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.

Whitley did.

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.

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9 Responses to “GoLife Mobile: Chatting with James Whitley, CEO (Part 2)”

  1. Take me to the editorial whipping post if mistaken, but did not Jive’s founders state at Startupalooza that the 1)they dumped their NY-based employees, 2) hauled to PDX for the cost-savings, and then 3) proceeded to import talent from outside pdx, using its draw of natural beauty, low cost of living, etc, rather than utilizing its organically-grown, existing talent? Oh, so very reminiscent of nutrient-sapping silicon robber barons of our not-so-distant past.

  2. Lisa says:

    Thanks Rick for this great story. I agree with Whitley that we do have a wealth of talent — some of which is home grown and other that is “imported” from those large markets east and south.

    So if our talent pool is so rich, then why do Portland start ups continually hire firms outside of the area? What do we need to do to get our start up community to hire local?

  3. Sam Lawrence says:

    @tech comm grrl- LOL. That’s a crazy interpretation of our history. :) It’s too bad you heard it that way. We invited all our NY folks to come to Portland. They had to make the choice for themselves. And we’re a huge evangelist for Portland and Portland talent.

    Come by a happy hour on any Friday and check it out for yourself. :)

  4. Bill Winett says:

    Another reason why we don’t see the growth here – it seems every time a company does well here, it gets acquired from outside the area. In contrast, in the Bay Area for example, the startups are acquired by companies in the Bay Area. So the Bay Area continues to grow.

  5. Sam,

    If I could get interviews w/ the NY folks on what sort of packages they were offered to UHaul across country(ie were they offered as pretty a bouquet the folks later courted to come to PDX) I would be tempted to take you up on that offer. As it is, I am still trying to thaw my coma from exposure to that brain-freeze PPT presentation . And besides, how could I possibley hope to glam up next to the Stepford Wives of Silicon?

  6. Rick Turoczy says:

    Perhaps we should just let that thaw occur naturally? Instead of attempting to hasten it with repeated, completely off-topic flames?

  7. getting confused by the above comments? Are the constructive? I’m still not sure….

  8. … in an era of global warming, even? ;-)

    Ok… on topic – funding folk are real scrutinizing about financials (including location, location, location) as well as product potentials, et al.

    at what point does developing mainly to attract funding justify sacrifing the husbandry of the venue? is pdx/ore. even capable germinating results viable in the environment? are we some sort of hothouse where the orchids MUST be harbored, and the daisies only get sprouted to proliferate everywhere, but elsewhere?

    now, you might want to sand the splinters out of that editorial whipping post in preparation for me to cuddle up real close to it.

    seems that, except for the very rare instance (of which i am unable to to even bring to mind an example)start-ups that make it and stay are grafted to huh-yooge successes of bamboo stands, whose truly big-money operations and capital investments occur elsewhere (geographically speaking) even if their offices are here. if this hypothesis holds water, and you follow the runner from this plant of an idea, does anyone see a reason why the bay areas’own stays in the bay area, and pdx/ore. start-ups, once capitalized enough hire firms, reach beyond the garden wall? that garden wall being the boundries of the great state of Orygun.

    call me a glam-free whipped hick and all, but following the money often is like following a watershed.

  9. James says:

    Sam – Did you say happy hour?

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