Category: VC

Need a zillion dollars for your startup? ZINO Zillionaire Investment Forum might be a good place to start

A zillion is shooting a bit high anyway, don’t you think? How about we start with something smaller then? Like about $50,000. That’s the prize money you could take home after pitching the ZINO Zillionaire Investment Forum.

Ah, what I wouldn’t do with a zillion dollars. Why I could fund any number of cool startup ideas.

What’s that? What do you mean “zillion” isn’t a real number?

Well, never mind that. A zillion is shooting a bit high anyway, don’t you think? How about we start with something smaller then? Like about $50,000.

Good. Because that’s the prize money you could take home after pitching the ZINO Zillionaire Investment Forum. Read More

Wish more Oregon venture capital firms blogged? OVP grants your wish

One of the primary gaps in the Portland startup scene is the gap between those attempting to build businesses and those attempting to fund businesses, the entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists. Introducing the OVP blog.

One of the primary gaps in the Portland startup scene is the gap between those attempting to build businesses and those attempting to fund businesses, the entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists. There are any number of issues contributing to this gap from pure ignorance to cultural mores.

But the key to closing that gap? That’s right. Communication. And a new bastion of communication from the VC side of the fence just launched here in Portland. Introducing the OVP blog. Read More

Grab that coffee! You’re chatting with The Oregonian, DFJ Frontier, Capybara, and Voyager at 9 AM

Following up on some of the themes from the successful chat about the Portland startup scene, Mike Rogoway at The Oregonian will be bringing a few folks from the venture capital community to the table.

Interested in chatting with them? I thought you might be. Just swing by the Silicon Forest blog at 9 AM Friday morning. Read More

Oregon startups and venture capital: It’s complicated

For every Oregon company that has had success attracting capital for their pursuits—Jive and AboutUs come to mind—there are hundreds who struggle with where to begin and how to engage the Angel or VC community.

It’s a difficult issue. And no one seems to put his or her finger exactly on the problems or how to solve them. Some say buck up and play the game. Others say the game needs to change. People talk about staying in Portland and figuring out how to bootstrap. People talk about leaving Portland in order to get funding.

Start talking to entrepreneurs and side project startups in Portland—or throughout the Silicon Forest in Oregon—and the conversation will inevitably turn to one topic: venture capital or the lack thereof.

For every Oregon company that has had success attracting capital for their pursuits—Jive and AboutUs come to mind—there are hundreds who struggle with where to begin and how to engage the Angel or VC community.

It’s a difficult issue. And no one seems to put his or her finger exactly on the problems or how to solve them. Some say “buck up and play the game.” Others say “the game needs to change.” People talk about staying in Portland and figuring out how to bootstrap. People talk about leaving Portland in order to get funding.

What’s the answer? Read More

REMINDER: Speed pitch VCs and Oregon Treasurer Westlund at Big Idea Bash 2 tonight

It’s not often that fledgling startups get the chance to stand in front of a group of venture capitalists and pitch their ideas.

But that’s exactly the idea behind the Big Idea Bash, sponsored by the Oregon Investment Fund and hosted by the State Treasurer of Oregon, Ben Westlund, Wednesday night at the Olympic Mills Commerce Center: Read More

Portland venture capital: Capybara, DFJ Frontier open a Portland office for early stage investments

Seems like we’re going to need to change our tune about venture capital firms not being interested in Portland, Oregon, and the Silicon Forest.

Mike Rogoway over at The Oregonian reveals that DFJ Frontier in partnership with Capybara Ventures has opened another office for early stage venture capital—right here in Portland, Oregon. Read More

AboutUs secures $5 million in funding—and they could be hiring soon, too

Big news today for Portland and the world of wiki. Portland-based AboutUs has secured $5 million in Series A funding led by Voyager Capital. And in equally good news, the company plans to use the infusion of cash to expand their staff.

It’s always impressive when a Portland company lands funding, but given the current economic conditions, this is especially welcome news.

Quoting heavily from my post on ReadWriteWeb:

How does a small startup secure capital in such turbulent economic times? Being profitable helps – something AboutUs achieved by mid-year 2008. The company is forecasting continued growth, this year. Ray King, CEO, said the company is targeting $5 million in revenue for 2009. The primary source remains advertising, but the online marketing services AboutUs sells – including content creation and custom page development – continue to gain traction.

Another reason for investor confidence? The staff. AboutUs holds a special place in the world of wiki as the employer of Ward Cunningham, the inventor of the wiki, and they continue to attract new talent. They recently hired a number of new employees, including CFO Jack Williamson. King hopes to use the new funding to increase the size of the company to around 50 employees by the end of 2009, up from its current staff of 32.

The company also received a nice write-up in the Portland Business Journal today. But, of course, the Business Journal being what it is, you won’t be able to read it unless you’re a subscriber.

For more on the news, see Mike Rogoway’s post on the Silicon Forest blog.

Other good news? The celebration for this announcement has already been set. Don’t forget, AboutUs is buying us lunch—or rather Lunch 2.0—next month.

Ten things to think about before pursuing funding for your startup

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend “Lunch with a VC” hosted by Carolynn Duncan of FundingUniverse and Epic Ventures. Carolynn took the time to field questions from a number of Portland startups and consultants on what it really takes to get a venture capitalist interested in investing in your company.

(If you’re interested in all the gory details about wooing a VC, Carolynn has a great post called “Checklists: What kind of funding are you eligible for?“)

I thought I’d hit the high points, to help you get your head around what it’s going to take.

Think about these 10 things before you think about pursuing outside funding for your startup

  1. Have you really solved a problem? Just because you see a problem doesn’t mean you’re the person to solve the problem. It’s far easier to criticize existing solutions than it is to invent your own solution. And even if you do invent a solution to that problem, there’s no guarantee that that’s a business.
  2. Are you mentally prepared? Pursuing VC funding isn’t about self esteem. It’s about business. If you want someone to review what you’re doing and give you positive feedback, Silicon Florist may be a better candidate than a VC. A VC isn’t here to build you up or inflate your ego. A VC is here to figure out how you’re going to make money so that the investment firm can make money.
  3. Are you ready for the oversight? Angels invest their own money. VCs invest other people’s money. As such, they’re going to have different types of involvement. And different kinds of goals. What kind of involvement and what kind of goals? Read on, gentle reader. Read on.
  4. Can you deliver on the promise? Angels look for incremental gains. VCs look for exponential gain. But, rest assured, when it comes to investing, everyone’s goal is to make money. Angels are looking to invest time and money to get more money than they had. VCs are looking to invest far larger sums to make an exponential amount on their investment. Why? To make up the for the other crappy companies they picked that are failing to return anything.
  5. Can you give up control? Angels are going to want more control because it’s their money. Why? Well, VCs invest other people’s money. Angels invest their own money. While both of those parties are going to be extremely interested in what you’re doing with their money, it’s highly likely that the Angel is going to be more involved—because Angels will be especially interested in keeping an eye on their personal money.
  6. Can you tell the story of the money? The old adage hold true: It takes money to get money. As a rule, VCs don’t fund ideas. They generally fund things that are already making money. For VCs, an investment is an accelerator. They invest money in order to help the company make more money faster. Not making money yet? A VC might not be the right target.
  7. Are you ready to make the VC pitch? To an investor, the “product” the investor is buying is the business. Not the actual product that the company sells. If you’re thinking of pitching a VC, don’t do the usual “show up and throw up” product demo of features and functionality. Give the potential investor a pitch on your business, moreso than that the product, itself.
  8. Are you planning ahead or are you too late? Always pursue funding before you get desperate. Why? Well, two reasons. First, no one likes the stench of desperation. And second, it takes 3-6 months to do the due diligence on the deal before you can get stuff going. Don’t wait until it’s too late to begin the conversation. Better yet, begin the conversation before you need anything, at all. Work on your pitch and test drive it.
  9. Are you ready to play the numbers game? How much of the final entity do you want to own? Take this into consideration… do you want to own 100% of a $1 million company, or do you want to own 51% of a $500 million company? If additional investment is going to make for an exponentially larger pie, then it might be wise to take a cut of the bigger pie, rather than try to horde the smaller pie. Angels and VC are interested in helping you build that bigger pie, so that everyone wins.
  10. Are you foregoing a “great” funded company in favor of a “good” company that you control? A dead company doesn’t help anyone. The longer you can reasonably put off funding, the better off you will be. But don’t kill your company to retain control (see #9). If garnering additional funding ensures the fulfillment of your idea—even at a loss of control—funding may be the way to go. Bootstrap what you can, but not if it means the loss of your pursuits.

And that’s what I took away. But as always, that’s the high-level. For the deep dive, see Carolynn’s post.

Hopefully this overview helps. Interested in getting more feedback or answering different questions? Carolynn is planning to do this on a regular basis, here in Portland.

It would be great to have you at one of the future events.

Got lunch plans? Why not have “Lunch with a VC” today?

Seems like Silicon Florist has lunch on the brain as of late. What with looking for Portland Lunch 2.0 hosts and hosting a Portland Lunch 2.0 in August. So, clearly, mentioning another lunch or two won’t hurt.

Okay, let’s do that.

If you don’t have any lunch plans today, you might want to take the opportunity to swing by CubeSpace at noon to have “Lunch with a VC.”

Come hang out with Epic Ventures to learn more about VC funding. Bring questions! We’ll have 45 min. of Q&A, then head out to lunch as a group.

Carolynn Duncan of Epic Ventures will host this first-of-many-to-come event as a way of introducing herself to the Portland startup and entrepreneurial community.

Can’t make the lunch? No worries. You can still get to know Carolynn by following her on Twitter or following her blog.

And lunch isn’t all she has in mind. There will be some other capital-related activities that she’ll be kicking off in the near future as well.

For more information or to RSVP, visit Upcoming.

Elemental Technologies sparks $7.1 million investment

Now, I don’t usually write about traditional software companies. But it seemed like this one definitely deserved it.

Portland-based Elemental Technologies has secured more than $7 million in its first round of funding.

Okay. So what’s being funded and why am I writing about it?

Utilizing general purpose, programmable “off-the-shelf” graphics processing units (GPUs), ETI software performs video encoding, transcoding, and filtering at unprecedented speeds while maintaining the highest video quality.

Who’s a-what-uh hunh? Okay. Maybe this will help:

[This technology] allows consumers to format their media up to 10 times faster than existing solutions.

Ah ha! Now you’re talking.

With the growing popularity of services like Seesmic, Vimeo (Portland connection), and Viddler—oh and that little site called YouTube—it’s obvious that video is very much a part of our future existence in the Web world. And while any number of companies have come up with ways to deliver that video content on the Web, there always seems to be one major sticking point to widespread adoption: Encoding video content for posting is excruciatingly slow.

To be successful, we’re going to have to be able to encode and upload video as quickly as we can download it. And Elemental may just be able to deliver.

According to NewTeeVee:

The first product out from Elemental is consumer oriented, will arrive sometime before September and is expected to cost between $30 and $100, depending on the features. The software will allow consumers to take HD inputs such as a Blu-ray disc or homemade HD video and rip it to a computer, iPod or other device five to 10 times faster than existing technologies using the CPU.

No doubt, the infusion of cash will go a long way in promoting this offering—and ensuring that development continues.

Industry-leaders General Catalyst Partners of Boston, Massachusetts and Voyager Capital of Seattle, Washington co-led this $7.1M investment. Mike Rogoway of The Oregonian and the Silicon Forest blog notes:

In Oregon’s venture capital community, [Elemental]’s new investment represents the second big funding round this month. Last week, NexPlanar Corp., a small semiconductor company that recently moved to Hillsboro, announced it had raised $14.5 million in venture capital.

And let’s hope that greases the skids for other Silicon Forest startups looking for some backing.

For more information on the funding, see the Elemental press release on the investment. For more on the company and its technology, visit Elemental Technologies.

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