Here are the rising stars coming out of this fascinating, relatively isolated section of the American startup scene.
Portland, Oregon is a very unassuming city. It’s the home of Portlandia, fancy doughnuts and (we now know) epic snowstorms. But it’s also home to many of the most enterprising startups in the country.
Here’s our guide to promising and interesting startups coming out of Portland in 2017. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it’s enough to highlight the rising stars coming out of this fascinating, relatively isolated section of the American startup scene. And, it’s just in time for Portland Startup Week, running from today through February 10.
1. Puppet Labs
No list about Portland startups would be complete without Puppet Labs. Founded by Teyo Tyree and Luke Kanies, Puppet Labs helps IT administrators automate repetitive tasks, make operations more secure, and help move on-premises software (i.e., software just located at the company) to the cloud. This group has continued to raise more money in every round of investment, including $40 million raised in 2014, two rounds past Series C funding. Puppet Labs has raised $86 million in total since launching in 2005 and currently employs more than 500 people — as well as houses 27 dogs in their Portland office.
This cloud-based computing company is not trying to be flashy, and instead, is aimed at slow growth. Puppet delayed its IPO until 2017 because of market fluctuation the previous year. At the time, they were targeting a $1 billion valuation.
2. Urban Airship
In 2009, Steven Osborn, Adam Lowry, Michael Richardson, and Scott Kveton co-founded Urban Airship, a startup whose technology helps app owners better engage with their users. It helps maintain and manage mobile conversions, push notifications, and insights. Their total funding has reached $67.6 million, and they’ve used it to acquire likeminded Tello and SimpleGeo. Despite a scandal surrounding a sexual assault accusation against one of the founders, Urban Airship continues to rise.
Acquired by CenturyLink in 2013, AppFog was created as a simple, streamlined system for managing infrastructure behind applications (noticing a pattern here?). A healthy $9.8 million in funding helped this company get off the ground, and if founder Lucas Carlson is any indication, their attitudes post-acquisition are just as healthy. Or perhaps Taoist?
This web security-based business comes to Portland from Texas, and they definitely came to play. Launched in 2015, StackPath was founded by Lance Crosby, who previously sold SoftLayer to IBM for $2 billion. Its first funding round raised a whopping $180 million in 2016. StackPath appears to solve two big pain points: It helps sites increase their loading speed and secures them from DDoS attacks, among others.
Their presence in Portland lends even more credence to the idea that Portland’s strength in the technology industry may not lie in being weird, but in being very good at the basic.
Okay, so Treehouse is also technically a transplant to Portland. But this education startup has made itself at home in the Portland ethos with its approach to free education and later life learning. Under founder Ryan Carson, the company has raised about $12 million in six years. Not that it’s all about money: Treehouse made the news a few years ago through instituting an official four-day workweek.
6. The Clymb
Attention, outdoors enthusiasts! The Clymb, founded by Kelly Dachtler and Cec Annett, is unique in appealing to people looking for discounts on outdoor gear. Even with raising $9 million in funding and getting acquired in 2016, The Clymb continues to cater to this ultra specific e-commerce niche.
Vacation rentals have been around for far longer than Airbnb, and Vacasa’s been a dominant force in the business for years. Their aim to make vacation rentals as approachable as possible for the average user has paid off in dividends. They were named the ninth fastest growing company in the US in 2014, and raised $40 million just in November. Cliff Johnson and Eric Breon co-founded the company in 2009 and since then, have built the company from two workers to more than 1,000 employees.
Another winner in the housing industry, Cozy focuses on the needs of landlords and renters seeking a simpler solution for paying rent and managing tenants. Gino Zahnd and John Bragg have raised nearly $20 million since launching in 2012, the latest funding round being $3.4 million. This startup saw where the wind was going in 2013, and high tailed it out of San Francisco to take up residence in the Silicon Forest.
The healthcare industry is hugely important to Oregon, and is the second fastest job creator in the state going into 2024. It’s no wonder that Rebecca Palm and Katie Vahle’s startup CoPatient, which helps people reduce medical bills, saw fit to move to Portland from Boston in 2013. Add them to the list of Portland companies operating on a shoestring: Their $3.6 million Series A round funding came from 406 Ventures and the Oregon-based Cambia Health Solutions.
This Portland company came from the frustration founder Josh Reich felt about the process of online banking. Simple’s banking app appeals to the contemporary banking customer who desires a simple interface and caters especially to people looking for help in achieving savings goals. They were acquired by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) for $117 million, but still operates independently. Even before then, they were functioning on an impressively low investment of $18.1 million. Reich and Shamir Karkal co-founded Simple in 2009.