[HTML1][Editor: Given the Startup America Partnership announcement, it seemed an appropriate time to release the latest post from guest writer Dave Chase. It’s a piece calling the City of Portland to action by encouraging them to shop locally for technology. It’s a similar stance to “Buying local isn’t just for food.”]
Perhaps the most frustrating thing for a software startup is the glacial pace at which governments move. In this post, I’m going to suggest something that Mayor Sam Adams and the City of Portland can start today. Fortunately, it’s already identified the value of “dogfooding” (i.e., being a proving ground and reference) of local software.
I’d argue that there’s not anything they can do that would have a greater impact than “dogfooding.” As I always say when advising startups, “the cheapest form of capital is revenue.” The actions by the city suggested here can have a bigger impact than a seed fund (not that I’m arguing against that). The city ought to look at the range of local software companies as part of their “portfolio” not unlike venture firms. Like a venture portfolio, these groups of companies have the potential to generate a lot of jobs and income for the city.
The potential revenue from a city the size of Portland, let alone the state of Oregon is enormous for an emerging software company. Better yet, the city’s ability to be a reference site has immense value for getting more customers. The oft-lamented “lack of capital” is rarely an issue for a software company with significant and growing revenues. There’s also the obvious “recycling” of dollars that happen in terms of income and corporate taxes.
Today, the mayor should assign someone on his staff to be “Chief Dogfood Officer” (CDO) in the city’s IT department. Cities have many of the same functions and challenges as businesses, let alone other municipalities. The CDO would let the local software community that the city is open for business and start to lay out a roadmap how they could incorporate local companies technology into the city’s plans. Naturally, the city needs to ensure that the products and prices are competitive. Even if a company falls short, that frank feedback has great value.
The CDO could add even more value to the software community if they also became Chief Evangelist. The City/mayor have a bully-pulpit that can add even more value. There’s a model they can follow employed by our friends out in Hillsboro at Intel Capital. One of the things they do that adds huge value to their portfolio companies is hosting Technology Days at important companies.
For example, when I worked with an Intel Capital backed company I presented before senior executives at a major studio, ad agency and insurance company at different Technology Days. Intel spent time with those organizations to do a match-making of sorts. They worked with a senior decision maker at the corporation to identify the companies from Intel Capital’s portfolio that would be of highest interest/fit for that corporation.
On the Technology Day, the corporation assembled all of the key decision makers giving these startups a great boost by getting in front of people they would have otherwise struggled to get a meeting with. In the process, Intel Capital made their portfolio grow in value by getting these companies a foot in the door. Presumably, the mayor’s office has the ability to talk with senior leaders at companies ranging from Nike to Regence to PGE to OHSU to Precision Castparts. They could setup similar Technology Days for these corporations to see the best and brightest local software companies delivering value to both the large organization and the software company.
Not that this should take a lot of resource but I’m confident the Software Association of Oregon would gladly assist in this kind of endeavor. The City can lead the way and then bring corporations (both for-profit and not-for-profit) into this process. For lean software companies, every day that passes has a cost.
I hope the mayor and City recognize the immediate value they can add and have this be at the top of their agenda for economic development.
About Dave Chase
Prior to working in startups, Dave spent 12 years at Microsoft in various senior marketing and general management roles, including his role as Worldwide Healthcare Industry Director and Managing Director for Industry Marketing & Relations for the Digital Media industry. He both founded industry organizations and served on their board that played pivotal roles in the growth of those industries.
In the aftermath of the dotcom bust, he was selected to take a leadership role within the online ad industry to grow online’s share of the overall ad market in concert with AOL, Yahoo!, DoubleClick/Google and other market leaders. During his tenure, MSN championed three major initiatives that the industry adopted that led to the turnaround of the online ad industry.
Prior to joining MSFT, Dave was a senior consultant with Accenture’s Healthcare Practice working with a wide array of healthcare providers and systems. Dave has also been a successful investor and adviser to several early-stage companies.
He can be found on Twitter as @chasedave.
(Image courtesy Vicki & Chuck Rogers. Used under Creative Commons.)