Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Startup Now: The Oregon Opportunity

While we obsess over the impact of the economic downturn and the State’s unemployment, we risk missing the incredible opportunity Oregon has. Obama recognizes this crisis is a once in a life time opportunity. Marching to the tune of “never waste a crisis”, the nation is collectively spending $1 trillion on not just solving the credit crisis, but recreating our social economic landscape.

We are going after climate change; international instability and terrorism; energy scarcity; and the aging population in the developed world, just to name a few. This combined with the international economic downturn is driving unprecedented global change. Oregon has the opportunity to play a lead role in this change and drive job growth at the same time.

Oregon has the expertise and experience in the segments that matter right now:

Oregon has attracted young highly educated people who flock here for the quality of life and affordability. For instance Portland has among the highest percentages of college degrees, spending on book purchases, and broadband penetration.

Venture Capitalists invest in Team (the skills and drive of the individuals involved) and TAM (total addressable market – the size of the opportunity). Some smart funds like Voyager and Madrona see Oregon’s potential and have put people here. In the past Oregon has lacked the will to drive growth. Voyager and Madrona are here as not to miss a potential opportunity: they won’t drive anything. The initiative has to come from the Oregon community.

Local money has been shy and scarce. Worse, to date, the state shows little support for its own potential. Only trivial amounts of capital have made their way to Oregon startup ventures.
If we don’t invest in ourselves it is worse than just missing an opportunity. We marginalize our entrepreneurs and starve them to death. Why would anyone else invest in Oregon companies if we can’t even see fit to do so? It is like a mother not supporting their child, you start at less then zero.

Small businesses drive employment. Venture models have demonstrated the potential return of small growth companies. We have the opportunity to spawn high growth businesses that will deliver additional employment and high return on capital. These businesses will succeed because the crisis we face will economically reward new businesses the deliver solutions to our problems.

A proposal is a foot to direct $100 million of State controlled capital to Oregon startup ventures. This is the right move at the right time. This effort seems to have prodded our State Treasure Ben Westlund into action. He is now hosting an event on April 29 to catalyze Oregon investment.

The big question: will this result in putting Oregon’s talent and money to work? It is the right move at the right time and it deserves our support at every level, especially that of our elected representatives. Or will it just be an exercise by all parties involved to look like they are playing lip service to this grass roots push while fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility and maintaining the status quo.


Scott Lewis said...

Hi Chris.

Good article...and pertinent question in last paragraph.

Lets hope that a break with local tradition occurs in favor of entrepreneurs.

Hope you are well.

Scott Lewis

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