I realize I haven't introduced myself properly here, but that will come at a different time. For now, let's talk the Willamette Valley.
I haven't lived here long, and two years ago I would have not been able to tell you anything about the Silicon Shire. For all I knew, Eugene and Portland were one and the same, separated by a 30-minute drive. Living in Eugene now, making the Portland commute twice a week, boy… I was wrong. But distance is not the only division between these two regions; Portland enjoys multiple angel groups, venture capital firms, and constant sniffing from some of the larger Bay Area and Seattle-based VCs. Other than the University of Oregon Foundation Seed Fund, the WAC, and a few other angels, -- the Willamette Valley is deprived of good capital sources.
"But there aren't any good startups coming from Eugene."
I hear that a lot, and prior to RAIN's inception, one could probably conclude that the region lacked the mentorship and communal support to foster quality companies. The region enjoyed some fruitful entrepreneurial growth ~15 years ago, with companies like Garage Games making successful exits (they made Tribes, a pretty good title back in the day). Fifteen years ago until today, it's been pretty slow…
Fast forward to the past 6 months. NemaMetrix. This is a real biotechnology, with real academic and commercial application, invented by professors at the University of Oregon and commercialized by Matt Beaudet and his awesome team. One year ago, these guys were contemplating getting the hell out of Eugene and raising capital somewhere else. With (too) much effort, Nema were able to close their round over the course of about a year, -- taking many trips to Portland to raise a large bulk of their capital from TiE Angel's (a deal led by Nitin and myself).
So that worked out, but what about the other excellent companies coming out of the region? A few weeks ago, at the RAIN State of the Ecosystem event, Nitin and I were shocked at the level of fundability we saw from companies coming out of the region. Swallowtail Vodka comes to mind, -- probably one of the highest-quality spirits to come out of the Northwest and quickly gaining popularity. They cost $22 a bottle, go pick one up. Waittrainer: an online on-boarding and training system for the service industry. Numerous indie game developers, a pharmaceutical conflict cross-checking platform and database, and many others.
Where do all these companies go for funding? Sure, they could probably carpool with me up the I-5 and pitch to a few groups (and endure hours of The Great Courses audiobooks). What then? Maybe they get funding, maybe they don't -- what about the mentorship they need? What about networks for larger up-rounds when their company grows and needs bigger funders?
This is a cool region, with plenty of brilliant founders. So, just don't forget about what's going on Down South.