The Oregon startup’s investment doubles, exceeding $ 1 billion for the first time

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This is Oregon Insight, The Oregonian’s weekly look at the numbers behind the state’s economy. View past installments here.

Oregon entrepreneurs made a cash gain last year, raising $ 1.6 billion in venture capital for their young companies, according to new industry data released Thursday evening. This is the highest in the state’s history by a large margin and nearly double the booty of Oregon startups by 2020.

Nearly half of Oregon’s venture capital funding in 2021 went to just two companies: Dutchie, a Bend company with technology to help run marijuana businesses; and NuScale Power, a Portland company developing a new class of nuclear reactors based on innovations pioneered at Oregon State University.

The Oregon investment totals mirrored a broader venture finance boom, according to PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association, which gathered the latest numbers. They reported that venture capitalists invested $ 330 billion nationwide in 2021, also about double the previous year’s total.

“A good portion of the new investment records can be attributed to record levels of capital washing across the system,” said John Gabbert, CEO of PitchBook, a Seattle-based investment research firm.

Venture capital is outperforming other investment options, Gabbert said, so he predicted another record year nationwide in 2022. That doesn’t necessarily mean another great year for Oregon, since much of the funding from the Oregon was focused on two companies that raised unusually large amounts.

Venture investing has rarely been a major part of Oregon’s economy, as it is in Seattle or the Bay Area, routinely spawning new large corporations out of thin air. But there are signs that Oregon could once again grow large companies.

The state produced four new public companies in 2021, including the Dutch Bros coffee kiosk chain, whose September offering was Oregon’s first substantial IPO in 17 years. Two more companies, KinderCare and NuScale, hope to go public in 2022.

These findings could inspire other Oregon entrepreneurs, or they could lead investors to take a fresh look at the state.

Dutchie’s investment haul last year was $ 550 million, with investors in the latest round valuing the Bend company at $ 3.75 billion. Founded in 2017, Dutchie is already among Oregon’s most valuable companies.

The company says more than 5,000 marijuana stores in the United States and Canada use its technology to process $ 14 billion in annual sales. Early supporters included Snoop Dogg’s investment firm, NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

NuScale’s investment was not conventional venture capital. Texas energy company Fluor Corp. owns a majority stake in the Oregon company, which raised $ 192 million in outside investment last year to help finance the development of its modular nuclear reactor.

The company hopes that the fight against climate change – nuclear reactors emit no carbon – will revive interest in nuclear energy.

NuScale says its technology is safer and more efficient than conventional nuclear reactors. Its reactors can be built into smaller pieces over time, and the company says they shut down automatically if they lose energy, without risking a catastrophic meltdown.

NuScale hopes to start trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange this year after merging with a publicly traded investment fund known as a “special purpose acquisition company” or SPAC. The company plans to raise up to $ 413 million in the deal.

However, NuScale’s technology market is not proven and the company needs major regulatory approvals. Its first operational reactor is still several years away.

Oregon’s other large venture capital rounds were spread across half a dozen companies across a wide range of industries, from personal care to biopharmaceuticals, enterprise software to clean energy.

This broad range of businesses reflects a growing diversification of Oregon entrepreneurship, away from its historical concentration in electronics and, later, software.

If the new list of companies continues to grow, it could make the state less susceptible to the boom and bust cycles that have plagued it economically due to its reliance on a small number of sectors.

– Mike Rogoway | mrogoway@oregonian.com | Twitter: @rogoway |

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