On the GeekWire podcast last week, we chatted with Rick Turoczy of Portland’s Silicon Florist blog about the differences between the Seattle and Portland startup communities. One of the big ones, which we didn’t get a chance to discuss, is the Portland Seed Fund. A unique public-private partnership, the fund is designed to funnel seed-stage capital to entrepreneurial upstarts.
At a time when some in the Seattle tech community believe that more needs to be done to spark early-stage investment — see Marcelo Calbucci’s guest post A Challenge to Seattle VCs: Back 100 seed-stage startups in 24 months — the Portland Seed Fund represents one such path.
Of course, arrangements between government entities, venture capitalists and entrepreneurial organizations don’t always work. Washington’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund — supported with tobacco settlement money — has yet to produce any big hits and has suffered from a lack of focus. And Jay Inslee — who is running for governor of Washington state — has been attacked over his plan to funnel state pension money to entrepreneurial ventures.
There’s nothing quite like the Portland Seed Fund in Seattle. And while some may say that’s a good thing, if there’s really a lack of seed-stage capital in the region, perhaps alternative models are worth checking out.
Could TechStars or another startup incubator establish deeper ties with the City of Seattle; City of Redmond or an economic development organization like EnterpriseSeattle?
In a comment on GeekWire this week, Andy Sack of TechStars Seattle — which incubates about a dozen companies per year — suggested that government agencies should get more involved in supporting the startup ecosystem in the region.
But not everybody agrees. Venture capitalist Greg Gottesman, an active backer of TechStars, recently told The Seattle Times that the state would be better off putting money into research institutions than a new fund for startups.
The Portland Seed Fund’s goal is to invest $25,000 in 10 to 15 companies each year — not quite the 50 per year that Calbucci suggested for Seattle.
Backers of the fund include the Portland Development Commission; Oregon Growth Account; City of Hillsboro; OEN Catalyst Fund; and individual angel investors.
The fund just announced its inaugural group of investments, eight companies which were chosen from a pool of 128 applicants. Take a look at the descriptions of each:
4-Tell: Increases sales for retailers with personalized recommendations. Web: 4-Tell.com.
Audio Name: Allows you to create an audio avatar in your email signature to help people pronounce and learn about your name. Web: Audio Name.
Geoloqi: A mobile app and web platform that makes it easy for companies to build powerful location-based applications Web: geoloqi.com.
Hively: A simple way to gather customer feedback and measure support team performance. Web: Hively.
Homeschool Snowboarding: Creates highly breathable snowboarding outerwear featuring Cocona Xcellerator technology. Web: Homeschool Snowboarding.
InvestorInMe: Helps people easily find stocks to match their personal values, opinions, and personality. Web: InvestorInMe.com.
Vizify: Visualize, share, and track your professional life with Vizify. Web: vizify.com
Zinofile: Online media company in the comics space.