Shared space giving Eugene tech firms room to grow | Business

The shared sales office for three tech firms ­affiliated with ­California-­based ­venture capital firm Toba Capital recently moved to larger quarters in ­downtown Eugene, and already Toba is scrambling to line up more space.

Toba leases 4,000 square feet on the seventh floor of the newly renovated Miner Building on East Broadway.

With the firms’ rapid growth, Toba partner Matt Miller, who leads the ­Eugene office, said he plans to lease another 2,000 square feet on the same floor.

Just 1½ years ago, Miller tried out a new concept. He set up an office in Eugene, hiring local people to do sales work for Toba-affiliated companies that are in larger, more expensive cities.

The shared sales hub has opened broader ­career opportunities for ­local workers — ­including those laid off during the past few years from ­Symantec, a ­cybersecurity firm in Springfield.

“With all the doom and gloom about jobs at ­Symantec, it’s nice to be adding jobs to the community,” said Miller, who previously directed Symantec’s Springfield contact center before joining Toba Capital.

The Toba office also has enabled out-of-area tech firms to tap into Eugene-Springfield’s talent pipeline and benefit from the lower cost of living and lower cost of doing business here, Miller said.

The idea seems to be working.

Miller launched the ­Eugene office with 11 ­employees of the Portland firm Smarsh — a blend of founder Steven Marsh’s first initial and last name.

Smarsh develops ­technology to archive emails, social media and other communications for clients in highly regulated ­industries, such as financial services. The data are stored in offsite servers — called the cloud — that customers don’t own or maintain.

Today, Toba’s Eugene ­office has 34 ­employees: six with Smarsh; 22 with ­Quorum, a ­disaster ­recovery firm based in San Jose, ­Calif.; and six with ­SecureAuth, a digital ­identity management firm based in Irvine, Calif.

By year’s end, the office could have 50 employees, Miller said.

Quorum’s Eugene ­workforce could climb to 28 ­employees; SecureAuth could double to 12; and Smarsh could have 10 employees, he said.

As visitors trickled into the Toba office for a recent open house — the scent of fresh paint still in the hallway — Miller pointed out the attributes of the remodeled space.

“This had been four ­separate offices,” he said, ­gesturing to a long, open work area filled with stand-up desks and computer monitors.

“We love the ­windows and the natural light,” Miller said. “The high ceilings and ­concrete walls really eat the sound. Everyone has ­enjoyed more collaboration. There’s a lot more energy and ­excitement.”

Renovated and wired

Real estate broker Tim Campbell and other local ­owners of the Miner ­Building have been remodeling the eight-floor, 92-year-old structure — known as Eugene’s first high-rise.

The upgraded building, which is wired with high-bandwidth fiber as part of the downtown public fiber ­project, has attracted a range of ­technology, marketing and other companies.

“This is a very modern work space similar to the work spaces I’ve visited in San Francisco and New York,” Miller said.

In early June, Quorum and Smarsh moved to the Miner Building from a slightly smaller space at the Eighth and Olive Building.

Then, a week later, ­SecureAuth joined them at the new office.

Founded in 2005, ­SecureAuth develops technology to protect identities and block unauthorized access to ­digital data. SecureAuth’s flagship product protects more than 5 million users worldwide, ­according to the ­company’s website.

SecureAuth has 200 ­employees ­companywide, ­including 110 at its ­headquarters in Irvine, the company said.

SecureAuth needed to boost its sales operation, and “we gave them access to talent they otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” Miller said.

“They came to Eugene,” he said. “I put forth 10 ­candidates. They were blown away by the quality of the candidates.”

Eugene rising on tech map

Eugene is among the top 10 up-and-coming cities for tech jobs and has a high ­talent pool of security specialists to choose from, said Nick Mansour, a SecureAuth worldwide sales executive.

He said the company’s new office in Eugene “marks ­another milestone in the ­company’s robust growth.”

As a Toba partner, Miller leads the shared Eugene sales office and fills different roles with each company.

He said he is a consultant to SecureAuth and “a physical presence for their manager in Irvine.”

Miller is the vice ­president of customer experience for Quorum, a firm that can ­recover important digital files if a company is struck by fire or other disasters.

And he’s a consultant to the Portland firm Smarsh, which has a manager in ­Eugene.

Toba Capital invests or ­previously invested in all three firms, Miller said.

He said he doesn’t charge the firms consulting fees. Miller, a Toba investor, said he is rewarded financially when the firms Toba has invested in are successful.

Miller said he envisions a changing group of Toba-­affiliated firms using the shared sales hub in Eugene.

“My vision is that we have some companies come in and graduate” from the shared ­office to establish their own Eugene operations, he said.

“I would love if (SecureAuth) explodes,” Miller said.

User authentication is a growing field, he said.

“It’s not unrealistic to think that a team of six could grow to 20, to 80, to 100, then 200,” Miller said.

“Once you get up here, the real estate costs are low and you see all the talent, it’s easy to see building out all the functions here,” he said, ­referring to sales, marketing, technical support, accounting and other positions.

This is the same ­strategy that California-based companies Symantec and Levi Strauss & Co. took when they set up operations in lower-cost Lane County.

The difference with ­Toba’s approach is that it’s ­offering that opportunity to young, growing companies, instead of large, established ones.

“My goal is to give the ­Eugene-Springfield area people a place to have a career and give tech companies a space where they can grow,” Miller said.

“There is opportunity”

Shantel Senn, who ­recently was hired as office ­manager of the shared Toba ­office ­after a 15-year career at ­Symantec in Springfield, called Toba’s office “a huge opportunity.”

“That’s one reason we wanted to have an open house,” she said. “We’re here. We’re growing. There is ­opportunity.”

Job-seekers and even those who are employed but are worried about job stability are showing interest in the Toba office, Miller said.

“There’s a very high ­interest level to be part of this ­operation,” he said.

“When the SecureAuth ­opportunity arose, I put one blurb on Facebook on a ­Friday at 1 p.m.,” Miller said. “By 9 p.m. that night, I had 20 ­candidates — most from ­Symantec.”

Follow Sherri on Twitter @sburimcdonald . Email sherri@registerguard.com .

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