Yesterday’s Willamette Angel Conference (WAC) 2013 event invested more than $465,000 in four Oregon startups, highlighted by more than $250,000 in Portland-based Sonivate, which has developed a fingertip-mounted ultrasound probe that enables imaging while leaving both hands free to do work with simultaneous tactile feedback.
Three other startups got WAC investment at the event: Amorphyx, a Corvallis company with innovative technology that reduces manufacturing costs and increasing the brightness, speed and efficiency of LCD and flexible displays; DesignMedix, a Portland company addressing the rapid rise in drug resistance in multiple diseases; and Green Zebra Grocery, an innovative chain of small healthy-food grocery and convenience stores, based in Portland.
The event concludes three months of study (called “due diligence”) by the group of more than 30 angel investors, about half and half from the Oregon university towns Corvallis and Eugene. This year’s event was held on campus at Oregon State University. The event alternates between Corvallis and Eugene. I’ve been a member since it started in 2009.
Earlier in the day, keynote speaker Diane Fraiman of Voyager Capital noted that Oregon companies have received more than $600 million in venture capital funding, and challenged us, the WAC members, to continue investing in our area. That might have influenced us — our deliberations are strictly confidential, so I’m not saying — that afternoon as we added more than $200,000 to the investment amount originally planned that morning. That also doubled our previous year’s investment, and — we think — made this WAC event the largest investment of any of the Oregon angel investment groups.
Hallspot, a Eugene company that started on campus at the University of Oregon, was awarded a $2,500 Palo Alto Software prize for the best concept-stage company.
Yesterday I posted Home is Where Business is Good here. Today, the exact opposite. That seems like a contradiction, I know; but it isn’t really. I I love a good paradox.
Yesterday’s post was about living where you have to when it’s not your choice. Generally, employees have to move. They get transferred.
Entrepreneurs, with some exceptions, get to make a choice. You start a company. You move a company. And sometimes you move yourself to start a company. Usually it’s your choice.
My wife and I have made our choices several times, with varying results. The illustration here is Eugene OR, which is where we’ve lived for 18 years after moving Palo Alto Software here from its original location in Palo Alto CA. I posted here about that. We moved from Eugene to Mexico City once for a job, and we moved from Mexico City to Palo Alto for a job. We tried and failed to start a company in Mexico City, where the location was a disadvantage for our particular venture at that particular time. I was a founding director of a company that moved from the heart of the Silicon Valley in San Jose to the other side of the Santa Cruz mountains, in Scott’s Valley, and went public in less than four years.
I really don’t recommend moving from where you are to someplace else because the new location is better for the business you want to start. Move because you want to, yes; particularly if you’re young, and not tied down, and more so if it’s somewhere you want to move to. And move if you’re in the middle of nowhere, with to infrastructure, so you’re at a huge disadvantage. But don’t move because people say some other location is better. The business advantage you get is really unlikely to make up for the personal disadvantages of moving from somewhere you know and like.
The United States is a national economy. Sure there are the startup clusters, but success stories are everywhere. So are Internet access, Fedex, UPS, Kinko’s, and commercial airports. Some people swear by the cities, some prefer the towns. Some like a lot of action, which comes with a lot of smog and traffic and such; some don’t. If you’re going to build your own business, you get to choose.
One of the best moments of my years owning a business was when my wife said:
If we’re going to put up with all the downside of owning our own business, let’s get some of the upside, and move to where we want to live.
So we moved to Eugene. And 18 years later, we’re still glad we did.
(Image: I picked it up from a Eugene city website)
We were in our early twenties, and he was in his late forties. We knew him as the quintessential Oregon lover, born and raised in Oregon, running a lumber business, loving the advantages and ignoring the disadvantages of living in Eugene. He was smart, successful, and very easy to like. We both liked and admired him.
Then one day he told us he had to move to Los Angeles. We were shocked. We offered our condolences. We couldn’t imagine somebody who would be less happy moving to Los Angeles.
But he surprised us. Here’s what he said:
“No,” he said. “And this is important. You are both young, you need to watch me move to Los Angeles, and learn this lesson. Home is where business is good. I’m going to move happily.”
We spent some time with him a couple years later, after we’d moved from Oregon to Mexico City. He was true to his own advice, happy in Los Angeles.
We’ve reminded each other about that many times over the following 40 years. I can’t say we’ve actually followed his advice, because that situation never came up for us; but we think maybe we would have. And It came up in a family conversation recently, and I want to share it here, as good advice given.