News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Silicon Valley firm moves HQ to Sisters

BlockScore is an identity data and anti-fraud solutions developer founded in 2014 and based in Palo Alto, California. They serve over 500 clients worldwide with more than 700 million unique IDs. It’s not their technology per se making news in Sisters. It’s their headquarters relocation to town that is attention-grabbing.

They are branded as Cognito, providing identity verification and sanction screening services throughout the world to ensure compliance and mitigate fraud. They are basically in the internet security business using phone-number-based verification.

They were originally backed by some of the most influential investor names in Silicon Valley including Battery, Lightspeed, Digital Currency Group, and Combinator. Ten such investor groups participated in the $2.3 million investment seed round. The fast-growing company is under the leadership of Alain Meier, CEO; Chris Morton, COO; co-founders; and Daniel Gollhon, VP of engineering. Justin Goodkind, director of partnerships and solutions, heads up sales and marketing and is based in Bend.

Even before COVID-19, Cognito was mostly virtual with all employees working more or less remotely. Their products are digital requiring little or no real estate or infrastructure. So just what does relocating headquarters to Sisters mean? It turns out Sisters is as much an idea as a place. Since they could be anywhere, why not Sisters?

States require a physical address for businesses. You cannot incorporate from a post office box. Likewise, to obtain essential business services like insurance a street address is generally required. It turns out that one of the first 10 employees of Cognito is Danika Kleint of Sisters, who like her co-workers works remotely from here in town.

As the business began to add to its workforce — fewer than 10 last year and within weeks of reaching 20 across six states — with three in Bend, more thought was given to Central Oregon as the hub for the firm.

Kleint located office space in the FivePine campus and now the firm has a new HQ home. Nothing spacious, Goodkind says, but it offers proximity to the FivePine Conference Center and lodging for the one or two times a year when the entire team meets. He mentions the obvious attraction of team-building in a place like Sisters.

CEO Meier, in a prepared statement, said: “We chose Sisters for our new headquarters in part due to the unpublicized, growing high-tech knowledge employment base that the community possesses. Cognito saw the need to grow in a location where we can hire incredible talent that have a variety of different interests and backgrounds.”

The statement may appear counterintuitive, as Sisters is not generally known for its pool of high-tech knowledge workers. However Elise Rossman of EDCO (Economic Development for Central Oregon) points to the success of Laird Superfoods in attracting top-level talent. Nor, she added was being in smaller, more rural Sisters an impediment to capital markets. EDCO is helping in the Cognito recruiting effort.

Goodkind reports that employee-owned Cognito is self-funding and has been profitable for three years running. He won’t disclose revenues beyond saying that they exceed projections. Their footprint in Sisters, small by design, will not have much of an economic impact, but is expected to further solidify Sisters’ growing sense of economic vitality.


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