Canopy selects Elevate Capital as a new fund manager for the Canopy CAPITAL program

And it's great news. Canopy is a emerging fund research and investment platform that connects investors with funds that focus their efforts in the Northwest and have specific impact goals built into their fund strategy.  We're very honored to be selected, and excited to get even more exposure in the impact investing world.

Read on for the press release put out by Canopy this afternoon...

Findings surfaced through the new 2016 Pacific Northwest Capital Scan research indicate there remains a large financing gap for entrepreneurs seeking seed and early-stage investment capital to grow their businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the region, it remains a struggle for entrepreneurs to raise financing rounds of less than $1 million – many resident venture capital funds tend to make investments later in a company’s growth cycle, so entrepreneurs are left scrambling for capital and other resources as they move out of their launch phase.

This early-stage financing gap is a challenge, but thankfully we’ve seen it narrowing over time as investors step up to fill it. Yet there are a few other trends in the venture capital ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest that are still not being addressed. The first relates to who gets funded – throughout the ecosystem, minority entrepreneurs have been left behind. The second relates to where funding goes: companies in Portland and Seattle have an easier time accessing capital, while regional communities (think the Willamette Valley, central Oregon, southern Oregon and SW Washington) often do not. The third relates to what gets funded: there is a bounty of investment capital flowing to tech-related start-ups, while entrepreneurs in non-tech sectors, such as food and apparel, have to work harder to find appropriate funding sources.

Elevate Capital, a Portland Oregon-based investment fund manager, is raising its first fund to address these four capital gaps. This investment strategy, in tandem with a deep commitment to stimulating entrepreneurial activity, mentoring talent, investing in the region and supporting minority entrepreneurs in their selection process, makes Elevate Capital an appealing choice for a new partnership with Canopy. As Canopy’s President Craig Muska points out, “their intentional focus on diversity differentiates Elevate from other managers in the investment industry—a sector that systemically lacks support for leadership among minorities and women. The issue of inclusion is a priority for Canopy’s founding members.”

We’re excited to announce a new relationship with Elevate Capital through our Canopy CAPITAL program. Like the first three regional funds we’ve worked with, Canopy will provide mentorship resources for the fund’s management team, as well as investment research for our members to promote capital flow to the fund. We believe our unique approach to training and investment research will add value to Elevate Capital.

Thanks Canopy!


Down South: State of Startup Funding in the Willamette Valley

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. 


Hello World!

Hello World!

program HelloWorld;


       writeln('Hello World');


Those were my first few lines of code I wrote in Pascal, in my very first computer programming class at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada in 1984. It was an unexpected turn in my life, for as long as I could remember as a child growing up in India -  I always wanted to be a medical doctor!  Little did I know how those four lines of code would completely change the course of my life. Sounds nerdy - but its the truth. Life is just a box of "most unexpected gifts."

For over 30 years, my life journey has been a series of unexpected twists and turns. From Canada, to Silicon Valley to Portland, Oregon to Seattle, to quitting my job to start First Insight and finally the most unexpected turn of all – launch of Elevate Capital. This is perhaps the most important turn in my professional career. I hope this very unexpected turn will transform the lives of the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

So, Hello World! “Elevate Capital” just came to life today - yes my next startup, 22 years after my first startup, First Insight. I knew there would more insights -  so here is the second one in Elevate Capital.  I am over the moon to launch it with three amazing team members, Stephen Green, Eric Boothe and Robin Jones. Together we bring diversity and experience to transform the launch and early stage of startups in Oregon and the Northwest region at large. And together,

  • We will invest in a broad range of startups from tech to apparel, to food and beverage, to bioscience.

  • We will tap into regions like the Willamette Valley, Central Oregon, SW Washington and Southern Oregon, where there has been traditionally less flow of capital.

  • We will invest “Mentor Capital” – money and mentoring, from launch to series A, so you as a founder/entrepreneur can focus on building your business, while we become your partner in helping you be successful.

  • We will be intentional about investments in under-represented entrepreneurs such as women and communities of color so our investments reflect the diversity we bring in our own team (East Indian, Hispanic, Black/Latino and women).

That’s a promise!

Namaste and Sincerely,

Nitin Rai with Stephen Green, Eric Boothe and Robin Jones