A decade. The more I poked around Oregon, the more I found projects that embodied this type of persistent, decade scale innovation; Farmers Conservation Alliance, who spent the first 6 years of their existence navigating the web of approvals necessary for their innovative irrigation equipment, a time frame that would have killed a normal technology start up twice over; or Ecotrust, who have carefully shepherded a whole host of projects related to forests, farms and fish out in to the world with this same type of patient innovation.
This patience has historically been a double-edged sword. You talk to any professional investor here, especially in technology, and the will curse a blue streak about Portland’s “lifestyle businesses” and entrepreneurs and employees who don’t work the crazy hours necessary to build a hugely successful business in the 3 or 4 years that investors require. I can only assume they know what they are talking about, but I would like to offer two counter arguments.
First, young, educated, driven people are moving here in droves. Any complaint about Portland or Oregon that is based on past experience is a complaint about a place that already doesn’t exist anymore, and will be even less relevant in the future. The opportunity now is to ask, “Who are all these new people and what do they want to do?” Sure, a lot of them want to grow mustaches and sling coffee, but a lot more of them are driven, creative people who moved here because they wanted something different than what New York or San Francisco offers. What is that something different? I would suggest we don’t know yet.
Second, it’s clear that people here want to work insanely long hours for the promise of big riches, and I don’t think there is any reason to think they ever will. New York and San Francisco are perfectly optimized systems for those types of people, and I don’t think Oregon has any chance of competing for those people or those businesses.
So, what can we be world class at? What do all these people want to do? We haven’t yet seen the full impact from the collision of the patient innovation that has been the hallmark of Oregon for years and the new wave of talent just arriving. I think something really, really cool is about to happen if we can get the right elements lined up to support it.
And that, I guess, is what this blog will be mostly about.