Five years ago, Portland's startup scene was approaching the end of a very long and incredibly rewarding day

Every year, as the holidays roll around, I am reminded of a time when we—as a scrappy startup scene—all pulled together as a group to do something amazing. It was truly a first. And it was a fortifying moment for what the Portland startup scene and its friends could accomplish when we put our minds—and hearts—to it. This year, it’s the five year anniversary of that event. It was called 30 Hour Day.

The idea blended cutting edge technology with some old school thinking and a healthy dose of Portland weirdness. We dislodged a whole bunch of startups in the then newly formed PIE, brought in a giant tree, stood up three studios with untold numbers of cameras and mics, and wedged a full production livestreaming setup into the space. Then, for the next 30 hours, we held a telethon—with a who’s who of Portlanders and people from around the Web—which we livestreamed over the Internet to help raise money for local charities.

It was like Jerry Lewis meets YouTube. Maybe even a bit better.

30 Hour Day

We were pretty sure no one had done it before. And after watching it, it’s probably obvious why they haven’t done it since. But we did it. (We also tried it one more time during the summer.) And in so doing, we managed to help some very worthwhile causes and brought the whole town together.

And thinking back, it dawns on me that the most amazing thing wasn’t even the technology. Or the sleeplessness. Or the awesome content. The most amazing thing was how—down to a single person—everyone who was asked to participate just said, “Of course! What else can I do to help?”

It was the Portland startup scene at its finest.

And when the dust cleared, we were all a little shocked at what we had done.

That first 30HD, held in mid-December of [2009], raised nearly $10,000 in cash, food and toys from a global internet audience of 77,000 unique viewers, and it taught the crew a lot about what they needed to know about both their technical and personal capacities. Mostly, perhaps, it taught them what an extraordinary place Portland can be for people who are trying to put together a truly communitarian venture.

Ain’t that the truth.

So in honor of the five years since 30 Hour Day, I’d like to encourage you—members of a more well off Portland startup scene than we had back then—to take a few moments to think about helping those less fortunate if you can. Be it organizations we helped originally—Oregon Food Bank, Free Geek, and Toys for Tots—or new organizations that have sprung up since. Like the Stumptown Syndicate—organizers of Ignite Portland and BarCamp Portland—who are in the middle of matching donation drive. Or Pixel Arts who uses video games as a way of getting kids interested in coding.

Every little bit helps. And you can make actually make a difference.

Finally, thank you, yet again, to each and every one of you who made that amazingly long day seem both exceedingly short and incredibly worthwhile.

Happy Holidays to you and yours, Portland! I’m forever amazed at what you’re able to accomplish.

(Image courtesy Igal Koshevoy. We miss you.)

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