November 29th, 2010

How does Portland become more attractive for venture capital investment?


How does Portland become more attractive for venture capital investment?

Even as Portland startups continue to make waves and land capital, we’ve still got a lot to do to step up to the big leagues. So what does Portland need to do to step up and be among the premier cities for startups?

One thing is for sure. Being attractive to venture capitalists can only help the cause. And ensure that Portland startups have the capital they need to succeed. But how? Well, why not ask a VC? That’s what happened on TechCrunch’s “Ask a VC” last week.

And the VC they asked, August Capital‘s David Hornik, has some ideas.

I’ve picked up the conversation at the Portland comment, but if you’ve got a few minutes, I’d highly recommend watching the whole thing.

For more, see TechCrunch Ask a VC: Why David Hornik Invests Close to Home and the Dumbest Deal in the Valley (TCTV).

(Image courtesy Brian Solis. Used under Creative Commons.)

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Background that may help (or may not)

22 Responses to “How does Portland become more attractive for venture capital investment?”

  1. Great post and find w/ Hornik’s video – something we’re looking at here too…

    Keep up the great work Rick!

  2. Rick Turoczy says:

    Thanks man! I’m continually impressed with Silicon Prairie News. You guys are doing great work over there.

  3. Teresa ( @PDXsays) Boze says:

    Portland, our fair city. Turns out it has answers as well as questions.

    But we can’t see the trees for the forest, so it took the Harvard Business Review to point it out. http://hbr.org/2010/12/the-myth-of-the-overqualified-worker/ar/1

    Over-qualified workers. Yup. That pariah of the work force can be key to an over performing company: ” Two recent studies—one analyzing data on more than 5,000 Americans, the other examining 244 employees of a Turkish apparel chain—show that overqualified employees outperform their colleagues. In the former study, Greg Reilly of the University of Connecticut, Anthony Nyberg of the University of South Carolina, and Mark Maltarich of St. Ambrose University looked at employees with above-average intelligence working in jobs such as car washing and garbage collecting. In addition to achieving higher performance, these cognitively overqualified employees were less likely than others to quit.”

    Even in the crappiest of jobs, the overqualified do better and stay longer.

    But what about that old boogey man -workplace dissatisfaction and all the disgruntled attitude if brings?

    Turns out that some of our academic stars in Portland shine pretty bright. From Portland State comes the answer for that as well- don’t blame your best workers for your lack of management innovation.

    Yup, again, it is all a matter of letting the smart kids make do good work: “The Turkish study provides an additional insight: It shows how companies can manage around the’“I’m too good for this job’ problem. Berrin Erdogan and Talya N. Bauer of Portland State University in Oregon found that overqualified workers’ feelings of dissatisfaction can be dissipated by giving them autonomy in decision making. At stores where employees didn’t feel empowered, ‘overeducated’ workers expressed greater dissatisfaction than their colleagues did and were more likely to state an intention to quit. But that difference vanished where self-reported autonomy was high.”

    And my point? Who doesn’t want to invest in a company that out performs expectations with a stable work force that contribute to it’s sustainability and growth? Hummm?

  4. Teresa ( @PDXsays) Boze says:

    Portland, our fair city. Turns out it has answers as well as questions.

    But we can’t see the trees for the forest, so it took the Harvard Business Review to point it out. http://hbr.org/2010/12/the-myth-of-the-overqualified-worker/ar/1

    Over-qualified workers. Yup. That pariah of the work force can be key to an over performing company: ” Two recent studies—one analyzing data on more than 5,000 Americans, the other examining 244 employees of a Turkish apparel chain—show that overqualified employees outperform their colleagues. In the former study, Greg Reilly of the University of Connecticut, Anthony Nyberg of the University of South Carolina, and Mark Maltarich of St. Ambrose University looked at employees with above-average intelligence working in jobs such as car washing and garbage collecting. In addition to achieving higher performance, these cognitively overqualified employees were less likely than others to quit.”

    Even in the crappiest of jobs, the overqualified do better and stay longer.

    But what about that old boogey man -workplace dissatisfaction and all the disgruntled attitude if brings?

    Turns out that some of our academic stars in Portland shine pretty bright. From Portland State comes the answer for that as well- don’t blame your best workers for your lack of management innovation.

    Yup, again, it is all a matter of letting the smart kids make do good work: “The Turkish study provides an additional insight: It shows how companies can manage around the’“I’m too good for this job’ problem. Berrin Erdogan and Talya N. Bauer of Portland State University in Oregon found that overqualified workers’ feelings of dissatisfaction can be dissipated by giving them autonomy in decision making. At stores where employees didn’t feel empowered, ‘overeducated’ workers expressed greater dissatisfaction than their colleagues did and were more likely to state an intention to quit. But that difference vanished where self-reported autonomy was high.”

    And my point? Who doesn’t want to invest in a company that out performs expectations with a stable work force that contribute to it’s sustainability and growth? Hmmm?

  5. Eric says:

    There’s an upcoming summit, which will be attended by much of the city government, to discuss public policy-wise how we can help attract software VCs to the city.

    PDC + City of Portland: Software Industry Strategy Summit

    Portland City Hall
    1221 SW 4th Ave
    Portland, OR 97204

    Thursday, December 2, 2010 4:30pm-6:30pm

  6. Nick says:

    We need 2 things IMO.

    First some quality education in the area. This is1-12 and College. A quality nationally renouned school to pump out a workforce of quality.

    Second are some angel billionaires in the area who have faith in the local tech labor market. Startups in the area are consistently running on thin margins because of difficulty in strong VC funding. We have no strong tech VC groups in the area so if there is investment to be made on two companies, one here and one in the Bay or Seattle, they will choose the one in the Bay or Seattle, because that is where folks are innovating at break neck speed, and angel investment money is not slowing down growth.

    Both of these cause the standard path of successful tech companies away from Portland.
    1) The company starts up here, and succeed.
    2) The CEO/owner leaves or heads over to chair the board.
    3) The company hires a CEO from The Bay (because they pump out folks with MBA degrees from Stanford and experience running companies).
    4) After 6 months, the CEO is tired of commuting back and forth between The Bay and Portland so they open a satellite office in the Bay.
    5) Two years later they move the headquarters there.

    ~n

  7. M. Edward (Ed) Borasky says:

    Ask the guy a question, and right off, he says, “*Young* entrepreneurs.” Ah, well … it was nice while it lasted. ;-)

  8. Rick Turoczy says:

    You’re still young, Ed.

  9. Rick Turoczy says:

    Nick, Unfortunately, I tend to agree with your timeline. We need some successful exits that stay local. Like the Mentor Graphics model. It spawned a TON of startup activity because people here in Portland had capital and entrepreneurial drive.

  10. PDXsays says:

    I, too, agree with Nick’s timeline. But let’s talk about the quality education for a minute.

    Seems that takes a tax base to support the schools. And the existing model that Oregon and Portland has to attract such biz is to give the store away.

    As Craig Fisk has described it> most incentives are built as a business model to grow tech. In Portland we use a tech model to grow business. I.E. a tech model to create tech.

    This helps support the wonderful culture of innovation and open we need and cannot afford to let degenerate, but it leaves the biz aspect of tech flopping on dry land like a fish.

    And how that relates to education is that we never get the economic traction to establish and stabilize education of the quality and size required to elevate innovative tech business with current models.

    Business must be willing to pay back into the state, hire in state, and retain a model returns value and dollars in state. We could also possibly partner with other NW states on that, but that’s another fairy tale.

  11. Rick Turoczy says:

    I want to make sure that Nancy King’s (who asked the original question that was featured on the video above) view is part of this conversation as well.

    http://www.nelking.com/nightlynelking/2010/11/a-little-less-conversation.html

  12. M. Edward (Ed) Borasky says:

    Thanks for posting Nancy’s link! I suppose we’re all going to be at the City Hall event tomorrow. But I think the posters here have hit at least one nail squarely on the head. Portland needs a *world-class* primary and secondary school system and we need it yesterday! Nancy’s right – no more whining – about budgets or taxes or unions or anything else. Let’s just roll up our sleeves and fix the schools!

  13. Randy Cobena says:

    Hi Rick, I have been enjoying your blog; thanks for the service you provide.

    I too like the David’s comment in the TechCrunch video that Portland needs more traction with its ecosystem supporting tech start-ups. I wrote a piece today on my blog, please take a look, at http://grayshayds.wordpress.com/

    I will be attending the event at PDC tomorrow, I’ll try to introduce myself in person if possible.

    Thanks, Randy Cobena

  14. M. Edward (Ed) Borasky says:

    Nice post, Randy! I tweeted it! One thing that’s been troubling me all along in this discussion, though, is the notion of “software as an industry”. Software isn’t really an industry – it’s a *component* of the Information Technology industry. The IT companies that have done well here in Oregon – both native like Lattice Semiconductor, TriQuint, Tektronix, Mentor Graphics and FPS and “outsiders” like IBM and Intel – have for the most part had strong *hardware* portfolios *and* have had strong patents.

    Sure, we’ve had some pure software companies succeed here, but they aren’t as compelling. It seems to me that if we think too narrowly, in terms of software, and especially in terms of open source software which is by its very nature non-patentable, we are going to miss out on a major part of the growth opportunities.

    Just don’t ask me to do anything involving a soldering iron. That way lies madness. ;-)

  15. M. Edward (Ed) Borasky says:

    Last word I got from the organizers is that tonight’s strategy summit was overbooked – 250 planning to attend with a capacity of 200. It will be live streamed, I believe, from the standard City Council meeting stream. Any word yet on a hashtag for live tweets?

  16. Rick Turoczy says:

    I just heard from the Mayor’s Office that there will be overflow rooms as well. I’d been holding off on posting until that was confirmed.

    But yes, the livestream is a great option.

    As far as hashtags go, the #pdx11 might work. Unless you want something particularly for this event.

  17. Rick Turoczy says:

    And I finally have a post up about the Software Summit. Better late than never. Or whatever.

    http://siliconflorist.com/2010/12/02/pdc-software-summit-mayor-sam-adams-city-portland-laboratory-innovation/

  18. Ryan says:

    Two possible reasons:

    1. Taxes. I read an article that philanthropists were fleeing places like California and New York for places Florida and Wyoming where taxes are lower.

    2. Oregon isn’t a hub of big business, so there are fewer philanthropists.

    It seems to that the Oregon way is less flashy and more down-to-earth and grassroots driven. That said the solutions seem to lie along the lines of Kickstarter and microfinance.

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