Giving thanks for a revitalized economy
Tuesday, December 3rd 2013 by McBru
· According to the Business Journal’s November economic index, Portland has surged in an economic ranking of top metro areas. According to an 18-point formula that factors in private-sector job growth, unemployment, personal earnings, housing-price appreciation, construction and retail activity, Portland jumped from position 42 to 29 in one month, indicating that the economy here is growing at a much faster rate than in many other cities of its size.
· According to state figures reported by the Oregonian, unemployment is now the lowest it has been in Oregon in the five years since the start of the Great Recession. In October, the state unemployment rate dipped to 7.7 percent, a steady decline from 8.1 percent in August; during this period, the state has added some 8,400 jobs. Leading the state’s economic growth is a resurgent construction sector, which grew 9.3 percent between October 1912 and
· October 2013. The state report doesn’t segment out the tech sector very cleanly, but the during the same time frame, “Professional and Technical Services” grew 3.5 percent, beating the state’s average of 2.5 percent, and adding 2,700 jobs between October 2012 and October 2013.
· Employment trends are even stronger in the seven-county Portland metro area, with the unemployment rate falling to 6.9 percent in October, the lowest the unemployment rate has been in the region since September 2008. The U.S. unemployment rate is currently 7.2 percent.
Amid these signs that our regional economy is growing stronger, with significant contributions from the Techlandia community, we give thanks.
Portland Startups and How They Grew
Wednesday, November 20th 2013 by McBru
Nothing makes the news faster (or easier) than making a list, and Portland-area startups have recently risen to the top of many of them. Last week it was the Deloitte Fast 500, which enumerated the fastest growing tech companies in the U.S. Five Portland-based startups made the list this year; last year, only one made the grade.
This marks the 19th year that Deloitte has given its Fast 500 awards, which rank businesses based on percentage of fiscal year revenue growth between 2008 and 2012. Eligible companies span a variety of industry sectors, and are leaders in hardware, software, telecom, semiconductors, life sciences and emerging areas such as clean technology.
Elemental Technologies was the highest ranked local startup, coming in at No. 26 on Deloitte’s list. Over the five years in question, Elemental has reported an astounding revenue growth of 9,482 percent. Also making the cut were Portland-based Puppet Labs, Act-On Software, Janrain, and Smarsh. Bend-based G5, which offers a digital property management platform, also entered the list at No. 198.
You’ll recall seeing many of these companies’ names on other fastest-growing, big-investment-winning lists, and it’s fair to wonder when these companies will cease to be considered startups due to their size and success.
Diane Fraiman, venture partner with Seattle-based Voyager Capital, provides an answer of sorts. In a conversation with the Portland Business Journal, Fraiman says the next 12 to 24 months are incredibly important for the Portland startup scene, because within that time frame she believes that up to eight current startups will experience liquidity, either through acquisition or IPO.
Fraiman believes these successes could be a catalyst for the entire startup scene and serve as proof point for what she calls the Portland Experiment: that Portland can be a great city in which to build a great business.
Portland didn’t get to this point with just its good looks and livability: It’s taken a lot of work and planning by lots of people to get the Portland startup ecosystem -- Techlandia -- where it is today. But it’s working. “It’s made Portland a hot little city for startups,” says Fraiman.
Changing Perceptions of Portland
Thursday, November 7th 2013 by McBruThe topic was supposed to be tips and strategies for raising venture capital in the Silicon Valley. But in addition to talking about funding, the speakers couldn’t resist talking about Portland.
Last Friday, at an event sponsored by the Technology Association of Oregon, Puneet Agarwal, a partner at the venture capital firm True Ventures, explained that when his firm first considered investing in Portland startups four years ago, many in the Silicon Valley investor community thought they were crazy. “There were a lot of misconceptions about Portland, at least back then. People thought we were insane.”
As reported by GeekWire, Agarwal said that many in Silicon Valley criticized Portland’s work ethic: Portlanders just weren’t interested in working the crazy hours that tech workers did in California.
But now, according to Agarwal, there’s been a big shift in Portland’s reputation.
Agarwal was presenting with Puppet Labs CEO Luke Kanies and Urban Airship CEO Scott Kveton, and he gave these two young executives a lot of the credit for change in Portland’s reputation in the tech world. “It’s in large part due to [Kanies and Kveton] and all the great startups that have popped up here … the perception of Portland is very strong now because of these guys.”
Agarwal and his firm was an early believer in the Portland startup scene, and in Puppet Labs and Urban Airship – True Ventures invested in Series A rounds for both companies.
It’s fascinating to chart the changing perceptions of Portland over the past few years – at the same time as the world laughs at our hipster foibles a la Portlandia, Portland is gaining a big reputation as an innovator in serious technology. As noted by Urban Airship’s Kveton, the new generation of successful startups in Portland is largely focused on building major platform or infrastructure solutions, not consumer apps and games.
“We just don’t do that here,” said Kveton. “Those that do need to be in the Bay Area, where they’re most likely to be acquired by a Facebook or Google. We’re building interesting, compelling businesses that stand on their own, no matter where they are. That’s the big difference with what’s happened here in the last five years.”
Techlandia – where young people go to build serious technology.
Getting the Techlandia Story Half Right
Thursday, October 31st 2013 by McBruThese days, Portland gets its fair share of national press coverage. Among the stories of farm-to-table restaurants and hipster lifestyles, a growing number of articles highlight the city’s startup scene. Witness the recent coverage from the Huffington Post. Last week, the online magazine named the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) as one of six top organizations in the U.S. that are changing how we engage and access technology.
Then this week, the Huff Post came visiting again. In the article “Silicon Forest: Portland Embraces Tech,” writer Peter S. Goodman provides a primer to Portland’s startup scene, discusses the role of accelerators in nurturing young businesses, and points to the role of private-public partnerships in forming a supportive environment for growing startups.
But read the article and let us know: Do you recognize the Portland described in this overview of the city’s startup scene?
It’s great to get positive national coverage for the tech scene in Portland and environs. But it’s fair to question if the Huff Post’s story does a good job of capturing what’s actually happening here. First take the article name. It’s kind of a surprise to see today’s tech scene in Oregon referred to as the “Silicon Forest,” a throwback to the glory days of Tektronix. As for the newsworthiness of “Portland Embraces Tech,” Intel has been the largest employer in Oregon since the 1990s.
That all said, the article tells an interesting story, profiling the first class of the Startup PDX Challenge, an accelerator competition created by the Portland Development Commission. While it’s great to see this new accelerator getting recognition, there is also groundbreaking work being done by long-established angel organizations, past and present. As noted by Rick Turoczky of the Silicon Florist blog, “Portland is getting ridiculously close to having—like brewpubs—more tech startup accelerators per capita than anyone else.”
It’s fantastic that the national media is focusing on Techlandia and the dynamic ecosystem that’s sprung up here to support young tech companies. What’s puzzling about the Huff Post story is what the article didn’t cover: The real story of what’s going on in Techlandia, which is far more robust than the Huff Post suggests.
TAO Cited for Tech Leadership: Huffington Post
Thursday, October 24th 2013 by McBruThe Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) made the Huffington Post’s list of six top organizations in the U.S. that are changing how we engage and access technology. In Top Tech Organizations: Leading the Revolution, writer Ivo Lukas singles out the TAO as a tech organization that is “helping society learn and access relevant resources in the STEM and technology world.” Lukas describes the TAO as an “extensive network [that] helps connect business, tech and software enthusiasts from all backgrounds in a collaborative way. Members have the opportunity to gain knowledge, skills, and entrepreneurial support from others. They also enjoy premier access to business services and exclusive pricing for community events, trainings, and conferences.” Lukas goes on to recognize TAO as an “entrepreneurship-friendly network [with] a state-wide mission.”
We’re in great company with the other top tech organizations named in the Huff Post article, and it’s a testament to the hard work of our members that we are recognized as one of the nation’s top “trailblazers for technology education, services, and resources.”
To engage more closely with the TAO and the larger Techlandia community is as simple as joining us at TAO-sponsored events and other tech-focused activities in the region. Just keep an eye on our site’s Upcoming Events and get involved in happenings across Oregon and southwest Oregon. Here’s an example of a fascinating TAO-sponsored discussion that may help change the direction of education in Oregon: