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Nov 12 2012

The Oregonian - East Coast firm buys Second Story Interactive Studios of Portland


By Allan Brettman

From its North Portland brick building, Second Story Interactive Studios has quietly built a national reputation for story-telling in digital media with challenging backdrops as a stage.

SapientNitro, an East Coast integrated marketing and technology services firm, took notice of Second Story after collaborating with the Portland company to devise and install a digital, interactive history project profiling the art and architecture of the Library of Congress.

This week, Sapient Corp., SapientNitro's parent, completed a purchase of the Portland studio. Both sides described the transaction on Friday more in terms of artful collaboration than in dollars, partly because terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Both sides say little is expected to change for Second Story, a company that started in 1995 in Berkeley, Calif., and moved to Portland two years later. It's now located at 714 N. Fremont St., on the second story of Tuscan-looking building with a bakery below.

The company has 35 employees and will likely add a few in the near future, said co-founder Julie Beeler. Last year the company had revenue of about $5.5 million.

"Our roots are in interactive, multimedia,"said Beeler, a Sunset High School graduate with a fine arts degree from the University of the Pacific.

At the start, co-founder Brad Johnson explored the potential of CD-ROM-based multimedia displays.

The studio's digital storytelling migrated to projects and venues away a computer monitor, including the Library of Congress; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo.; the Experience Music Project in Seattle; the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame; the Coca-Cola Co.; and the University of Oregon Ford Alumni Center.

The studio still finds time for web projects, however, such as a "Department of Nike Archives" (DNA) site created this year that creatively displays, for employees, the history of their company.

Joining forces with Sapient will enable Second Story to do an even larger variety of work, Beeler said.

"Over time, we'll be growing and expanding," she said. "How we're going about that has not been planned. We'll be very cautious... we don't want to go gangbusters and destroy things we have."

SapientNitro suggested the acquisition and merger in a meeting in early summer with Beeler and Johnson, said Donald Chesnut, chief experience officer.

"We have had a professional relationship going back four years," he said.

Sapient Corp. recorded sales of $1.06 billion last year, 23 percent higher than the roughly $860 million in 2010. The corporation has 10,400 employees of which 7,000 work for SapientNitro.

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