April 25th, 2008
Portland and Boise startups: A lot more in common than I-84
Editor: I grew up near a town that was the big city for a fairly rural state. It was the home to many traditional high-tech companies. It had great skiing nearby. And it had a river running right through the middle of it.
Thing is, it wasn’t Portland. It was Boise, Idaho.
And, I had a strange feeling that those aren’t the only similarities between our two towns.
So, when Chris Blanchard offered to write a guest column on the state of the Boise tech environment, a bit of my former Idahoan homesickness came into play. And I jumped at the chance.
The biggest surprise for me? How closely connected the two communities are. And how they, in Boise, are struggling with some of the exact same issues we, here in the Silicon Forest, find ourselves struggling.
Boise, ID: Not ready for prime time? Don’t tell us that.
I feel like the Apostle Paul writing a letter…
Anyway, our friend Rick was kind enough to let me guest post from over here in the Silicon Sandbox, Boise, Idaho.
Why? I’m getting to that.
The idea is to give scholars a place to network and collaborate, and ultimately give them a platform to publish their work. We’re still testing the publication tools—a combination of open source software and print-on-demand components—but they are pretty slick and pretty cutting edge, especially when you’re from Boise and resources are limited.
Thanks for your help, Portland
We spent a lot of time last year in Portland, and have a lot of props to dish out to the PDX community for helping us with technology, marketing, business planning, etc. We couldn’t have come this far without you, PDX!
- Brian Jamison and the guys at OpenSourcery built the Pronetos site in rapid fashion.
- Nate Angell (raised by wolves; cloned daughters) led us through the academic community over there (and to a great restaurant in McMinnville)
- Mark Gregory at pdx.edu was a great help in our development (and encouraged us to move to PDX)
- We met with the entire crew at Engine Works—very sophisticated and smart guys
- Scott Kveton has helped us with contacts, business advice, and bacon addiction
- @wendemm, @Turoczy, and the guys at Box Populi have been good friends to us as well
So thanks PDXers for helping grow Boise’s start-ups in addition to your own.
The state of technology in Boise
Boise is doing OK as a region. You might have seen that Forbes named us the 7th most promising new tech region or something or other. We get lots of awards like that.
Quality of life is GREAT! Still, the tech community is young. There are very few contract developers here. There are lots of software gigs open here all the time. Boise State graduates about 25 CS engineers every year and 100% have jobs when they graduate. Still, we do have a MySQL office here!
As far as financing goes, a couple months ago at a Kickstand meeting (this is the local tech start-up group) we heard from an angel investor that the local angel group had reviewed 100 business plans in the span of 90 days or so, and funded exactly zero.
We’ve got only one VC here in town and they don’t fund seed deals (and not often true early stage deals). So we have an angel group that wants to fund companies with 3 years of operating history and a VC that wants to fund mezzanine deals (oh, I can hear them racing to the comment link below).
So, if you’re interested, here are some cool things about Boise that may heighten its appeal—and your perception of our town:
- If you are developer—Boise could be a place you want to pay attention to (especially if you are an open source guy—we have lots of MS devs here). We had exactly one Ruby dev in this town as of very recently, and all the PHP guys are employed by the man (not too many solo operators or small shops).
- If you are a VC or angel that is looking for early stage deals—those are here too—in spades.
- If you are a guy (or gal) that understands anything about long tail b-plans, web 2.0, user generated content, new media—and you’ve had a successful company in those areas—we (Boise) could use your help too. Just last night it was interesting to note that a group of cowboys got stares in downtown Boise (boy times they are a changin’), but we still don’t have a good base of people who have been successful in this new landscape. We do have a fair amount of successful folks from the widget economy and a few good software entrepreneurs. But we can use more.
We’ve got a good night life scene, beer and blog group, the Tech Boise Blog, 180 Twitterers, and we ran a great Code Camp a couple weeks ago. We’ve also got good institutional support from places like Idaho TechConnect, and the Boise State TECenter.
So it’s coming together—but is Boise “not ready for prime time?” Well don’t tell us that, but I’m still glad for all of you over there in PDX that act as out adjunct tech community.
If you want to keep up on what’s going on over here (like we do with PDX) find me on Twitter—@LGM1—and I’ll point you in the right direction.
Peace to you, PDX. Now a letter to our friends in Corinth.