I've had the pleasure of advising a handful of women-run tech startups in Portland, including Favery (Anne Nichols) and Presto Box (Elicia Putnam and Sara Conte). These two are part of an entrepreneurial renaissance in Portland that has just landed us at No. 5 on the list of top cities for women entrepreneurs.
I am closely watching several other women in the newest class of Portland startups – including Paola Moretto and Paola Rossaro at Cloudy Days, Emma McIlroy and Julia Parsley at Wildfang and Kristine Akins at Bikecop. I also like nothing more than advising and investing alongside women like Angela Jackson of Portland Seed Fund and the Portland State University Business Accelerator, Diane Fraiman of Voyager Capital, and Shelley Gunton, now of Chez Marie.
I am hard-pressed to come up with an industry that hasn't been dramatically improved by the addition of women in large numbers – tech startups will be no exception.
It seems as though Upstart Labs' first graduate, Chirpify, just can't stay out of the news. CNET, Digital Trends and AllFacebook are buzzing about Chirpify's latest release: In-stream social commerce on Facebook.
Yesterday, Chirpify announced that superstar Tim McGraw was using Chirpify to sell a special edition of his latest album through his Facebook fan page. Although it's not a huge departure from Chirpify's existing purchasing capabilities via Twitter and Instagram, this announcement is significant because it's one of the first ever in-stream Facebook commerce campaigns.
Even more impressive is the fact that the album sold out just hours after McGraw posted it to Facebook. If that's not a sign that Chirpify is moving in the right direction, we don't know what is.
McGraw clearly knows what's up. Visit Chirpify.com to see for yourself.
Sunday's New York Times Fashion & Style section featured an article about how the world of fashion is slowly jumping on the social shopping bandwagon. Sites like Motilo.com – where users can create and buy virtual outfits, The Love List from Marc Jacobs – which enables consumers to tell friends via social networking which products they love for friends to ultimately purchase as gifts, and finally, Upstart Labs alum Chirpify.
Chirpify brings e-commerce to Twitter and Instagram with the click of a button. It's a natural fit for the industry given that shopping is, by nature, social. However, the article explains that these advancements are big doings for the fashion industry, which is typically not framed for early adoption of technology.
So far, the results speak for themselves.
Chirpify’s “frictionless transaction” — there are no virtual shopping carts or baskets, as found on many e-commerce sites — has seen it turn 4 percent of its browsers into shoppers, according to its founder, Chris Teso, double the usual e-commerce rate of 2 percent.
Read the full article here, or sign up for
Chirpify.com to get started.
Facebook and Twitter are perfect for sharing personal vacation photos. Yammer is a great platform for sharing project plans at work. And text messaging is a handy tool for communication with groups of 10 or less. But the world is made up of more complex sharing. Organizations like neighborhood watch groups, schools districts, city departments and hospitals need something different.
We told you about Celly last year when we were hired by founders Russell Okamoto and Greg Passmore to help with marketing and product development. Russell and Greg recognized the limitations of existing social networks and have designed a truly compelling product that meets the needs of groups. Celly resonates with group communication needs by enabling groups to create networks that mirror real-life communication. Unlike other existing social networks, Celly allows for instant, flexible, and scalable communication between people and groups.
Last week, Celly announced that it has raised $1.4 million in funding led by Oregon Angel Fund (OAF) with participation from Upstart Labs and individual investors. Celly also announced the availability of their new (free!!) iPhone app. The app brings a rich experience to iPhone users, while retaining all the flexibility and control of Celly’s platform. Read more about this exciting news in TechCrunch, The Next Web, BetaKit and The Portland Business Journal.
Since launching last fall, more than 200,000 students, educators, coworkers, local governments, communities, teams and national Occupy Movements have embraced Celly. Schools use the service for teacher-student and parent-teacher communications. The City of Portland leverages Celly to keep citizens informed of important activities related to gang activity and neighborhood safety. Hospitals use Celly to communicate two-way messages and emergency alerts. The service also brings together aid workers and community members as part of the Hurricane Sandy Relief effort, making it easier to know where supplies and volunteers are needed.
Congrats to Russell and Greg on this month's announcement. We’re honored to be part of your ongoing momentum.
Interested in learning more? Get started with Celly at cel.ly.
We've said it before, but Oregon is a truly unique place for startups. In Portland, accelerators and startups tend to favor collaboration over competition – and it's lead to an explosively successful startup scene. It's reasons like this, and many more, that we love Oregon. And so we couldn't be more pumped to help support organizations like Techlandia and the new Moregon Project, that want to help foster this entrepreneur environment right here in Oregon. If you're not familiar with it yet, the Moregon Project aims to bring local entrepreneurs together to collectively make Oregon the best state to start and sell startups.
Steve Case knows a thing or two about buying and selling startups in up-and-coming tech ecosystems. He found his own success in helping to build a startup ecosystem in Northern Virginia, and he recently wrote a guest post for The Wall Street Journal's Accelerators Blog about how this is the "dawn of a new era for U.S. entrepreneurship." Up until recently, startup entrepreneurs were basically required to be in Silicon Valley – but Case describes how times have changed. Startups can now be successful outside of the Valley, and are bringing innovation, job opportunities and economic growth to many other cities.
Portland is certainly in that boat. Tech entrepreneurs like Rick Turoczy and Skip Newberry have been carrying the tech startup torch here for years. They are truly the backbone behind Portland's startup ecosystem momentum. And now, Moregon is bringing entrepreneurs, investors and advisors together to build an even stronger foundation; one that hopes to replicate the success of places like Northern Virginia, Austin, and Boulder in fostering new companies.
Major props to Beth Lutz, the executive Director at Starve Ups, and Mitch Daugherty, Chair of OEN Board of Directors, and all the other incredible folks who are involved in Moregon. And stay tuned for more about this new project in the coming months. We're positive that it will make a significant impact here, and we're honored to be involved.
You know you've made it when Keith Richards tweets about you. Get the full scoop in Friday's GeekWire.
Rock on, Chirpify!
In case you missed Wednesday's announcement, Menuish – a joint venture between Upstart Labs, Chris Eigner and Devon Harless – launched this week. GeekWire did a great job of telling the adorable story of how Menuish came to be:
Like many other couples hitting the town for a bite, Chris and Devon started scrolling through their phones to find a good place to eat. But much to their frustration, most restaurants have flash-filled websites that are difficult to navigate... So after dinner that night nine months ago, they set out to make it easier for hungry consumers to locate menus. The result is a new app called Menuish that shows you menus from local restaurants in a format you can read on your phone.
Read the full article here, or click through some of the other Menuish coverage below:
Developers Chris Eigner and Devon Harless found themselves spending a lot of time during their courtship cursing at their iPhones. Planning a dinner date is hard enough – tiny, awful online restaurant web sites don’t make things any easier.
Chris and Devon approached Upstart Labs with a concept for an iPhone app that made searching and viewing restaurant menus usable. We approached this project as a joint venture, lending our iOS and marketing skills to the founders’ design and development skills.
Chris and Devon’s app, Menuish, lets hungry iPhone users search for local restaurant menus by restaurant name, menu name or even dish, and displays restaurant menus in a format that's easy to read. Along with menus, you’ll find hours of operation, reviews from Google and Yelp, links to Facebook and Yelp profiles of the restaurants, and contact information. Best yet, you can save menus to a “Favorites” file for quick access on take out nights.
The app has hundreds of thousands of restaurant menus in more than 13,000 cities nationwide, thanks to a data partnership with industry leader SinglePlatform.
Congrats on the launch to Chris and Devon! This calls for dinner out.