Results for: funding

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?

YottaByte Group: The future for Oregon tech education

When I first sat down with Derek Brandow and Jason Gallic of Eugene-based (but hopefully making the move to Portland) YottaByte Group, I didn’t know quite what to expect. And by the time we said our good-byes, I was shaking my head in disbelief.

And since that time I’ve been struggling to get this post written. Struggling because of that—literally jaw-dropping—disbelief.

Disbelief that something so obviously right, necessary, and critical for our community—and the future of our communities—hasn’t already been done. Disbelief that these guys would have any difficulty finding funding for something that promises to change the future of technology in Oregon and, likely, the rest of the world. Disbelief that educators everywhere wouldn’t be clamoring for this model to help students.

To put it bluntly, the conversation was quite the “Well… duh!” moment for me. Why wouldn’t everyone be behind this thing? Why aren’t we doing this already?

So what’s this exceedingly obvious—yet heretofore untapped—idea that makes YotttaByte such a winner in my book?

Well, to put it simply, they’re rethinking the educational system—especially as it relates to innovation and technology—in today’s K-12 environment:

The current model for both public and private schools has not changed significantly in the last 100 years. The longevity of that model is a testament to the greatness of its 20th century design. However, the design is beginning to crumble….

The time is now to create the schools we are going to need for our children to thrive (not merely survive) in the 21st century.

And the YottaByte team has a compelling vision for how this might occur.

From my admittedly ignorant standpoint, I see it falling somewhere between the concept of alternative schools and the traditional gifted and talented programs.

Like an art student focusing on painting or a musical student focusing on an instrument, YottaByte students would work in an environment that allows them to focus on technology and innovation.

Once up and running, YottaByte promises to create intensive and collaborative schools that help these students exercise their artistic talent—in this case an artistic talent that manifests itself as problem solving and technical discovery—with students around the world.

In their own words, YottaByte will be:

Preparing children for collaboration, innovation, and contribution in a global marketplace.

Hearing them tell it, it’s a compelling vision for how technology could—and arguably should—be approached if today’s students are to get the kind of technical grounding they’re going to need to manage the sheer bulk of digital information and power at their feet. And to wring every last ounce of potential out of the collaborative technologies we have at our disposal. To get the right people fixing the problems. Not just the people who happen to be there.

It’s a pretty powerful concept, and one in whose Kool-Aid I have deeply imbibed. Because what YottaByte is proposing is not only a brilliant idea, it’s just the right thing to do.

I’m looking forward to continuing my coverage of YottaByte’s progress as they continue pitching this story and building out their proof-of-concept schools.

It’s going to be an interesting ride.

For more information on the YottaByte Group and their vision for technology education, visit YottaByte Group.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for April 12, 2008

Sometimes, a link says more than I could ever say. Here are some fragrant little buds I’ve found recently, courtesy of ma.gnolia.

Portland has been added to Google Transit Maps

And the map geeking continues. DailyWireless notes that the Portland transit system has been added to Google Transit Maps. “If your results include a button for ‘Take Public Transit,’ Google Transit will spell out directions to the closest station or bus stop, including schedule information.”

CNN likes the new Jive site

Michael Sigler of Jive Software tweets a kudo to the team based on feedback from CNN.

The Insider Secrets of Angel Investing

Allen Stern writes, that of Angel funded deals, “Out of 10 deals: 5 will go out of business, 2 will return what the Angel put in, 2 will return 3x, and 1 must return 30x.” Some great insight for those of you seeking funding.

EllisLab Hiring, Two Positions Available

EllisLab just moved this blog post back up to the top of its postings, so I’m assuming that the “Code Mechanic” and “Senior Technical Support Specialist” are still open.

Mayor salutes Ward & wikis

At this year’s InnoTech conference (next Wednesday and Thursday at the Oregon Convention Center), Portland Mayor Tom Potter will present the third annual Mayor’s Technology Award to Ward Cunningham.

Seven Tips for Making the Most of Your RSS Reader

Marshall Kirkpatrick writes “I was feeling frustrated yesterday when switching from one feed reader to another on a new computer. Then I remembered how wonderful RSS really is – and I decided to write this post. I hope you’ll find it interesting and useful.”

Portland Lunch 2.0 at eROI

Bram Pitoyo writes “Lunch 2.0 was, in my opinion, one of the best places to talk with people who may not necessarily work in your industry, but who share the same passion about technology, and thus can provide catalysts for generation of new ideas and solutions. You’ll meet old friends or new colleagues, catch up and learn a few things about them, and then, through the conversation that happens, inspire you to better yourself or explore new ideas.”

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for April 2, 2008

Sometimes, a link says more than I could ever say. Here are some fragrant little buds I’ve found recently, courtesy of ma.gnolia.

VC funding for open source hits an all-time high

I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of Portland as an Open Source Mecca, of sorts. If you’re of the same mind, this can only bode well for us.

Wiki (Birthday) Wednesday

It’s an extra-special Wiki Wednesday at AboutUs this week, marking the birth of the Wiki. And I mean, really. What better way to celebrate the birth of the Wiki than with its father, Ward Cunningham?

Reality check

Not that this is Portland-based, but hey, sometimes I need to provide context. And that’s what this is. An extremely interesting comment on the state of Web 2.0. It’s a rather sobering reminder about the actual “saturation point” of the tools in which we tend to live on a daily basis. This is New York. And it’s youngins in New York, at that. Still a lot of folks out there who could become your “target market,” startups.

Announcing Ruby on Crack

This April Fools’ post was included purely for the RailsConf 2008 reference. Yes, RailsConf is a Portland event, you silly goose. For those of you with delicate sensibilities, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.

Sneak peak at new Jive video

Portland-based Jive Software has got some stuff simmering on the stove and cooking in the oven. But they’re going to give you a little taste of what’s in store. Sam Lawrence writes “I’ve seen the thing so many times now I may have convinced myself it makes sense so let me know what you think it means before you get the context of the rest of our new site. Love to hear your ideas.”

Startupalooza Photos

Aaron Hockley writes “Shooting Startupalooza on Saturday was a lot of fun, it was a great group of people in an environment with a lot of creative and positive energy. I love shooting events, from small gatherings to crowds of hundreds or thousands. I posted over 140 shots on Flickr, and here are a few shots that are representative of the event.”

InnoTech Oregon: Rollercoaster Ride

Sean Lowery writes “Producing an event of this size is like planning for the Superbowl or a giant wedding. You plan for six months and hope someone shows up. We expect close to 2000 people for InnoTech this year. Right now we have 500 people registered.”

Portlanteau: PDX, a Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That

Nate Angell writes “And so I present a term that describes this wordly phenomenon: portlanteau, n. a portmanteau word that links the name of the city of Portland, Oregon to another word or concept.”

Startup Weekend Legal Issues

Steve Morris writes “I had wondered how the Startup Weekend process dealt with ownership issues — but apparently the SEC is the real problem. There’s a Startup Weekend project scheduled for Portland May 23-25.”

OEN PubTalk™: Reducing Startup Risk

(Full disclosure: I used to work for Dave Moffenbeier and I continue to do work for Pete Grillo. And what’s more, Pete has some folks working for him who used to work for Dave… Still, this sounds interesting.) Serena Regazzoni writes “OEN has put together a great panel of entrepreneurs who will discuss these risks as a way to help guide entrepreneurs towards minimizing each one, and maximizing their rewards. The panel will include three successful serial entrepreneurs: Kanth Gopalpur, CEO Monsoon Inc, David Moffenbeier, Co-founder/COO, Absorbent Technologies and Pete Grillo, Founder/CEO Iterasi.”

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

GoLife Mobile: Chatting with James Whitley, CEO (Part 2)

Last week, I published the first part of my interview with GoLife Mobile’s CEO, James Whitley. That post focused on the discussions of the GoLife Mobile Vadowerx framework. Now, I’d like to touch on our discussions about Portland, it’s culture, and the potential it holds to become something extraordinary.

(As an aside, it was a pleasant surprise to run into James at Startupalooza. “Where’s part 2?” he asked. Right here, Mr. Whitley. Right here.)

Portland as a venue for startups

I’m always interested to get anyone’s take on Portland. But it’s especially interesting talking to people who are running businesses here. They often have a multitude of things that they love about Portland, but there are still those little perturbing issues that keep the environment from seeming “too perfect.”

Luckily, those perturbing issues are generally issues that are surmountable. That’s why I’m always happy to help people get those issues out on the table.

Whitley did.

And as I began to question him on his reasons—“Why Portland?”, “What does this area offer?”, and the like—his affection for the area was palpable. And his deep ties in the region only further that affection.

But what I got most from Whitley was not his impressions of the past—it was his enthusiasm for the potential here in Portland, for today and for the future.

“I would put the talent in this town up against talent anywhere else,” said Whitley. “The Valley, Back East, anywhere. The people here are exceptional.”

And, in Whitley’s opinion, that talent is not in limited supply.

“There is a ton of talent here in the Portland area,” he said. “I am always talking to people with whom I would like to work. I don’t think many people realize the sheer wealth of talent we have here.”

So, if we’re so talented, I asked, egotistically and presumptuously lumping myself in with the “exceptional talent” here in the Portland area, why aren’t we seeing more growth? Why aren’t we seeing more startups taking root?

And that’s when we get to those problems. Those issues that are holding Portland back from achieving its extraordinary position. Those problems that we have the opportunity to fix.

“Portland has a problem with being a classic underachiever,” said Whitley. “So much talent. So much promise. But we’re not capitalizing on it.”

In staunch agreement, I asked for further details.

“We’re always hearing how we’re ‘not as good as whomever,'” he continued. “And unfortunately, I think many people have begun to believe that. I don’t. But I think some people do.”

And in Whitley’s opinion, that stance is only exacerbated by another problem: finding sources of funding.

While a number of Silicon Forest startups have seen continued confidence in follow-on funding as of late—MyStrands, Jive, iovation, and SplashCast, to name a few—the prospect of early funding remains a bit of an enigma for Portland companies.

“Portland is lacking is terms of early startup funding,” Whitley said. “There really isn’t a good network for seeding smaller companies, at this point. We could use some people working to fix that because it would really help the town as a whole.”

And that lack of early stage funding, coupled with the underachiever mindset, is tending to suppress the vigor that is bubbling just below the surface. Tends to prevent us here in the Silicon Forest from realizing our potential.

“There are a number of incredibly intelligent people working jobs that aren’t even intellectually stimulating, let alone challenging,” said Whitley. “Simply because they haven’t found the opportunity and funding to pursue their passion.”

I’m sure Whitley would agree, that we’re on the cusp of something big.

No doubt, GoLife Mobile and Whitley could have a very big role to play in that growth and success. And our realizing the potential of the talent in this area.

I’m looking forward to being part of that change.

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)

Understanding the venture capitalist

One of the most enigmatic components of any startup’s life is “funding.” Do I need capital? Should I pursue capital? How do I approach venture capitalists? Should I avoid venture capitalists? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? Necessary evil or rite of passage?

There are a ton of questions.

And unless you’ve been fortunate enough to learn the funding mating dance as part of another company, it’s a completely foreign—and intimidating—proposition.

Well, have heart Web-app-mogul-to-be. CenterNetworks is running a series on venture capitalists that may help inform your understanding of this strange and elusive beast.

The topic? How VCs get their money:

NYC Venture Capitalist Mark Davis is authoring a four-part series on how a VC is funded. Davis notes the four methods are: diverse limited partners, family office, government or public capital. Today, Davis looks at diverse limited partners. The other three methods will follow throughout the week.

I highly recommend you follow the series. Not only will this provide a great vantage point for helping you understand the motivations for the venture capitalist, it may just help demystify the whole venture capital question for you and your startup.

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.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for March 20, 2008

Sometimes, a link says more than I could ever say. Here are some fragrant little buds I’ve found recently, courtesy of ma.gnolia.

SplashCast performs 75 times better than banner ads

Mike Berkley writes “We recently completed an analysis on the average click-through rate (CTR) of a typical splashcast. It’s about 3%. That means that every 33 times a splashcast is loaded on a web page, a user interacts with it.”

Metaphor for ExpressionEngine 2.0

Michael Boyink on the new version of Expression Engine, “So my working metaphor is that EE 2.0 is like taking your current CD/ DVD collection, buying a much nicer/sturdier/more expandable rack to store them in, and then re-organizing them while moving them into the new rack. Same music that you love – just better organized in a better environment. And maybe a few new CD’s to boot.”

Startups: Looking for Investors?

Not really a “Silicon Forest” based property, but I’m all for helping you guys attract funding to the area. No word on whether Angels and VCs are actually looking at this list.

stevenf.com: The First, The Free, and the Good

Sage advice for any startup, or any established company for that matter. Steven Frank writes “Where you can really dominate is by combining two or more of these properties. If you are first AND best, you’ll be doing quite well for a very long time, as long as you stay the best. If you’re the best and free, it’s going to be very hard to compete with you — although those two lines don’t intersect just every day.”

EllisLab Hiring, Two Positions Available

Bend-based EllisLab is looking to hire a full-time Code Mechanic and a Senior Technical Support Specialist. Be advised, that these are both “work from home” giges, just in case you’re looking for yet another excuse to move to Bend.

Mobile Portland Meeting on Monday

Jason Grigsby writes “The first Mobile Portland meeting is scheduled for this coming Monday. eROI has graciously offered to host us. Our topic this month: the iPhone SDK. RSVP here.”

FriendFeed Comment Finder at Fast Wonder Blog

Dawn Foster writes “A bunch of people have been talking about how FriendFeed allows people to comment on content within FriendFeed. This means that we have to log into friend feed every day and scour for comments, which remain fragmented from the source of the content. I can’t fix the fragmentation, but I think I have part of a solution (implemented as a Yahoo Pipe, of course).”

DorkbotPDX 0x01

DorkbotPDX 0x01 will be taking place on March 30th at the PNCA Graduate Studios building (1432 NW Johnson St.). We are planning to start things around 6, though there will probably be time to socialize a bit before the talks start.

Twitter: The Uselessfulness of Micro-blogging

Portland’s Scott Hanselman makes a great case for you to be using Twitter.

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Editorial: I could use your advice

First of all, I wanted to thank you. For your readership and your support. And, for your continuing to pursue your side projects, your part-time projects, and your full-on entrepreneurial pursuits.

And especially for being brave enough to read a post called “I could use your advice.”

This one is a tough one for me. And I’ll apologize in advance for my rambling explanation. But here we go…

It’s no secret that I started Silicon Florist on a whim. Because I saw a gap in the news coverage. Because I saw incredibly exciting things happening in Portland that didn’t seem to garner coverage—either by local pubs or by the juggernauts of the tech industry.

In short, I’ve been humbled by the response to the blog. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your continuing to read it.

I started Silicon Florist because I thought it was a good idea. But I like to think I have a lot of good ideas. It was a side project. A passion project.

But as Silicon Florist continues to grow, it begins to slide into the “part-time gig” column. And I’m happy to see it do that, because I can confidently say that my passion for Silicon Florist and the potential it holds only continues to grow.

After talking with literally hundreds of people (with whom I would have never had contact without this blog), I can see a number of other “gaps” that could be filled. That could improve our startup community here in the Silicon Forest. That could help other folks—kids, business people, venture capitalists—get more involved in the tech industry, here. That could move help Portland and its surrounding areas take a rightful place on the technology map, again.

And that’s something I desperately want to do.

But. (There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?)

There are only so many hours in the day. And I would very much like to dedicate some of those hours before midnight to Silicon Florist pursuits. And to the greater good.

But in order to do that, I have to reduce the number of consulting hours to which I commit. And we all know what that means, don’t we?

Oh.

Well, it means, I need to find another way to replace that cash that’s currently underwriting all of the Silicon Florist efforts. So that I can spend more than side-project time on Silicon Florist. And, quite honestly, to keep this burgeoning dream alive that maybe—just maybe—Silicon Florist has the potential to be a full-time gig.

So, finally, we come to my question:

What should I do?

I have some baggage about even considering this whole thing. But, someone far wiser than I told me, “The first time you covered a topic because you felt you had to cover it, rather than because you wanted to cover it, Silicon Florist stopped being your blog.” And that message has been echoed by others.

So, I feel I have logical justification. But, it’s that selfsame logical defense that also tells me that this blog belongs to you, too. So, I need some more feedback. I need to ask those of you in the silent majority who haven’t had the chance to say your piece.

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal. And I see a number of potential options for getting Silicon Florist out of my basement and on its way to paying some of its own bills. But I’m also open to your feedback.

Here are some ideas I had:

  • Do nothing different from today. Keep the coverage at the same—or lower—level. Keep on keeping on, and look for other passion projects to which I can dedicate my time.
  • Introduce the OPB-esque idea of “Sustaining sponsors,” be that individuals or corporations, who provide funding to underwrite Silicon Florist projects.
  • Pursue good old fashioned Web advertising. Rest assured, I’m not talking about anything gaudy, whack-a-mole-ish, or mortgage-financing-ish. I have to look at the site, too. And ideally, it should be advertising that actually helps Silicon Forest startups and other readers. Shocking concept, I realize.
  • Come up with a more creative solution for solving the problem with which I find myself faced.
  • Or, your idea may be the right thing to do. So feel free to share your ideas in the “Other” area or via comments.

Suffice it to say, that my most important concern is that, you, as a reader do not feel put upon or alienated as a result of my pursuing this direction. Because if this blog fails to keep you interested or if you’re going to be offended, I’d rather suck it up and do nothing.

Wow. That was a lead-up if I’ve ever composed one. If you’re still awake… without further ado, is my appeal for your feedback. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. (Poll not showing? Please access the Silicon Florist poll here.)

And, as always, please feel free to use the comments to expound upon your answers.

Thank you. Sincerely. I really appreciate your advice.

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