Portland, OR isn’t just a place where young people go to retire and hang out at urban wineries. The city also plays host to a fair number of prominent startups, including companies like Urban Airship, JanRain, Simple and Puppet Labs, as well as outposts of established players like Intel, Microsoft, IBM and eBay. To keep this momentum going, the Software Association of Oregon (SAO) launched two new initiatives this week: Portland 100 – a pilot program that will help select tech startups with finding mentors, talent and resources – and Techlandia.org. The idea behind these programs is to help the region’s most promising startups scale their businesses and attract talent.
Portland 100 is looking for companies with ambitious founders and plans to focus its resources on startups that are looking to exit or achieve a certain revenue threshold in five years. As SAO’s president Skip Newberry told me earlier today, the plan here is rather ambitious: as the name implies, Portland 100 is looking for companies that can either get to a $100 million or more liquidity event or achieve $100 million or more in sales within five years. The program isn’t focusing on specific areas, but Newberry assumes that it will likely concentrate on markets like mobile and location that Portland is already known for. It’s worth noting that Portland 100 isn’t just inward focused. The program also aims to work with investors from outside of the state.
With this program, SAO wants to bring together organizations from the private, public and educational sectors. As Newberry pointed out, Portland 100 and Techlandia are good examples for the kind of collaborative initiatives that Portland’s startup scene often fosters.
Techlandia is both the public face of this initiative, as well as a new hub for local industry news and data. The site is meant to showcase Portland as a city that has a critical mass of startups to attract talent and investors to the city and as “a great place to grow early-stage startups.”
As for the Portland startup scene in general, Newberry noted that finding engineers in the city isn’t necessarily the biggest problem, but that attracting executive talent for marketing and sales positions, for example, can often be hard. This, of course, is one of the problems that Portland 100 is trying to solve.
One advantage for local startups, though, is that the war for talent in Portland isn’t quite as bad as in Silicon Valley. Hence, employees generally don’t change employers quite as often. While salaries in the city may be lower than in the Valley, the cost of living also tends to be significantly lower.
It’s worth noting that there are a number of other startup initiatives happening in Portland as well. Wieden+Kennedy’s Portland Incubator Experiment, for example, graduated its first class this January. Portland Seed Fund is about to graduate its second class of startups and newcomer Upstarts Labs – which just launched late last year – is taking a Milk-like labs approach to developing new products.