Board Member & Executive Director
John Friess is focused on founding and building the marketability, viability and exit ability of idea and emerging stage startups. His career in this realm began in 1999 when he was a Marketing Manager on behalf of the VC backed kozmo.com, a $250M backed startup delivered convenience goods to your door in an hour. This role helped shape his thoughts on funding, brand and startup best practices.
Then in 2000, he co-founded wired.MD with his brother Mark Friess, which was a leading health education company building the world's largest wholly-owned patient education video library delivered via its nine languages-based SaaS platform and via CCTV systems to over 1000 medical clinics, hospitals and teaching institutions globally. Over the course of 8 years the company built a preeminent patient and health education library of 365 videos, over sixty-five 3D and 2D medical animations, and 1450 text handouts that were utilized around the world to assist patients with their diagnosis, procedure and/or treatment plans. The company was taken from concept to completion through being acquired and fully integrated in 2008 into the industry leading patient education company, MediMedia Corporation, now Krames StayWell, for $7.4M. The wired.MD content platform and patient education is still utilized today by patients throughout the world.
Also in 2000, John co-founded and has been the Executive Director of Starve Ups, which was Oregon's first startup accelerator, and is still its only scalerator (defined as an end-to-end accelerator). Starve Ups is the first accelerator on the globe to take its membership company startups through all three stages of the startup lifecycle, known as the Survive (years 0-3), Strive (years 3-7), and Thrive (years 7-12) stages. In the last 19 years Starve Ups has been argued in international news as the most successful startup accelerator in the world, and has an 80.3% survival/success rate amongst its 198 membership companies, has raised over $567.3M in funding amongst membership companies, has had 30 membership companies positively acquired, or go public, for a total enterprise value of $1.058B. Starve Ups has accomplished this without taking any equity, nor any fees to date. It is the startup scalerator launched by founders, run by founders, solely for founders.
In 2004, John along with Miguel McKelvey, John Griffith and Paul Anthony Troiano of Starve Ups were hired by Portland State University to help design, launch, brand, support, and get to capacity the Portland State Business Accelerator. In less than a year the 40,000 sq. ft. accelerator was at capacity with Starve Ups helping design the space, placing 11 of 14 anchor tenants, building out the brand identity and site, and running launch and startup educational events there. Today, the Portland State Business Accelerator, launched by Starve Ups, is still the single largest physical accelerator in Oregon.
In 2008, John co-founded his next startup called journey gym with Robert Montgomery and Chris Gunson. journey gym built the world’s first truly portable universal gym, known as “the health and fitness system for the rest of us”. The company journey gym combined the compact and portable gym with an online fitness community platform and with a supporting library of over 320 workout and nutrition videos. The system has now been sold into, or leased by, hotels as their in-room fitness solution, to gyms and fitness centers, big box stores, on TV and into homes. The company also set up a series of corporate wellness programs and serviced large corporate clients with onsite fitness and wellness programs utilizing purely the journey gym system. Today, the journey gym is still the health and weight loss solution for thousands upon thousands in 20 countries.
In 2014, John co-founded the Starve Ups Fund with Tom Sperry and Paul Anthony Troiano, as the three fund co-managers. The fund was focused on providing both seed funding, and ongoing full startup life cycle support, for innovative and disruptive Oregon-based founders and their startups. In 2017, the second iteration of the Starve Ups Fund was launched, with Chris Carlson as the fund's co-manager, with a revised approach which equally invests in membership companies from each new Starve Ups Class and provides follow on investment into existing membership companies. The fund is the only guaranteed funding source for founders within any accelerator within Oregon. To date, the Starve Ups Fund (Fund I & Fund II) has made a total of 33 investments in a total of 29 startup companies throughout Oregon. Of those 29 startups, 27 are Starve Ups membership companies and two are outside of the Starve Ups Scalerator.
Then in 2015, John joined on with existing Starve Ups membership company Arcimoto, who designs and manufactures the world's first Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV), which is a three-wheeled electric vehicle for daily driving. Arcimoto had garnered its first and only institutional investment from the legendary Bill Hambrecht at the Starve Ups Venture Community I event and W.R. Hambrecht + Co. had their sites on taking the company public. John joined on board 2 years prior to the actual listing on NASDAQ to assist in fundraising a $19.2M Regulation A+ IPO and further establish the brand in the consumer and institutional markets. The company, post IPO on NASDAQ (ticker: FUV), has built the Arcimoto Manufacturing Plant (AMP), began production on and has begun delivering the Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV), and also launched its version of a First Responder Vehicle (FRV) and its Food Delivery Vehicle (FDV). John has worked since 2015 with the company to build its strategic partnership plan, its fleet sales and rental franchise locations, and its brand position in the electric vehicle marketplace globally. John continues to work with the management team at Arcimoto on fundraising, brand building, strategic partnerships and business development partnerships today.
Most recently in 2018, John joined on, as co-owner and Chief of Business Development, with Gunson Brothers Farms, which now co-owns a series of companies in the industrial hemp industry. The collective of companies at large are building a completely vertically integrated industrial hemp medicine (CBD, CBG, etc.) and consumer product conglomerate. The company began as an organic industrial hemp farming company in January of 2018, but in the last year has launched and co-owns it own hemp processing facility, built out an industrial hemp brokerage company, and launched and co-owns a consumer products company. The company identified the 8 verticals within the industrial hemp industry needed to truly vertically integrated and is currently launching, running and/or investing in industrial hemp farming, brokering, processing, manufacturing, distribution and software within the industry.
John previously also served on the Board of Directors of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, which provides resources and support to entrepreneurs throughout the state, and Incight, which provides education, scholarships, career support and empowerment to individuals with disabilities. He has also been angel investing in startups sine 2001, with ownership in 15 startups to date, and has sat as an advisor to a series of Starve Ups and non-membership startup companies since 2000. A graduate of the University of Oregon, John received a B.A. in Business Administration.