Oregon's nanotech industry: Can small be large?

| Print |  Email
Articles - July/August 2013
Monday, July 08, 2013

The Investor

0713 Nano 03Oregon Angel Fund founder Eric Rosenfeld would agree that he and his band of intrepid investors are enticed by nanotechnology. He’s also quick to note, however, that OAF investors tend to gravitate toward Oregon industries “where there is already a concentration or cluster of talent to draw from,” i.e., not nano-inspired businesses. Since 2007, OAF has put together a fund each year (this year’s is $5.7 million with 130 investors) with the aim of making four to seven company investments, from $100,000 up to $1 million.

Prior to 2011, Rosenfeld says, OAF didn’t have particular investor expertise in the nanorealm; roughly 50% of the last two funds’ investments were in software-related companies. However, the due-diligence committee formed to explore investment possibilities in Portland-based Pacific Light Technologies helped shift that. OAF has given money to Pacific Light and NorthShore Bio, and now has an investment offer pending with bioMetric Holdings.

Rosenfeld, 48, says OAF searches for “showstopper” ideas among the 100 to 200 business plans they see each year. Intel alumni are a source of both investors for OAF funds and ideas for companies; Rosenfeld says Intel is almost like having a semiconductor university in the region.

“We see the really neat stuff, the nano innovations, happening at the intersection of different disciplines rather than within the core disciplines,” Rosenfeld says. “Like in the case of NorthShore Bio, where people coming out of Intel who understand semiconductors are coming together with others who get digital biology, to develop sensing ‘nanopore’ chips. And even Pacific Light, which blends expertise in electronics with advances in nano-level optics.”

Despite enthusiasm for OAF investments in these “intersection” nanocompanies, Rosenfeld is clear that an economic success is now needed, and the sooner the better.

“It’s still early, but we need a success and some wealth generation to initiate that cycle of wealth creation,” he says. “The cycle works in Seattle and the Bay Area, but it hasn’t happened here in nano.”

Practically speaking, without a nanocluster, whether in digital biology, electronics or some other area, supply chains don’t develop. Existing companies also have less of a local talent pool. In addition, as Rosenfeld explains it, OAF is typically a first or lead investor in local Oregon startups. As companies go through further funding rounds, however, Oregon’s venture capital community may not be big enough, and some startups may bow to demands to pick up stakes and move nearer the Silicon Valley investor community.

“We have the inklings, the embryonic stages,” Rosenfeld said. “But these days it actually takes a village to grow a successful company.”



 

More Articles

Announcing the date of the 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon event

News
Friday, March 20, 2015
OBM-100-best-Green-logo-2015-250pxwBY OB STAFF

Join us to celebrate and network with Oregon’s best green workplaces!


Read more...

5 questions for inDinero CEO Jessica Mah

The Latest
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
jessicathumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

inDinero, a business that manages back-office accounting for startups and smaller companies, recently announced it would relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Portland. We talked to CEO Jessica Mah about what drew her to Portland and how she plans to disrupt the traditional CPA model.


Read more...

Beam Me Up

April 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
BY DAN COOK | Photos by Jason E. Kaplan

An alliance of developers, academics and timber industry executives wants to position Oregon as a front runner in the glamorous new world of wooden skyscrapers.


Read more...

Are wolves good for business?

Contributed Blogs
Friday, March 06, 2015
030615-wolf-thumbBY JEFF DELKIN | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

As a local business owner, I believe it’s important to build our economy on a platform of conservation values.  


Read more...

Footloose

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Founded 12 years ago, Keen Inc. likes to push the envelope, starting with the debut of the “Newport” closed toe sandal in 2003. Since then, the company has opened a factory on Swan Island and a sleek new headquarters in the Pearl District. The brand’s newest offering, UNEEK, is a sandal made from two woven cords and not much more.


Read more...

Opening soon: 3 of the coolest new breweries in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, March 19, 2015
brewthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

There are 278 companies licensed to operate as brewery, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Here are three new beer-making hubs slated to open soon.


Read more...

City announces plans for Portland summer-league baseball team

News
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
IMG 3888BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Baseball is returning to Portland and city officials are hoping economic opportunity comes with it.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS