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Portland Development Commission's six startups move in



Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JON HOUSE - Soc it to em: Lynn Le, a trainer influenced by Krav Maga and MMA, started Society Nine to sell tough workout wear to tougher even women. Design + Culture Labs Joy Alise Davis figures out how urban design can be more inclusive. The Portland Development Commission is in the startup game, encouraging little companies to make the most of their assets (mentors, real estate, taxpayers’ cash) and grow over the next year. Beginning Oct. 1, the winners of 2014 Startup PDX Challenge will move into the high windowed, exposed brick space at 115 SW Ash St in Old Town/Chinatown.

Here are six firms whom you may soon be bragging about to your Portlandia-loving pals, or who may get caught up in the mincer of capitalism.

In selecting the companies, PDC favored minorities. So it’s fitting that Yellow Scope, which makes science kits for girls, has one Asian, one redhead and one African American girl drawn on the packaging of its prototype chemistry set.

Yellow Scope is aimed at girls from grades four to six who have not yet hit the middle school STEM (Science Technology

Engineering and Mathematics) slump, when boys take over science class. Founders Marcie Colledge and Kelly McCollum found that most science toys are aimed at boys — greens and blacks , explosives, derring do — while girls get stuck with pink kits for making lip balm and spa treatments.

Colledge says a classic example of pseudoscientific thinking was kids being asked to make bath salts and then record which one “felt the most relaxing.”

She adds that kits work because “Research shows when parents are engaged with their daughters’ work, they are more likely to enjoy science and want to take part in it.”

Girls need context, and a space to be creative, so there’s space in the lab notebook for customizing the experiments — what educators call open-ended play.

Like the American Girl toys, the three girls on the box have personalities and varied interests. They are not just nerds. There’s also a friendly lab rat who handles safety.

“At fourth grade, boys and girls equally say they like math, but by eighth grade, the stereotype that it’s not for girls has set in,” says McCollum. “There might be different learning style, but there are no major differences in the brain that make boys better at science.”

The $44 foundation chemistry kit has the real lab equipment — beakers, timers, thermometers, lab manual — and reagents. Extension kits (new experiments, new chemicals) will be $20.

They changed their name from Science Girls to Yellow Scope so as not to infringe on the trademark of the PBS show SciGirls.

But these are trained scientists, not mommy bloggers with a cute idea for a home-based business. Colledge has a PHD in neuroscience, McCollum a Master of Public Health specializing in Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

With other parent volunteers they ran the Science Fair and family science night at their kids’ school, Alameda Elementary. In one popular Crime Scene Investigation themed night, kids had to use techniques such as chromatography and fingerprinting to find out who stole the principal’s lunch.

For now, they are assembling kits at home but look forward to having an office and a kitchen to test experiments. They are going the Kickstarter route this fall to produce 1,500 kits.

“We have lots of questions for lawyers, and other higher-level thinkers, but the amount of new information we need is huge so we’re looking for peer-to-peer communication. And we would love some help with social media.”

Yellow Scope

yellow-scope.com

Inger McDowell and Paige Hendrix, the founders of Tique Box, will probably inevitably be referred to as “Ladies” when they get on The View or Good Morning America, since what they do is so Pinterest-friendly. Nonetheless, they are still hardcore business people. Tique Box (as in boutique) is a subscription gift box that showcases unique Portland brands, a mixture of food and beauty products. Tique launched quarterly in July 2013 and is now monthly. The October 2014 box is themed “Spooky and Sweet Portland.”

They hit upon the $25 subscription price (free shipping) after considerable testing. $19 sounded too cheap and $30 was prohibitively pricey.

It showcases Portland brands not found in mainstream stores, including Shurky Jurky, Pinkelton’s Curious Caramel Corn, and Wee Mindings (goats milk lavender bath sachets from). It’s like a cross between the Powell’s Books’ Indispensable (powells.com/indispensable) and Conscious Box (green stuff for the home).

Their main task in the accelerator will be to learn how to scale: right now they pore over Etsy, sometimes personally deliver custom boxes, and hand write notes. Hendrix once taught grade school, so she has excellent handwriting. They also do a business version targeting harried executive assistants and schmoozy realtors.

“The people at Conscious Box have been like big sisters to us, very supportive,” says Hendrix. A fall-themed box, Nesting in Portland, has things like linen spray, bath soap, a cute towel and a coffee cozy.

The accelerator is also the perfect place to get opinions from other millennials on likely products. But they want more marketing help, legal support and office support.

“We’re pretty high touch with our customers,” says McDowell, “And we want to stay high touch in a way that doesn’t tear us apart.”

Tique Box

tiquebox.com

Corey Cook met with the Tribune to talk about NoAppFee.com, since the CEO, Tyson Poole was laid up sick. Cook, who was know as the Bow Tie guy when he moved here from Arizona for a medical marketing job, knows all about making a good first impression.

NoAppFee.com is an online platform that does background checks and matches renters with the properties for which they qualify. At $25 to $40 per application fee, Cook says he knows from experience that looking for an apartment can be expensive and frustrating.

Users pay a one time $35 fee, which is refunded (via the landlord) when they find an apartment. The app populates the online form used by many different property management companies, and immediately shows where you could be looking.

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JON HOUSE - Bow tie guy: Corey Cook, Marketing Director of NoAppFee.com, aims to make renting an apartment a lot easier. Breaking good: Portland moms Marcie Colledge (L) and Kelly McCollum make science kits to keep girls age 8 to 13 on track for STEM education.“So if your FICA score of 656 means you can’t get into that place that wants a 670, it will show you places nearby that are available,” he says.

Cook says the app is not especially aimed at minorities, who might have a harder time than others finding a place. There are plenty of requirements, such as pets or recent work history, that can trip up an applicant.

He won’t be in the new office much, he’ll be pounding the streets looking for big landlords who can save time dealing with applicants by just providing a QR code on a sign. He will also be forging links with local businesses who will pay to get their coupons in a welcome gift basket for new renters: maid services, movers and pizza shops.

Property managers will be billed $2 to $3 per unit for the service, so a 300-unit complex could bring in $900 a month to NoAppFee.

The ambitious goal is to hit 70 per cent of the Portland rental market in 90 days, expanding to Seattle and Houston, where the founders have contacts with Mobisoft.

The sort of legal help he’s looking for is around subjects such as converting from an LLC to an S-Corp. Cook says he is willing to share his marketing experience with the other accelerator companies for free.

“I got my start at age 14 distributing the Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee. My round was 50 papers, so I’d buy an extra five for pennies on the dollar, knock on doors and give them away free until they signed up.”

That kind of hustle, he believes, will get the company far, knocking on doors, so others don’t have to.

noappfee.com

RAFT Syrups is a classic artisanal play. Organic cane sugar plus brewed botanicals (e.g. vanilla, ginger) equals instant hand-crafted cocktail chic — or at least a healthier glass of pop for the lucky child.

Sook Goh, originally from Malaysia, is the food scientist for the company, while Roslynn Tellvik handles the numbers. A former life coach, she also worked at M Financial in corporate benefits before the itch to start her own company grew too strong. Together they have been planning RAFT — the name has a sense of adventure — since fall 2012. They launched three flavors in April 2014: hibiscus lavender, lemon ginger and smoked tea vanilla. (Goh used to blend teas for Tazo.) A bottle with 24 one-tablespoon servings costs $19.

The botanicals are brewed nights and weekends at the Three little Figs jam kitchen in Parkrose, using tall, 25-gallon kettles from brew supplier F.H. Steinbart. It takes two to carry them.

“Syrups take manpower,” says Goh, detailing the precise chemistry of extracting phytonutrients.

Customers such as Tasty and Sons, ClarkLewis and Dick’s Kitchen like the product because with its perfect pH it will keep in the fridge for two to three months, whereas home made syrups only last about ten days. It also retails at Hollywood Liquor and Beam and Anchor.

“We’re looking forward to being in proximity with other businesses in similar stages to us,” says Roslynn Tellvik.

They plan to use the space to host tastings, instead of driving all over town, hitting people up at their bars and stores. Then there’s the strange allure of cube life. The computer work — planning events, managing orders — could be done anywhere, but Tellvik says she prefers to be in a professional setting with other people around.

“I’ve always felt there’s a lot of value to having colleagues, you might overhear things that give you ideas. It’s different from being in a coffee shop, or in your basement.”

They produce recipes for social media: Twitter (the busiest), Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, and sometimes Vine. Look for a six-second lesson in muddling.

Scaling is the challenge they hope to face in the accelerator.

“Seth Godin talks about the ‘the dip’, how to get from 10 customers to 100 and to 1,000,” says Tellvik. “And then you don’t want to grow too fast and lose customers.”

“We grew up in a world before the Internet was everywhere,” says Tellvik. “It’s nice that we can share physical products around the world. We had a bar owner from Japan who saw our stuff at Bull Run Distillers. And loved it. Went sent some to them by USPS, and there it is on Facebook.”

RAFT Syrups

raftsyrups.com

Society Nine boss Lynn Le is a badass — as she will tell you. She tains in Krav Maga, the Israeli martial art which is all about taking oneself out of danger by disarming and disabling attackers. She also teaches Krav Maga style kickboxing class. But with a keen interest in in women’s mixed martial arts (cage fighting), she couldn’t find workout apparel for her crowd that was sufficiently badass. That is, tough and mostly black.

“Brands usually take the men’s line and shrink it and pink it,” she scoffs.

So in 2013 Le launched Society Nine (a take on the female athlete law Title Nine) to e-tail other brands and her own designs, such as hooded vests, training leggings and boxing gloves.

“Most women’s fashion activewear shows a certain type: Nike it’s the runner, Lululemon someone doing yoga or Pilates,” says Le. “The real female athlete is not a size four to six who’s perfectly tan and regimented to eat 600 to 800 calories a day. It’s the mom, it’s the daughter, it’s the hustler, the girl working three jobs to pay for her college degree.”

It’s this stereotype she’s kicking against. As the mission statement puts it, “Society Nine is a combat sports brand for ‚¬¨badass women. A badass woman is a fighter in life: in sport, society and culture.”

While the messaging is heavy on inspirational quotes in all caps (imagine a Wieden + Kennedy cross fit team) Le already has a product to get out and is immersed in colorways, line plans, factory visits and marketing trips the spiritual homes of MMA and entertainment: Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Whether being a badass will work in passive-aggressive Portland remains to be seen. She got a taste for accelerators working at the Portland Seed Fund.

“I feel like it taught me to be a CEO, all the things no one talks about, the legal structure, stock agreements with founders,” says Le. “If you want to position yourself to be a high growth business, and get investment capital, there’s a lot of investment management involved.”

She previously worked on Goldie Blox, the non-girlie girl’s toy, and learned about Kickstarter.

“That’s something you do when you have all your ducks in a row, not before. Otherwise you end up with ‘Why’s it taking so long to get my hoodie?’ Transparency is the key, more than the money.”

Design + Culture Lab is probably the hardest company to get a handle on. Theories of Urban Practice graduate student Renae Reynolds in New York and Joy Alise Davis, now here in Portland, call themselves “a social enterprise.” They are a research-based urban social lab addressing issues of cultural, racial and ethnic inequality within the built environment.

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JON HOUSE - Design + Culture Labs Joy Alise Davis figures out how urban design can be more inclusive. For example, they are consulting in Cincinnati, Davis’s home town, on an outdoor fitness center.

“We’re working with the gym and the parks department deciding which park to use,” says Davis. “We’re doing a lot of GIS (Geographic Information System), a lot of engagement, looking at data to see what works best with the community.”

Davis moved here in May. It may remain a bicoastal deal because of the useful contrasts between Portland and New York.

“In New York City, as an African American woman I can blend into the background, but here I get noticed and I get smiles. But its nice, getting smiles, walk slower, get a little ‘Hi!’”

Davis and Reynolds use ArcGIS to look at the demographics of an area.

“(At the gym site) we’ll see if they are likely to use the gym, then have vision days where people can come and play games, use storytelling about the use of space, to find out what people want.”

“It’s a mix between city planning and architecture. We step out and look at the street and how the community functions as a whole.

They’re working on the east Portland Action Plan and sitting on the brownfield committee, looking at site cleanup and ways to get the community involved.

Right now they are looking for interns from environmental psychology, architecture and urban planning, because they cross so many different disciplines.

“For us we’re excited about the mentorship, the peer-to-peer monthly sessions and speakers every other month.” All they need is place for a camera, recorder and a computer for CAD, GIS and Google Sketch Up.

As consultants they will work with architecture firms and developers and planning departments to “think critically about how they deal with the community, so it’s a little more focused on who’s setting the table rather than who’s going to be at the table,” says Davis.

Society Nine

societynine.com

This story was amended 9/24/14 to clarify that Lynn Le does not teach Krav Maga, rather she trains in Krav Maga and teaches a Krav Maga style kickboxing class.