Seed synergy

Seed synergy

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From left: Tim Shields, Jackson and Huston during a brainstorming with other seed fund entrepreneurs.
// Photo by Anthony Pidgeon
The idea behind the Portland Seed Fund is to offer just enough support to entrepreneurs with promising ideas to quit their jobs and get to work on new businesses in Portland. The money comes from both public and private sources with the goal of providing returns to investors and taxpayers while fostering economic development. Huston and Jackson say it’s the right model for turbulent times because it focuses on the areas of the economy that are comparatively strong (social media, web commerce, applications for mobile devices) and takes advantage of the fact that launching a nimble technology company is much cheaper today than it was five, 10, even 15 years ago, due to improved technologies and widely accessible tools. Their research suggests that a million dollars seeded to a variety of startups can ultimately create 400 jobs. “There’s not an economic development department anywhere that can match that performance,” says Jackson.

Another purpose of the fund is to develop a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration to invigorate the startup scene in Portland. Since the inaugural class of eight companies was announced July 19, the selected entrepreneurs have been working in an atmosphere that’s part boot camp, part summer camp, meeting weekly on the central eastside, pooling resources and ideas, soaking up advice and concepts from mentors, investors and peers.

For the selected entrepreneurs, the seed fund process has brought an infusion of money, ideas and connections. “The money definitely helps,” says LaunchSide CEO Nathan Taggart. “People ask, ‘What can you really do with $25,000?’ Well, you can do a lot… But the introductions and the relationships have been worth even more to us than the money.”