By Mike Rogoway The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A new fund in Oregon called the "Elevate Inclusive Fund" is a publicly packed pool of investment dollars targeted to diversify Oregon's entrepreneurial community.
The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
An MIT and Stanford grad who had spent years working in software engineering, Stephanie Lampkin says that when she applied for new technical jobs she nonetheless found herself shuttled toward nontechnical sales and marketing work instead.
So she "took my nontechnical self" and started her own company. But when she sought funding for the new business, Blendoor, Lampkin said she didn't seem to fit what venture capitalists were anticipating.
"When I went in to pitch, most investors have never seen a black woman technologist," Lampkin said.
The San Francisco entrepreneur ultimately looked north for her investment, landing $50,000 from the new Elevate Inclusive Fund, a publicly packed pool of investment dollars targeted to diversify Oregon's entrepreneurial community.
In Oregon, as elsewhere, companies run by white males receive an overwhelming share of venture investment. The publicly backed inclusive fund aims to open investment dollars to a broader group of entrepreneurs.
While Lampkin will continue living in California, she is seeking additional funding in Oregon and plans to hire web designers and software developers in Portland -- capitalizing on her new investment, Portland's relatively low operating costs, and the city's entrepreneurial spirit.
"The culture here Is very much seeking out what I will call pioneers," Lampkin said.
The new inclusive fund showed off its first six investments Wednesday, drawing on $250,000 from the state of Oregon, $500,000 from Multnomah County, $500,000 from the Portland Development Commission and private investment.
A parallel fund, Elevate Capital, has established a $4.2 million fund backed by Meyer Memorial Trust, the Oregon Community Fund and private investors including Stephen Marsh, chief executive of Portland online archivist Smarsh. Elevate Capital is investing in some of the firms backed by the inclusive fund.
Gov. Kate Brown attended Wednesday's showcase, hailing the new companies and declaring Oregon "a state of inventors and tinkerers."
Blendoor, Lampkin's startup, has designed an app that shields job candidates' names and photos to deter unconscious bias from the people doing the hiring. Other funding recipients Wednesday are:
--Goumikids, founded by Lilli Yeo, a Nike alumna whose new company makes kids apparel. Her company's office is in Beaverton.
--Hubb, founded by Allison Magyar, whose Vancouver company makes online tools to help manage meetings and conferences.
--I.T. Aire, founded by Jason Patz, a disabled military veteran. The Portland company makes cooling systems for data centers.
--RFPIO, founded by Ganesh Shankar, whose Beaverton company makes software to help organizations respond to requests for proposals -- bids for work from public agencies or other large organizations.
--Versi, co-founded by Jorge Guzman, whose Portland company makes a mobile review app to help businesses and organizations connected to the Latinos.