Liaison PR News Room
Portland Makes Bid To Become Budding Techlandia
Thanks to the quirky TV show “Portlandia,” Portland, Ore., is better known for its tattoos and its gluten-free bakeries than for its tech scene. But it does have a tech scene, and a growing one at that.
In less than three years, Portland had become home to three incubators for tech start-ups—the Portland Seed Fund, backed by various city and state agencies; the Portland Incubator Experiment, backed by Nike Inc.’s advertising agency, Wieden + Kennedy, with sponsorships from Coca-Cola, Target Brands and Google; and Upstart Labs, which is just starting out.
Investors and entrepreneurs from Portland’s better-known West Coast neighbors, Seattle and the Bay Area, are participating and in some cases moving to Portland, and the area has its own tech blog–SiliconFlorist, a blend of the term “Silicon Forest” (which comes from Intel’s long-time presence in the Portland area) and the “Rose City,” another nickname for Portland.
Portland is attractive to tech start-ups because of its friendly, collaborative culture and the absence of the “cutthroat behavior” that can occur in the Bay Area, where entrepreneurs might start a company only to raise funding and flip it to a buyer, according to Rick Turoczy, who started Silicon Florist as a side project in 2007 and then co-founded the Portland Incubator Experiment in 2009.
Portland’s entrepreneurs may also be a little more inclined than Seattle’s entrepreneurs to take risks, he said, because they don’t tend to start their careers working in good jobs at Amazon.com or Microsoft.
“For so long, we’ve been watching the Bay Area or Seattle, learning what those start-up communities have done well, and we’ve learned from their mistakes,” Turoczy said. “We’re ready to start coming into our own, and we’re seeing significant investments in start-ups in town.”
Indeed, out of its first graduating class, the Portland Incubator Experiment has so far produced three start-ups that went on to raise funding, including VendScreen, a company that retrofits dumb vending machines with smart, Android-based devices and raised $12 million from investors whose identities are undisclosed.
The Portland Seed Fund, meanwhile, recently closed its first fund at $3 million. Two of its portfolio companies—Steamfunk Labs, doing business as Vizify, which helps people create online profiles of themselves; and 4-Tell, a tool to help on-line retailers increase sales—have each closed a Series A round in excess of $2.5 million.
Both incubators are getting ready to select their second round of start-ups.