The Next Generation of Portland Start-Ups

Portland’s fertile silicon soil has nurtured winners like Chirpify, VendScreen, Simple, and Puppet Labs. Here are five fast-growing start-ups signaling the next wave.

By Marty Patail May 1, 2014 Published in the May 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Little Bird

Helps businesses find social-media “influencers”  

Founded in October 2011, Little Bird creates virtual maps of Twitter, blogs, and other social media to reveal whose posts and tweets actually matter on a given subject. “Some companies let you try to buy the favor of an influencer,” says founder Marshall Kirkpatrick, a 2005 University of Oregon grad and former blogger. “We show you where conversations are happening.” Since its genesis (on Kirkpatrick’s couch), Little Bird has grown to 13 employees, raised $2.7 million, and opened an office in downtown Portland. “It’s about credibility,” he says. “When I was blogging, I always posted about new things people thought were interesting. When it came time to promote my own stuff, they were willing to listen.”


Consolidates web, mobile, and informational databases

Databases are virtual storage units for everything on the web—and as the Internet has grown, so have databases. Enter Orchestrate, a tool making it easier for developers to create and revise applications without worrying about how their users’ data is stored. “In the 1980s there were one or two databases,” says cofounder Antony Falco. “Now there are 30 that didn’t exist 10 years ago. There’s so much choice, so much complexity.” Orchestrate graduated from the Portland Incubator Experiment just last fall, and has already raised $3 million in funding and lured big-name customers like Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds. 


Lets you buy and redeem tickets for public transit and parking

Some 77,000 Portlanders have used GlobeSherpa’s mobile app to purchase more than 850,000 TriMet and Portland Streetcar tickets since its launch last September. Besides eliminating paper scraps and exact change, the app allows transit systems to cut expenses while collecting more precise data about rider habits. (The company assures the post-Snowden world that geodata can’t be traced back to individuals.) GlobeSherpa will expand to Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, this year—but the founders’ vision goes beyond bus fare. Soon, the app will also alert riders to deals nearby. A streetcar rider in the Pearl, for instance, could pull up the app to find coupons for coffee at the next stop. 


Stores e-mails, social media, and docs in a searchable interface

Smarsh’s adorable name belies its very serious mission. In the heavily regulated financial and health sectors, companies are required to archive internal communications and documents, just in case the Law comes snooping around. For large corporations, the collection and maintenance (not to mention review) of this endless stream of e-mails, IMs, and files can be beyond burdensome. Smarsh moves that archiving off-site, combining all of the information into a single database that can be searched and reviewed in real time. Smarsh moved to Portland from San Francisco back in 2005; last year, revenues increased by 30 percent while Smarsh’s workforce grew to 212.


Summarizes a consumer’s online behaviors in a single data stream

Twitter timelines. Facebook feeds. Tumblr posts. Netflix queues. For a marketer, these potential gold mines of data reveal how customers are interacting with a company’s brand and products. The problem: there’s no big-picture view. Lytics combines these data streams, allowing a corporate client to see how individual consumers behave across social media and the web. “There’s always been this promise of the value of data,” says Rick Turoczy, Portland’s unofficial start-up guru and founder of the Portland Incubator Experiment. “Lytics is the first company I’ve seen to really home in on that.”

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