June 10th, 2008
Why Portland? After trying LA, a native returns home to the northwest
[Editor: And the "Why Portland?" series---which began with Intrigo and continued with Tim Kadlec---continues with Heather N of Strands. What's Strands? Well, if you'd like to find out, something tells me that "Portland" may also help you get into their private BETA. Now, on with the story...]
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and Los Angeles was the last place I imagined living.
But about a year after graduating college, I was working in Santa Monica at a new social network called TagWorld, focusing on online marketing, business development and project management. And, after becoming immersed in Los Angeles tech and social media, Portland seemed even further away.
But, as TagWorld evolved into Flux (Viacom as a minority investor), I became more aware of a growing tech scene in Portland and the temptation to return grew.
Eventually, I decided my relationship with LA was coming to an end, and Portland called. Soon enough, I found myself at Strands as the new Community Manager. Strands is headquartered in Corvallis, but I have been given the opportunity to work remotely and evangelize to the Portland community, which I am very excited about.
For the past four years, Strands has been working to develop social recommender systems that can be applied to numerous verticals. After a very active 2007 ($55M raised in VC funding; $12M in sales), 2008 is the year we will be presenting this technology to the world. We are applying our recommendation technologies to three areas: personal finance, social media, and business solutions.
Though I have only begun my journey into the tech sphere of Portland, I have already noticed an interesting dichotomy with that of Los Angeles.
LA is all about competition, competition, competition
I won’t go as far to say that the tech community in Los Angeles is as cut throat as their entertainment industry, but in some cases it’s a close second. With a new NDA being drawn up every minute, companies offering the world to a person to join them and leave their current position and enemy lines being drawn between social media companies, there is a definite switch in the overall feeling of community in LA.
Of course there are some amazing start-ups and tech companies that don’t employ as aggressive tactics, but they’re a bit harder to find in LA than here in Portland.
It’s only been a few weeks and I already feel happily welcomed into the Portland tech community. Not only do people from different companies and verticals work together, but also everyone I have met has been very willing to help in whatever capacity that may be. This makes me realize that the overall sense of the Portland tech industry is much like that of the people of this city.
Portland is free of over-saturation
To me Portland is the perfect size. Not only in terms of a city but also that of tech. I am shocked to see just how much is going on in tech and social media in this town, but doubt it will ever become too much.
In LA, I worked in a three-block radius of some of the biggest tech companies in the world and that was just in Santa Monica. Though you do run into a lot of the same people and I did make some amazing relationships, it was never possible to get a stronghold on the entire tech community.
In Portland it seems everyone is connected and the close-knit environment is not only inviting, but extremely helpful in my job objective for Strands.
Portland excels at “Keeping it Real”
Los Angeles is a city full of archetypal sorts that exist nowhere else—other than our minds. Though the tech world of LA is separate from this, these models of perfection that only LA possesses occasionally bleed over.
I don’t feel that the Portland is trying to be something its not. The unrealistic idealism that floats through Los Angeles has not made its way to Portland, and I love that.
As much as I am now at the point of critique, I would never trade a second of my time in Los Angeles. I became immersed in a world I never would have dreamed of being a part of and now can take the experience with me.
I am very ready to submerge myself in the Portland tech community and get people as interested and excited in Strands as I am.
Have you got a “Why Portland?” story to tell? I’d love to hear it. Feel free to drop me note at siliconflorist at gmail.