How to
Portland startup scene


I know that this may come as a surprise, but I get a bunch of questions from folks. Like “You’ve been writing about the Portland startup scene for almost a decade. How is it that you’ve never learned how to use the English language?” And “What do you actually do?” And “A beard? Really?” But one question I get more often than any other is “How do I get involved in the Portland startup scene?”

So I usually tell them.

But then it dawned on me: I have a blog. I could actually write this down. You know, for reference. And apparently to practice writing so that some day I can actually communicate effectively.

So without further ado, here’s your no muss, no fuss way to quickly connect with a bunch of other folks who love startups, love Portland, and will probably love you too.

1) Read Silicon Florist.

For whatever reason, folks keep coming back here to read stuff that I write. As such, I feel an incredible amount of pressure… err motivation to keep this side project going. And to keep sharing interesting stuff with you awesome people. So please, keep reading.

If you’re a real glutton for punishment, you can follow me on Twitter since that’s how I share most content. Or you can follow Silicon Florist to get the feed. Want only the highlights? Sign up for the curated version of Silicon Florist that comes out once a week through the magic of email.

I’d also recommend following Malia Spencer at the Portland Business Journal who both writes well and gets paid to make sure startups are getting covered.

2) Keep an eye on Calagator.

This generation of Portland startups was really born out of the already amazing open source scene we had going here in town. And user groups sprinkled here, there, and everywhere in Portland. As such, we’re really into collaborating and informing folks about what’s going on.

A while back a small cadre of open source types decided that searching multiple event sites wasn’t the best user experience. So they built Calagator, the aggregated Portland tech calendar. As a community, we do our best to post every tech meetup, event, user group, or social gathering.

So if you’re in Portland — or happen to just be visiting Portland from time to time — this is the very best spot to figure out what’s happening when. It’s the go to site for Portland events. Full stop.

3) Ask for help or Offer your assistance on Portland Startups Switchboard.

Like many startup scenes, Portland is collaborative and collegial. We like to help one another out. We know we’re all in this together. And nothing more exemplifies that than the Portland Startups Switchboard.

Built by Portland startup Switchboard, the premise is very simple. You use Switchboard to either Ask for help or Offer your assistance. That’s it. New to town? Ask to grab coffee. Looking to hire? Post a job Offer. Want to give Portland folks a chance to use your awesome new product? Offer them a reason to do so. You get the gist.

Portland Startups Switchboard has organically become a great landing pad for folks who have just moved to Portland — or those who are still considering the Rose City as their next opportunity.

4) Join the Portland Startups Slack.

In the early days of this generation of Portland startups, the Portland startup scene connected using a product from a relatively young startup called Twitter. It was mostly geeky folks on the platform back then. And it proved to be an easy and straightforward way for all of us to share things and stay in touch.

Obviously, times have changed. But recently, I’ve had the luck to be part of a number of public Slack channels. And as I used them more and more, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t reminded of the early days of Twitter. Which made me think, what if we tried to recreate that magic from the early days of the Portland startup scene?

It’s still early. But it just might work. So whether you’re in the Portland startup scene or purely curious about the Portland startup scene from near or far, come join us in the Portland Startups Slack.

5) Reach out and grab a beverage with anyone.

One of the most confusing things to recent transplants is the lack of “must attend” events and established networking infrastructure here in Portland. It seems like a negative, but it’s actually an indicator of what makes Portland great: everyone is super accessible. So we’ve basically shortcut that whole networking thing. You don’t have to show up to an event, track down that one person you actually want to meet, hand them a business card, and then play calendar ping pong until you can find a time to meet. You get to start at ping pong.

Yes, there is still the problem of “I don’t even know who I’m supposed to meet.” And events are definitely a great way for that to happen. For that, see 1–4 above. But admittedly we still probably need to fix that “big generic meetup” thing that Beer and Blog used to satisfy.

Anyway, if there is someone in town you’d like to meet? Just email them. Or ping them on Twitter. Or hit them up on Slack. Or whatever. Reach out. Most every startup CEO in town blocks time on their calendar for these sorts of happenstance and serendipitous meetings. So just ask.

There you go. Five steps for how to Portland startup scene. And I managed to do it without using a listicle headline.

Now scoot, you. Get connected.


Image courtesy Thomas Hawk. Used under Creative Commons.


Rick Turoczy (@turoczy) has been working in high-tech startups in the Portland area for more than 20 years. As founder and editor of Silicon Florist, he has blogged about the Portland startup scene for nearly a decade — even though numerous people have begged him to stop. That side project led Rick to cofoundPIE (the Portland Incubator Experiment), a startup accelerator formed in partnership with global advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy. Those efforts led to the founding of Oregon Story Board, a project that is using learnings from the PIE experiment to accelerate the companies in the services industry.

All because of a blog. Weird.


Originally published at siliconflorist.com on September 18, 2015.