Category: Startups

Portland Web 2.0 startups get some love from Oregon Business Magazine

Oregon Business Magazine features Toonlet et alOne of the reasons I started Silicon Florist was to use my marketing powers for good, by casting the spotlight on “Portland Web 2.0 startups” and individuals who have been developing really, really cool things here in the Silicon Forest. But who, through sheer lack of time, may not have the opportunity or wherewithal to promote themselves as much as they would like.

I’m happy to report that a number of those companies just got a much brighter spotlight shone on them, thanks to Oregon Business Magazine‘s cover story this month “10 Coolest Tech Startups You’ve Never Heard Of.”

Among the Silicon Florist alumni featured are:

Gone Raw and Lumeno.us—two sites I haven’t yet had the chance to cover except via mentions in the Portland Startup Index—made it as well.

Congratulations to all of those featured for stepping on to a much larger stage! I’ll look forward to continuing to cover your progress and highlighting your wins.

Photo credit: Michael G. Halle

Portland Startup Weekend now being held at Vidoop offices

Heads up! There has been a last second location change for Portland Startup Weekend. The event will now be held at the Vidoop offices in Old Town. The event begins tonight, May 23, at 6:00 PM.

On a side note, I’m not sure if a Twitter hashtag has been proposed (or if Twitter will even be functional), but I thought I would propose one for those folks watching from the sidelines. How about #pdxsw?

[Editor’s note: As much as I’d love to be in attendance, I’ve been sidelined by illness. That said, I will definitely try to swing by during the weekend. Best of luck to the participants.]

OregonLive Reddit now based on latest not greatest

OregonLive Reddit is completely borkedSince I had written an earlier editorial on OregonLive Reddit about its wealth of potential, I thought it appropriate to post that—until further notice—that potential is now completely gone.

Why? Because now OregonLive Reddit stories make the front page of the OregonLive not as a result of their popularity or user voting, but as a result of the order in which the OregonLive Reddit articles were submitted.

That’s right.

It’s important to note that the OregonLive home page now features the most recent submissions, and not the hottest posts.

And here’s my favorite part…

This change took place about one week ago in order to keep the Reddit posts fresh on the home page.

Perhaps the folks at The Oregonian and OregonLive are even more Web 2.0 than I thought, given that the new system follows the logic that “shiny and new” far outweighs “relevant and interesting.”

So go ahead and vote the Silicon Florist submissions up or down. It doesn’t really matter.

-1 for social media

At a time when the OregonLive Reddit user base was in the midst of asking good questions and having deep discussions about the nature of the service—at a time when many were working to embrace the potential of this feature—the team at OregonLive chose to remove the one and only thing that made the feature worth using: the voting that allowed the populous to determine what appeared on the front page.

Currently, the social feature has absolutely no bearing on what appears on the front page. It’s all chronological.

Kind of like, oh I don’t know, a printed newspaper?

I hear you, “Sounds like sour grapes to me, Turoczy. You’re just mad that you can’t keep content on the front page.”

You’re right. You’re absolutely right.

But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

As I mentioned in my earlier editorial, I felt this service was one of the more promising avenues to give startups in town some of the much needed limelight they deserved from traditional media. And I find it unfortunate that that avenue—an avenue that I thought had so much potential—has taken a hit.

Here’s hoping they reconsider this move.

Until that point, I’ll continue my search for other resources that truly have the potential to highlight the great work many of you are doing here in the Silicon Forest.

Because the people around here need to see the amazing things you’re doing.

Just not on OregonLive, I guess.

Portland and Boise startups: A lot more in common than I-84

Editor: I grew up near a town that was the big city for a fairly rural state. It was the home to many traditional high-tech companies. It had great skiing nearby. And it had a river running right through the middle of it.

Thing is, it wasn’t Portland. It was Boise, Idaho.

And, I had a strange feeling that those aren’t the only similarities between our two towns.

So, when Chris Blanchard offered to write a guest column on the state of the Boise tech environment, a bit of my former Idahoan homesickness came into play. And I jumped at the chance.

The biggest surprise for me? How closely connected the two communities are. And how they, in Boise, are struggling with some of the exact same issues we, here in the Silicon Forest, find ourselves struggling.

Boise, ID: Not ready for prime time? Don’t tell us that.

I feel like the Apostle Paul writing a letter…

Greetings to you Silicon Florists, Portvangelists, Portvangelistas, members of the Twitterverse and others of the technology startup brother/sisterhood from your Brother here in Boise, ID.

Anyway, our friend Rick was kind enough to let me guest post from over here in the Silicon Sandbox, Boise, Idaho.

Why? I’m getting to that.

Last year me and a few friends started a company called Pronetos, the first social network for scholars.

The idea is to give scholars a place to network and collaborate, and ultimately give them a platform to publish their work. We’re still testing the publication tools—a combination of open source software and print-on-demand components—but they are pretty slick and pretty cutting edge, especially when you’re from Boise and resources are limited.

Thanks for your help, Portland

We spent a lot of time last year in Portland, and have a lot of props to dish out to the PDX community for helping us with technology, marketing, business planning, etc. We couldn’t have come this far without you, PDX!

  • Brian Jamison and the guys at OpenSourcery built the Pronetos site in rapid fashion.
  • Nate Angell (raised by wolves; cloned daughters) led us through the academic community over there (and to a great restaurant in McMinnville)
  • Mark Gregory at pdx.edu was a great help in our development (and encouraged us to move to PDX)
  • We met with the entire crew at Engine Works—very sophisticated and smart guys
  • Scott Kveton has helped us with contacts, business advice, and bacon addiction
  • @wendemm, @Turoczy, and the guys at Box Populi have been good friends to us as well

So thanks PDXers for helping grow Boise’s start-ups in addition to your own.

The state of technology in Boise

Boise is doing OK as a region. You might have seen that Forbes named us the 7th most promising new tech region or something or other. We get lots of awards like that.

Quality of life is GREAT! Still, the tech community is young. There are very few contract developers here. There are lots of software gigs open here all the time. Boise State graduates about 25 CS engineers every year and 100% have jobs when they graduate. Still, we do have a MySQL office here!

As far as financing goes, a couple months ago at a Kickstand meeting (this is the local tech start-up group) we heard from an angel investor that the local angel group had reviewed 100 business plans in the span of 90 days or so, and funded exactly zero.

We’ve got only one VC here in town and they don’t fund seed deals (and not often true early stage deals). So we have an angel group that wants to fund companies with 3 years of operating history and a VC that wants to fund mezzanine deals (oh, I can hear them racing to the comment link below).

So, if you’re interested, here are some cool things about Boise that may heighten its appeal—and your perception of our town:

  • If you are developer—Boise could be a place you want to pay attention to (especially if you are an open source guy—we have lots of MS devs here). We had exactly one Ruby dev in this town as of very recently, and all the PHP guys are employed by the man (not too many solo operators or small shops).
  • If you are a VC or angel that is looking for early stage deals—those are here too—in spades.
  • If you are a guy (or gal) that understands anything about long tail b-plans, web 2.0, user generated content, new media—and you’ve had a successful company in those areas—we (Boise) could use your help too. Just last night it was interesting to note that a group of cowboys got stares in downtown Boise (boy times they are a changin’), but we still don’t have a good base of people who have been successful in this new landscape. We do have a fair amount of successful folks from the widget economy and a few good software entrepreneurs. But we can use more.

We’ve got a good night life scene, beer and blog group, the Tech Boise Blog, 180 Twitterers, and we ran a great Code Camp a couple weeks ago. We’ve also got good institutional support from places like Idaho TechConnect, and the Boise State TECenter.

So it’s coming together—but is Boise “not ready for prime time?” Well don’t tell us that, but I’m still glad for all of you over there in PDX that act as out adjunct tech community.

If you want to keep up on what’s going on over here (like we do with PDX) find me on Twitter—@LGM1—and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Peace to you, PDX. Now a letter to our friends in Corinth.

Now on tap: Portland Startup Drinks

Portland Startup Drinks: Not that they are going to be drinking beer out of a can mind youJust saw that Portland has launched its own chapter of Startup Drinks.

What’s Startup Drinks, you ask? Well, it’s another startup idea from the same folks who brought us—or more accurately will be bringing usStartup Weekend.

A simple concept: startup culture in cities around the world gathers around a bar to have a pint and discuss what they are working on, what they need help with and what they can do for each other.

Pints and startups? I, honestly, can’t think of anything more Portland than that. Well, okay, maybe Beer and Blog.

Here’s hoping that Portland Startup Drinks will add their get-togethers to Upcoming so we can track them in the Silicon Florist Upcoming group.

Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Portland Start-up Index for April 2008: COLOURlovers debuts at #4

I’m happy to report that, once again, it’s time to take a look at my favorite apples-to-oranges comparison of the Portland startup scene, the Techvibes Portland Start-up Index. For me, it’s like having birthday every single month.

The biggest surprise this month? Two-time Webby nominee COLOURlovers has debuted on the Portland Start-up Index at #4, cracking open an otherwise static Top 5. The only other new addition is the Collaborative Software Initiative at #46.

Second biggest surprise? Pheedo jumped up 25 slots. Now that’s a “mover.”

But what’s happening with the other folks? Who’s moving up? Who’s moving down? Where do we stand?

Well, let’s take a look.

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

For a details on the movement of each startup-list entity or to get more details on how the rankings are tabulated, visit the Techvibes Portland Start-up Index.

Oregon technology startups and education: Being part of the solution

A few weeks back, I wrote a rant about the abysmal state of Oregon’s tech education in which I encouraged anyone in tech—but especially those folks at startups—to consider his/her potential role in helping to resolve the issues currently plaguing our educational system.

Talk, as they say, is cheap.

So how can we act?

Well, admittedly, this is an awfully big problem, but to wax—and perhaps unintentionally slaughter—more platitudes, the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.

And, I’m proud to say that we, as a burgeoning collective, have already taken two:

  1. Oregon Tech & Education is an online discussion group designed to gather interested parties, encourage discussion, and facilitate action. If you are at all interested in helping, participating, or just watching what’s happening. I encourage you to join. Even if you just lurk. And I encourage you to invite the teachers and administrators in your life to join, as well.
  2. Silicon Florist internship/mentorship challenge is a call to all Silicon-Forest-based startups to consider offering a summer internship for high school or college students in your area. No one knows more about what you do than you. And teaching someone who knows nothing about what you do could be one of the most rewarding things you ever accomplish as an entrepreneur. If you’re interested—not even yet to the “willing to participate” phase, just interested—please throw your hat into the ring as one of the participating startups.

From time to time, I’ll keep you posted on these steps, and other steps that the resourceful folks of the Silicon Forest are taking to resolve this issue.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.

Startupalooza launches 1,000 conversations

StartupaloozaWell it’s official. The first Startupalooza is in the books.

Designed to be a “more business-oriented BarCampy unconference,” the event more than fulfilled its goal. And, in so doing, completed a successful trifecta for the Portland Legion of Tech, adding Startupalooza as an equal among the successful BarCamp Portland and Ignite Portland events.

The best part, in my opinion? The new voices. And hearing new stories from the old ones.

In a town where you tend to run in very small and similar circles, Startupalooza both introduced new voices into the conversation—like the Garage Games guys from Eugene and the soon-to-be-a-Portland-fixture Intrigo team—and drew well-known, yet not-oft-seen types out of the woodwork to both observe—and participate.

Prior to the event, the primary coordinator and Legion of Tech Treasurer, Todd Kenefsky, intimated to me that he had some concerns about the lack of networking time built into the schedule. But guess what happens when you put a bunch of intelligent and entrepreneurial people in a room together? Those conversations just start to happen. In the audience. In the cubes behind the presentation area. In the lunchroom. In the hallway (which served as a bit of an echo chamber at times).

Every minute of the event was a time for networking. And for learning. And for sharing.

And, from the looks of things, everyone is still recovering from all of that energy concentrated in one place. Because posts about the event have been few and far between. Here’s some of the coverage I’ve been able to track, so far (if you have a wrap-up post that I’ve missed, please leave a comment, and I’ll add it to the list):

  • Scott Kveton “Startupalooza or Bust!”
    “All in all I was amazed at the vibrance of the Portland startup scene … clearly there is something here, clearly we’re just starting to pick up the pace here … I can’t imagine anywhere else on earth I’d rather be working and living.”
  • Bram Pitoyo “Startupalooza”
    “If learning from and having conversations with Portland’s greatest innovators (and, in some cases, even luminaries) for a whole day failed to excite your mind to want to create something bigger than yourself (a startup, collaborative, group, side project, community activity, etc.), I don’t know what else will.”
  • Michael Sigler “Startupalooza”
    “It’s obvious I moved to the right town. The collaborative spirit here is awesome. There is so much to take part in and everyone is eager for feedback and participation. Though it was still mostly a sausage-fest, it was good to see a number of women in the audience. I was also pleasantly surprised by the range of ages represented.”
  • Paul Biggs “Startupalooza and #drunkgeeking”
    “While I very much enjoyed learning about some really cool new projects in PDX, as is the case with most structured events, the most rewarding part for me was all the side conversations buzzing in hallways and nearby bars. It’s all about the people!”
  • Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarria “Taste sharing for web personalization”
    “So when we were asked to talk at Startupalooza (a really cool Portland tech event, put together by Todd Kenefsky and the Legion of Tech) we decided this should be the topic of our talk: taste sharing for web personalization… something which is of extreme importance for MyStrands and the entire recommender industry.”
  • John Poelstra “Superb Startupalooza”
    “Of late I’ve been trying to get more involved in the local tech scene where I live. On Saturday I went to check out Startupalooza and had no idea what to expect. It was superb in every respect. The facilities at CubeSpace were great and all the presentations and speakers were excellent. I wish I could have stayed for the whole thing!”
  • Joanna Kane “Startupalooza a high-tech hit”
    “The crowd in attendance ranged from those with decade-long entrepreneurial careers to wide-eyed observers hoping to absorb tips and tools to get their new ideas off the ground. The energy in the room was palpable, conversations were animated, and new ideas were being generated as fast as they were being shared. If I had to pick one theme for the day, it would be the common interest in making life easier through technology, coupled with making technology accessible for anybody and everybody.”
  • Flickr photos tagged “Startupalooza” (Please note, Aaron Hockley was hauling around two rigs for 7 hours, snapping almost 400 shots. It’s going to take a little while for him to comb through them, but they’re coming.)

If you missed the event, Legion of Tech was working to record the entire thing. Hopefully, we’ll all soon be able to have a listen, post processing. I, for one, am curious as to what I actually said while I was up there.

Startupalooza: Join fellow startups to compare notes

Anecdotally, I can tell you that there’s a great deal of interest in startups around Portland. But sometimes, it’s difficult to put a finger on just how many people are interested.

Until events like Startupalooza come along. And then that fuzzy “level of interest” becomes exceedingly obvious.

How obvious? Well, the event, like Legion of Tech‘s Ignite Portland events, currently ranks among the most popular events on Upcoming. And not just in Portland. On Upcoming. Period.

And with good reason. Startupalooza’s list of presenters reads like a who’s who of current and former Silicon Forest startups.

Companies and products on the docket include:

But wait, there’s more.

Sarah Gilbert, Marshall Kirkpatrick [Update: Just received word that Marshall will be unable to attend.], Justin Kistner, and I will be there on a “technopreneur” Q&A panel, as well.

I know, I know. I struggle to fathom how we’re going to squeeze all of this into one afternoon. But why not show up and see if we can? And then, plan to stick around. Word around the campfire is that there might be one or two after-event activities happening, as well.

Startupalooza begins at noon on Saturday, March 29, at CubeSpace. To RSVP, visit Startupalooza on Upcoming. For more information, see Startupalooza.

Still need more to do this weekend? You’re in luck, my friend. Go ahead, don’t be shy. Get your geek on.

SplashCast “social advertising” tees up $4 million

Man oh man. With all of these Silicon Forest startups attracting funding, it’s about time I establish a “graduating class.” And here’s one of those startups that’s definitely in the running for Salutatorian, if not Valedictorian: Portland-based SplashCast.

First, the funding. Because that’s the real news here.

SplashCast announced today that it has secured $4 million dollars in Series A funding, led by Mark Bayliss, an Australian (remember the Australia trip not too long ago?) media and advertising executive veteran of some of the world’s largest advertising and media companies who runs in the same circles as fellow Aussie and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Emergent, an emerging growth investment fund also with strong ties to advertising and consumer brands, was a follow-on to the round.

I asked Mike Berkley, SplashCast’s CEO, to put this funding—and the organizations providing it—in perspective for me.

“What does this mean for the company?” said Berkley. “The relationships that Bayliss and his partners bring to SplashCast gives the company a monumental step-up in social marketing.”

Which bring us to my second point. I’m a marketing geek. So, let’s talk about SplashCast’s newest take on their positioning. Or better yet, let’s not use some stupid buzzword. Let’s talk about how SplashCast is describing their product as of late.

If you haven’t been watching SplashCast, this probably would fly right by, unnoticed. But, I’ve been watching these guys ratchet down on the language they’re using and their efforts to make the product more attractive to a broader big-media advertising market. They continue to make definitive changes in describing what they do. And they seem to be honing in on something new.

SplashCast started in user-generated content. Then they moved to more of a “branded content” sort of play, building custom apps for big names like Justin Timberlake, Britney, and Hillary Clinton. Now, they’re directly positioning themselves as an alternative to what—as silly as it sounds for me to describe it this way—can only be referred to “traditional” online advertising models.

SplashCast calls this new focus “social advertisments.” I call it “advertisements that actually do something.” But regardless of what you call it, they’re pushing this message very strongly as of late:

[SplashCast’s] New Social Marketing Solution Viewed As Breakthrough For Advertisers Looking To Reach Users On MySpace, Facebook & Other Social Networking Sites

And:

Splashcasting represents a new form of online marketing called social advertisements – tools marketers use to reach the growing demographic of social network site users. SplashCast’s video-based social advertisements on average receive click-through-rates that are about 75 times higher than typical banner advertisements used on MySpace, Facebook or other social network sites.

This seems to be their new home: taking on traditional online advertising. And that puts them directly in the sites of some very big players.

Now, some may look at these recent changes and cast aspersions. Claiming that this belies a lack of focus.

In my opinion, these changes don’t seem to be wishy-washy or “searching for a problem to solve.” These are simply the pains that any growing company goes through as it works to figure out where its true market lies.

And there’s a very clear reason that the messages have been moving in that direction.

You build a product based on your ideas and passion. You tend to build a company based on what people will buy.

And given that SplashCast is securing funding and landing customers with this new positioning, it only makes sense—from a business perspective—that they continue pursuing this stance.

I, for one, will be continuing to watch them.

For more information on the funding and social advertising, visit SplashCast.

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