September 11th, 2009

Entrepreneurs’ Organization launches Portland Accelerator


Entrepreneurs’ Organization launches Portland Accelerator

Seems like more and more folks are interested in helping Portland startups spin up. Now, a new program called Portland Accelerator is launching a new program in town. It’s designed to serve as a “catalyst that enables first-stage entrepreneurs to catapult their business to the next level.”

And to introduce the program to Portland, the Portland Accelerator folks will be holding a get together on September 15 at Ruby Receptionists.

What’s the pitch? Well, they’ve put together this video to bring you up to speed.

The Portland Accelerator is locally sponsored Synotac, a local Web design firm. But the program is run by a national organization, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) – for entrepreneurs only – is a dynamic, global network of more than 7,000 business owners in 38 countries. Founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs, EO is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.

According to media section of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, it’s also the group that helped people like Mark Cuban and Michael Dell get started.

The Portland chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization currently has 69 members who generate about $333 million in revenue and employ 1617 folks. No idea how many of these companies are tech or open source type.

And it looks like there are similar Accelerator programs for Charlotte, Detroit, MInneapolis, and New Orleans.

Sound interesting? Well, there are a couple of prerequisites. First, you have to be younger than 47. So I can just squeak in there. Second, you have to be the founder of a business with $250,000 to $1 million in revenue, gross. No, I mean “gross revenue” not that revenue is gross, silly.

Oh, and it will cost you $1200 to participate.

Which, according to the Portland Accelerator site, “grants you access to four quarterly learning events, eight small-group mentoring/peer-to-peer sessions, and numerous networking opportunities with your peers.”

For more information, you can swing by the Portland Accelerator site. Or you can meet up with the Accelerator folks on September 15.

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16 Responses to “Entrepreneurs’ Organization launches Portland Accelerator”

  1. I honestly believe once you’re past the revenue stage of $250,000 you’ve gotten most of the hard work out of the way. Personally I don’t consider any business that’s made any real definable revenue to be a startup anymore, instead I consider that a business.
    The point at which you migrate from an idea to a product you’ve also moved from a startup to a business.
    It is cool to see this coming to Portland but it seems more like a “we’ll help out those who are already succeeding and then take credit for helping them to succeed”.

    Still nice to see that Portland is finally being seen as a viable place for this sort of entrepreneurial endeavor to take root.

  2. jmartens says:

    I am with Chris on this one. “First Stage” and “$250,000 to $1 million” really don’t go together.

    Besides, not sure this is what Portland needs. How about a program like TechStars…..

  3. Laszlo S says:

    Hey Rick,
    Another great post. I remember getting courted by the then YEO (Young Entrepreneur Organization) back in 03/04. YEO was geared at young biz pro’s under 40. Looks like their mission has changed / morphed a bit over the last 3-7 years. I met with a lot of their members and some of them were fabulous. I would say that even though things are tight all over at the moment, this is probably a great event for small business owners or “two guys and a whiteboard.” The reason I would say that is because you can make connections with folks who can help you in a week, a month, a year or in a few years. My advise here, is with events like this, prepare for the long term (1-3 yrs out). You never know what part of your network you’ll call on, but not having one to call on in a time of need can spell disaster.

    I respectfully disagree with the comments from above, being under 250K is pretty much a starting point, and you definitely haven’t gotten the ‘hard stuff’ out of the way – although I remember thinking that. :-) (get your boots on for what’s next….)
    In addition, Most investors (those who are outside your company) don’t really think of much below 250k, even though it’s where you’re getting your chops. I’m not sayin it’s right, but it’s the case.

    The problems at say 2mm, 5mm or 15-50mm are much different than those you face at $.01 to 249k and from 250k-1mm. You think growing from .01 to 250k is hard –> take a company from 15mm-100mm. You mess up there and maybe you tell 350 ee’s and their families why you can’t make payroll — good luck with that. :-)

    Often times, VC backed companies will bring in ‘window dressing’ (new mgmt team) before their Exit Plan is at final stages – this is because outside of Mike Dell and a few others (Bezos comes to mind too) there aren’t too many that have both the skill set to grow from .01 to 1mm and then from 15mm to 100mm and then from 250mm to a 1b. So for each stage, a new team is needed.

    Chances are if you are a exec VP at a multiple b company (say Amdocs or Intel or something hugely popular, like Google) you aren’t going to jump ship with a friend, and start something new unless you’ve really vetted the situation. And you’ll probably be bringing your network with you, so maybe 5-12 extremely loyal folks – which by definition you’ll probably start at the 2-5mm level – and then, of course if you do all that – you have friends in the VC community – so on, so on, so on…

    It’s all hard – it’s all fun – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I don’t really like the term start-up though. I think people confuse start-up with small bizness. Some folks (e.g. those whom I recruit or new potential vendors) will call my business a start up. It isn’t. We’ve been grinding it out for about 9 years. I am still, though a small business – whether you apply the SBA standard NAICS code (http://www.naics.com/search.htm) or when I talk to banks, etc.

    Start ups don’t usually refer to revenue though. E.G. – Perhaps Jive Software (here in PDX) was a start up, even though they raised over 10mm in Venture financing through powerhouse VC Sequoia.

    Anyway – great post – good opportunity for those willing to spend the $.

  4. dale_s says:

    The age restriction violates a range of laws, both State and Federal.

    Surprised no one has taken them to task on this. What if it were “no women” or “no hispanics?”

    No one over 47? Someone spent too much time watching WILD IN THE STREETS
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_in_the_Streets

  5. Sean says:

    Thank Rick for posting this. I am one of the co-founders of this non-profit organization.

    The most important thing we are looking for out of the 1st 30 rock’em, sock’em entrprenuers for PDX Accelerator, is a passion for learning and growth.

    Chris- no one is taken credit for anyones success. Not sure where you got that from.

    As for revenue requirements and being 1st stage… I am a co- founder of an 11 year old start up and I need to keep growing and learning. If not, it is easy to get smashed/left behind with all the changes in todays fast changing world.

    I say, if you are under 15 million a year in revenue, you are I the same bucket as a startup.

    Chris and jmartens, come on down on the 15th, I will buy u a beer and let’s talk startups in person. It’s gonna be a blast.

    If typos sorry…I am on my iPhone and have fat thumbs.

  6. dale_s says:

    Follow up — never mind the legal implications of restricting people by age to an organization:

    When It Comes To Founding Successful Startups, Old Guys Rule
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/09/07/when-it-comes-to-founding-successful-startups-old-guys-rule/

    It might be far smarter to encourage some older participants and then match them with the greener “under-47″ crowd creating a unique dynamic?

    Is there a dress code too? Ripped jeans and T’s only?

  7. Lizzy Caston says:

    I find the 47 age cut off perplexing since a recent study quoted in NY Times or Wall Street Journal (I forget which) stated most start ups are founded and grown by people in their 50s. Seems self limiting and somewhat self defeating for this group, as one of the above commentors noted. Can’t say if it’s illegal, but I certainly do find it egregiously ageist and offensive. Those of all age groups certainly have quite a bit to contribute to businesses and cross age collaboration is a powerhouse waiting to happen. Can someone explain this group’s ageist reasoning?

    Still, terrific reporting Rick and I do applaud any and all efforts to further sustaining entrepreneurship and economic growth in Oregon.

  8. Marcus V says:

    Ya gotta love all these non-profit orgs and incubator deals where if you just coin-over your money to them, you’ll be allowed to hang out with them. Doesn’t prostitution works the same way.

    That ‘olde proverb, “those who can do, those who can’t run start-up incubators and take people’s money” seems to be emerging as the new way for some to earn a living these days.

    We live in a region with an extremely small handful of VCs and Angel Groups, they are all immediately accessible without going through a middleman you have to pay. Yes, some incubators add value by aiding Entrepeneurs who have limited experience get themselves up to speed so they have a better shot at the limited money out there, but, if they were going to really make a difference and add value, they would be paid on a performance basis either through cash or equity – ONLY IF THEY DELIVER.

    Who will be the first incubator/accelerator/whatever to do a deal on that basis? Compare this to a lawyer who demands an hourly rate v. one who says they’ll do a percentage deal? I have a lot more confidence in the one who says they’ll work on a percentage. The others are all too often institutionalized scams.

    How many people have paid over money to any of these groups and had success? What’s the ratio? Is a trip to Vegas likely to be more successful?

  9. Sean says:

    Wow – great feedback folks. I’m loving this discussion.

    Just a few more bits of information:
    1) EO Accelerator is a non-profit. It is sponsored by Mercedes Benz Financial and EO Portland. No one is making money off this and without the volunteer entreprenuers and financial support of EO and MBenz, it wouldn’t happen.

    2) All the folks/entreprenuers that put this together, we are volunteer entreprenuers ourselves. Most of us from EO Portland (requirements to join are 1 million+ in revenue) – a certain level of success is needed to join. We are starting Accelerator to help the even smaller businesses get going. (So Marcus V – we are the ones that do! :) )

    3) Age requirement – Accelerator is related to EO, YPO, WPO and other organizations that have older members in them that provide mentorship. PDX Accelerator has a mentorship component with accomplished entreprenuers as part of this program.

    I think we can all agree that there is a significant cultural difference between folks that are 50 years old +, and folks in there 20s and 30s. I’m 36 now and I see a huge difference between 20something’s and myself. That is more the reason for the age requirements. (dale_s – nice trolling – but we do have women and all races and creeds in EO!)

    4) This is not a tech only group. Yes, I am in tech/web – some of the members are, some are not. Almost all use the web…of course.

    5) Thanks for sharing Laszlo – agreed that the definitions are can be fuzzy. I reckon that once a significant level of revenue is achieved (15 million was what I choose) – a whole new level of growth/infrastructure becomes available to that company that just doesn’t make sense to smaller companies like mine.

    6) All of you are welcome to join us tomorrow night. Please come. I’ll buy the beer. We’ll be talking, cash flow, marketing, start-ups, and more. Folks with a passion for learning and growth will definately have fun. Lizzy Caston, Marcus V, dale_s – come on down – I mean you!

    I’ll be going out for dinner and drinks after as well – you’re all welcome to join me, grill me and/or share start-up stories!

  10. Kent Lewis says:

    I second Sean’s comments, as an EO member and supporter of Accelerator. I’m also a big supporter of Starve-Ups and OEN and can tell you each organization has a slightly different mission and value proposition. EO Accelerator is all about providing early stage companies with the tools, resources and mentoring to companies that desire to grow beyond $1M.

    As a peer-to-peer learning organization, it’s unique in that it’s a non-solicitation and confidential environment where business owners get in-depth training & instruction from experts & can share sensitive issues and financials safely, in order to get answers to critical questions. I too, hope to see you all at the upcoming events, so you can meet current and prospective members, and realize this is all about growing businesses in Oregon and putting us on the map globally.

  11. Laszlo says:

    Thanks for the open invite – I’ll try to get out there tomorrow night.

    Quick Question – what time does it start?

  12. Sean says:

    Nice one Laszlo. 6 pm it starts. We’ll be there till 8:30 or so and then out to a local pub. Hope to meet you manana.

  13. Laszlo says:

    Sorry Sean – had to work late last night – how was the event?

    When will the next one be?

  14. Sean says:

    G’Day Laszlo,

    It went great. Anytime you get folks building companies together it’s a good time. Even though I’m part of the volunteer team of “experienced entreprenuers” putting this together, I get a lot out of it as well. Peer to peer learning is what I love about it.

    Our next event is our Launch on Monday at Wilsonville Mercedes Benz dealership. If you wanna come, give me an email at sean at bootsnall dot com and I’ll get you on the list.


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