Well, admittedly, this is an awfully big problem, but to wax—and perhaps unintentionally slaughter—more platitudes, the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.
And, I’m proud to say that we, as a burgeoning collective, have already taken two:
Oregon Tech & Education is an online discussion group designed to gather interested parties, encourage discussion, and facilitate action. If you are at all interested in helping, participating, or just watching what’s happening. I encourage you to join. Even if you just lurk. And I encourage you to invite the teachers and administrators in your life to join, as well.
Silicon Florist internship/mentorship challenge is a call to all Silicon-Forest-based startups to consider offering a summer internship for high school or college students in your area. No one knows more about what you do than you. And teaching someone who knows nothing about what you do could be one of the most rewarding things you ever accomplish as an entrepreneur. If you’re interested—not even yet to the “willing to participate” phase, just interested—please throw your hat into the ring as one of the participating startups.
From time to time, I’ll keep you posted on these steps, and other steps that the resourceful folks of the Silicon Forest are taking to resolve this issue.
I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.
Designed to be a “more business-oriented BarCampy unconference,” the event more than fulfilled its goal. And, in so doing, completed a successful trifecta for the Portland Legion of Tech, adding Startupalooza as an equal among the successful BarCamp Portland and Ignite Portland events.
The best part, in my opinion? The new voices. And hearing new stories from the old ones.
In a town where you tend to run in very small and similar circles, Startupalooza both introduced new voices into the conversation—like the Garage Games guys from Eugene and the soon-to-be-a-Portland-fixture Intrigo team—and drew well-known, yet not-oft-seen types out of the woodwork to both observe—and participate.
Prior to the event, the primary coordinator and Legion of Tech Treasurer, Todd Kenefsky, intimated to me that he had some concerns about the lack of networking time built into the schedule. But guess what happens when you put a bunch of intelligent and entrepreneurial people in a room together? Those conversations just start to happen. In the audience. In the cubes behind the presentation area. In the lunchroom. In the hallway (which served as a bit of an echo chamber at times).
Every minute of the event was a time for networking. And for learning. And for sharing.
And, from the looks of things, everyone is still recovering from all of that energy concentrated in one place. Because posts about the event have been few and far between. Here’s some of the coverage I’ve been able to track, so far (if you have a wrap-up post that I’ve missed, please leave a comment, and I’ll add it to the list):
Scott Kveton “Startupalooza or Bust!”
“All in all I was amazed at the vibrance of the Portland startup scene … clearly there is something here, clearly we’re just starting to pick up the pace here … I can’t imagine anywhere else on earth I’d rather be working and living.”
Bram Pitoyo “Startupalooza”
“If learning from and having conversations with Portland’s greatest innovators (and, in some cases, even luminaries) for a whole day failed to excite your mind to want to create something bigger than yourself (a startup, collaborative, group, side project, community activity, etc.), I don’t know what else will.”
Michael Sigler “Startupalooza”
“It’s obvious I moved to the right town. The collaborative spirit here is awesome. There is so much to take part in and everyone is eager for feedback and participation. Though it was still mostly a sausage-fest, it was good to see a number of women in the audience. I was also pleasantly surprised by the range of ages represented.”
Paul Biggs “Startupalooza and #drunkgeeking”
“While I very much enjoyed learning about some really cool new projects in PDX, as is the case with most structured events, the most rewarding part for me was all the side conversations buzzing in hallways and nearby bars. It’s all about the people!”
Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarria “Taste sharing for web personalization”
“So when we were asked to talk at Startupalooza (a really cool Portland tech event, put together by Todd Kenefsky and the Legion of Tech) we decided this should be the topic of our talk: taste sharing for web personalization… something which is of extreme importance for MyStrands and the entire recommender industry.”
John Poelstra “Superb Startupalooza”
“Of late I’ve been trying to get more involved in the local tech scene where I live. On Saturday I went to check out Startupalooza and had no idea what to expect. It was superb in every respect. The facilities at CubeSpace were great and all the presentations and speakers were excellent. I wish I could have stayed for the whole thing!”
Joanna Kane “Startupalooza a high-tech hit”
“The crowd in attendance ranged from those with decade-long entrepreneurial careers to wide-eyed observers hoping to absorb tips and tools to get their new ideas off the ground. The energy in the room was palpable, conversations were animated, and new ideas were being generated as fast as they were being shared. If I had to pick one theme for the day, it would be the common interest in making life easier through technology, coupled with making technology accessible for anybody and everybody.”
If you missed the event, Legion of Tech was working to record the entire thing. Hopefully, we’ll all soon be able to have a listen, post processing. I, for one, am curious as to what I actually said while I was up there.
I know, I know. I struggle to fathom how we’re going to squeeze all of this into one afternoon. But why not show up and see if we can? And then, plan to stick around. Word around the campfire is that there might be one or two after-event activities happening, as well.
Man oh man. With all of these Silicon Forest startups attracting funding, it’s about time I establish a “graduating class.” And here’s one of those startups that’s definitely in the running for Salutatorian, if not Valedictorian: Portland-based SplashCast.
First, the funding. Because that’s the real news here.
SplashCast announced today that it has secured $4 million dollars in Series A funding, led by Mark Bayliss, an Australian (remember the Australia tripnot too long ago?) media and advertising executive veteran of some of the world’s largest advertising and media companies who runs in the same circles as fellow Aussie and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Emergent, an emerging growth investment fund also with strong ties to advertising and consumer brands, was a follow-on to the round.
I asked Mike Berkley, SplashCast’s CEO, to put this funding—and the organizations providing it—in perspective for me.
“What does this mean for the company?” said Berkley. “The relationships that Bayliss and his partners bring to SplashCast gives the company a monumental step-up in social marketing.”
Which bring us to my second point. I’m a marketing geek. So, let’s talk about SplashCast’s newest take on their positioning. Or better yet, let’s not use some stupid buzzword. Let’s talk about how SplashCast is describing their product as of late.
If you haven’t been watching SplashCast, this probably would fly right by, unnoticed. But, I’ve been watching these guys ratchet down on the language they’re using and their efforts to make the product more attractive to a broader big-media advertising market. They continue to make definitive changes in describing what they do. And they seem to be honing in on something new.
SplashCast started in user-generated content. Then they moved to more of a “branded content” sort of play, building custom apps for big names like Justin Timberlake, Britney, and Hillary Clinton. Now, they’re directly positioning themselves as an alternative to what—as silly as it sounds for me to describe it this way—can only be referred to “traditional” online advertising models.
SplashCast calls this new focus “social advertisments.” I call it “advertisements that actually do something.” But regardless of what you call it, they’re pushing this message very strongly as of late:
[SplashCast’s] New Social Marketing Solution Viewed As Breakthrough For Advertisers Looking To Reach Users On MySpace, Facebook & Other Social Networking Sites
Splashcasting represents a new form of online marketing called social advertisements – tools marketers use to reach the growing demographic of social network site users. SplashCast’s video-based social advertisements on average receive click-through-rates that are about 75 times higher than typical banner advertisements used on MySpace, Facebook or other social network sites.
This seems to be their new home: taking on traditional online advertising. And that puts them directly in the sites of some very big players.
Now, some may look at these recent changes and cast aspersions. Claiming that this belies a lack of focus.
In my opinion, these changes don’t seem to be wishy-washy or “searching for a problem to solve.” These are simply the pains that any growing company goes through as it works to figure out where its true market lies.
And there’s a very clear reason that the messages have been moving in that direction.
You build a product based on your ideas and passion. You tend to build a company based on what people will buy.
And given that SplashCast is securing funding and landing customers with this new positioning, it only makes sense—from a business perspective—that they continue pursuing this stance.
I, for one, will be continuing to watch them.
For more information on the funding and social advertising, visit SplashCast.
[Editor’s note: Continuing the Silicon Florist’s guest editorial series, we welcome Scott Kveton, a well-known force-of-nature in the Portland technology community. And, as you’ll see, the de facto Chamber of Commerce for the Portland startup scene.]
Last week was amazing. I spent most of it with Luke Sontag here in Portland, meeting with folks, spreading the good word about Vidoop and generally being in the city.
Having grown up in-and-around Portland, it’s always fun to see the reaction to everything-that-is-Portland from someone who doesn’t live here. (Oh, and the weather we had last week didn’t hurt either.)
I got a chance to talk a little bit about this at Ignite Portland 2, but I’ll say it again: This is the beginning of a fantastic renaissance period for Portland. It’s such a vibrant, eclectic, talented and diverse city with so many things going on, that it inspires the mind and spirit around every corner you turn. Even more, I think Chris Logan had it right: it’s time for Portland to step up and take its place.
There has been some talk about how “if you don’t live in the Bay Area and you’re in tech, you’re basically a wuss.”
So be it. The very last thing I want is for Portland to turn into the Bay Area or Seattle. I want it to be Portland. I want other cities to be saying “wouldn’t it be great if we were more like Portland?” I simply want Portland to come into its own in tech, in the arts, sustainability, green, etc.
But, how do we get to that point?
Well, it takes a bunch of us, it takes some time and, ironically, the city does most of the work for you.
For the past couple of years, I’ve made it a point to try to help people who are considering a move to Portland. I’ve spent countless days taking people around the city, introducing them to others in the city, and generally trying to give them a “locals’ view” of the city.
Now, the tour I take folks on covers a bit of ground and I’m seeking some input on the route. A couple of places I go to:
Tour of SW waterfront area with gondola love
Sellwood district (possibly for lunch, definitely for dinner at Saburo’s if it’s a weekday night)
NW on 21st or 23rd… just too much to do, to eat, to see
Where would you take a touring visitor to get a taste of Portland from a local’s point-of-view? Bear in mind, I’m not looking for just a tech-person view on this. I’m all about diversity here.
The key to all of this, and the thing that I keep in mind at all times, is serendipity. Yeah, yeah, I know. Hard to quantify, huh? Well, I’m not the cheerleader type unless I really, really believe in it. Portland I can believe in. This city, the people, the places. It’s easy.
If you’re not predisposed to drink the PDX Kool-aid, then you’re probably not the type of person I’d want here anyway. And, if you’ve ended up in my Inbox or with my phone number, odds are, there’s a reason.
I’ll put this out there; if you have a friend or colleague that is thinking about making the move to Portland I’ll offer up my time for coffee or even the full-fledged tour to introduce them to the city and the people I know. It’s just the right thing to do. And, I’d challenge you to do the same.
Again, it’s not about trying to make Portland something it’s not… it’s about embracing serendipity and helping Portland realize its potential.
P.S. – first round is always on me … 🙂
Scott Kveton is a digital identity promoter, open source advocate, and Chairman of the OpenID Foundation. He has worked at Amazon, RuleSpace.com, JanRain, and MyStrands, and founded the Open Source Lab at Oregon State University. He is a regular speaker on the topic of identity and open source. Kveton currently serves as the Vice President of Open Platforms for Vidoop, a company he recently wooed to the Silicon Forest.
Portland’s Startupalooza, the March 29th bootcamp for startups—both existing and planned, continues to expand its roster of speakers. And it’s shaping up to be quite a gathering of local startup talent.
Startupalooza is an interactive forum for the Portland tech startup community. Find out about cool tech startups, learn from successful tech entrepreneurs and meet local tech-business people in a candid, no-BS environment. Admission is free.
Starupalooza is an interactive forum for the Portland tech startup community. It’s where you can find out about cool tech startups, learn from successful tech entrepreneurs and meet local tech-business people. The event features discussions, presentations, demonstrations and networking allowing participants to share, learn and connect in a candid, no-BS environment.
One of the best things about writing this blog is getting the opportunity to chat with a wide variety of folks. I mean, sure, a lot of us are geeky. And that’s pretty much where I focus the coverage. But I think you would be pleasantly surprised at the wide range of folks who are interested in Silicon Forest startups.
And in the conversations I’ve been having, there’s one consistent theme that comes through time and time again: For all the activity in Portland—all the cool startup energy and amazing tools being built—people feel pretty darn isolated in our relatively small town.
“What’s Startup Weekend?” you say? I’m glad you asked.
Startup Weekend is very much like the Ignite concept. Only it’s for a company.
I know. I hear you. “I’ve been to weekend codefests before.”
But, see, here’s where this one is a little different: It’s not a product. It’s a company.
One weekend to create one company.
That means design, development, marketing, public relations, business development, user experience, legal, and project management. All of those disciplines. In one room. Working to create a company under the gun.
What’s more, this isn’t some “Oh wasn’t that fun. Now let’s throw away all that work and go back to our lives.” This becomes a real company.
Startup Weekend recruits a highly motivated group of small business entrepreneurs to build a community and company in a weekend. The founders decide what to make as a team, and earn an equal share of stock in the developed business. Attendees are responsible for bringing the desire and passion to the project and walk out of the room with a brand new business, in a short 54 hours. Sound intense? It is.
So why all the hoopla from me? Well, there’s a little voting platform for deciding who gets to host Startup Weekends. And Portland is already on the list. So, we’re already part of the way there. All we need is to provide a little more oompf and we could have our very own Portland Startup Weekend.
Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? And I’m confident that with the brilliant folks in this town—and the great organizations that are working to bring us together *cough* Legion of Tech *cough*—we could turn it into quite an interesting event. A spectacle, if you will. In a good way. And an example of how we, as Portlanders and Silicon Forest… um “creatures” can come together to build something great.
And to start to eliminate some of those feelings of isolation.
As any small company or individual developer discovers, there are a number of requirements to “running a business” that often detract or steal time from your “building cool and useful stuff” time. And while many developers currently outsource these tasks to business-service professionals, the cost and time to manage those services and contractors can be equally draining.
There are lots of independent software developers and consultants in the Portland area, and while the technologies and applications vary wildly, there are probably some very common frustrations that could be aided under a co-op structure.
Sounds like an idea whose time has come. A sort of “Really Small Business Administration” to fill the gap for the market that the local SBA isn’t really designed to serve.