Oregon hasn’t produced many top-tier startups over the past two decades, but of those that have thrived, many have one thing in common: an early investment from the Oregon Venture Fund.
The regional company manages $ 250 million in investments and claims to have generated an average annual return of 34% for its investors since its creation in 2007.
OVF’s portfolio spans the gamut of industries in Oregon and Southwest Washington – from ice cream supplier Salt & Straw to new public biotech startup Absci to semiconductor research firm Inpria , which was sold last month for half a billion dollars.
“We get the choice of scope,” said Eric Rosenfeld, co-founder and managing partner of OVF.
The venture capital fund, which started out as the Oregon Angel Fund, is now hoping to take another step forward. The company has added a new senior member from Silicon Valley, Alline Akintore, to lead its research on potential investments.
And OVF aims to increase the scale of its investments, from $ 2 million to $ 4 million today to up to $ 10 million in the near future.
“The companies we support here have competitors around the world who are likely funded at higher levels,” Rosenfeld said. Oregon startups need more capital available early on in order to match the achievements of their rivals elsewhere.
Entrepreneurs have long complained that fundraising in Oregon is much more difficult than in neighboring states.
Oregon startups raised just $ 744 million in venture capital last year, according to the National Venture Capital Association, compared to more than $ 5 billion in Washington and $ 86 billion in California.
But Akintore, who joined the OVF in September to lead its due diligence process, said she wanted to work in an emerging and growing field.
“The Bay Area is crazy,” Akintore said. “I just wanted the reason.”
Best Oregon Venture Fund Deals
• Absci: The Vancouver-based startup went public in July and has a market value of $ 1 billion. OVF claims that investors got a return 91 times greater than their initial investment.
• Jama Software: Portland-based enterprise software company sold to an investment firm in 2018 in a deal valued at $ 200 million. OVF calculates the return of its investors at 37 times their initial investment.
• Basic Technologies: The Portland-based video encoding startup was sold to Amazon for $ 296 million in 2015 for $ 296 million. OVF return: 12x.
• Inpria: Corvallis-based semiconductor manufacturing technology company, sold this month for $ 514 million. OVF yield: 7.5x.
Originally from Rwanda, Akintore had been a newspaper columnist, engineer at General Electric and a member of the World Economic Forum before earning his MBA at Stanford last year. In the Bay Area investment funds, Akintore said managers should stay in their lane – specializing in one industry.
Oregon’s startup ecosystem is not large enough for an investment manager to specialize. Thus, at OVF, everyone works in all sectors while the fund assesses investment opportunities and assists the managers of the companies in the fund’s portfolio.
“For me,” Akintore said, “I actually like what being larger is intellectually empowering.”
For sectoral expertise, the FVO relies on its own investors. Unlike larger funds, benefiting from broad institutional support, OVF’s capital is made up of 180 regional executives and former entrepreneurs.
As OVF has emerged as Oregon’s largest local investor, Akintore said the long-term success of regional entrepreneurship requires more competition. New funds in the Oregon market would bring more capital to local entrepreneurs and make the state a more inviting place to start an ambitious business.
“When you have more investors, you have bigger deals,” Akintore said. “And I think bigger deals make the region more competitive.”