Access to capital important key to growth



photoKen Levy

4-Tell increases sales by more than 17 percent for retailers, both online and in-store, with our personalized cross-sell and up-sell (e.g. ‘People also bought …’). We have been tripling our revenue for each of the past three years.

The company, founded in 2010, is an angel-funded startup that has raised less than $2 million. We couldn’t have started without some funding to create our product, and we could grow faster with better access to venture capital. We sell to online retailers here and around the world using virtual Web meetings.

We are a virtual company with nine employees in Vancouver, Portland and the Columbia River Gorge. We also outsource specific tasks to contractors in India, Ukraine and the Philippines.

Our culture allows us to succeed as a virtual company. We hire self-motivated employees who are measured by results. We have open communication with a shared vision, and customers come first.

We will need offices as we grow, but employees will not be required to be in the office every day. Allowing both virtual and office workers expands our ability to grow our business and our workforce.

We also don’t need to be near our customers; therefore, the office will be centrally located, near rapid transit and good restaurants.

Technology has caused workforces to change, and now they don’t need to live as close to their jobs. Unlike in the past, now that employees only need to be in the office infrequently, they can live farther away. Case in point: 20 percent of Oregon Entrepreneur Organization members are from Vancouver.

We analyze 100 million shopper behaviors a night and serve 1 billion recommendations a month. Only a few employees touch our core technology, and even these select few are not literally working on the hardware but accessing the servers remotely. Being an agile startup, we outsource for developers with expertise in platforms that connect to our system, such as shopping carts. We also outsource manual tasks, such as processing of marketing lists.

When I think about regional economics and innovation, based upon my experience with 4-Tell, I conclude:

  1. Access to capital (both angel and venture) is key to growth.

  2. Location is still important, but companies pull employees from a larger area where Portland and Vancouver greatly influence each other.

While we don’t affect regional growth like a large company, there are many more small businesses like 4-Tell who collectively impact the region.

Ken Levy is co-founder of Portland-based 4-Tell. He lives and works in Stevenson. He previously sold an audio technology startup to Digimarc Corp. and then worked as the Oregon-based company’s senior director of technology and market development from 2000 through 2004.