Seed synergy

Seed synergy

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The perspective that comes from experience, and the willingness to share it openly, offers valuable insight to these entrepreneurs who were selected by the Portland Seed Fund to receive startup funding.
// Photo by Anthony Pidgeon
The company is in the rare position of participating in two seed fund experiments simultaneously. In addition to the Portland fund, Vizify is also supported by the TechStars program in Seattle. TechStars is a popular business accelerator with outposts in Boulder, Boston and New York as well as Seattle. The Vizify co-founders have rented a place in Seattle and are spending a lot of time commuting between the two cities. But Silverstein says the plan is to build the company in Portland. “There’s more momentum around the startup scene in Portland,” he says. “I’m astounded by the level of talent here. What’s been missing has been the people who can bring everyone together. That’s what Jim and Angela have been able to do with the seed fund.”

Huston is a veteran of Intel Capital who has been connecting entrepreneurs with money since Netscape went public in 1995. He says the quality of the seed fund applicants has surpassed his expectations.

Jackson is a serial entrepreneur and early-stage investor who is only half joking when she says that her past jobs of leading inexperienced sailors on sea voyages and working with juvenile delinquents were the perfect preparation for serving as camp counselor for budding entrepreneurs. Her ample experience as an angel investor also gives her a powerful perspective on how to do a lot with a little.

Of course, the ultimate goal is for these seeds to grow into a complex ecosystem. That ecosystem was already growing when the Portland Seed Fund was established, due in part to the efforts and initiatives of the Oregon Angel Fund, the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, Silicon Florist blogger Rick Turoczy, Starve-Ups, the Portland Angel Network and other organizations. But it has not produced anywhere near the level of variety and riches that have taken root in San Francisco and Seattle.

Huston, Jackson and their colleagues and protégés hope to use the fund as a tool to chip away at the sizable gap between Portland and the powerful tech centers to the north and south. Their chosen companies will present their ideas to prospective investors at Ziba Design headquarters in the Pearl District during an all-day event scheduled for Nov. 2. Beyond that, they plan to repeat the seed fund process next year, learning and adapting as they go.

Ben Jacklet is a Portland-based journalist and former managing editor of Oregon Business. He can be reached at editor(at)oregonbusiness.com.