Seed synergy

Seed synergy

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Shields (at right) started Zinofile, a media company that publishes free ad-supported comics inside Facebook.
// Photo by Anthony Pidgeon
The perspective that comes from experience, and the willingness to share it openly, can offer valuable insight to entrepreneurs such as Daniel Clancey, CEO of Homeschool Snowboarding, the sole non-tech company backed by the seed fund. Clancey, a former Columbia Sportswear designer who has been boarding in the Pacific Northwest for 15 years, says he has learned plenty since being selected. “It’s been really nice to have people to talk to about the problems you’ve been having,” he says. “We’ve been going solo for three years. I’m learning as I go, and the challenges have been too numerous to mention.”

Still, Homeschool has made serious progress from its funky headquarters in a rickety brick building near the Albina rail yard. Clancey has negotiated a production deal with a factory in Thailand, assembled a demo team of star riders and grown the company to four people with experience at Columbia and Burton. His line of breathable pants and jackets will be selling this fall at key shops throughout the Northwest including U.S. Outdoor in Portland, Tactics in Eugene and Snowboard Connection in Seattle.

Clancey acknowledges that an apparel company may seem out of place in the world of tech startups. But he thinks his experience can add to the discussion. “I’ve learned a lot from the other companies, and I hope they pick up things from what we’re doing too,” he says.

Peer mentoring works best when brutal honesty rules. “You need people who are willing to call bullshit on you,” says Todd Silverstein, CEO of Vizify. “You need someone who isn’t afraid to ask you hard questions. The people who have been most useful have been the people who have not been at all nice.”

Silverstein and co-founders Eli Tucker and Jeff Cutler-Stamm worked for Monsoon in Portland during that company’s boom years, and the hiring process was a team effort. Their idea for Vizify springs from the frustration of plowing through one boring resume after another. Vizify seeks to incorporate visual elements into resumes to help candidates stand out.