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Reedies Nab PDX Tech Honors

By Raymond Rendleman ’06 on May 02, 2014 03:31 PM

Reed alumni tech startup

Switchboard founder Mara Zepeda ’02 brandishes the Demolicious Cup. She is now the third Reedie in a row to win the honor.

Switchboard founders Mara Zepeda ’02 and Sean Lerner ’10 just cemented Reed’s reputation for producing outstanding online entrepreneurs.

On April 6, Switchboard won the coveted Demolicious Cup, awarded to the startup that makes the most persuasive pitch at Demolicious, a sort of wildcat convention for Portland tech entrepreneurs that began in 2008 and is held at the Mission Theater.

Switchboard is now the third Reed-affiliated project to win the Demolicious Cup. Previously, Zach Babb '12 won for his work with Globe Sherpa, a public-transportation mobile-phone application, and William Henderson '08 won for Knock, an automatic password-entering app.

Mara and Sean originally started Switchboard to better connect Reed students and alumni. Other colleges and universities such as Willamette, Portland State University, and Oberlin, have since adopted it. An “anti-directory,” Switchboard doesn't catalog static profiles of people, but rather helps you organize only two types of posts—“asks” and “offers”—that you can search and act on. As they continue to meet and connect with the next generation of entrepreneurs, Mara hopes to hand off the next Demolicious cup to a Reedie and continue the tradition. 

“We've come as far as we have thanks to the generosity and support of the Reed community,” Mara said.

Earlier this year, Rick Turoczy, founder of the Portland Incubator Experiment and an influential tech blogger, hosted an open house to attract Reedies to apply to PIE in recognition that Reed is the best college right now churning out startup talent. He has some theories as to why Reedies have consistently knocked out their nerdy competition.

"Reed manages to arm its students with the ability to juggle a variety of seemingly disparate topics," Rick said, "thereby enabling (them) to better deal with the stress of founding a company . . . Founders driven by a well-rounded curiosity and the ability to become fluent in a number of topics, while juggling significant workloads, can be the difference between the life and death of a company.”

Other successful Reed-spawned startups include:

Puppet Labs, founded by Luke Kanies ’96.

AppFog, founded by Lucas Carlson ’05.

Rogue Ventures, cofounded by Tom Sperry ’06.

Urban Airship, cofounded by Michael Richardson ’07.

Lucky Sort, founded by Noah Pepper '09 and later bought by Twitter.