What a ride it’s been for Geoloqi, the little geolocation company that could – from an idea that was “rumbling” around in co-founder Amber Case’s head during college to launching the company with co-founder Aaron Parecki in 2010 and securing angel funding last summer. Last week, the Portland-based startup announced it had been acquired by geospatial giant Esri but would keep its operations in Portland and grow the office.
OEN sat down with Case a few days after the deal to see what it’s like to go from 8-person startup to the Portland office of a major mapping technology company – and to find out what’s next.
Case and Parecki’s roadtrip to the Bay Area in 2010 to visit friends in the tech startup world and learn from the masters like Facebook is legend today among the tech community in Portland. The two programmers returned to Portland and took advantage of the various programs available to help young entrepreneurs test their ideas and secure funding, from PIE to Portland Seed Fund to Upstart Labs. Geoloqi not only became a platform for developers to add location-specific functionality to mobile applications but also one of Portland’s most-watched young companies.
Case said the road to acquisition may have seemed quick but that the company had been getting offers since the first month or two in business. “But we wanted to build something and after we did, it was time to find a home,” Case explained. “Esri is a great cultural fit.”
Case, an anthropologist who sees technology as a way of understanding humans, expects to always be “stuck” (in a good way) exploring new innovations and learning new skills. For now, being a part of Esri will fulfill Case’s five-year plan to get experience at every kind and size of company.
When asked what lessons Geoloqi’s startup journey has brought, Case had the following insights to share:
- The iterative approach works. And it’s OK to build something that’s not perfect at first glance, and to improve upon it.
- Copycats are usually behind the curve (case in point: approximately 20 of Geoloqi’s potential competitors have gone out of business).
- You can always get great talent if you respect your people and give them a chance to learn. The company grew to its current level by giving job candidates the chance to show off their skills through “hackathons.”
- If you want to learn German, go to Germany. If you want to learn business, go to Silicon Valley. But Portland has everything you need to make a business grow.
“One of our goals has been to make Portland look good, and we’ve done that,” said Case, whose new title is Director of R&D at Esri. “We’ve hired only Portland developers, our investors have all been in Portland and now we’re bringing more jobs and money to Portland.”