Young business leaders ignite startup scene

| Print |  Email
Articles - August 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

0810_NewMoney05cropped
Josh Friedman (pictured with NedSpace mascot Ace) co-founded Eleven Wireless in 2001 and hopes to launch a seed fund to boost similar start-ups with early capital. The City of Portland has committed $500,000 to such a fund.
0810_NewMoney06cropped
John Friess credits the collaborative approach of the Portland peer mentoring group Starve Ups for the $7.5 million sale of his first company, Wired.MD. His new company is Journey Gym, selling portable gyms for travelers.
0810_NewMoney07cropped
Ryan Buchanan, the 35-year-old chairman of the Software Association of Oregon, has built his online marketing business eROI into one of Oregon’s fastest-growing companies. He’s also on the board of Starve Ups.
Josh Friedman and Eric Doebele have been friends for years. They worked together for College Pro Painters in their early 20s, where they learned the basics of starting and running businesses. Both are youthful, fit, brimming with energy and hypersocial, pausing frequently to greet the steady flow of patrons wandering in and out of the Backspace Café.

Friedman, a graduate of Portland’s Wilson High School and Oregon State University, worked for Intel in the late 1990s and TripWire around the turn of the century. Both companies served as great learning environments, but it was during his tenure at Intel, when part of his job involved studying potential investments for what would later become Intel Capital, that Friedman recognized what he really wanted to do with his life. He’s been an entrepreneur ever since. He co-founded Eleven Wireless in 2001 to capitalize on the then-nascent market for wireless Internet connections to hotels, and while his timing was not fortunate, he did manage to avoid running out of money and, with time, build a profitable company.

Friedman is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of Eleven Wireless, but he is far from dormant on the startup scene, where he seems to know pretty much everyone. He co-founded NedSpace, a co-working office space in downtown Portland for tech entrepreneurs, with Mark Grimes last year, and as a side project to that popular initiative the two have been working with a group of investors behind the scenes for the past year to create a seed fund. The idea of the fund is to leverage support from the City of Portland to raise $3.5 million to $5 million from private investors, with the goal of systematically feeding Portland’s startup pipeline with small but crucial investments similar to the checks that Doebele has been writing.

Looking back on his experience starting up Eleven Wireless, Friedman, now a wizened 36 years old, says it was difficult to raise money. “Yes, I was a first-time CEO and we had a young founding team. But we had a good idea. We were a leader in the space. If we were in any other city, if we were in Seattle or San Francisco or Boston or Austin or New York City, we would have been funded like that.”

In Friedman’s view, lack of early-stage capital is a “cyclical problem” in Portland. “We have amazing angel investors here,” he says, “but because we haven’t had numerous large successes with young entrepreneurs, there’s not a lot of money going into high-risk deals. So the angel investors tend to be much more conservative than in other cities. They don’t let money go easily. They don’t take a systematic approach to investing. And all of those things are required for an angel community to thrive.”

The problem is serious in Friedman’s view because “for many people if you don’t get seed money, you can’t start the business. You can’t quit your job and leave your house and make the commitment.”

Friedman says the idea of starting a seed fund with public sector support came from Wayne Embree, a longtime Oregon investor who meets frequently with Friedman, Grimes and Harvey Matthews, the former president of the Software Association of Oregon and a creator of the Oregon Investment Fund. In March 2009, the group staged a rally at NedSpace downtown, inviting dozens of entrepreneurs to take the stage and introduce their business ideas and their plans for creating wealth and jobs in Portland. Hundreds of people attended, including Portland mayor Sam Adams and his economic policy adviser Skip Newberry.

Friedman, Embree and Grimes subsequently met with the mayor, and talks ensued with the Portland Development Commission. In February, the city announced it would support a new Portland Seed Fund with $500,000. The new fund will not necessarily be managed by Friedman’s team, which consists of himself, Mark Grimes, Willamette University professor and angel investing expert Rob Wiltbank, and Brewster Crosby, an investor and CEO of the Portland marketing startup Gliffik. The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network is also putting forth a proposal to manage the fund, and other groups may offer proposals as well. The city plans to choose a fund manager by Aug. 20.

“We want to win the money,” says Friedman. “We started the effort. But may the best man or woman win. No matter what happens, it will be a good thing.”


 

Comments   

 
Kent Lewis
0 #1 Build & KeepKent Lewis 2010-08-09 07:56:42
Excellent article, and kudos to the entrepreneurial team featured in this article. As a friend, vendor and partner of many of the entrepreneurs in this article, I can say the cause, and their achievements are legit. Looking forward to seeing more funding and entrepreneurial resources available in Portland in the near future.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Bendafornia: What’s driving the Northern California migration?

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
bendiforniathumbBY KEN MAES

A huge migration from Northern California has contributed to average 16% growth per year since 1990.


Read more...

Preserving the Legacy

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A New York floral and gift business takes on the iconic Harry & David brand.


Read more...

Inside the Box

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY GINA BINOLE

Screening for “culture fit” has become an essential part of the hiring process. But do like-minded employees actually build strong companies — or merely breed consensus culture?


Read more...

Photo Log: Waterfront Blues Festival

The Latest
Thursday, July 09, 2015
bluesfestthumbBY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The sweltering weather didn't keep the crowds away. Although the numbers were down slightly from last year, the Oregon Food Bank raised $850,636 to fight hunger.  About 80,000 people attended despite temperatures in the upper 90s.


Read more...

Quake as metaphor

Linda Baker
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
071515-earthquakia-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Big One serves as an allegory for Portland, a city that earns plaudits for lifestyle and amenities but whose infrastructure is, literally, crumbling.


Read more...

Reader Input: Energy Overload

June 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers to weigh in on the fossil fuel-green energy equation.


Read more...

Child care challenge

September 2015
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
0927OHSUhealthystarts-thumbBY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER

Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.


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