Category: WhyPortland

Why Portland? Amy Winkelman says “Hi Vidoop, welcome to Portland!”

[Editor: This is Portland. And this is why I love Portland. New Vidoop transplants ask a few questions, and Portland responds. And, as I read through this response, it struck me as a perfect “Why Portland?” entry. So, Portvangelist Amy Winkelman, take it away.]

I’m a friend of Rick Turoczy’s who pointed me to his Silicon Florist post about you all moving to Portland. Since I’m currently on a client work project in China, I’ll miss meeting you at Beer and Blog. However, I’m currently riding in a bus for the next three hours from Huizhou to Hong Kong and it’s a perfect opportunity to try and answer the questions you posed.

Like Rick, I’m thrilled to have another way-cool tech company come to Portland and as a native Oregonian and fanatic Portlander, I love recommending things to new folks visiting the city.

So, here goes…

Portland geographic primer

Oh, just one thing first – a quick guide to directions in town. The city is basically divided up into four quadrants (NE, SE, NW, SW) + North Portland which is sometimes referred to as NoPo. The Willamette (oh yeah, it’s pronounced “Wil-lam-it”) river is the divider between East and West, and Burnside Street is the divider between North and South. A couple of notable neighborhoods fall into the following sections:

Oh yeah, and in NW Portland the streets are alphabetical in one direction (Burnside, Couch, Davis, Everett, etc.) and numbered in the other direction so it’s super easy to get around. Since Portland is home to a couple of mapping start-ups, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. 🙂

Now, to get to the questions…

Koesmanto Bong

Is there any local friendly pick up soccer and volleyball games in Portland?

For volleyball, the schedules and availability of courts change a lot depending on time of year, so check out: http://volyplyr.brinkster.net/pv.asp and http://www.portlandvolleyball.org/

I’m not a soccer player, so I don’t know about that, sorry!

Where can I find authentic Chinese food in Portland?

In the city, you can try Fong Chong in Chinatown/Old Town. [Editor: And within walking distance of the Vidoop office, to boot!] The area is a little dicey at night, so I’d recommend going in the day. But really, most of the Chinese immigrants and families have moved out to SE 82nd (around Division St.) where it’s less expensive, so the most authentic places are up there. The biggest place and possibly the most authentic for dim sum is called Legin. It’s huge and popular (big wedding banquet spot and really busy on Sundays).

My favorite Chinese restaurant isn’t necessarily authentic, but it’s very tasty (kind of expensive though)—it’s called Sungari Pearl on NW 11th & Lovejoy in the Pearl District. [Editor: A little bit of a hike from the Vidoop offices, or a streetcar ride away.]

Is bacon the official choice of food of the city?

It is according to @verso, but I would honestly say anything that is locally farm grown, organic and/or “artisan” is generally pretty popular. Portland is also known for coffee, microbrew, and micro-distillers, wine, berries, hazelnuts and anything you can find at the farmer’s market. Oh, and you’ll see many McMenamins restaurants of different types around town, all owned by a pair of hippie brothers who renovate old spaces and put in restaurants, theaters, etc. each with its own sort of theme. They hire local artists to decorate them, McMenamins microbrew on tap and decent pub food, and the atmosphere is very Portland.

Joel Curran

Where can I find some info on some sports leagues?

Online is the best way to go here. There are tons of leagues, and most should have Web-based info, registration, etc. available. There seems to be a league or group of people who get together to play just about every sport there is (I even see croquet players and bocci ball players in my neighborhood).

Who are some of the top local bands?

[Editor: Look out. You’ve struck a chord here. Oh my. Bad pun.] Indie-rock is the most popular kind of music here. The Shins, Modest Mouse, Spoon, The Decemberists, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Quasi, The Gossip, The Dandy Warhols, Helio Sequence, Stars of Track and Field, Menomena, The Thermals and many more call Portland home. It’s a great music town.

Pink Martini is also hugely popular, but they are a totally different kind of thing… just check them out. They’re fun. Floater is also a long-time favorite local band of many.

Oh, and the jazz/blues scene is strong—Jimmy Mak’s in the Pearl District is a great place to see jazz/blues players. Curtis Salgado is sort of the king of that scene, as is Mel Brown.

What is the one place you would say is a “must-go” for my trip to Portland this weekend?

That’s a really hard question since I don’t know what you’re into. Best thing to do is to pick up a Willamette Week (best alternative paper in Portland) and check out what’s going on this weekend. Here are some other ideas:

  • If you like books (no, if you enjoy life!), you must go to Powell’s. Best bookstore on the planet. NW 10th & Burnside.
  • Saturday morning, check out the Saturday Portland Farmers’ Market in the South Park blocks (downtown by Portland State University) as that’s a good slice of Portland life, and has great food.
  • Go down to the Willamette River waterfront (Tom McCall waterfront park) and walk along the promenade.
  • Take a ride on the Portland Streetcar to the South Waterfront area and take the Portland Aerial Tram up to OHSU (hospital at the top of the hill) for a great view of the city.
  • Check out who’s playing at the Crystal Ballroom, the Doug Fir Lounge, Roseland, Wonder Ballroom, Berbati’s Pan or Jimmy Mak’s and go there for some live music and a drink. [Editor: More of Amy’s insights on venues below.]
  • Try Stumptown Coffee (various spots around the city) for amazing coffee and hipster viewing.
  • If you like to hike or just want a walk in the woods, go to Forest Park—the largest city park in the US. It’s not really a park, but a forest that has amazing trails for short, long or really long hikes. You will totally forget you’re still in the city. A good way to access it is from Washington Park and the Hoyt Arboretum which is also by the Oregon Zoo (accessible by MAX light rail).
  • If you’re a movie buff, there are tons of great theaters, from high-end fancy to down-to-earth funky. I like the pub theaters where you can order food and a beer while watching a second-run flick for only a couple of bucks—try the Mission (in NW), Laurelhurst Theater (NE) or the Bagdad (SE) [Editor: Home of Ignite Portland 3]. On the nicer side, try Fox Tower theaters (downtown) or for strictly independent or foreign flicks, check out the Living Room Theaters (downtown/NW) and Cinema 21 (NW).
  • I’d also recommend checking out Jackpot Records (downtown & SE) and Music Millennium (NE), two of the best independent music stores.
  • For art galleries, restaurants and window shopping, go to the Pearl District (if the weather is good, Jamison Square on NW 10th/11th & Johnson is filled with kids and families playing in the fountain which is fun to watch). I love walking around Northwest Portland along NW 21st & NW 23rd which has some great stores, restaurants and people watching opportunities—both neighborhoods are accessible using the Streetcar.
  • Oh, and it’s definitely a good idea to grab a donut at Voodoo Doughnut at some point—a true Portland experience (downtown, just off Burnside on SW 3rd).

And most importantly, what is the best place for some Mexican food?

Portland is not really known for its Mexican food (sad, but true), but I really really like Nuestra Cocina (SE Division St). Also try Por Que No (NoPo on Mississippi), Cha Cha Cha (NE), or for funky Tex-Mex you can go to Esparza’s just off E Burnside and 28th.

Jason Grlicky

Where is the best local place to get music gear?

Portland Music Co. is the most well-known (several stores around town).

What are your favorite venues?

My favorite is a little (smoke-free) spot called the Doug Fir Lounge that mostly features indie-rock bands (it’s on East Burnside, just over the Burnside bridge from downtown). It has a great bar and restaurant with a cool design, and is located in an up-and-coming area of town with some hip restaurants and shops.

I also really like the Crystal Ballroom, also on Burnside, but in NW/downtown Portland. It’s a lot bigger, brings in all sorts of musical acts and since it’s a McMenamins, the art/design is very Portland. It also has this awesome old-time dancefloor with springs underneath it so you bounce when you dance or pogo or sway, whatever you do. The Wonder Ballroom is another good spot for music (in North/NE).

Who wants to get together and play some board games?

I’ve seen people get together the Lucky Lab pub in SE Portland (on Hawthorne just over the Hawthorne Bridge) for board games. I’m not positive about which night—like Wednesdays maybe?—so check online. It’s a great pub, and I’ve seen all kinds of board games set up that I think you can just join in and play if there’s a seat open.

Robert Nelson aka Rob

Where should I live?

Well, are you single? Have kids? Want to buy a house or rent an apartment? Do you want to bike/walk to work? Want to spend a lot of money on rent/mortgage or only a little? All those things are pretty key (you know that, duh), but let me know what you’re looking for and I can recommend some neighborhoods for you to check out.

I’ve lived in several different kinds of places in NE, SE and NW Portland and each area has its own distinct neighborhoods with their own individual personality. I don’t know where Vidoop’s offices are going to be, but that’s definitely something to consider as well since Portland has excellent public transportation and bike routes so you may want to factor that into where you decide to live.

Where are some great places close to down/mid town to hike?

Forest Park! You will grow to love and adore it—it’s right in town, huge, gorgeous and has great, well-maintained trails. And of course right outside of the city, there are many amazing hiking, mountain biking and walking trails through forests, up/down mountains, along rivers, etc.

Sushi?

Oh, are you going to love Portland! My favorite (traditional) sushi place is in the Pearl District and called Hiroshi (after the chef). It’s a little expensive, but has the best quality fish I think. Other hot spots are Saburos (in SE/Sellwood – go early, it’s crowded), Yakuza (NE), and Masu (downtown & SE). For cheaper but still decent sushi, there are many Mio Sushi’s around town also.

Live music?

Depends on what kind of music you like, but check out who’s playing at the Crystal Ballroom, the Doug Fir Lounge, Roseland, Wonder Ballroom, Berbati’s Pan or Jimmy Mak’s which are the places I’ve gone to most often.

Places to train MMA (jiu jitsu and kickboxing)?

Sorry, no idea… [Editor: I’m hoping that Jake Kuramoto will jump in here. He may even offer to beat you up!]

Joel D. Siedenburg

Looking for a good gym…?

24 Hour Fitness is in just about every neighborhood (downtown, Pearl District, NE, etc.) which is where I go (well, sometimes…). I have some friends who really like the YMCA downtown by Portland State University. There is a Nautilus gym downtown, and some boutique gyms in NW Portland. Oh, and there are tons of yoga and Pilates studios if you’re into that sort of thing (located all over the city).

Where are some close fly-fishing spots?

Not sure, sorry about that. I know people who head down to the McKenzie River near Eugene (about 2 hours away) and I know there is awesome fly fishing on the Rogue River in southern Oregon (about 5 hours away), but I’m sure there are places closer by. A friend of mine is a fly-fishing fanatic (and local software engineering guy) so I’d be happy to do an email invitation for you and he could fill you in.

And definitely need to start looking more into housing… recommendations?

I don’t know what price range you’re looking for, but Portland’s housing prices may be a bit high in comparison to what you’re used to. Every neighborhood in Portland has its own personality and price range, and the closer-in you go toward downtown, the more expensive it is generally. Let me know what you’re looking for and I can do my best to recommend some cool neighborhoods. I also have a really good realtor I’ve used a couple of times if you need that.

Benjamin Stover

What kind of bike should I buy? A hybrid? Where’s the best place to buy one?

Since I bike around on an old busted up mountain bike on the occasions when I do bike, I’m the worst person to ask. But, there are amazing bike resources in town, including some excellent bike shops (Bike Gallery, River City Bicycles, even REI) that have super nice people who can help you. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is a non-profit to check out—they should be a good jumping off point for bike-related questions. They’re actually a really strong force in the city to promote better bike lanes, bike safety and to make Portland even more bike-friendly.

Is there a good capoeira group in Portland? Muay thai?

I so had to look up capoeira on wikipedia. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t practitioners in Portland… [Editor: Again, recommending Jake Kuramoto—who should be at Beer and Blog—to help in this regard.]

What are the geeky niches in Portland? e.g., retro video game hobbyists? Chiptunes scene?

Portland has lots of geeky subcultures, including retro video game hobbyists (check out Ground Kontrol in Old Town [Editor: Conveniently located just below the current Vidoop office])… The city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird” so I guarantee you that you’ll find “your people” whoever they may be.

Again, the Web is your best friend when it comes to finding them.

More questions?

I hope this helps, that you have great weather during your stay and that you enjoy Portland as much as we do. 🙂

Please feel free to drop me a note over email amywinkelman at gmail dot com or Twitter if you have any questions.

Have fun!

Amy Winkelman

Why Portland? After trying LA, a native returns home to the northwest

[Editor: And the “Why Portland?” series—which began with Intrigo and continued with Tim Kadlec—continues with Heather N of Strands. What’s Strands? Well, if you’d like to find out, something tells me that “Portland” may also help you get into their private BETA. Now, on with the story…]

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and Los Angeles was the last place I imagined living.

But about a year after graduating college, I was working in Santa Monica at a new social network called TagWorld, focusing on online marketing, business development and project management. And, after becoming immersed in Los Angeles tech and social media, Portland seemed even further away.

But, as TagWorld evolved into Flux (Viacom as a minority investor), I became more aware of a growing tech scene in Portland and the temptation to return grew.

Eventually, I decided my relationship with LA was coming to an end, and Portland called. Soon enough, I found myself at Strands as the new Community Manager. Strands is headquartered in Corvallis, but I have been given the opportunity to work remotely and evangelize to the Portland community, which I am very excited about.

For the past four years, Strands has been working to develop social recommender systems that can be applied to numerous verticals. After a very active 2007 ($55M raised in VC funding; $12M in sales), 2008 is the year we will be presenting this technology to the world. We are applying our recommendation technologies to three areas: personal finance, social media, and business solutions.

Though I have only begun my journey into the tech sphere of Portland, I have already noticed an interesting dichotomy with that of Los Angeles.

LA is all about competition, competition, competition

I won’t go as far to say that the tech community in Los Angeles is as cut throat as their entertainment industry, but in some cases it’s a close second. With a new NDA being drawn up every minute, companies offering the world to a person to join them and leave their current position and enemy lines being drawn between social media companies, there is a definite switch in the overall feeling of community in LA.

Of course there are some amazing start-ups and tech companies that don’t employ as aggressive tactics, but they’re a bit harder to find in LA than here in Portland.

It’s only been a few weeks and I already feel happily welcomed into the Portland tech community. Not only do people from different companies and verticals work together, but also everyone I have met has been very willing to help in whatever capacity that may be. This makes me realize that the overall sense of the Portland tech industry is much like that of the people of this city.

Portland is free of over-saturation

To me Portland is the perfect size. Not only in terms of a city but also that of tech. I am shocked to see just how much is going on in tech and social media in this town, but doubt it will ever become too much.

In LA, I worked in a three-block radius of some of the biggest tech companies in the world and that was just in Santa Monica. Though you do run into a lot of the same people and I did make some amazing relationships, it was never possible to get a stronghold on the entire tech community.

In Portland it seems everyone is connected and the close-knit environment is not only inviting, but extremely helpful in my job objective for Strands.

Portland excels at “Keeping it Real”

Los Angeles is a city full of archetypal sorts that exist nowhere else—other than our minds. Though the tech world of LA is separate from this, these models of perfection that only LA possesses occasionally bleed over.

I don’t feel that the Portland is trying to be something its not. The unrealistic idealism that floats through Los Angeles has not made its way to Portland, and I love that.

Looking forward

As much as I am now at the point of critique, I would never trade a second of my time in Los Angeles. I became immersed in a world I never would have dreamed of being a part of and now can take the experience with me.

I am very ready to submerge myself in the Portland tech community and get people as interested and excited in Strands as I am.

Have you got a “Why Portland?” story to tell? I’d love to hear it. Feel free to drop me note at siliconflorist at gmail.

Why Portland? Tim Kadlec provides a view from outside the bubble

[Editor: Happy to be continuing the “Why Portland?” series…

I had the pleasure of meeting Tim Kadlec at SXSW 2008. Just one of those random connections that really made the whole event worthwhile. At SXSW, the Portland crowd took Tim under our collective wing and worked hard to woo him from the Midwest to the West coast. We’re still working on it, but it’s clear we’re having an effect.

And with that, here’s an outsider’s view on “Why Portland?”]

I was recently asked by Rick if I would like to write a guest post for Silicon Florist about why I “find Portland tech appealing.” I think that was his nice way of saying, “Why are you so obsessed with Portland tech?” Can you be a fanboi of a community? If so, then I guess I’m a bit of a Portland fanboi.

It all started innocently enough….

I’ve visited Oregon many times and always loved how beautiful a state it was. With the ocean nearby and gorgeous mountains a short drive away, Portland offers no shortage of beautiful scenery.

Then I started to look into what was going on in the Portland web community, liked the activity I was seeing, and my interest in the area started to slowly develop beyond sightseeing.

In March, I had the opportunity to attend SXSW in Austin, TX where I got the opportunity to meet and talk with Rick Turoczy, Toby Lucich, Dawn Foster, Scott Kveton, and a whole flood of Portlanders. After hearing each of them rave about Portland and the work that was being done by their peers there, I was hooked.

The tech community in Portland is a great example of what other communities should strive for. They are consistently innovative, develop quality solutions and genuinely get excited about seeing progress.

Portland’s web community is thriving. No doubt about it. With high-quality companies such as Vidoop, Jive, SplashCast, JanRain and so many more, you could easily imagine a situation where communication between developers is minimal….that’s an awful lot of competition in one area!

The exact opposite happens though…there is a surplus of support and communication taking place. There is no shortage of sites whose primary goal is to sing the praises of Portland. PDX Web Innovators, Portland Is Awesome, Portland on Fire, and of course, Silicon Florist, all try to bring attention to Portland and the wonderful quality of work being produced there.

I can honestly say that I haven’t seen another community where so many people are so excited about what they do and where they do it.

That general excitement is why I believe Portland’s tech community continues to grow. They say enthusiasm is contagious, and it looks like Portland is severely infected.

In the end, it’s this enthusiasm, excitement and sense of community that makes Portland so appealing to me. I believe when you surround yourself with people who have similar interests and are willing to share their experiences and knowledge, great things happen. Portland offers that environment and the ideas being developed there echo it.

Tim Kadlec is a web developer from Wisconsin who specializes in Javascript and CSS development. For more, check out Tim’s blog or follow tkadlec on Twitter. You are also highly encouraged to join the campaign to woo Kadlec to Portland.

Why Portland? Intrigo succumbs to serendipity

[Editor: For those folks outside the Silicon Forest who stumble upon this blog, I tend to get a bunch of questions about Portland: What makes Portland so special? Why do I keep hearing about Portland? Should I move there? Can I stay at your house?

It goes on and on.

But they’re all really asking the same thing: Why Portland?

So, I’m starting a new series of posts entitled—appropriately enough—“Why Portland?” In so doing, I hope to provide some different viewpoints what makes Portland, the Silicon Forest, and the whole startup scene around here so special.]

Intrigo succumbs to serendipity

IntrigoGo to practically any Legion of Tech event or a Beer and Blog or a Portland Lunch 2.0, and more likely than not, you’ll have the pleasure of meeting someone from Intrigo, a small Portland-based development shop focused on helping startups get their products and sites to market as quickly as possible.

And Intrigo isn’t just participating. They’re sponsoring. They’re pitching in to help. They’re part and parcel of the burgeoning Portland startup scene.

They must have been around here forever.

Not exactly.

In reality, the first footsteps that Tucson, Arizona, founded Intrigo set in Portland were last October.

“Four days of rain,” said Nathan Bell, who helps run Intrigo.

They were here as part of a search for a new home for Intrigo. But at that point, Portland wasn’t really even on the list.

“We were looking to get out of Tucson,” said Bell. “We had a list of places we were exploring: San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Boston, Boulder, and Austin. But a couple of us were interested in looking at Portland.”

And yet, lo and behold, here they are in good old Portland. What won them over?

“Portland is so dense compared to the other cities. So focused in a small area with a very tight community,” said Bell. “Even with the weather, that visit had us putting Portland near the top of the list. And after a few conversations with the team, that was that.”

So, Intrigo packed up its entire company and began to relocate to Portland. Because, in their opinion, Portland had things that Tucson lacked, among them a good technology sector and growing startup scene. Things that were important for their business to succeed.

But the interesting thing was that that decision preceded their first face-to-face interactions with the Portland tech community. Even more interesting? At the point in time they were making that decision, the now exceptionally collaborative Portland Web startup community had just barely begun to gel.

But it was starting to gel. And there was one particular event that marked the beginning of that startup community getting more collegial: Ignite Portland.

And as serendipity would have it, that event was Intrigo’s introduction to the Portland startup scene.

“One of our first hires sent us a YouTube video from Ignite Portland,” said Bell. “And that led us to getting involved with the Legion of Tech. Because we wanted to support that kind of thing.”

And they’ve been continuing to support it ever since.

So, now Intrigo is indeed part of the startup scene that coincidentally seemed to come together even as they made their plans to move to the Rose City. They’re an anchor for events. And a definitive presence in the community.

They’ve helped make the Portland Web startup community what it is today. In effect, defining their own future. And they will—no doubt—continue to do so.

So, now, what does Intrigo see for Portland’s future? And what are they looking for from Portland?

“I’d like to see the Portland Web startup scene gain more and more critical mass,” said Bell. “I’d like to see this become a self-sustaining movement that attracts more and more companies to Portland.”

And as that happens, what is Intrigo’s role?

“We’re still maturing and working to find our niche,” said Bell. “We’re still figuring out how we’ll fit into the ecosystem around here. One thing is for sure, we’ll keep focusing on what we do well: building deeply technical Web apps for startups.”

If this is the way Intrigo spends its first six months in town, I can’t wait to see what they’re capable of doing once they’re settled.

For more on Intrigo, follow the Intrigo blog. To keep tabs on Nathan Bell, follow nathanpbell on Twitter.

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