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Silicon Forest Archive
I am often asked for good places to work in NYC that offer wifi, power, etc. I am a big fan of the Cosi chain as they offer about a dozen locations around NYC, free wi-fi, have a good selection of reasonably priced food ($3 breakfast, $6 lunch) and usually have plenty of tables to work at. The one thing I’ve noticed is that a power outlet is hard to come by. Two of the locations I frequent offer no power outlets anywhere near the seating area.
Rick Turoczy who runs the Portland-based Silicon Florist blog has put together a list of the top 10 coffee shops that are perfect for working, coworking and meeting. Rick takes a look at places that are open 24 hours, locations that offer lots of options for food and connections, coffee ratings, and which locations have the best seats.
I’d love to see a worldwide directory with data similar to what Rick has put together for Portland. A coffee shop database directory would allow all of us to find great places to work, meet and eat as we travel to conferences or for vacations. The directory would work well as a mobile app as well with the GPS functions built into many mobile phones today. Coffee shops would be able to list events and it could be a great way for each location to gain more visibility and business. Ideally people could note when they plan to be at a specific location – like a Yelp + Meeup combination.
Editor’s note: It’s easy to read about what’s going on in San Francisco through a variety of blogs and to read about what’s going on in NYC through CenterNetworks, but what the Web scene about in other parts of the country? I thought it might be interesting to take a look at an area called Silicon Forest and local blogger Rick Turoczy has provided a great overview of Silicon Forest below.
But there’s another section of the West Coast that, absent the fanfare, is quietly developing an even more active technology community than its neighbors to the north and south.
Meet the Silicon Forest, a section of the I-5 corridor anchored by Portland, Oregon, that stretches from Vancouver, Washington, south through Eugene, Oregon, and east toward Bend, Oregon.
In an area long the bastion of lumber mills and lumbering technology giants, a number of developers, geeks, and artists of all ages have fostered a thriving tech community full of nimble start-ups and open-source projects, one in which sustainability takes its place in both lifestyles and the open-source code developers use to craft their solutions.
It’s a place, quite simply, where people seem to "do things differently."
"I love the shockingly high number of people who take risks and do things differently here–art, food, business, you name it," said Peat Bakke, one of the founders of Blue Hill Solutions.
And "doing things differently" tends to be a perfect environment for getting people excited about new ideas.
That’s why the Silicon Forest is home to a number of young yet internationally known start-ups, like JanRain of OpenID fame; formerly New-York-based XMPP contributor and collaboration software developer Jive Software; Values of n, the makers of Stikkit and I Want Sandy; MyStrands whose partyStrands product helped MTV and Times Square ring in the New Year; and a bevy of others.
And because of this thriving start-up environment, the region is seeing its largest growth in the fairly recent-and exceptionally explosive-collaboration of its community.
"Portland is a great place for collaboration," said Robby Russell. "People are able to easily engage with each other."
One case in point: Ignite Portland. The February 5 event-started by a few friends after seeing Ignite Seattle-is now one of the most popular events on Upcoming. Not just in Portland. One of the most popular events on Upcoming, period. Eclipsed only by the annual geek pilgrimage, SXSW.
But that’s not the only example. Other notable grassroots events are well underway, including the planning for the second BarCamp Portland, a recently unveiled Startup Weekend, a Portland-flavored take on Lunch 2.0, and Startupalooza, a local boot-camp for people interested in forming their own start-up.
The list of local tech events seems to grow exponentially on a daily basis.
Events have become so prevalent around town, in fact, that they are creating their own challenges. Like synchronizing schedules to minimize conflicts among various groups and events.
That’s why Audrey Eschright has recently started code sprints on an open-source project–called Calagator–that has a number of local coders using Rails and microformats in an attempt to consolidate all of the Portland tech events into one calendar. It’s a labor of love for the city that she calls home, again.
"I really expected to end up in SF, Seattle, or BC," said Eschright. "But now that I’ve been back a while, it’s turned out much better than I expected. Portland is no longer just where I grew up."
So why Portland? What brings people to the Silicon Forest? And what prompts them to stay?
"Portland has a good balance between large and small. We benefit from proximity to major markets but are not overwhelmed by their influence," said Todd Kenefsky of the Legion of Tech, a local non-profit started expressly to help manage the tech events in town. "Cities near major ports tend to have a richer, more diverse, more international culture and more traveled and educated citizens. Portland has all that stuff but retains a more livable smaller town feel."
But, the Rose City and the Silicon Forest are not without their drawbacks.
For all the intriguing development and bonding of the interactive community, raising funds for start-ups in Portland still presents a challenge for some companies. Especially when venture capitalists see more benefits in funding projects located in larger cities.
But that’s starting to change, as well. Thanks to rumblings of a number of local funds under development. And the successes of companies like MyStrands and Jive Software, who pulled down $55 million and $15 million in funding last year, respectively.
Clearly, the Silicon Forest is coming into its own for its start-up environment, the community it fosters, and the lifestyle it supports.
"Where else could you live that is a real ‘big city’ but is small enough that you recognize other bike commuters on your way to work?" asks local blogger Amy Sample Ward.
And maybe, just maybe, the Silicon Forest is even reaching the point of being mentioned in the same breath as Silicon Valley and Seattle/Redmond. We’ll just have to wait and see.