SAO's Transformation is Officially Underway
Friday, April 27th 2012 by Skip NewberryAs we approach SAO’s first-ever Member Recognition Gala, I want to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going as an organization. In the past seven months, we’ve taken steps to transform SAO into an organization that is more than just another trade association. By this I mean we’re evolving from a pure trade association into an organization that also does economic development on behalf of Oregon’s software and technology industries. These efforts are aligned around three areas: industry promotion, advocacy, and connections.
The vast majority of Oregon’s software and technology firms serve customers that are located outside of the state. We’ve therefore developed a website and database to focus on promoting the tech industry in Oregon and SW Washington in key markets nationally and globally. This project is called Techlandia, and the Gala marks its official launch.
As a complement to the website, we have also started to bring thought-leaders from important markets to Oregon, such as a meetup with Israeli entrepreneur and investor, Jonathan Medved, and a Wireless Innovation Forum with leading Canadian companies. We are also using events like Webvisions to create buzz for Oregon tech firms in key markets outside of the state.
At the Gala we will be announcing another initiative, called Portland 100, to build and strengthen connections between high-growth Oregon software firms and top-notch advisors, investors, and influencers in Oregon and in other markets. This program is a collaboration of private, public, and nonprofit organizations.
With industry data and company profiles featured on the Techlandia.org website, we are able to tell an authentic and compelling story about the economic importance of Oregon’s technology industry. This is important not only in markets outside of the state, but also here in Oregon. The success of Oregon’s technology industry depends in large part on the state’s business environment. In order to improve that environment, as an industry, we need to have a credible seat at the table.
The public sector has the ability to impact the supply of tech talent, the cost of doing business, the availability of resources for businesses, and the regulatory environment. For this reason, we are strengthening SAO’s presence throughout the state on issues of importance to the technology community, developing relationships with public officials and other business leaders, and listening closely to the needs of our member companies. At the Gala we will provide an update on some of our recent advocacy efforts like the Oregon Investment Act.
The effectiveness of trade associations is measured in large part on their ability to connect people, companies, organizations, and industries. What marks a truly great organization is, however, its ability to foster collaboration. This is our goal at SAO.
Through networking events and programs, SAO connects tech companies to other businesses to drive revenue. Through Leadership Exchanges and Forums, SAO connects people to other people for professional development. By working with other industry associations and economic development organizations, SAO connects the tech industry to other markets.
Collaboration requires alignment around values and objectives. As a result of the PDX11 effort, we have a decent understanding of what drives different parts of our tech community, and where there are some shared goals. Our next step is to figure out ways to improve upon existing points of connection—such as programs and events--to address these common needs. At the Gala we will provide an overview of some of the latest initiatives undertaken by the Mentor Network to make it easier for people to connect and collaborate, as well as some new program offerings from SAO.
As an organization that represents the tech industry in Oregon and SW Washington, SAO faces a number of challenges. Regarding industry promotion, our challenge is to represent the tech industry, its companies and professionals in a clear, compelling, and authentic way. In our advocacy efforts, our challenge is to educate and listen to the tech community and develop consensus and alignment around important issues. And in terms of connections, our challenge is to find ways to transform connections into meaningful collaboration.
My challenge to you is to get involved. SAO is at the beginning of a transformation. It’s your organization: now’s your opportunity to define it.