Portland just isn’t where young people go to retire: It’s where they get VC money too


They’ve got The Timbers, and we’ve got the Sounders. They have a mediocre NBA team, and we’re getting ours back. They’ve got a quirky TV show with Kyle MacLachlan, and we once had one in the form of Twin Peaks.

The Portland-Seattle rivalry is a fun one, and we like to do our part to keep it going when it comes to the business of tech. (Yes, Rick Turoczy, let’s bring back our Sounders-Timbers wager!)

Portland, Oregon. Photo via Radworld

For years, Portland was largely overlooked in the tech world — certainly a distant cousin when compared to the scene in Seattle. Portland still doesn’t boast a tech giant of the scale of Amazon, Expedia or Microsoft (Yeah, I know Intel is huge in Oregon, but I am talking about headquarters).

But things are changing in Portland. And one of those changes is coming in the form of VC dollars — at least here in the first quarter of 2013. So far, there’s been more than $88 million invested in Portland startups  — largely spread across three huge deals: a $30 million round for Puppet Labs; a $33 million round for Janrain and today’s $25 million round for Urban Airship. (By my count, the Seattle area’s tally for the first quarter stands at more than $53 million, spread among a number of smaller deals, such as $7 million for Rover.com, the $1.7 million for Tred and the $8 million for Simply Measured).

Of course, a startup scene is not just defined by venture deals, and beyond the VC money there’s plenty going on with our neighbors to the south. And I am not just talking about Portland’s leadership in food trucks. Nike is partnering with TechStars on a new accelerator to create technology that “inspire and assist people to live more active, healthy lifestyles.” (How, Northwest!)

SEOmoz is growing its team in Portland

Several Portland startups have been acquired by larger players in the past two months, most recently with Jawbone’s acquisition this week of Visere. And big San Francisco companies are establishing beachheads in Portland, including New Relic (backed with $80 million) which has a growing presence in downtown.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s SEOmoz has pretty much declared the Rose City its second home, buying three companies in Portland in the past 12 months and looking to expand its operation there even further.

It’s pretty cool to see Portland grab attention (and money). We’re excited about what’s occurring in the tech community there, one of the reasons why we’ve been more prominently featuring Oregon startups in our coverage here at GeekWire in recent months. 

We’re going to spend even more time in Portland this year, letting GeekWire staff reporter Taylor Soper (a graduate of Lincoln High School with a 503 area code on his business card) show us the ropes.

Looking forward to sipping some Bridgeport in the Pearl, and discovering the coolest innovations along the Willamette.

  • http://wac6.com/ William Carleton

    Interesting that you identify Portlandia with that actor from Desparate Housewives, John. I think of it as Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein’s show! (Talk about someone who bridges WA/OR.)

  • http://twitter.com/PrBlu Kami

    Great article John! We’re glad to hear about Taylor & are looking forward to lots of Stumptown startup news on GeekWire!

  • http://twitter.com/smichaelgriffin Michael Griffin

    It’s super exciting to watch our little city grow up (or, at least see its tech sector expand sooo fast). C’mon down, GeekWire – you’ll find more than the Pearl’s Bridgeport brews to keep you entertained!

  • ibrente

    It’s also where small start-ups bootstrap their biz and don’t need any VC money at all. Good article though, thanks.