I have one question down. The same question I get asked – over and over again – exponentially more than any other. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone who was born and raised in Portland or if it’s someone who just moved here. It doesn’t matter if they are well connected or don’t know anyone. It doesn’t matter if they work for a big company or if they start their own business. And it’s one of those questions that seems to baffle practically everyone with an interest in entrepreneurship or startups here. And this question stuck in constant repetition is: How do I connect with other people in the startup community in Portland…?
Honestly, I get this question a lot, and sometimes wonder why I refer to it as a “community”. Sometimes, it appears to be a group of individuals loosely integrated into separate silos—or, worse, all on their own—who share a particular geographic area. Like an office building full of people in different businesses who vaguely recognize each other from the elevator but never talk, never cooperate, and never connect. Who for all intents and purposes lacks the actual connection to make the community an actual community.
And that’s frustrating. Because I know all of these organizations, event organizers, mentors, investors, and individuals who are all doing their part in connecting people to the local startup community, other resources, and each other. People who volunteer their time to make the community an accessible and collaborative place. People who get paid to create the software and infrastructure to support founders and startups. And a slew of people always ready to hop on a Zoom call or grab a coffee with anyone who asks. It’s all as part of an effort to ensure that people who are new or beginners can access the support and resources they need.
And I know that those individuals who ask me this single question have somehow managed to find their way to me. They have found at least one foothold or access point in the proverbial community. At least they’ve figured out that much—probably with too much effort. A more roundabout and ineffective way than necessary.
But I also know – even with this point of contact – that I can’t provide everything they need. Often, I can’t even provide a look similar to what they need. As much as I want. I need all those other organizations and individuals and all the value they provide. I need a safety net for the people who found me. Instead of a laundry list of other organizations and people, they need to start chasing after them.
Because for society to actually function, it takes collaboration. Not some semblance of cooperation. Not talking about cooperation. cooperation. Intensive collaboration. commitment to this cooperation.
But most of all, it takes something to align and bring these collaborators together. Take the front door. or campfire. or hub. Or another horizontal analogy that talks about being the first stop a person knows, anywhere, as the starting point for their journey. And that everyone in town knows it, promotes it, and shares it.
But for all our talk of collaboration, networking, and fellowship, that just doesn’t exist in Portland. I could write a dissertation on why I think this is the case, but that’s not really the point. (And if you want more talk about how frustrating this can be, spend some time with Stephen Green.)
Instead, people enter — or struggle to enter society — through a variety of side doors, random connections, or disorganized cordons. Sometimes they do. More often than not, they get frustrated. Or give up completely.
And I don’t blame them. Absolutely. It is an ineffective and frustrating morass. And it’s a study in making something much more difficult than it needs to be. Worst of all, it is not conducive to society. at least. It is corrosive.
That’s why I’ve been somewhat relieved by some of the recent efforts at the state level to begin to resolve some of these issues. To fund collaboration and infrastructure to make “communication” less of a chore. and to ensure that organizations and individuals alike easily get the support they need.
You know, like you actually have a community. Who knows, maybe one day inhalation You have a “startup ecosystem”. But I will accept society at this point.
Yes, we’ve been here before. Likely several times. But you know me, crazy optimist. It is only in its early stages. And there is still a long, long way to go. But it’s a start. And your input is critical. So I would like to ask for your help.
I know we are all exhausted. I understand that you have been asked the same questions over and over again. And I think I was able to point out that I share your frustration. (If not, I can scream for a while longer.) But if you like it, I’d love to hear from you again. or the first time. or last time. Hoping we can do something this time with your feedback.
If you have a couple of minutes – maybe this weekend – I implore you to share your thoughts on what’s right with the startup community in Portland and more importantly what’s wrong to fix. And ask your colleagues—or your limited connections to the community—to do the same. Because I want you to be able to access the community you need. And a handful of people do, too.
or don’t. And we can only continue to groan about the frustrating status quo for generations to come.
Please and thank you.
[Full disclosure: PIE is part of a working group that is focused on creating an “innovation hub” for the Portland metro area. I am the cofounder and general manager of PIE.]