Meet Julie Harrelson, the woman leading the investment in Oregon’s startups.
Founded in 2013, the Cascade Angels Fund invests in Oregon startups with an eye toward spurring economic growth here and elsewhere. Julie Harrelson, founder of the Harrelson Group, which manages the fund, knows a thing or two about the adventure of entrepreneurship and what it takes to succeed. She’s started two successful companies, held executive roles in design, technology, and angel investing and recently wrote a book called You Can Get There From Here, aimed at helping leaders take big leaps with confidence. We caught up with Harrelson to learn more about Cascade Angels, the role she wants the fund to play in Bend’s growing startup community and what her investors look for in an entrepreneur.
It’s important for several reasons. Entrepreneurs can have great ideas and access to advisors and experts, but if they don’t have access to local capital, it can be difficult to find funding and get their company off the ground. Additionally, with a professionally managed, investor-driven fund, the community members become engaged in working toward the financial success of the company and building a strong ecosystem that generates jobs and economic diversity.
What developments in the community have made the existence of Cascade Angels possible?
We already have a lot of the building blocks of a great startup ecosystem. The Bend Venture Conference provided a base and generated interest in launching Cascade Angels. We have local accredited investors, founders, and early sponsors including Jones and Roth, Karnopp Petersen and Bank of the Cascades, who were willing to support a nascent fund. Collaboration here and across the state with other funds has been key. Everywhere you look in Bend, things are happening—from incubators and co-working spaces to the future four-year university. In addition to the burgeoning tech scene there’s lots of activity in bioscience, food products and outdoor gear.
What’s your perception on the quality of potential investments in Bend?
The number of startups is growing and their development is accelerating. Cascade Angels is a statewide fund. We’re based in Bend, but we invest across the state. Five of the eight companies we have invested in are here: Amplion, Droplr, LeadMethod, Manzama and Odysys. That is a high percentage if you think about the size of Bend relative to the rest of Oregon.
What do your investors value most in an entrepreneur?
As you can imagine, we’ve met lots of entrepreneurs in this effort. What really gets investors’ attention is someone who knows what business they are in—who is confident, but open to feedback and who can execute. It’s the person who can convert all the great ideas into actionable results.
What do you enjoy most about your work as fund manager?
I love the people I get to work with: investors, entrepreneurs and community leaders. By nature, I am a very curious person and to get the chance to work with so many smart, successful people working on so many opportunities is just awesome.