Jive Co-founder Reappears in Portland with a New Startup
Last fall, Jive co-founder Matt Tucker stepped down as the company's chief technology officer and in February, he resigned from the board. Now, he is back in Portland with a new startup, Koan, focused on a software platform for leveraging employee management.
The company aims to develop tools that provide more effective coordination, workflow, and employee management by allowing users to monitor weekly status, one-on-ones, goals, and feedback. “Instead of a tool to reinforce processes, these are tools for how your team actually runs to make the team run better and work better,” Tucker said. Koan’s primary focus is building software to provide front-line managers an overview and help them generate efficient productivity as well as control costs. As the company puts in, it will be “the software to give managers superpowers.”
Tucker has already lined up very well-known financial backers, as the company has just raised a $2 million seed round. The main investors include Sun Microsystems founder Scott McNealy and former eBay COO Maynard Webb, who is the owner of Web Investment Network and Chairman of the Board at Yahoo, as well as being on the Boards of Salesforce, Visa, and Everwise. Other investors are SV Angel, Crosslink Capital, and Spider Capital.
Although the team consists of just two employees for now; Founder Matt Tucker and Co-founder Arend Naylor, who joined Jive when the company purchased his startup, Meetings.io, in 2012, they are actively seeking talented designers and engineers to build the initial product. A beta version of the product is supposed to be ready for testing by the end of the year and they plan to recruit four people in the coming months. Koan expects to open its own space next year but for now, they use coworking space in CENTRL Office.
The location, where Tucker is launching his company, makes the story even more interesting because in 2010, Tucker and Jive CTO Bill Lynch, who also stepped away from the CTO job last fall and stepped off the Jive board earlier this year, shifted Jive’s corporate headquarters from Portland to Palo Alto, Calif., to take part in the flourishing buzz that was created by media in the Bay Area. Tucker explained the reason behind his decision to return to Portland to set off Koan:
“Our dollar goes much farther here and it was mostly based on our belief we could build the best possible team,” he said. “There are a ton of great engineers here. It’s crazy trying to build a startup from scratch in the Bay at the moment. We can make our seed round last much longer here.”
It also shows how the perception has changed since back then, as having a location in Silicon Valley was almost a must-to-do for tech companies, and the primary reason for that was the powerful network of investors in the Bay Area. Fortunately, this logic has changed, and nearly all the tech giants such as Google, Yahoo, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Xerox, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, and Amazon have their remote location in the Portland area. Although the region has been dominated by out-of-state companies, Portland spawned successful startups like Elemental Technologies, Puppet, and online banker Simple in social networking company Jive Software's wake.
Tucker and Naylor are not the only former “Jivers” who reappeared with a new career path in the city. Bill Lynch, a Co-founder of Jive joined Portland startup Cloudability as Vice President of Product, while Dave Hersh, former CEO at Jive Software, has recently joined Portland data visualization startup Reflect Technologies.
According to the latest Kauffman Foundation report on startup activity nationwide, a majority of U.S. states and metros saw higher rates of new business creation, meaning entrepreneurship is recovering from the Great Recession fall. Although the growth of a number of Portland’s high-profile tech companies and the arrival of big established tech company offices continue, Portland moved down one spot in the rankings, to number 31 of the 40 metros studied.
Due to the talent pool of engineers and the cost effectiveness of the city compared to the Bay Area, the core Koan team will be formed in Portland. However, Tucker is not hanging the Bay Area completely out to dry as he thinks that they might also open a Silicon Valley office in the future to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in that region.
It will be interesting to see whether Koan will be a milestone in Oregon tech's economy, by encouraging more veterans to invest in the area, rather than the Silicon Forest.