Today the Portland Seed Fund proudly announces its first eight companies have just completed a 90-day intensive mentorship on how to run a startup company. The eight teams consisted of founders with varying degrees of experience, and they will all get their turn in the spotlight today at the fund’s very first Demo Day.
Held in Portland, Oregon, today’s Demo Day gives each company the chance to pitch to a broad field of angel investors and venture capitalists. Each company received an initial $25,000 investment from the Fund, with an option for this amount to grow. Demo Day will be held at Ziba Design and is open to VCs and angel investors to hear pitches from the fund companies.
Each company gained tremendous traction in just 90 days. Not only from the strong mentors that were brought in, but from each other. The climate was ripe in Portland to launch mentor-led investing. This was an experienced bunch. It was so much fun to watch them feeding off of each other, giving not only positive feedback, but tough feedback too. We look forward to watching them all succeed.
These hot new startup technology companies (and one high-tech gear company) include:
4-Tell is unique in that it launched in 2009 and is experiencing impressive growth already, but still looking for additional funding, as well as mentoring in order to grow this e-commerce recommendation software even further. With a functionality that is Amazon.com-esque, with “people who bought this also bought…” its target market is storefronts that are far smaller than Amazon. They are helping companies boost their e-commerce sales by steering customers to products they might like in addition to what they set out to buy. 4-Tell’s business customers report sales increases of 10 to 25 percent by using the constantly updated software. With almost 100 business customers so far, 4-Tell growing 25 percent month over month and having trouble handling all the demand. 4-Tell won $120,000 at the Gorge Angel Investors Network Competition last year, and has received generous angel funding, in addition to the money from the Portland Seed Fund.
Audioname, headed by entrepreneur Sheetal Dube, enables people to record their name in their own voice and add it to their email signature and social profiles. An interesting point is that there are 7 billion people on the planet with names, and this will help them learn how to pronounce each others name and build better relationships. It not only will help bridge cultural differences, but also provide high value to direct marketers, sales professionals and anyone who needs to pronounce an unfamiliar name. The concept had immediate success in April 2011 when Audioname won the top prize at Portland’s start-up weekend. After that, Sheetal quit her job, and started pursuing Audioname full-time. Audioname also recently won a $10k grant for the concept stage category at the Bend Venture Conference.
Comic Rocket mixes Portland’s love of technology and comics. Founders Tim Shields and Andy Grossberg will soon be launching the next generation digital reader for back-issue comic books with plans to dramatically increase comic readership. Starting as an interactive Facebook App, users will not only read new and old comics online, but will see what their friends like and receive customized recommendations. Comic Rocket leverages deep experience in the comics space with over 30+ years in the comic book and gaming industries.
Geoloqi co-founders Amber Case and Aaron Parecki have a shared obsession for location tracking. Their cutting-edge product offers an API and mobile applications that lets developers easily build location-based apps and bring large datasets to life. Users can choose to subscribe to apps built on the platform such as privately sharing their location with loved ones or sending location-based reminders. Still in beta, the product just launched a Wikipedia layer that, when turned on, will send push notifications to your phone about notable Wikipedia articles around you. Geoloqi raised $300,000 from local Portland investors, in addition to the $25,000 they received from Portland Seed Fund.
Hively, launched by technology veterans, Jason Lander and Ross Barbieri, Hively connects businesses with their customers by helping them gather ongoing, real time customer feedback in a fun and engaging way. Hively is finding a niche by creating a simple method for gathering and measuring customer satisfaction. Customers can rate every experience they have by simply clicking a rating option — a smiley face for good customer service and a frown for poor. Hively also includes a scoring and employee ranking system in order to reward teams for providing excellent customer service. The company launched in September 2011 and already has over 50 customers, in multiple industries.
Homeschool Snowboarding, the only non-tech company backed by Portland Seed Fund is run by Daniel Clancy, formerly a designer with Columbia Sportswear grew up as a surfer in Hawaii, but has has been boarding in the Pacific Northwest for over 15 years. With co-founder Jevan Lautz, the company designs and manufactures the most breathable activewear apparel available today. Homeschool has a full-line of base layer, middle wear and outerwear made from activated carbon from coconut shells, which provides greater surface area — and thus better breathability — than any other technology.
LaunchSide connects companies to new customers online. they solve the problem that many companies, especially innovative ones, really struggle with — how to be “found” when customers don’t know to search for you yet. Initially focused on helping find early beta users, they are now moving into offering services for companies struggling with the transition form early adopters to mass market users. The founding team has more than 20 years combined in web-based customer acquisition applications.
Vizify, co-founded by Todd Silverstein, Jeff Cutler-Stamm and Eli Tucker, previously all with Monsoon, helps you create a great online impression by building a highly visual and interactive profile of you using the fragments of your life contained in the online services you already use such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Vizify has been simultaneously participating in both the Portland Seed Fund and TechStars (Seattle).
Portland is a great place to start and grow a company – the talent, the money available, the people invested in growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It has been interesting to see with open source, the cloud, application development, etc., that it takes far less money to do far more. We can’t wait to watch these eight companies succeed. We’re proud of each and every one of them!
– Angela Jackson and Jim Huston, Co-managers of Portland Seed Fund