Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot: A Portland Startup Preview

I spent yesterday pounding the pavement in Portland, OR, enjoying a burst of warm sunshine and a weird, creative vibe. It offered a great contrast from the last time I tried to travel there for work meetings, back in January when I-5 was underwater and Amtrak wasn’t running. This visit was enough to make me fully appreciate why solar-cell companies from around the world might have descended on Oregon in droves (well, besides the tax breaks—Portland has at least as many cloudy days as Seattle). Not to mention why there is a burgeoning tech startup scene there.

But first, here’s a sampling of strange things said to me as I walked the sunny streets between meetings with startups and investors:

—“Sir, can you spare a dollar for marijuana?” (The locals are honest, at least. Entrepreneurs might want to try that line on their VCs.)

—Silence. That was the sound from the other end of the intercom when I buzzed Vidoop’s office from the street. The online image-based security and authentication startup, which moved from Oklahoma last September, has fallen on hard times and has closed up shop. Vidoop had moved to the Northwest to be closer to the OpenID software community, which started in Portland. The latest example of bad things happening to a good startup.

—“My wife thinks you’re hot. Would you like to have a threesome?” (OK, this is only “innovation” in the broadest sense…so what if the guy didn’t look like an entrepreneur. Where are these people in the Seattle community? Don’t answer that.)

Speaking of hot, I found a definitive list of the “hottest Portland tech startups.” It has recently been compiled by AboutUs, itself a Portland startup backed by Voyager Capital and Capybara Ventures. AboutUs makes collaborative wiki software to help people discover and share information about companies and other entities online. The startup list is a work in progress, but it already has lots of good info on the local tech community. Another top resource for the Portland innovation scene is the Silicon Florist blog by Rick Turoczy.

I’ll be filing stories from my visit later this week. Stay tuned.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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