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
Recently, Mike Rogoway of The Oregonian has been working on a piece about the small Web and mobile startups here in town and the community that has grown up around them. The article—entitled “Tech Entrepreneurs Defy the Recession“—has been posted to the Web and should be in the print edition on Saturday.
It’s an expansive piece that manages to bring together views from a number of different folks from the Portland Web startup scene. Among them, David Abramowski, Ward Cunningham, Dave Hersh, Harvey Mathews, Kevin Tate, Raven Zachary, and Josh Bancroft. Read More
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.
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.
Last night, an endless volley of entrepreneurs and would-be startups stepped up to a mic at Nedspace and provided a 2-3 minute pitch on what they would do with $250,000 over the next year.
And man, were there some incredible ideas—some incredibly cool, some incredibly wacky—but all incredible nonetheless.
There was only one problem: I didn’t see you up there.
I can watch the video again, just to be sure. But I’m fairly certain you won’t appear.
I mean, sure. I got to see Ron Barrett, Carolynn Duncan, Dave Howell, Scott Kveton, Sasha Mace, John Metta, Chris Logan, Bob Uva, Ken Westin, and Steve Woodward. I love all of those folks. And I’ll applaud anyone who gets up in front of a crowd to speak, because I certainly don’t relish it.
Heck, somebody from the Office of the State Treasurer for Oregon even showed up.
But I didn’t see you. And that made me kind of sad.
But, then again, I’m all about second chances. So how about this? How about you take a few seconds to provide some details about one, two, or 12 of your current side projects? Take a moment to reflect on what you could do with $250,000 in the next year, to help bring your product or idea to fruition.
Don’t think you’re worthy? Not interested in getting funding? I’d still encourage you to take a few moments to respond. Really, what could it hurt?
The point is this: rising water floats all boats. And our state treasurer needs convincing that we have a viable entrepreneurial environment filled with viable startups just waiting to take form. What’s more, if these folks can pull off putting together a $100 million fund for Oregon startups, it’s going to help all of us.
But don’t just take my word for it. David Abramowski has some great insights about what funding Oregon startups could do for the local economy.
Come to think of it, I don’t even care if you live in Oregon right now. If you’d be willing to relocate to Oregon to start your business, you’re more than welcome to fill out the form, as well.
So maybe you’re trying to build a music service or a calendar aggregator or a niche social network or a new form of CRM or an iPhone agency or a mobile development shop focused on usability or a better support tool or charting where you’ve been or figuring out where your friends are or providing space for your peers to work and socialize or archiving the Web or finding happy hours or producing a weekly podcast or providing information about every Web site ever.
Maybe what you’re really interested in doing isn’t even geeky. Maybe you’re more interested in building out a photography business or covering the Portland scene or building some tangible product or creating a new kind of agency.
And I know you’ve got some ideas.
But here’s the catch: you need to respond, now. And I mean right now. The team pursuing the fund wants to get this information assembled by Wednesday, March 25.
So take a deep breath and dive in. I’ll keep this form open until Wednesday at midnight. Then, I’ll gather up all of the responses and ship them off to the folks working on this. They, in turn, will crate them up and dump them on the Oregon Treasurer’s, the Governor’s, and the various Mayors’ desks.
Remember, there were some cool ideas pitched, last night. But none of them were as cool as yours.
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.