It hasn’t been the best of times to launch an experiment in funding young companies.
Rosenfeld and Pozzo say the hardest year to convince investors to stick with the fund was early 2009, when the stock market was crashing. Since then the group has added a number of younger entrepreneurs who have done well with technology startups. Nearly all of the investors from 2010 elected to re-invest in 2011.
Those investors are also likely to be invited to participate in the Portland Seed Fund, which launches this year, offering smaller amounts of money ($25,000-$100,000) to startups. The new seed fund may compete for local investor resources, but it could also improve the supply of hungry young companies with solid business plans. The Portland Development Commission has invested $500,000 in the seed fund, and the state has committed to investing another half million if the fund can raise $2 million elsewhere.
With capital finally flowing again and the economy slowly recovering, other new opportunities for burgeoning businesses should follow. The thawing of credit, at least in the venture capital arena, has already begun. Rosenfeld notes that with nearly $300 million in new investments, 2010 was the best year for raising venture capital in Oregon since Capybara began tracking investments seven years ago. “The mood is better,” he says. “People have more confidence.”
He’s looking forward to a fresh new crop of deals in 2011. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world,” he says, “when someone comes in with a business plan and you play a small role as a financial catalyst in helping them achieve their dreams. You see them two or three years later and they’ve got a team of great people and a beautiful office and happy customers. That’s what it’s all about.”