SAO survey results: Folks want more small and focused peer events… with beer

And while it will come as little shock to anyone in the startup scene, the feedback says that SAO members would like… (drum roll please) exactly what the folks in the startup tech scene have been doing: smaller informal discussions at brew pubs.

You may remember the Software Association of Oregon survey I mentioned a few months back. You know the one. The one where the SAO was looking to get some feedback on what direction they should be pursuing? Remember? Well, you must. Because more than 40% of the respondents weren’t even SAO members—and I have to assume that means that you were likely one of those who responded.

Well in any case, the results are in. And they’ve been all munched and crunched and whatnot. And while it will come as little shock to anyone in the startup scene, the feedback says that SAO members would like… (drum roll please) exactly what the folks in the startup tech scene have been doing: smaller informal discussions at brew pubs.

More than 61% of the respondents see the SAO as an organization that should be helping them better network with their peers—whose peer support and mentoring would be of value to 53% of the respondents. And 71% of those who responded believe that “small informal gatherings at pubs focused on discussing specific topics” is the best way to do that.


Again, not terribly shocking that the informal models readily adopted by the Web and startup community—things like Beer and Blog, tweetups, codesprints, and user groups—are attractive to these larger organizations, as well.

That’s great to see. Because it’s a change in the culture of SAO. And it’s a definitive stake in the ground, where the members are better defining for the SAO board the direction they would like to see the organization pursuing. And that’s important.

Why? Well, because maybe, just maybe, this will result in more cross pollination. Maybe it will result in folks from the more traditional tech companies joining the existing informal gatherings of the startup, mobile, and open source communities.

One thing is for sure: the SAO is listening.

“The SAO is starting to come up with plans to address some of the things we’ve learned,” said new SAO Chair Ryan Buchanan.

Ryan also hinted that there are efforts already underway to create and facilitate some different gatherings that cut across the grain of the tech industry in a way I haven’t yet seen—akin to user groups for specific business functions in the tech industry. There is the hope that by getting people out of the “business size” classifications—like startup versus established business—and getting them more focused on specific business functions—like finance, marketing, and leading—they will help get more peer discussions going across a broader range of companies.

I remain hopeful that this feedback combined with the SAO’s more diverse board will result the SAO beginning to fill some gaps in the startup community for those who are currently underserved by the existing events—no matter how diverse and informal they may be.

We tend to try and make the whole Portland startup scene one big homogenous happy family. (I am totally guilty in that regard.) Because honestly, that’s part of the appeal of the startup scene around here. But on the other hand, there are some very distinct groups who would benefit from more specificity. More exclusion and less inclusion. Not that they’re divorced from the whole but rather that they have the opportunity to be exclusive.

Maybe getting the SAO more tightly engaged will help resolve some of those issues. Maybe getting more folks working on the problems from different angles will benefit all of us in the community. In my mind, it can’t hurt.

We’ll just have to wait and see.


  1. The Leadership Exchange is going to be awesome. It’s my #1 priority right now and I think it will really benefit the tech leaders in the community. There are 25+ senior tech leaders from companies big (Tripwire, Sage, Webtrends, Autodesk, Radisys) and small (Avatron, Convergence, Kipe) that are launching the 7 groups in early September. We plan to have the meetings free and all around town, not just the SW downtown core.

  2. Rick – great post on how SAO is listening to the software and tech community.

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned is some tangible evidence of this listening. Starting the week of Sep 7-10, SAO is expanding upon the concept and success of the free, roundtable-style, entrepreneur, monthly event – Startup Exchange, and is facilitating a roll out of a series of monthly Leadership Exchange events for managers/leaders in the tech community in Engineering, IT, Support & Services, Sales/Marketing, Finance, and CEOs – check it out here:


Comments are closed.