Category: Investment

What would you ask CreditSuisse about the Oregon Investment Fund?

Um Oregon Investment Fund?With all the talk about the Oregon Investment Fund (OIF) and the new $100 million entrepreneurial fund that Nedspace and Harvey Mathews are trying to start, I have found myself with a unique—and completely unexpected—opportunity: I get the chance to chat with the folks at CreditSuisse who are in charge of managing the OIF, Friday morning.

For those of you not familiar with the OIF, it was a fund established by the state of Oregon in 2004 to reinvest a portion of the Oregon Public Employee Retirement Fund (OPERF) in Oregon and Pacific Northwest businesses—to the tune of $158 million in potential investment.

Or, according to the OIF:

In 2004, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 3613 that allowed the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund (“OPERF”) to develop a fund-of-funds strategy specifically to take advantage of the private equity opportunities in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest (“PNW”). Managed by CFIG, the Oregon Investment Fund (“OIF”) commits capital to private equity and venture capital funds (“Underlying Funds”) that will, in turn, invest in companies located in the State of Oregon as well as the PNW.

Comprised of combined commitments of $150mm from OPERF ($100mm in Fund 1 and $50mm in Fund 1A) and approximately $8mm by CreditSuisse ($5mm in Fund 1 and $3mm in Fund 1A), the $158mm, return oriented program seeks to build successful, innovative enterprises for the benefit of its investors by:

  • Fostering the creation and growth of young and maturing companies in Oregon and the PNW
  • Encouraging the development and growth of a vibrant Oregon and PNW private equity community
  • Facilitating public and private partnerships within the State of Oregon

And one of the areas in which CreditSuisse has authority to invest? That’s right, you guessed it: high tech.

The high tech industry represents more than 50 percent of Oregon’s economic output and includes leading semiconductor manufacturers as well as makers of computer components. Semiconductor companies with operations in Oregon include, Intel, ESI and TriQuint, among others. These companies make up 10 percent of the annual semiconductor production in the U.S. Oregon’s computer component companies include digital projector manufacturers, electronic design automation leaders and liquid crystal display (“LCD”) makers. InFocus, Mentor Graphics, Planar Systems and Hewlett-Packard are among the corporations who represent the State’s computer components sector. Each of these companies presents a breeding ground for creative innovation to spur the development of new businesses and a growth economy.

Yeah, I hear you. I don’t see much about open source, Web applications, or Mobile development, either. And “InFocus, Mentor Graphics, Planar Systems and Hewlett-Packard… [presenting] a breeding ground for creative innovation to spur the development of new businesses and a growth economy”? Seriously?

Help… ?

Now, as anyone who has read Silicon Florist can attest, I’m not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. So this is where you come in. (See? Dangling preposition. I repeat: not sharp.)

I realize it’s terribly short notice. But I was wondering if I could get some of your input?

What would you like to ask CreditSuisse about the OIF?

Please feel free to comment or ping me on Twitter. I’ll do my best to ask your questions along with my own.

And rest assured, that once I’m done with the interview, I’ll no doubt blather on about it here, as per usual.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

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REMINDER: Oregon startup? Want to be? Interested in $250k funding? Chime in

Welcome to the “How many questions can I ask in one headline?” edition of Silicon Florist.

Just a reminder that the submission form for “Startup Now” will close today at 11:59 PM.

How about you take a few seconds to provide some details about one, two, or 12 of your current side projects? Take a moment to reflect on what you could do with $250,000 in the next year, to help bring your product or idea to fruition.

Don’t think you’re worthy? Not interested in getting funding? I’d still encourage you to take a few moments to respond. Really, what could it hurt?

The point is this: rising water floats all boats. And our state treasurer needs convincing that we have a viable entrepreneurial environment filled with viable startups just waiting to take form. What’s more, if these folks can pull off putting together a $100 million fund for Oregon startups, it’s going to help all of us.

Come to think of it, I don’t even care if you live in Oregon right now. If you’d be willing to relocate to Oregon to start your business, you’re more than welcome to fill out the form, as well.

I’m looking forward to seeing you get some money to bring that idea to fruition. And if we can all work together to help the state understand the, um, state of our startup scene, it just might happen.

More than 50 startups—in addition to those who presented at the event—have provided details on how they would reinvest $250,000 in funding in Oregon over the next year. Why haven’t you?

How would you use that money? Complete the Startup Now form.

Let’s start finding the right VCs for Portland and the Silicon Forest

Talk to enough startups and the conversation eventually turns to that of funding. And the search for that seemingly elusive operating capital.

Ultimately, this discussion devolves into a lament about the frustrations of the VC dance, the cross-purposes, the potential loss of control of which entrepreneurs live in fear, and, ultimately, some inherent evil in the whole process.

We live with this folklore. And we continually repeat it. And reinforce it.

A series of horror stories about what could happen. Stories that we continue to spin, time and time again, until we begin to see them as universal truths.

And then we begin to believe that the concept of VC investment and the culture of the Silicon Forest are at odds with one another.

That we can’t get there from here.

And that’s why I’m glad to see posts like this one from early stage investor Jeff Pulver.

Because these types of stories counteract the folklore. Because the kinds of things he’s seeking don’t seem to be cold-blooded or mercenary. Because Pulver seems to be the type of investor who is right in line with Portland’s startup culture.

When meeting with an early-stage startup looking for funding, if I am interested in the company, I look to connect with the founders and find out the inspiration behind the company they are creating. I try to understand the problem they are solving and the opportunity they are seeing. I also look to see how as a team they get along, work off each other and I try to get a feel of their creative energies. I look for teams where each member is watching each other’s back and a core team whom I feel will be together for the long term. I look for people who are both smart and creative who can be focused when necessary and whose personality allow themselves to be open to change directions and re-map themselves when needed.

If there’s one thing of which we have loads in Portland, it’s creativity. Whether that creativity manifests itself in traditional ways like art and music, or in less traditional ways like crafts, cooking, brewing, vintner-ing, designing… or coding interesting Web apps.

We tend to wield technology like a brush or a pen. Using it as an outlet for our creativity. And then, we tend to relish partaking in others’ creativity, be it culinary or brewery.

And there are VCs out there who get that. Who aren’t big scary monsters. Who are interested in the same types of things you are interested in doing.

We need to remember that. We need to start wooing the right kind of VCs. For you. And for the Silicon Forest.

Investors who, like Jeff Pulver, “invest in people first and ideas second.”

Let’s get started with that, shall we?

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