Last Friday, 7 new companies launched onto the Portland tech scene. The latest class from PIE (the Portland Incubator Experiment) demoed their wears at the Gerding Theater in a Demo Day. Portland shares the Demo Day ritual with the Silicon Valley and other tech centers across the country, but Portland’s is a bit different. Like the others, Portland’s is the product of smart tech geeks, demonstrating the latest innovations in mobile, social, cloud computing and big data. But as Rene Gleason, Global Director of Interactive Strategy at Wieden+Kennedy, pointed out from the stage these companies are the product of Portland’s creative class. Portland’s tech scene is just one facet of a creative renaissance in Portland. And it’s a harbinger for some great things to come.
Portland’s tech ecosystem has emerged with a mix of creative agencies, sportswear and apparel producers, and specialty manufacturers. In a town filled with inventive restaurants, indie music, artisan foods, boutique beers and spirits and world-class wines. Galleries and studios dot our city’s core streets. Like other tech centers Portland is minting scores of tech startups every year. But Portland’s benefit from a unique cross-pollination. With PIE, an unapologetic “experiment”, they’re crossed with one of the worlds best creative agencies and its brand clients. With the TechStars Nike+ Accelerator, the cross was the world’s leading sports shoe and apparel brand. The Portland Seed Fund and the Portland Startup Challenge are public/private collaborations. These are just a few of the dozen plus accelerators uniquely leveraging Portland’s ecosystem.
Alan Webber, a former Portland city leader and founding editor of Fast Company, recently spoke at TechFestNW and issued the challenge to Portland in a the question “How do you overthrow a successful city?”
Portland is undeniably successful, and we’ve made great strides in the last several years. But if you look at this young creative class and their startups as just the beginning of the “overthrow” the new emerging Portland could be pretty remarkable.