February 28th, 2009

Y Combinator founder likes Portland’s potential for startups

Can Portland become a startup hub? It’s a question that we discuss time and time again.

We have the hackers, but can we attract the right kind of investors? Can we create a startup environment that meshes with the Portland—and Silicon Forest—culture? Can we build a sustainable startup engine?

I believe we can and I know I’m not alone in that regard.

Now, Paul Graham, founder of the well-known early stage startup incubator Y Combinator, has provided another vote of confidence for the Rose City. In a post entitled “Can You Buy a Silicon Valley? Maybe.” he proposes a way to fund and retain startups “for a particular city.”

It’s an interesting argument. But what I found most interesting was this (emphasis is mine):

How well this scheme worked would depend on the city. There are some towns, like Portland, that would be easy to turn into startup hubs, and others, like Detroit, where it would really be an uphill battle. So be honest with yourself about the sort of town you have before you try this.

So now, it’s not just obvious to us, anymore. It’s obvious to the outside world, as well.

It seems like there’s an opportunity here. And we shouldn’t squander it.

(Hat tip Elia Freedman)

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5 Responses to “Y Combinator founder likes Portland’s potential for startups”

  1. Teresa Boze says:

    Yup.. PDX has what it takes for the tech innovator to go start up – that’s a 10 4 good buddy… and the VC will not be far behind. We are the poster child for the new economy. Whatever that is.

    But – and dare I go 25K foot view – as no man is an island, no industry or technology is an island in the new economy. Technology needs to be a provider to[FILL IN THE BLANK]. Will the start up for those affiliated and integral bizzes be here, or in BFE?

    Will we in PDX be all tech all the time? Or will we in PDX also nurture the bizzes that assure diversification and health that supports a sustainable economy?

    You know, the kind of stable and sound local infrastructure that keeps a biz at home, and not moving to say, Bora Bora for cheaper parts and labor. As dictated by VC, and reasonably so, if things get dicey.

    And not talking sustainable as in a service industry of bistros and bars to cater lunch to the tech biz.

    The case study for this is the auto industry. When they got soft, large portions of the Midwest sagged and never recovered. Reason – no diversification. I mean besides the energy crisis. HHmmm? Just a thought.

  2. Matt Youell says:

    As much as I like Paul Graham’s writing I think he can oversimplify things from time to time. Although it would be fascinating to watch the experiment he describes. And his essay could practically start “Dear Sam Adams”.

    But I’m not sure you can make another Silicon Valley. (Or that you’d want to.) Austin and Boston both meet his criteria and have for a long time, but they are still the minor leagues to the Valley’s “bigs”.

    I’m not sure what the missing ingredient is, but I think it has something to do with the Hollywood-like inertia of the place.

    Btw, I spotted this on Hacker News – Looks like Atlanta wouldn’t mind being the next Silicon Valley either:

  3. There is one thing we are missing here: a group of managers who know how to build a start-up and can relay the kinds of trust to investors to warrant investment dollars. I hope we are building the next group of them now.

  4. Rick Turoczy says:

    @Elia I agree about the managers. I think there’s one other component that we’re missing for which we need to figure out a workaround.

    Another part of the reason for the success in the Valley is the fact that they have two huge incubators which people pay tens of thousands of dollars to be a part of.

    They’re called Stanford and Berkeley.

    We don’t have a major university with a technical focus that allows business-focused students and developers to have access to highly productive “dorm room incubation.” Here, those people are working to balance a working life and side projects, during which they may never encounter one another.

    It’s not insurmountable, but it’s another issue with which we have to deal.

  5. Money, money, money! That’s all Portland needs to turn into a raging NW forest fire!!

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