Silicon Florist blogger Rick Turoczy named 3 defining aspects of the industry - hardware roots, open source projects and iPhone development. Turoczy has been in Oregon for the past 15-years and started Silicon Florist as a way to cover the region's early stage startup scene alongside other Portland tech sites like Mike Rogoway's Silicon Forest blog and Strange Love Live.
Since then he's watched his town grow into a bustling tech hub and enjoyed every minute of it. ReadWriteWeb caught up with Turoczy and a few other Portland influencers to get a feel for the scene.
Entrepreneur and Urban Airship CEO Scott Kveton manages to keep a foot in both the open source community and the iPhone community. While Urban Airship focuses on building out iPhone infrastructure for developers, Kveton is also well known for working with Oregon State University to start the Open Source Lab - the first state-wide open source development curriculum. Coupled with the fact that O'Reilly's OSCON and the Linux creator Linus Torvalds call the region home, Oregon's developers understand the value of shared knowledge and community. When asked how the open source movement has shaped Oregon's entrepreneurs, Kveton replies, "Portland has a live free or die attitude. We engage in community and unlike other groups we really share our knowledge."
The majority of ReadWriteWeb's team calls Portland home. Agrees Marshall Kirkpatrick, "There's a very supportive community, lots of very creative people and a great history of geekery. People interested in open source, wikis, RSS and mobile apps will find some of the most influential developers and companies in the world available to connect with in Portland."
Raven Zachary is one such developer. Zachary helped start BarCamp Portland, Ignite Portland, iPhoneDevCamp and still serves on the board of Legion of Tech - a group that organizes Oregon-based tech events. Through his work as the President of Small Society he's built iPhone apps for a number of influential campaigns including the Obama '08 iPhone app. When asked what he thinks of Portland he explains, "Portland attracts people - people who want to stay here and ideally work for local businesses. We have a huge population of telecommuters in this city working for out of state employers, many in California. The talent is here, the greater challenge is the receptivity of investors to bet on Portland-based tech companies."
Portland Entrepreneur Josh Friedman knows as well as anyone how hard it is to raise funding. Friedman took the skills he'd learned from Intel and applied them to start Eleven Wireless and startup co-working facility Nedspace. Says Friedman, "It was hard as hell to raise money and at the time I was pretty well connected.There's a gap in funding resources for Portland entrepreneurs looking to raise between $25,000-250,000 dollars and it needs to be addressed...While our Angel investors are great, they simply aren't doing the volume to take chances on early-stage companies." Friedman is looking to expand Nedspace to ten additional cities in 2010 and is rumored to be raising a seed fund for Portland-based startups. Says Friedman, "If it wasn't exciting here I don't think I'd live here. I really believe in my heart and soul that Portland can be the best city in the world to start a business. The fact that it's a cheap to live, in addition to being a clean and cool place makes it a good place for entrepreneurs. If we combine that with the right investors, people will move here in droves."
Says Rick Turoczy, "In some ways this whole town is an incubator. People here view technology as an artistic pursuit and they like to muck about in coffee shops and co-working facilities. In the 15 years I've lived here it's the most cohesive and collegial community yet. This sort of creative spirit doesn't always come with a business plan, but as more companies like Jive and JanRain get funding, we're starting to see the developers and VCs get on the same page."
Oregon Entrepreneurs Network: OEN helps Oregon and SW Washington-based entrepreneurs manage their early-stage companies. The group's programs include the Portland Angel Network, Women's Investment Network and Oregon Angel Fund. The group also hosts conferences including Angel Oregon and Venture Northwest as well as a series of business-related PubTalks on the second Wednesday of every month.
Portland Ten: Portland Ten is an incubator program where companies buy into their own development and make a goal to reach to $1M in revenue by Oct, 2010.
Coworking Portland Wiki: This wiki keeps a list of local co-working spaces and requests for shared spaces.
If you've got more resources for the Portland area let us know in the comments below.
Photo Credit: Stu Seeger