The awards will offer prizes for Oregon's Technology Company of the Year in four different categories: Startup, Rising Star, Growth, and Enterprise.
In the startup category–which features the newest companies among the four categories–there was one factor that united all three companies nominated for the prize: All three had taken part in Portland-based incubator or accelerator programs. These programs provide mentorship, free rent or other assistance to new technology companies in exchange for an equity stake in the company.
Nominees Cloudability and Vendscreen, Inc are both alumni of the Portland Incubator Experiment, an incubator program funded through advertising company Wieden Kennedy. Cloudability, which provides cloud-management services, has also picked up funds through the public-private-funded Portland Seed Fund, and through out-of-state accelerator TechStars. The third nominee, online learning-vendor OpenSesame, is a resident of the Portland State Business Accelerator located at an adjunct campus of Portland State University.
Such accelerator/incubator programs are becoming increasingly popular among new companies. But among more established companies nominated for the the other Technology Company of the Year prize categories, none had passed through a business incubator.
“I think that it really is significant,” says Mat Ellis, CEO of Cloudability, about the fact that all three start-up -level companies passed through incubators. “It’s just that it’s so effective. It’s kind of like an MBA program of sorts. It provides you with a network of contacts.”
Tom Turnbull, one of the co-founders of e-learning vendor OpenSesame, downplays the significance of these awards. “It’s probably a coincidence that all three companies have been involved [in incubators or accelerators],” says Turnbull, who nonetheless says that such programs have become a much more common route to starting a business. “In the last few years there’ve been a lot more resources for start-ups by way of incubators and accelerators.”
Also nominated, however, for the "Rising Star" category? IT-automation-software company Puppet Labs. One of that company's co-founders, Andrew Shafer, wrote a much-talked-about article in 2012 entitled "Incubators are a Ghetto," in which he argued that the majority of incubators are well-intentioned but entirely ineffective.
The full list of finalists for the Oregon Technology Awards is below:
Technology Company of the Year – Startup
· Vendscreen, Inc.
Technology Company of the Year – Rising Star
· Janrain, Inc.
· Puppet Labs
Technology Company of the Year – Growth
· Eid Passport
· Elemental Technologies, Inc.
Technology Company of the Year – Enterprise
· Cascade Microtech, Inc.
· FEI Company
Cool Product of the Year
· Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theater by Avnera Corporation
· Stages Power by Foundation Fitness LLC
· Smarsh Web Archiving