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A healthy forest

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Articles - May 2014
Monday, April 28, 2014

When I first started working at Oregon Business a few years ago, I kept hearing the same stories (complaints) from tech entrepreneurs: Venture capital firms bypassed local startups in favor of those in Silicon Valley; business accelerators were few and far between; and qualified engineers were hard to come by.

In 2014 Oregon’s startup scene is still small compared to the communities in San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. Business leaders still call for more homegrown engineering Ph.D.s. Venture investment in clean tech and biotech remains sluggish.

Nevertheless, signs of a maturing cluster abound. Consider a few of the stories that came across my desk — in the space of two days in April.

  • Beaverton marketing company Act-On Software announced it had secured a $42 million venture capital round, the biggest investment captured by a local startup in more than a decade.
  • Nouvola, a cloud performance and analytics startup featured in our cover story this month, captured $256,000 from the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network’s Angel Oregon Showcase.
  • Puppet Labs, another cloud services firm, whose tools help manage data centers and other large IT networks, announced it doubled in three first-quarter metrics: jobs, bookings and customers.

Some of the broader indicators are also promising: Venture investors sunk $130.3 million into Oregon startups last year, up 5% from 2012, according to the National Venture Capital Association. Tech employment is up 3.4% compared to this time in 2013, the strongest annual growth in nearly two years, according to the Oregon Employment Department. Geographically, the Silicon Forest has spread, seeding tech clusters in Bend, Ashland and Hood River. More women and minorities are moving into the software startup fold, and a new generation of social venture startups are sprouting, as I chronicle in my article on the “fourth sector.”

Today the entrepreneurial mood across an array of technology sectors is, for the most part, buoyant. “Portland can really become a center of excellence for cloud technologies,” Nouvola co-founder Paola Moretto told reporter Peter Barnes. “We have to think big.”

Meanwhile, old growth PC companies are retooling with some success for the mobile age; in its first quarter, Intel (Oregon’s largest employer, and a breeding ground for startup entrepreneurs) reported revenue of $12.8 billion, up 1.5% from the first quarter of 2013.

In 2014, of course, technology is less an industry sector than the foundation that anchors all other industry sectors. As digital technologies multiply and diversify, Oregon’s startup ecosystem will, undoubtedly, continue to flourish.

— Linda


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