Cleverset: From Corvallis to Seattle and on to Acquisition

Cleverset provides personalized recommendation based on the AI research of Dr. Bruce Dambrosio originally from Oregon State University in Corvallis. The former CEO of Cleverset, Tony Humphrey, gave a talk at the last NWEN meeting. He told the facinating story of how he came to the company and how they had built the company up. He gave a good description of the hard search for funding, visiting dozens of Venture Capital firms. In the end, he went through the analysis of how they decided to take the $10M offer from ATG. Tony was clear about when it makes sense to take outside Venture Capital and when the equation no longer makes sense. It was a fabulous talk. One of the other key points that is still ringing in my ears was to “Hire smart, nice, hardworking people”. In my past hiring experiences, I wish that I had always followed that advise.

As a young company, Cleverset spent some time in the same building that I was in when I started my business. It had been part of the Business Enterprise Center, the local business accelerator. As it grew, it became clear that they needed to have a CEO for the company who could raise some outside funding. Following in the footsteps of John Herlocker at Smart Desktop, they contacted Janis Machala at Paladin Partners. This is a pattern that has worked before for Corvallis companies that are looking for outside funding. First they look locally, then on to the Portland Angel Networks and then often they move on to Seattle looking for funding.

Sometimes principals in companies might have ties into the Bay Area which gives the more direct access to capital from California. However, the natural progression seems to be heading for Seattle.