Tag: Portland_OR

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?

Portland Octopus launches with new skin

Portland OctopusLooking for more news on what’s happening on the Portland scene? Who isn’t?

Luckily Portland Octopus—now with a brand new look and feel—is hoping to help.

No, not that Portland Octopus.

Unlike the more well-known octopus that tends to hang atop Greek restaurants, this Portland Octopus serves as a group blog focused on Portland cultural happenings:

We absolutely love Portland but have never quite been satisfied with the community networking websites available. We thought we could do a better job of providing this service ourselves. And so, Portland Octopus was born. Music, food, art, architecture, hiking, biking, sports, festivals, local beer, wine and spirits—we are here to celebrate all that Portland has to offer!

Originally launched in December 2007, Portland Octopus is a side project of Selliken Systems, LLC. (Yet another Portland-based mapping application I need to add to my next Portland map app round up.)

(Hat tip Nino Marchetti)

37signals: Start up your startup somewhere else (like Portland)

It seems everyone is getting into the Silicon Valley bashing, as of late. But that’s what happens when you’re at the top.

And while I’m not going to pile on with the negativity, I thought a recent 37signals post—entitled “Are you sure you want to be in San Francisco?“—brought up one very positive point that we should all bear in mind:

So stop worrying to much about where you are and start worrying about how you’re going to make your business succeed the old fashion way: Through having a better product than the competition that people are willing to pay for.

Every single day, I’m lucky enough to talk to people who get this. People who have started amazing companies here in Portland and the Silicon Forest.

But you know what else is interesting?

We’re starting to become a destination, as well. We’re starting to attract both the talent and the companies to employ that talent. Companies that have chosen to come to Portland to succeed. Companies like Vidoop, LUNARR, Intrigo, Jive, WeoGeo… the list goes on and on.

All of these companies see something special here in Portland. And that is even more exciting.

(Hat tip Josh Bancroft)

WebWare 100 loves Sandy

SandyEveryone’s favorite anthropomorphic digital assistant, Sandy—the smartest hire Portland-based Values of n has ever made—is now even more popular, given that she’s been named as one of the WebWare 100.

I hope she’ll still take my tweets.

While much of Sandy’s personality has fallen by the wayside in the WebWare write-up, I’m including it for those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Sandy:

[S]imply add “her” as an e-mail contact to get started. Sending Sandy an e-mail with a small message will have the system scan what you wrote and convert into an e-mail reminder or calendar appointment that will be sent back to you at whatever time you note. It also has been designed to work with the popular microblogging service Twitter, letting users remotely set reminders while away from their regular e-mail.

At first blush, Sandy appears to the only Portland type to get a nod, although Vimeo, whose Dalas Verdugo lives here in Portland, also received the honor of being named to the list.

If you happen to see a Silicon Forest based on company on the WebWare 100 winners list that I overlooked, please let me know.

Yes, yes. I’m asking you to help me out. I’d really appreciate another set of eyes. Go to it, cub reporter!

OpenID ID Selector promises to make OpenID less geeky

This week, Portland-based JanRain will be unveiling their latest contribution to the OpenID community: a compelling means of simplifying OpenID logins for the everyday user called ID Selector. With ID Selector, JanRain has managed to reduce the complexity—and, well, geekiness—of the OpenID login process in the same way that products like AddThis have simplified the social-media-submission process.

JanRain OpenID ID Selector

Long story short, the ID Selector reduces your OpenID login to clicking an icon and providing a username. It’s a shrewd move, given that every OpenID provider has a standard structure for its URLs, a structure that allows JanRain to reduce the amount of user input to a traditional “username.”

JanRain has always done a great deal of the heavy lifting when it comes to working on OpenID and being open with the libraries they’ve developed. So they understand how to work for the greater good when implementing OpenID solutions.

Their take on the OpenID ID Selector is no different. It allows the folks who implement it to customize the providers that show and the order in which they are listed—even if that means JanRain’s MyOpenID doesn’t make the list.

This is yet another step forward for OpenID and its burgeoning user base. And, truly, one of the first ways I’ve seen that highlights to everyday Web users—millions of people who use services like AOL, Yahoo!, and Blogger—that they already have live OpenIDs which they could be using to manage services.

It’s great for users, but it could also mean some exciting developments for the companies who choose to become OpenID providers. Rafe Needleman of WebWare, for example, sees a simplified OpenID moving into the realm of loyalty programs:

Major sites, like portals, could still do a much better job pushing the OpenID concept. That would be good for them, not just because it’d make OpenID more accessible to users, but because there’s a lot of brand affinity that sites can win by having users authenticate against their sites even when they’re using some other company’s service. Think of OpenID branding as the affinity credit card of the Web: Every time a user logs on to a service they’d get the authenticator’s brand popped up in front of them — just like Harley-Davidson does when its Visa affinity card users make purchases.

JanRain, not surprisingly, gets this, and will provide a complete white-label OpenID technology infrastructure for companies or brands that want to become authenticators. So if you want to log on to Web sites with an ID from your alma mater or local Rotary club, JanRain will make that possible.

But we still have a ways to go, before we get there. Allen Stern of CenterNetworks is wondering if part of the problem might be the marketing of the “OpenID” name itself:

From my side, I am starting to believe that we don’t need to market the term ‘OpenID’ to consumers. No one cares about the technology, they only want to login to their favorite service using their AOL or Google id. It’s like TCP/IP, no one cares how it works, just that our email shows up in the inbox and Twitter loads when we want to tell our friends we just saw Britney at CVS.

Clearly, we’re not out of the geek forest yet. But JanRain is making significant strides to see that we’re on our way.

For more information, visit JanRain.

Reminder: Meet OpenID developer David Recordon

If you’re like me, you’re a huge fan of the potential of OpenID. (Even though my current implementation continues to malfunction here on Silicon Florist. And that’s my fault, not OpenID.)

And while we get to chat with Scott Kveton, the Vidoop (and now ConfIdent) guys, and the JanRain folks on a regular basis, sometimes it’s nice to get to hear from some of the other leading voices in OpenID development.

That’s why I’m really excited for lunch on Monday with one of the original OpenID developers, David Recordon.

David currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the OpenID Foundation and works as the Open Platforms Tech Lead at SixApart. You may also remember him as a collaborator and editor of Brad Fitzpatrick’s “Thoughts on the Social Graph.”

And to keep this all on the up-and-up as far as Silicon Florist goes, Recordon has Portland ties, as well, having graduated from Catlin Gabel.

If you’ve got time on Monday, come on down to Huber’s for lunch to meet David, Kveton, and a number of other OpenID-o-philes. RSVPs are appreciated so that Huber’s has an idea of how many to expect.

For more information or to RSVP, see A Great Portland Geek Lunch on Upcoming.

Vidoop is ConfIdent, Portland gets two for one

I’ll have to admit that this one completely slid past me. But luckily I took the opportunity to swing by the Vidoop booth at InnoTech. At which point Kevin Fox and Michael Richardson brought me up to speed.

I blame myself.

When Scott Kveton announced he was joining Vidoop and opening a Portland office, I was pretty excited. Exciting young company. Cool technology. OpenID focus. All good things.

But I never imagined that Portland would be getting two companies out of the deal.

Meet one of Portland’s newest startups: ConfIdent Technologies, the Athena bursting from the head of Zeus spinoff, from Vidoop.

ConfIdent Technologies, a Portland, Oregon-based software technology company, has unveiled a revolutionary secure login authentication technology. RecognitionAUTH™ promises to change the face of Internet security with a new secure login solution that eliminates passwords, adding a layer of security that is more secure yet intuitive for users to understand, without requiring additional hardware.

But, just so you don’t completely hate me for missing the breaking news, I’ve got something else. I found it buried at the bottom of the Vidoop post, announcing the launch:

Both Vidoop and ConfIdent Technologies LLC will be based in Portland, Oregon.

Obviously, given my myopic view, this could easily be the most exciting part of the announcement. Portland getting a Vidoop office was great news. Portland getting to be Vidoop and ConfIdent Technologies headquarters? That’s a huge step forward for the town and the Portland startup community.

I’ll continue to track and report on this development as more information becomes available.

For more information on Vidoop’s spinoff and the technologies that fall under its purview, visit ConfIdent Technologies. For more on the parent company, visit Vidoop.

WebTrends searches for CEO, finds him at Google

Now, I realize that Portland-based WebTrends isn’t exactly a “startup” around here anymore. (Although some would argues that the company continues to go through fits and starts as it navigates the ever-changing Web analytics landscape.)

But the news from Mike Rogoway at The Oregonian, this morning—that WebTrends has just hired a guy from Google to be their CEO—could have significant impact on the tech scene around here.

Meet Daniel Stickel, a Harvard-educated engineer—Magna Cum Laude, at that—who also boasts a rich 20-year history as an executive, with an impressive record of building businesses.

But I’m especially interested in his experience with preparing for—and living through—acquisitions. According to Stickel’s resume, he was an executive at K2 Technologies before and throughout acquisition, he helped establish the foundations that built Delfin Systems into an acquisition target, and he managed the Alta Vista engineering team that turned that property into a valuable commodity for purchase.

What’s more, it’s not often that you hear of companies in the Portland area hiring folks away from Google.

Let’s see… he worked at Google and he’s got experience in being acquired.

It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

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.

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)

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