Oregonian Article: Boosting the Industry's Visibility
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Posted by: Ruth Fuller
SOFTWARE ASSOCIATION OF OREGON'S NEW PRESIDENT, SKIP NEWBERRY, AIMS TO BOOST THE INDUSTRY'S VISIBILITY
BY MIKE ROGOWAY
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
No one has had a tougher time navigating Portland's clubby, rapid-fire
high-tech startup scene than a group who ought to know it well: The Software Association of Oregon.
just across Burnside from the hive of activity under way in the Pearl
District, the SAO is on its seventh president in the past eight years.
It's struggled to gain traction among the young entrepreneurs who have
revitalized the city's tech economy by riding the new wave of social and
So the association's new president, Skip Newberry,
says he's trying to approach his job with a degree of humility in an
effort to win acceptance and begin harnessing some of the collective
enthusiasm driving Portland's tech renaissance.
"We're trying to
build trust in the community," said Newberry, who was Mayor Sam Adams'
economic policy adviser before landing the SAO gig last September.
In the mayor's office, Newberry helped craft a strategy that made software one of the city's key economic priorities. His goal at SAO, Newberry said, is to provide resources that help the industry grow without getting in the way.
"As long as we're transparent about what we're doing," he said, "we can continue to help move the needle."
SAO has a diverse membership that
includes Intel and other tech giants, law firms and others that serve
the industry, along with a handful of promising startups including
Elemental Technologies and Zapproved.
For the most part, though,
Portland's up-and-comers aren't on board (annual dues start at $150 for
startups). Nationally prominent, venture-backed startups including Puppet Labs, Simple, Act-On Software and Urban Airship are not members.
the interest of hyper-busy startups, and building credibility among the
in-crowd of Portland technology, will be among Newberry's chief
SAO wants to develop industry partners, develop an
advocacy role for the software community, and start making connections
among members, prospective investors and even potential employees now
living outside Oregon.
The first step is a website called Techlandia, which launched late last month.
"It solves a problem that I saw when I was in the private sector," Newberry said, "which is a lack of good data."
aspires to be an online catalog of Portland tech companies and startup
resources, building connections within Oregon and creating a public face
for the city's tech scene.
"There are a lot of companies just
going about their business, heads down," Newberry said. "It's a way for
us to give them more visibility."
Visibility is key from
Newberry's perspective. He's trying to create a brand for Oregon
technology, a sense of the place that's known inside and outside the
"One thing we've been looking at, as an organization, is trying to shore up the talent pipeline," he said.
Portland has a core group of talented software developers, companies
have long lamented a comparatively thin pool of experienced marketers
and experienced executives.
By improving Portland's image, and
showing the growing depth of software companies working here, Newberry
is hopeful that people living outside the state would feel more
comfortable moving here. In time, he said, SAO might even organize a
recruiting trip with Oregon companies looking to bring in employees from
Inside the state, Newberry said, the SAO can be a
voice for the industry. Oregon's tech industry has been notoriously
quiet on public policy; Newberry, whose last job in the mayor's office
brings obvious ties to the political sphere, wants to be more proactive
in pursuing initiatives such as the new Oregon Investment Act to promote
the software industry.
In politics, business or technology, the software community will be most effective when it's working as a group, Newberry said.
"Your voice gets a little bit louder," he said, "and you're able to be a little bit more influential."
SAO says that Puppet Labs and Simple are members, though they are not
listed in the organization's member directory. The article has been
corrected to reflect that.
Mike Rogoway covers the business of technology for The Oregonian.
Read more: Software Association of Oregon's new president, Skip Newberry, aims to boost the industry's visibility - The Oregonian