Mobba’s pitch not considered a miss

Startup falls short in venture capital contest, but makes connections




Camas-based mobba didn’t make it into the final round at the Venture Northwest competition Thursday in Portland. But co-founder Ed Herinckx still views the experience as a victory for his three-year-old startup, he said shortly after pitching his business to a roomful of venture capital investors.

Mobba was the only Washington company among 10 invited by the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network to spend roughly 10 minutes on stage pitching their business plans. Presentations take place in groups of three or four companies at a time, with voting from the audience after each round. The winner of each round advances to the final stage to compete for a grand prize package of services worth $27,000.

The real prize, though, comes from the opportunity to mingle with investors from 20 regional and national venture capital firms during the all-day event. These contacts give companies that present at Venture Northwest a much better chance of landing funding than they would have otherwise, said Gerry Langeler, managing director at OVP Venture Partners in Portland and a member of the investor panel for Venture Northwest.

Mobba, an online marketplace that uses social networks to bring together like-minded buyers, is seeking $1 million in initial funding from investors to help it expand to new cities throughout the U.S. The company, which has already received $200,000 in seed capital from its founders and $550,000 from angel investors, is on track to break even in 2011.

Key to its business is its patent-pending “zipper algorithm,” a mathematical model that pairs groups of buyers and sellers in order to achieve the best deal for both sides, Herinckx told investors in his presentation.

Just as its software harnesses the power of crowds, mobba hoped to do the same thing at Venture Northwest when it sought votes of support from the audience.

“So what do you say, are you with me?” Herinckx said, eliciting a round of laughter as he wrapped up his presentation. “Let’s mobba!”

In the end, the crowd wasn’t convinced. Mobba lost the round to Portland-based GreenPrint, which was seeking $2 million to expand sales of its environmentally friendly software for cutting junk pages from documents before they’re printed. Portland-based Revelation Inc., an online market research platform, also lost the round.

Herinckx remained upbeat after the votes came in.

“We still get to meet investors,” he said.