March 31st, 2008
GoLife Mobile: Chatting with James Whitley, CEO (Part 2)
Last week, I published the first part of my interview with GoLife Mobile’s CEO, James Whitley. That post focused on the discussions of the GoLife Mobile Vadowerx framework. Now, I’d like to touch on our discussions about Portland, it’s culture, and the potential it holds to become something extraordinary.
(As an aside, it was a pleasant surprise to run into James at Startupalooza. “Where’s part 2?” he asked. Right here, Mr. Whitley. Right here.)
Portland as a venue for startups
I’m always interested to get anyone’s take on Portland. But it’s especially interesting talking to people who are running businesses here. They often have a multitude of things that they love about Portland, but there are still those little perturbing issues that keep the environment from seeming “too perfect.”
Luckily, those perturbing issues are generally issues that are surmountable. That’s why I’m always happy to help people get those issues out on the table.
And as I began to question him on his reasons—”Why Portland?”, “What does this area offer?”, and the like—his affection for the area was palpable. And his deep ties in the region only further that affection.
But what I got most from Whitley was not his impressions of the past—it was his enthusiasm for the potential here in Portland, for today and for the future.
“I would put the talent in this town up against talent anywhere else,” said Whitley. “The Valley, Back East, anywhere. The people here are exceptional.”
And, in Whitley’s opinion, that talent is not in limited supply.
“There is a ton of talent here in the Portland area,” he said. “I am always talking to people with whom I would like to work. I don’t think many people realize the sheer wealth of talent we have here.”
So, if we’re so talented, I asked, egotistically and presumptuously lumping myself in with the “exceptional talent” here in the Portland area, why aren’t we seeing more growth? Why aren’t we seeing more startups taking root?
And that’s when we get to those problems. Those issues that are holding Portland back from achieving its extraordinary position. Those problems that we have the opportunity to fix.
“Portland has a problem with being a classic underachiever,” said Whitley. “So much talent. So much promise. But we’re not capitalizing on it.”
In staunch agreement, I asked for further details.
“We’re always hearing how we’re ‘not as good as whomever,’” he continued. “And unfortunately, I think many people have begun to believe that. I don’t. But I think some people do.”
And in Whitley’s opinion, that stance is only exacerbated by another problem: finding sources of funding.
While a number of Silicon Forest startups have seen continued confidence in follow-on funding as of late—MyStrands, Jive, iovation, and SplashCast, to name a few—the prospect of early funding remains a bit of an enigma for Portland companies.
“Portland is lacking is terms of early startup funding,” Whitley said. “There really isn’t a good network for seeding smaller companies, at this point. We could use some people working to fix that because it would really help the town as a whole.”
And that lack of early stage funding, coupled with the underachiever mindset, is tending to suppress the vigor that is bubbling just below the surface. Tends to prevent us here in the Silicon Forest from realizing our potential.
“There are a number of incredibly intelligent people working jobs that aren’t even intellectually stimulating, let alone challenging,” said Whitley. “Simply because they haven’t found the opportunity and funding to pursue their passion.”
I’m sure Whitley would agree, that we’re on the cusp of something big.
No doubt, GoLife Mobile and Whitley could have a very big role to play in that growth and success. And our realizing the potential of the talent in this area.
I’m looking forward to being part of that change.