Tag: Voyager

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

Chatting with CreditSuisse about the Oregon Investment Fund, Big Idea Bash

Oregon Investment FundAs I’ve mentioned previously, I recently got the chance to sit down with CreditSuisse to discuss the Oregon Investment Fund.

I’m the first to admit that I went into the conversation with my usual blooming buzzing confusion coupled with a heaping spoonful of blissful ignorance of the true nature of the Oregon Investment Fund.

I like to tell myself that that is part of my charm.

But honestly, I thought—rather than enter with pre-conceived notions—it would be better to get the story straight from David Almodovar of CreditSuisse.

Still, I have to be honest, I did walk into the meeting expecting one of two things to happen. Either I was going to find Dave perched atop a giant treasure chest overflowing with gold coins and jewels, cackling as he screeched in a Dr. Evil-esque manner “Here’s one hundred meeeellion dollars that you’ll never see.” Or I was going to find him wide-eyed and rapt with attention, hanging on my every word about the startup community in the Silicon Forest, until he finally gathered his wits and managed to utter, “Let me grab my checkbook. Would $50 million do?”

In reality—shockingly enough—neither of those things happened. I didn’t find a maniacal villain or babe-in-the-woods filled with naivete. Instead, I found a guy simply doing the job he was supposed to do: trying to attract investors for Oregon companies.

And as I walked through the questions I had—and the questions you were kind enough to ask—what became increasingly clear was this: the OIF can’t solve the problem we’re experiencing (and by “we,” I mean you entrepreneurs who are actually brave enough to start your own thing; not me, who sits here pontificating on your activities) because they weren’t designed to do so.

But I digress. Suffice it to say, the bulk of the problem at hand is not one that the OIF is designed to solve. You see, the OIF isn’t meant to be an investor. It’s meant to be bait or mistletoe or whatever.

That is, while they do happen to engage in some co-investment from time to time, they don’t lead on investments. In fact, the OIF is actually a fund of funds.

The Oregon Investment Fund (OIF) is a fund to other funds. OIF is designed to encourage, to build and to invest in growing, innovative enterprises creating risk-adjusted returns for the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund (OPERF).

So while OIF has money, that money is meant to serve as a means of attracting larger sums of money. By enticing venture capitalists to Oregon. And by encouraging—nay requiring—them to spend time here, chatting with entrepreneurs and growing companies alike.

Our financial strategy is to spread our risk across several types of funds, ranging from buyouts that invest in more mature and established businesses, to venture capital, and to early/seed stage funds that invest in young, fast growing companies. As of November 2008, we’ve invested in 10 funds in the Pacific Northwest region and in turn, we encourage these funds to invest in the growing local and regional market.

To support our strategy and encourage business growth in the Pacific Northwest, we actively build relationships between our funds and local entrepreneurs.

And they’ve been very successful in that regard, attracting approximately $233 million of investment for 20 companies, resulting in more than 900 jobs for Oregonians.

As part of that effort the OIF has managed to attract investment for some smaller startup organization in our area—and in the tech realm which I tend to cover here on Silicon Florist.

Kryptiq is one example of a company which has benefitted from the assistance of the OIF. AboutUs is another. OIF helped both of these organizations by attracting a venture capital firm that was looking for opportunities. In both of these cases, Voyager wound up being the firm that took advantage of the investment opportunities.

“Voyager invested in our Series A and they are the most active VC in tech startups in the Portland area,” said Ray King, CEO of AboutUs. “I think OIF has done a better job of attracting VCs to invest in Oregon than some other pursuits.”

And that starts to get to the crux of this square-peg-in-a-round-hole disconnect between many of the ventures in the Silicon Forest and the capitalists who are seeking to fund them: side projects and garage projects don’t always make good targets for VCs looking to invest large sums of money.

“We have a definite interest in building the entrepreneurial community here in Portland,” said Dave. “But we have a very institutional mindset. We’re not pursuing incubator-level investments.”

That said, there are investors that have been attracted by the OIF—Voyager for one and DFJ Frontier for another—who are interested in participating in much earlier rounds.

The OIF, it seems, is actually doing their job. It just so happens that that job doesn’t exactly line-up with the areas where our startup community needs assistance.

And that’s not really a “problem” per se. It’s just the way things are.

By way of analogy, it’s like having a hammer and needing to drive a screw. Looking at the two, it seems like it should work. But in practice, the two are fairly incompatible.

So, it’s very interesting to have the OIF out there, attracting VCs. And they’re very open in talking to any entrepreneurs and providing advice and guidance. Whether you’re interested in pursuing major funding or not. But when it comes right down to it, there is no knight in shining armor patiently waiting to fund very early stage companies in our startup environment.

But that knight is ready and waiting when companies—like Kryptiq and AboutUs—reach a point where the OIF can lend a hand.

So despite all my years of watching Geraldo Rivera and John Stossel, this little piece of investigative journalism fell a wee bit short. No big boogeyman. No bad guy. Just a series of seemingly complementary situations that, in fact, were not complementary.

Come to think of it, it was a bit like Geraldo’s whole Al Capone’s Vault thing. But didn’t we all learn something there, too? What’s that? Oh, I see.

Long story short, there’s still a funding problem or a “how we work on these projects and still manage to eat” problem. And we’re still searching for a solution. Currently, OIF isn’t the organization designed to solve it. In fact, there may be no existing organization designed to solve it.

Why? I like to think of the Portland startup scene as an untapped natural resource. But it’s not obvious how to use it. And we can’t take the current method of running in and depleting that resource. Because that either won’t work or it will kill it completely. We have to find a new way to work with those resources in a sustainable manner. And I think that calls for a new method of funding.

I could go on and on. But that’s an argument for another time, you special snowflake you.

So where do we go from here? Maybe the Big Idea Bash

So that’s that.

Next up? Beginning conversations with the politicians, entities, and investors who hold an interest in very early stage investments and maybe, just maybe, incubation. In other words, we need to find the solutions that are designed to solve the problems. Solutions like the Startup Now Oregon pursuit.

As Chris Logan writes:

Small businesses drive employment. Venture models have demonstrated the potential return of small growth companies. We have the opportunity to spawn high growth businesses that will deliver additional employment and high return on capital. These businesses will succeed because the crisis we face will economically reward new businesses the deliver solutions to our problems.

And if those solutions don’t exist? We may need to find a new way to make it work. But let’s at least start the conversations first.

And lo and behold, it just so happens a great place to start some of those conversations may, in fact, be an event hosted by the Oregon Treasurer Ben Westlund that the OIF is helping organize: the Big Idea Bash on April 29.

The Big Idea Bash is a social gathering created to connect entrepreneurs to the organizations that can help them flourish. This year the event will feature a speed pitching session, creating a unique opportunity to present new company ideas to a select group of Venture Capitalists who are funding emerging companies in Oregon.

I’m going to try to make it. And I would encourage you to try to attend, as well. Or don’t. I mean, it would be great to have you there, but you can also be sure that I’m likely to blather on about the event here afterwards.

But I must say, it would be great to have a contingent of entrepreneurs like you in the audience. So try to make it, won’t you?

One thing is for sure. Recent activity has clearly shown that I need more—arguably much, much more—education on what solutions currently exist and what they have been designed to do. And we’ve still got a long way to go in helping people understand the startup environment in which we find ourselves.

We’ve all got a lot to learn. But we’re already making strides that may resolve some of these issues. And we’ve proven, time and time again, that we can come up with creative ways of solving problems about which we’re passionate.

In any case, I’m looking forward to digging into this more and figuring out the ways to get you entrepreneurial types the kinds of help that will enable you to make your products a reality—and that will, in turn, make the Silicon Forest a success.

[HTML1]

Wayback Machine 2.0: AboutUs and Iterasi partner to give you a view of present and past

[Full disclosure: Iterasi is a client and I’ve been working with AboutUs on a top-secret widget project.]

If you’ve ever been looking for dated information on the Web, you’ve likely come across the Wayback Machine on the Internet Archive. No site provides such a detailed reference to the yester-Web, allowing us to reach back to forgotten history and grab snippets of the Web as it once was.

But for all the compliments I can pile on the Wayback Machine, it is not without its flaws.

The biggest gripe? The Wayback Machine only archives HTML. That means that any image files or CSS that is needed to render a page doesn’t get archived. Which means if that information gets deleted from the original server, then the Wayback Machine archives don’t render properly.

Needless to say, a bunch of pages render poorly.

My other complaint? The Wayback Machine wasn’t created in the Silicon Forest. But that’s just how I am.

Okay. That’s Wayback Machine 1.0. Hold that thought.

Now, when it comes to accessing current information about any Web site, few resources can compete with the simplicity and ease-of-use of Portland-based AboutUs. Even if AboutUs doesn’t have a current page about a site, they’ll render one in a matter of seconds. So, typing “http://aboutus.org/[whatever URL you want]” is about the easiest way to get information on any site—as it currently exists.

There’s just one problem: seeing how a site looked in the past isn’t always that simple. You can review the Wiki change tracking, but that’s not always the best way of assessing the changes to the site. And if you just added the site to AboutUs, you have no idea what the site looked like previously.

Now for that historical reference, Portland-based Iterasi is about the easiest way to see how a site looked in the past.

But Iterasi has its own flaw: the archive isn’t terribly broad. It’s deep for certain “Web 2.0 cool kid” sites, but it could use more breadth.

If only AboutUs could find a site that helped provide the historical reference they’re missing. If only Iterasi could find a site that could help extend the breadth of their Web archive.

Well welcome to a “You got your archive in my current information! You got your current information pointing to my archive!” moment as two great Portland tastes have found a way to taste great together.

That’s right. AboutUs and Iterasi are partnering. And the result could be what we’ve all been wanting the Wayback Machine to provide: current details and accurate historical renderings.

Welcome to the Wayback Machine 2.0.

AboutUs IterasiSure, the Iterasi link isn’t huge, but it is important.

Now, you can visit AboutUs to get the latest information about any given site. Looking for historical information? Iterasi is there to provide the archived pages that they have on file. Voila!

Iterasi describes the peanut butter of the AboutUs-Iterasi partnership this way:

So why is this cool? Well for a whole bunch of reasons. It gives the AboutUs user a very cool new feature (obviously…right!). AboutUs users can now search through the iterasi archive to research the evolution of the Website, search for information of historical significance, whatever. For iterasi, it should be a source of traffic to our site where we can hopefully turn them into happy users as well.

AboutUs describes the chocolate of the partnership this way:

Now, we’ve partnered with the smart folks at Iterasi to give their archive greater visibility and provide the people visiting AboutUs with an additional resource for information about websites and the organizations and people attached to them. Now at every AboutUs page, you’ll find a link to the Iterasi Archive of pages relating to that site.

And to think, it was all put together by Erik Benson of Voyager—a VC. As Pete Grillo of Iterasi recounts:

Recently I ran into Erik. I suspected he had something to do with putting iterasi and AboutUs together. The talk went something like this:

Pete: ‘Erik, are you behind this?’.

Erik: ‘Yes. It makes sense to me’.

Pete: ‘You know, if people find out you do nice things, it could be the beginning of the end for you as a VC’.

Erik: ‘Yes, it could appear that I am losing my edge’.

We both had a good laugh and went our separate ways.

Whatever the case, it’s a great move for a couple of outstanding Portland startups. And it’s really cool to see this kind of collaboration in our community.

Long story short, we all win. And now we have a much stronger information resource—right here in our Silicon Forest backyard.

[HTML1]

[HTML2]

[HTML3]

%d bloggers like this: