesy of their $15 million round, last year.

This is the kind of news that begins to put Portland and the entire Silicon Forest on the map. It’s news that, hopefully, makes the venture capital community take notice. And maybe, just maybe, the type of news that motivates those investors to take a second look at the Rose City technology scene.

I can’t wait to see what 2008 holds for our local companies. But the bar has been set. And I hope to see more than two of our companies on the list, next year.

(Hat tip Jeff the Great)

Twitter: 7 Silicon Forest creations that will improve your experience

Something dawned on me this weekend as I was watching the streams of Portland-based tweets stream across my screen. I think Portland may have more another “per capita” stat we can start quoting. I think it’s highly likely that Portland has more tweets per capita than any city in the US.

With all of these Twitter users and tweets flying by, it comes as no surprise that Portland and the Silicon Forest have created a number of cool side-project Twitter-related tools and views. I use a number of these tools every single day. And they’ve greatly improved the utility of Twitter—and the information it holds—for me. (Of course, as always, I also remain hopeful that some of these side projects have the potential to form—or at the very least inspire—full-fledged Silicon Forest startups.)

While I’ve covered most of these individually, I thought it might be wise to round them up for future reference. Both to highlight the work that is going on, and to hopefully, stimulate some more ideas for development.

In no particular order:

  • Pulse of PDX provides a view of Portland Twitter users and what they’re posting to Twitter. The best thing about Pulse of PDX? You don’t even have to be a Twitter user to use it, so it’s a great way to dip your toe in the proverbial Twitter water. Of course, once you use it, you may want to become a Twitter user.
  • Twitterwhere let’s you find all the Twitter users in a particular geographic region. Want to find all of the Twitter folks in Corvallis? What about Vancouver? Portland? And since the service provides a feed, it’s another “try before you buy” Twitter tool. Add the feed to your feed reader if you’re still debating whether to sign up for Twitter or not.
  • Tweetpeek allows you to create quick widgets and pages using the followers of a particular entity. Think Pulse of PDX for whatever you want. Create a Twitter entity, follow the folks you would like to include, and run it through Tweetpeek. Easy.
  • Ever wish you could see Twitter conversations in a threaded, rather than linear, format? Well, then Twitterthreads may be for you, my friend. Simply log into Twitterthreads with your Twitter credentials, and you’ll be able to see your
  • Heavy Twitter users will find times when they simply don’t see all the replies that were meant for them. And that’s where Portland’s Twitter Reply Sniffer comes into play. Use the tool to search for your Twitter name and you’ll see all the replies from all the folks who are interested in conversing with you.
  • I don’t use public transit as much as I would like, but when I do, NextTrimet has been a welcomed addition to my Twitter toolset. Simply follow NextTrimet (and wait for it to follow you back), then send your stop number in a direct message to NextTrimet and it will let you know when the next ride will be arriving.
  • Sandy isn’t a Twitter tool per se. But I have to tell you, since I discovered Sandy’s Twitter account, I’ve been working with her more and more. Like anyone else on Twitter, she’s cordial, intelligent, and helpful. And she’s helping me keep track of more and more things.

Wow. Portland and the Silicon Forest are definitely a Twitter.

Those are just a few of the cool tools built on and around Twitter that I’ve been lucky enough to find. I, for one, can’t wait to find more hometown-built tools that make Twitter even more valuable.

Have you built a cool Twitter app or found one that I haven’t listed? Please, by all means, let me know.

Russell Shaw, RIP

It is with a heavy heart that I report that well-known and beloved Portland tech blogger Russell Shaw has passed away.

Aaron Hockley, Alex Williams, and Portland Metblogs have written farewells to a man who truly was a professional blogger, in every sense of the word.

He will be missed.

Portland Start-up Index for March 2008: AboutUs retains top spot

It’s the 15th of the month again. And that means its time to update the Techvibes Portland Start-up Index. While there was neither much movement this month—the top 4 remain in the same positions as last month, with AboutUs retaining the #1 spot—nor, apparently, any new sites added to the index, I do find it interesting that two of the most newsworthy companies in the area, Jive and SplashCast, have actually dropped down the list one and two spots, respectively.

Given that the list changes month to month, here’s the ranking, for historical reference. To see the metrics and movement, please visit Techvibes. And, as always, I offer this with the “fruit salad” caveat: This is a very apples and oranges comparison, in terms of companies and products. The other caveat that bears mentioning is that widget- and mobile-based tools often report far lower Alexa and Compete numbers than Web-based services.

So, here’s the list:

  1. AboutUs
  2. Discogs
  3. Kongregate
  4. MyOpenID
  5. Earth Class Mail
  6. Sandy
  7. Splashcast
  8. Jive Software
  9. eROI
  10. Gone Raw
  11. Stikkit
  12. NetworthIQ
  13. Walker Tracker
  14. Attensa
  15. Grabbit
  16. Pibb
  17. GadgetTrak
  18. Active Reload
  19. Iterasi
  20. Art Face Off
  21. Iovation
  22. Rocketbook
  23. Lunarr
  24. ChoiceA
  25. UrbanDrinks
  26. WeoGeo
  27. FreeRange
  28. GoLife Mobile
  29. KnitMap
  30. Goboz
  31. VocalNation.net
  32. MomHub
  33. Lightfleet
  34. Cendix
  35. Pheedo
  36. fmyi
  37. Picktastic
  38. Imindi
  39. Workplace2go
  40. Kryptiq
  41. Techchex
  42. Jama Software
  43. Avnera
  44. GoSeeTell
  45. Lumeno.us
  46. Box Populi
  47. Worldwide Nest
  48. Kumquat
  49. IDP Solutions
  50. YourList

The Portland Start-up Index is compiled by Techvibes using an average of Alexa and Compete rankings. It is updated on a monthly basis.

Geek Lunch with David Recordon, OpenID evangelist

OpenIDOpenID aficionados rejoice. I just got word that David Recordon, one of the leading forces behind OpenID development and vice-chair of the OpenID Foundation, will be making a trip to Portland in April.

That’s great news.

Even better news? He’s extending his trip to make time for a Great Portland Geek Lunch on Monday, April 21.

Details are still slim until we get an idea of the number of folks interested in attending. So, if you’d like the chance to meet Recordon and some of the other OpenID-oriented folks in Portland, please RSVP for the Geek Lunch on Upcoming.

I’ll make sure to keep everyone posted as things solidify.

MIXr: First mobile social networking app with Silverlight touchscreen UI

MIXr Mood Switcher

Today, Portland-based StepChange Group took the stage at MIX08 to demonstrate a groundbreaking new application: the world’s first gesture-driven, Microsoft-Silverlight powered user interface on a mobile device.

The data-driven touchscreen interface, dubbed MIXr, runs in the Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 environment, and was a proof-of-concept to showcase the functionality of these cutting edge development environments for the MIX audience.

“It was lots of fun—though nerve-wracking—to have our team sharing the stage with Ray Ozzie and Scott Guthrie,” said StepChange’s Kevin Tate.

Aside from the Portland angle, why is this newsworthy?

In my opinion, the release of the MIXr application is important for two specific reasons.

First, it proves the viability of Silverlight as an environment for delivering rich mobile applications. And, on a day when the use of these types of technologies in the mobile environment is being rejected by a major player, that’s a pretty big win.

Second, it gives us a glimpse into the future of social networking.

Unlike many of today’s “social networks on mobile devices,” the MIXr application, developed by StepChange in partnership with San Francisco’s Stimulant, demonstrates how the future of social networking may transition to your mobile device.

In other words, this isn’t a “m.” mobile view into an existing social network application; it is the social network application:

[MIXr] uses real-time user updates to track the mood and status of clubs and venues—and helps friends to connect and coordinate with one another during a night out.

It aggregates user ratings, such as a venue’s mood, line length, and music, and uses interactive data visualization to make it easy to figure out what’s hot and what’s not.

“Rich mobile applications are going to quickly change the way we use the Web everyday,” said Tate. “We’re focused on creating applications that leverage the powerful advantages of location, personalization and communication that the mobile environment provides – and have chosen Silverlight as our platform because of its portability and performance.”

For more information on MIXr and developing rich mobile applications using Silverlight, see Stimulant’s post on the MIXr release and StepChange’s announcement on the MIX08 Keynote.

Vocal Nation takes political news in slide

Vocal NationI was recently introduced to Portland-based Vocal Nation, a service that is part feed reader, part social political-news system.

Okay, I hear you. Any time the term “social news” is bandied about, the phrase “Digg clone” immediately jumps to mind.

But, let’s not jump there so quickly. I think Vocal Nation has a specific application and some interesting functionality that make it worthy of a second look, and potentially a strong niche showing.

And I’m not alone in that thinking. Kristen Nicole at Mashable, who has reviewed the tool previously, described Vocal Nation this way:

In an effort to differentiate itself from Digg, Digg clones and the Digg voting system all together, Vocal Nation’s new feature helps set it apart in two primary ways: an automated submission process and a sliding scale used for voting.

The “automated submission process” is Vocal Nation’s feed-slurping feature. Point Vocal Nation at an RSS feed and it will consume the details, automatically feeding articles into the voting system. Not only does it make the current set of articles available to the Vocal Nation community for voting, it keeps track of the feed and continues to update Vocal Nation as the feed updates.

As an example, here’s the Silicon Florist on Vocal Nation.

While Vocal Nation can handle any site’s RSS feed, it becomes truly useful when it’s handling news on politics. And, that’s where Vocal Nation’s second voting slider comes into play. With that slider, the service encourages users to provide feedback on each article’s political disposition. Is it conservative? Liberal? Neutral?

And that news arena is where Vocal Nation could really shine. With the number of political blogs in Oregon, alone, Vocal Nation could prove to be a key to navigating the girth of coverage that is sure to overwhelm us until November. And likely after.

When you combine those submission and voting features with its pleasant UI and some subtle AJAX transitions, the Vocal Nation site merits a second look.

For more information or to try the service yourself, visit Vocal Nation.

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