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June 27, 2022

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Tech startups thrive in Clark County

Expanding hub gains oil change app Oili, many others

By , Columbian Innovation Editor
Published:
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3 Photos
Brightside Roadside Service owner Bryan Munnick changes the oil on a Ford Explorer. He was connected through the customer through Oili, an app from a Vancouver-based developer that allows customers to schedule oil changes at their homes.
Brightside Roadside Service owner Bryan Munnick changes the oil on a Ford Explorer. He was connected through the customer through Oili, an app from a Vancouver-based developer that allows customers to schedule oil changes at their homes. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Oili is an app that’s like the Uber of oil changes: independent contractors get oil change requests on their device, drive where the requester is parked and change their oil on the spot.

The tech startup is joining the Clark County grove in the Pacific Northwest’s silicon forest; the county’s local population growth, tax incentives and access to greenery and scenery continue to make it a growing tech hub.

“The culture of support among startup entrepreneurs in Clark County stands out,” Columbia River Economic Development Council business relationships director Marnie Farness said. “Peer startup companies make time to connect with each other and share resources.”

Farness said that being close to big-tech players invited spinoff ideas and innovation in software development, biotech or the semiconductor industry.

“Community-realized quality of life amenities and a growing creative culture are inspiring to younger tech entrepreneurs looking to relocate and draw momentum to their ideas,” she said.

There are companies like ZoomInfo and Absci blazing the path for local tech startups, but here are a few that you may not have heard of that are aiming to solve not only Clark County’s problems but also creep into other markets, too.

Oili

Vancouver-based Oili’s app launched March 1, and the company is in the early stages of gathering providers who will come change cars’ oil remotely. The app is live, and its first organic customers are beginning to join the program, CEO Colton Telford said.

Telford said that the average technician can make roughly $30 to $45 an hour by working for Oili, a much higher wage than working at a traditional oil-change company.

itOS

Mark Tishenko, the founder of local cybersecurity company Edge Networks, saw the need for companies that contract with the Department of Defense. The companies, with more than a dozen internal systems, had a hard time tracking all the systems.

He founded itOS to help find the users of those systems (such as IT or communications systems), what platforms they’re using and the devices they’re using. It will also quickly remove employees from those systems once they leave the company.

“Any company between 10 and 200 employees to gain clarity and control of their users, when they access their systems and how it’s managed,” Tishenko said.

The itOS system will soon open to the general public and offer an assessment tool for companies which can receive a scorecard on the security of their Microsoft environment with all the workers — including those working remotely.

ROGO

ROGO founder Vladlena DuFresne remembers when a friend wanted her to take photos for an event, but DuFresne’s camera was too far away to justify fetching it.

It sparked an idea for an app where users could rent event equipment at a moment’s notice: rent on the go, or “ROGO.”

“It was a split-second thought, but kept finding moments when I’d need this,” she said.

DuFresne was born in Ukraine and came to Vancouver at age 5. She attended Skyview High School and earned an associate degree at Clark College through Running Start. She studied criminal justice at Washington State University in Pullman until her senior year, when she switched gears to a digital technology minor.

After working and leaving a corporate job in Camas, she founded ROGO, which has already been through the development and beta testing phases. The app will launch and open to customers next month; it’s currently onboarding vendors so when app users join, there are products available. ROGO currently has 3½ full-time employees.

ROGO was part of the Columbian River Economic Development Council’s Business Accelerator program, which helped the company establish a business model, DuFresne said. She also received a grant from Workforce Southwest Washington.

Synkwise

Synkwise is a local tech company that lets senior home care workers manage records, medications and more.

Co-founder Claud Covaci launched Synkwise in 2018 and has grown it to be in nearly 1,000 senior care homes in 11 states, he said. The app and online interface tracks patient progress, health notes, blood pressure, skin monitoring, weight gain and loss, medication reminders and tracking and any health-related issue. The company has nine employees with a software development team in Moldova.

Covaci was born in Romania, immigrated to the U.S. before he was a year old and grew up in Ohio. He worked as a director of logistics at a company in Clackamas, Ore., but in 2013, he felt burnt out in the corporate world.

When his mother-in-law offered to sell him an adult care home in Ridgefield, he took it. He became a CNA in the process but soon realized his skills with logistics would help the industry as a whole.

“This industry is managed with pen and paper methods,” he said. “The paperwork and binders never communicate back to you if something needs attention.”

Synkwise is also part of the CREDC’s Business Accelerator program.

Since 2017, Covaci has been in contact with venture capitalist funders mostly in Seattle, but he said he’s seeing much more funding activity in Clark County.

Noctel

Cory Schruth founded Noctel in 2018 out of Washougal as an internet service provider to give internet access to underserved and more remote parts of Clark and Skamania counties.

“We started this because other providers were not doing anything to solve the problem of poor broadband within our community,” he said.

Noctel is a self-funded team of 25 employees that started a fiber-optic internet service for its customers.

“We’re building to thousands of homes in our service area over the next few years,” Schruth said. “We’ll continue to build until everyone is connected to fast, reliable, high-speed internet.”

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