Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal's View: Spokane's startup efforts start to bear fruit for region


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News about young companies doing interesting things has become the norm in the Inland Northwest, a sign that the entrepreneurial ecosystem is thriving in ways business advocates had hoped it would for years.

The Journal has used this space before to emphasize the importance of a vibrant startup community as a key element of the region’s overall health, and it appears those efforts are bearing fruit consistently.

A look at recent headlines tells the story well.

Earlier this month, Protogetic disclosed plans to launch its online marketplace for the building security industry. The company is anticipating double-digit growth as it works to serve what it perceives to be a largely untapped market.

Last month, SBLive Sports secured $14 million in financing to pay off debt and to continue growing the company in its quest to be “the ESPN.com of high school sports.” The company now provides schedules and scores for high schools in all 50 states, with expanded coverage in about half of those states.

Around the same time SBLive landed its funding, Spokane Valley-based online real estate platform Doorsey Inc. was acquired by Dallas-based Auction.io, providing an exit for a company that had been started just two years earlier. In discussing Doorsey, Auction.io Chairman Alex Guiva said, “They were very successful. The outcomes they achieved were better than the expectations.” High praise indeed.

What’s encouraging about those examples—and others in the market—is the diversity in types of businesses sprouting up in Spokane. Above, we had a business-to-business sales platform, a niche media outlet, and a real estate auction site. That’s a small sampling, but when you couple it with the list of 25+5 award winners, generated by Ignite Northwest, it indicates that the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem isn’t concentrated too heavily in one sector.

More news about startups is anticipated in the coming years, as Spokane angel investor Tom Simpson has completed fundraising for a $3.8 million venture capital fund, called Kick-Start V. As the Journal previously reported, at least 80% of the fund is expected to go to companies in the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, and Sandpoint areas over the next three years, with a typical investment ranging between $100,000 and $500,000.

Since 2008, the Kick-Start funds have raised just under $13 million in venture capital. That’s mostly local money largely going toward homegrown companies.

Why does it matter? Companies that start in Spokane stand to become significant economic forces in the region in the future. Spiceology Inc., Spokane’s homegrown spice maker, now has made the Inc. 5,000 fastest-growing companies list for four consecutive years. In the most recent survey, Inc. reported that Spiceology had 222% growth over the past three years.

Kaspien Holdings Inc. has had its share of bad news recently, with its delisting from the Nasdaq exchange as a result of low stock prices. Regardless, its predecessor, etailz, remains a poster child of entrepreneurial success in the region after starting as an idea at a student competition and eventually being acquired for $75 million.

What’s next? It’s tough to say, but it’s clear the path has been paved for more startup success in the Inland Northwest.

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