The days of spring are quickly transitioning into the days of summer. And that means there’s no better time than now for dragging a new crop of startups—kicking and screaming—through the intensive bootcamp mud in hopes of creating viable, sustainable, and profitable companies for Portland’s future.
Every time I’ve mentioned the trip I had planned for this week—“I’m going to Omaha”—I got the same quizzical look and a one answer response: “Why?”
Well, let me tell you. I’m sitting in Nebraska, right now, because there are a couple of guys in Omaha—Jeff Slobotski and Dusty Davidson—who write Silicon Prairie News, which is like the TechCrunch of their region. And they’re helping pull together a ton of events like they’re the Legion of Tech for the region. And they’re talking about opening a creative coworking space like they’re the Citizen Space of Omaha. Read More
Portland Web Innovators was founded because we don’t just like the technology or the design. Yes, those are a big part of our craft. We also want to work on fulfilling projects, for companies that do good stuff. For many of us, we want to start our own companies. In fact, many Web Innovators already have.
It’s no secret that one of the many reasons I started Silicon Florist was to get more people interested in what you’re doing.
Yes you, you silly goose.
You’re inventing incredibly cool stuff. You’re bending Web and mobile technology to your will. You’re taking risks. And you’re trying to build companies that will help Oregon and the Silicon Forest thrive.
Our friends over at the Beaverton-based OTBC are always trying to help startups and entrepreneurs in the Portland area—like by hosting entrepreneurial speed dating sessions and sponsoring events like Portland Lunch 2.0 and Open Source Bridge.
Now, the OTBC could use a little bit of our help. In the form of feedback:
We get input at our lunches, and through our Meetup.com site, but we’d like to round that out with input from a larger sample of the Portland area tech entrepreneur community. So please take three minutes to let us know what kinds of programs you’d like to attend. These are mostly ratings of 1-to-5 to show interest level in a topic. Lots of ideas are listed, but it goes fast. Really! Three minutes. (OK, maybe four minutes at the outside.) Thanks!
I know you can help, because everyone has an opinion. They’re like… well, everyone has one.
So take a few minutes out of your busy schedule and click some buttons. The OTBC—and our entire startup community—will be better for it.
Fresh off a stellar DEMO performance, Portland-based Ontier, the company seeking to make day-to-day electronic missives more effective and interactive, is continuing to ramp up for the public availability of its product.
Their latest move? Creating a new position—Vice President of Engineering—and hiring industry veteran Dom Virgilio to fill it.
“Dom has the perfect background to help Pixetell™ become the standard for on-demand mixed-media communication,” said Ontier CEO Sebastian Rapport in the press release announcing the hire. “In addition to his proven ability to accelerate product development, Dom has deep experience with communication and collaboration software and has great insight to our customers’ requirements.”
Virgilio served most recently as the VP of Engineering at Hillsboro-based Daverci. He also co-founded and served as COO for InfoCast. In all, Dom boasts more than 20 years of experience managing development and design pursuits.
Entrepreneurs Foundation of the Northwest (EFNW) helps small and mid-sized companies develop and implement strategies for community involvement that jointly meet the goals of the company, the passions of the employees and the needs of the community. Companies become EFNW members for a small annual fee or by contributing equity that EFNW holds until liquidity and then distributes profits for community benefit, as directed by the company.
We all know that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But what may not be as obvious is that when the going gets tough, the really super awesome tough realize that other folks need some help. And entrepreneurs reach out to help their would-be peers—especially here in the Silicon Forest.
That’s exactly what’s happening with Beaverton-based EasyStreet, one of the original Internet providers here in town. Today, they announced that they’re stepping up to help other startups during these less than satisfactory economic times with their “EasyStreet Stimulus Package for Entrepreneurs.”
Are you an innovator? Entrepreneur? Head of a skunkworks project inside an established enterprise? Let EasyStreet giving innovation a jump-start with free data center and Internet services for qualified Oregon startups through September 30, 2009.
What’s that? Free hosting and email accounts?
But wait. There’s more. Entrepreneurs can also qualify for a free Clear Wireless modem thingamajig if they sign a two year Wi-MAX aggreement.
Best of all? No binding contracts. Well, from EasyStreet, anyway.
“Tough times are great times for entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs are great for the Oregon economy,” said EasyStreet President & CEO, Rich Bader in announcing the stimulus program. “As the economic downturn was being felt here earlier this year, we asked, ‘What can EasyStreet do to best help boost innovation here in Oregon?’”
How does an entrepreneur qualify? All you have to do is apply through one of the partnering organizations that are helping EasyStreet promote the stimulus package.
And they’re names we all know. Well mostly anyway. I mean, one organization just changed its name, so you might not know them. But you know them. If you know what I mean.
What’s that? Oh sorry. Where are my manners?
The partnering organizations include Oregon Entrepreneurs Network OEN, Oregon Technology Business Center (OTBC), Portland State Business Accelerator (PSBA), Software Association of Oregon (SAO), andTechAmerica Oregon Council (formerly AeA).
So maybe you’re a startup looking to save a little cash. Or maybe you’ve been forced to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams a little more quickly than you expected. Or maybe you simply just need that little push to get your project rolling. Whatever the case, EasyStreet is waiting to help.
Now, you have absolutely no excuse to avoid starting that project. You know the one. The timing is right. And as our old Portland friend Tom Peterson used to say “Free is a very good price.”
For more information, see the EasyStreet Stimulus Package for Entrepreneurs.
Okay okay. I’ll admit, it may look like I’m crying wolf.
But I got a call late last night that we had some more breathing room to fill out the Startup Now Oregon form.
You know the one. The one that will convince the Treasurer for the State of Oregon that we have a ton of viable startups in the area—startups that deserve access to state managed funds.
While we’ve had a bunch of people take a moment to fill out the form—more than 60 at last count—we’d still like to see some more.
What’s more important is that I still don’t see your idea on there. Yes, you. Procrastinator. You know who you are. Don’t make me call you out.
Even if you don’t want, need, or like the idea of the money, it’s still important to make your voice heard. Why? So that the powers that be in Oregon understand what we’ve got going here. Because it’s something special. And it deserves their support.
Remember, geeky or not. Codified or not. Oregon-based or willing to become Oregon-based. Come one, come all.
I’m not putting any deadlines on this, but I’ll likely be pulling the form down within the next few days.
Don’t make me beg—or continue to whine. It’s not pretty. Fill out the form.
I’ve spent the last few days in Austin, TX, at SXSW Interactive, the annual gathering of some of the best and brightest Web types sharing their experience and ideas.
But it’s not all about the presentations. Truly, it’s all about proximity. Because every presenter, every leading thinker, and every attendee have plenty of time to talk with one another over meals or over a beer.
Suffice it to say, if you’re looking to get the chance to chat with the folks who are influencing the Web, this is a target rich environment.
This year, I went to SXSW with the intention of learning more about other entrepreneurial communities. To uncover ways that other metropolitan areas were trying to make their communities stronger in order to capitalize on the talent of creative developers.
I managed to make some great connections and learn a thing or two. Here’s what I took away from the conversations.
Portland is not a special snowflake
It’s no secret that I think we’ve got a phenomenal Web, mobile, and open source community. I think the mix we’ve got is special. And there’s little doubt that I think we have the single most amazing technology community anywhere.
But I also admit that I may be a little biased.
Still, for all the love I have for Portland, we’re not unique in our struggles to foster an entrepreneurial community that helps the brilliant people of the Silicon Forest earn a living doing something that they love.
There are communities all over the US trying to make this work. Some of them are taking steps similar to Portland. Some of them are coming up with new ways to deal with the solution. Folks from Asheville, NC, are finding ways to fund projects with government dollars. Boulder is running a series of Ignites that are continuing to draw the community together time and time again. People in Houston and Kansas City are using coworking spaces to get members of the community working together and sharing ideas. DC is using things like Tech Cocktail to help facilitate connections—and the tech scene is getting the opportunity to advise the local government on issues. And the guys at Silicon Prairie News are pulling in some amazing speakers for Big Omaha, an event that will help solidify their entrepreneurial community.
I’m hoping to spend more time with these folks over the coming months, visiting their communities, learning more about what they’re doing, and sharing more about what Portland is doing.
It looks like the trip to Seattle Lunch 2.0 was just the first of many diplomatic missions.
Funding for Portland projects must come from investors in Portland
Another conversation that repeated itself throughout the conference was the discussion about how to fund an entrepreneurial environment. And time and time again it came back to one simple point: for funding to work, it has to be local.
Now this works one of two ways. You either make your locality where the money is—by moving to the Valley for example—or you find local money to fund your project, local angels to invest in startups, and local funds to support larger investments.
Obviously, I’m leaning toward the latter. (And that’s what makes tonight’s Nedspace event especially well timed.)
Portland has a great deal in common with China
You heard me right. Yes, yes. It surprised me, too.
I didn’t intentionally go to the conference to learn about the entrepreneurial environment in China. But as I began to learn more and more about it, I realized that the Portland startup scene had a great deal in common with the Chinese startup environment.
They’re building phenomenal products in China that none of us know about. They’re pushing technology in ways that rival or eclipse our ability to deploy it. China is perceived to have a wealth of development talent that outside companies want to tap. They’re attracting more and more entrepreneurs who see China as a land of opportunity. And the Chinese want to do business—but they want to do it on their terms.
Sounds pretty familiar to me.
Portland can succeed in Portland’s own way
Finally, the overarching theme of the conference sounded eerily similar to something I’ve tried to champion in Portland: Work hard at doing what you love and you will succeed.
No matter if it’s Zappos shipping happiness or Gary Vaynerchuk hustling wine or a bunch of volunteers putting together an open source conference or the Bac’n guys selling premium pig parts. It doesn’t matter. Doing what you love—and working your ass off to do it—will lead to success.
And I don’t know anyone who works harder at doing what they love than the folks in the Portland startup scene.
Thanks, again, SXSW for making me think even more about Portland
So that’s what I got out of SXSW, this year. No doubt the 60+ Portland types who were there each got something completely different out of it.
But that’s the magic of SXSW. And that’s the primary reason I’ll keep going back to SXSW as many times as I can.
So I go all the way down to Texas to think about Portland some more. But that’s just how I am. Did I make some incorrect intuitive leaps? Do you disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.