From Unemployed to Employer

After the tech company they worked at in Portland closed its doors, Adam Lowry and Michael Richardson took advantage of the Self Employment Assistance Program (SEA) offered in Oregon. The program provides entrepreneurs like Lowry and Richardson the freedom and opportunity to start their own businesses while collecting unemployment benefits.

About three years ago, over the course of six months they used their pooled resources and the money they received through SEA to launch Urban Airship—a Portland-based maker of software that enables “push” notifications on mobile devices. They used this money to pay their rent and keep the lights on while putting the rest of their business expenses on credit cards.

Since that time, Urban Airship has become a multi-million business. So far, $46.5 million has already been invested in the company - including $25 million in recent new backing. With this new funding, Urban Airship plans to double its 118-person workforce this year.

This is how you create private sector jobs in a tough economy – by being entrepreneurial and creative,” Senator Wyden said of Urban Airship’s success. “Reinventing the employment safety net has allowed people like Adam and Michael – and companies like Urban Airship – to become the face of entrepreneurship.”

Senator Wyden has long championed the SEA program first authoring legislation in 1985 to empower states to provide unemployment compensation to individuals for the purpose of funding self-employment. Currently, only a handful of states take advantage of the program, but due to legislation authored by Sen. Wyden and passed in 2012, all states can now access their share of $35 million in grant funding to create or expand SEA programs.

The U.S. Small Business Association of the U.S. Department of Labor have launched a new website to support state workforce and unemployment agencies in implementing or enhancing Self-Employment Assistance Programs. For more information please visit: