March 3rd, 2009

Catching up with Justin Kistner

Justin KistnerI often say that Silicon Florist is less of a breaking news site and more of feature site, like People or Parade. And while I’m not expecting to be able to fill James Brady‘s sadly empty shoes, it only makes sense that we spend some time catching up with some of the folks around town.

Let’s start with Justin Kistner, whom we affectionately know as the founder of Beer and Blog but who also holds a day job with Voce Communications that is having a positive effect on the Portland tech scene.

Back in April 2008, you were hired on at Voce Communications to be their “Portland office.” How’s that working out?

I’ve been at Voce for about 10 months, now. When I started, we had no clients in the Northwest. Now we have four: Soloflex, Gerding Edlen, Intel, and now WebTrends.

I brought the lead for the first two, and helped pitch the last two.

What kind of work are you doing for these clients?

We’re working with Soloflex on building their online presence to boost sales, which is anchored by the Soloflex blog. We’re working with Gerding Edlen on promoting the Cyan apartments.

We’re helping Intel build their social media engagement for their embedded systems group.

WebTrends is an integrated communications program. We’ll be helping them with PR, AR, and social media. In fact, we just launched a new WordPress blog for WebTrends’ Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, the vice president of marketing.

We’ve seen your company and clients sponsoring some of the events around town, like Ignite Portland, which is great. Is that something that’s likely to continue?

Voce has sponsored Ignite Portland a couple of times and has more plans to support the Portland tech scene. Having an on-the-ground presence here locally, will only increase our ability to sponsor, host, and just generally get involved.

So there may be more of Voce in Portland in the near future?

We’ve gotten support from upper management on opening a local office. I’d like to see us open an office in Portland.

Another Vocian who you may have met at Beer and Blog, Colin Crook, owns a house in Beaverton, but is currently living in the Bay Area. He’d like to be able to move up here.

In fact, he was the guy that was leading the pitch process with Jive, which is how I met Voce. Colin cut his social media teeth on the Spread Firefox team along with Vidoop employee Chris Messina. So there are a lot of connections for us here.

Speaking of Beer and Blog—your side project—you’ve seen explosive growth over the last year. How popular is it, these days?

Beer and Blog started with four people meeting at the Lucky Lab just over a year ago. Now we see 40-70 people every Friday at the Portland chapter.

We also started expanding to other cities this year and now have 10 chapters including our first overseas: Tokyo.

With Silicon Florist, it was very much a dumb luck, right place at the right time situation. While I’m sure Beer and Blog was a little more planned, did you ever expect this sort of response to the event?

I was very surprised by the popularity of the format. Prior to Beer and Blog, Portland didn’t have a weekly meet up of any relevant size, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The truth is, it started as a means to round up all of the people I was helping for free, so I didn’t expect it to grow beyond a dozen, maybe 20 people. I heard naysayers telling me weekly was too much and we’d burn out our audience.

However, time has shown that it actually works better for people because they don’t feel as obligated to make every one. New people consistently tell me that it feels more accessible since it happens every week too.

Interesting stuff

Justin’s story just goes to prove that a lot can change in a year.

It’s great to hear about this kind of stuff happening in the Silicon Forest, especially given current economic conditions. Hopefully, you’ve found Justin’s insights as interesting—and as positive—as I did.

Speaking of what people are doing…. Not to overstate the obvious, but I’m a firm believer that people in Portland consistently do amazing things. And they deserve to be able to tell people about it. So now is as good of a time as any to mention that I’m working to rekindle Portland on Fire this month. If you’re interested in participating, please make sure to submit your Portland on Fire profile.

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4 Responses to “Catching up with Justin Kistner”

  1. Thanks for the interview, Rick. I hope one year from now proves to be filled with more good news :)

  2. colin says:

    Technically, my house has a Portland address. It’s just off Murray blvd is all. :) Property value bitches!! Beavertron..please.

  3. Bram Pitoyo says:

    Waitaminute… Is “catching up” the new “Portland On Fire”? :)

  4. Eddie Awad says:

    In case you’re wondering who’s the guy in the background behind Justin, that would be me.

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