Reading through the archives of this blog, you'll see that there are a few popular topics I like to write about. One of them is the downfall of the newspaper industry. I recently had an online conversation with the new Business section editor at The Oregonian which only strengthens my grim outlook for a dying industry.
As some of you know, I have been working hard to build my own startup company. Nearly 2 years now and we are finally getting some real traction. Big news is on the horizon. During this time, I have become aware of many other Portland startups. Unfortunately, it seems as if these companies don't get much attention from The Oregonian newspaper.
A recent example is when my company teamed up with another Portland startup, GadgetTrak, to produce an innovative project called "stolen camera finder." It was interesting enough for the New York Times, Economist magazine, Popular Photography magazine, TechCrunch, Gizmodo and others. We sent information to the Oregonian's tech business writer and I even spoke with him on the phone about the project during a call for a different story. Nothing, no story. Apparently the Oregonian is too good for a story that the New York Times and TechCrunch like.
However, the Oregonian did have space in their paper for a July story about an eccentric millionaire that has sunk nearly $1 million into the development of a shaving razor that sells for $100,000 each (yes, you read that correctly, one hundred thousand dollars). Then, in late August, the Oregonian did a follow up story with "news" that the company has now produced an $18,000 model of their high-end razor. According to the August 25th article, not a single unit had been sold at either price point.
In the meantime, real Portland startups are building world-changing products, earning revenues, hiring employees and otherwise succeeding. When was the last time you read about that?
So when the second razor article hit the Oregonian's web site, I took issue with both the author (who I respect greatly) and his boss, the Business Editor. Here is our Twitter exchange, archived thanks to a cool company called Storify (which isn't from Portland):
What is your take, Portland? Was I wrong to question the Oregonian's coverage of this gimmick razor business or do they in fact do enough coverage of Portland startups?
Update, 9/24/11: The Oregonian today published a story about Geoloqi, one of the companies I mentioned in the comments below because I felt they didn't get the attention they deserved. Here is the story.
I am currently in the process of raising financial backing for my early stage startup and sometimes I find myself taking my eye off the ball. Funding is not the goal. Building a wildly successful company that makes everyone involved rich is the goal. Every time I fail to focus on that, I am not taking a step forward.
The idea of investment dollars is to accelerate your company. Not to pay yourself more or to get a fancy office. Sure, those things *might* come with the territory, but they are not the goal. When you take an investment, that's when the work really begins.You now have more work and more responsibility. You just have some cash in the bank to help you through it all. If you take an investment and don't feel more pressure to succeed, I think something is wrong with you.
While high-fives may have gone around the Portland companies that have recently been funded, like ShopIgniter, PHP Fog and Urban Airship, I can guarantee you that the celebrations didnt' last long. They now have to work their asses off, and they know it. While I don't know the founders of these companies, I can confidently say that they were given that venture capital money because the investors knew they were focused on building wildly successful companies. They did not focus on getting funded. They saw funding as a means to the end.
As I network around the Portland startup community, I see too many of us that are focused on getting funding and not building wildly successful companies. I think part of the problem is that we read about all these funding events on TechCrunch and we fail to see all the hard work that has gone into those companies and we are not exposed to the greater vision they have. We don't see the pressure that those founders feel after the funding happens. We think its all ice cream sundays and stuffed animals. We want that TechCrunch recognition. We want ice cream and stuffed animals. It sounds so great, right?
All those companies on TechCrunch...funding wasn't the goal. Building a wildly successful company is the goal. They didn't accomplish anything by raising venture capital. Now that they have capital, they have to go accomplish something. Funding isn't the goal.
So next time we talk at a Portland area event, don't tell me about your fundraising efforts. Tell me about your product. About your customers. About your vision. Don't tell me how much you need. Don't say that if you just had X dollars, you would be set.
Make sure I do the same thing. If I start talking to you about my fundraising efforts, remind me that I need to focus on my product, customers and our vision. Don't let me take my eye off the ball. After all, I am writing this blog post as a reminder to myself.
Sure, we need money to realize our vision. Let's just not focus on that. Once we are focused on funding, we have failed. Our chances of building a wildly successful company are next to nothing once we take our eyes off the ball. Focusing on funding means your eye is off the ball.
Funding is not the goal. Building a wildly successful company is the goal.
I signed up for ThePortlander.com as a way to get our news out to more Portlanders and Oregonians where they are, as opposed to waiting for them to come to us. If you are curious, we are at htt://theportlander.tumblr.com.
One thing I don't like about Tumblr is that they have not made it easy to find people to follow and interact with. Specifically, I can't tell where most people call home. So, I decided to create a Portland/Oregon Tumblr directory. If you are on Tumblr, please let me know using the below form. Once you do so, you'll see who else from Portland/Oregon is on Tumblr. When I get enough responses, I'll publish a full and active list somewhere.