#PDX11: Conversation about VC, investing and trends in the Portland

I wanted to continue talking about the perceptions stemming from the “quality of life” versus “financial success” juxtapositon from this slide:

A friend pointed out that maybe this issue is being framed in the wrong way for “outsiders”. If we’re going to pitch people on Portland being the best place to build a startup, values are certainly part of the equation, but what do investors want to know?

Maybe problem is similar to the process of gentrification… And as far as Portland’s software scene is concerned, we’re out of the blight, well into the “artists and weirdos make a home” phase and maybe just about to transition into “developers buy up a lot of land and artists start moving on” phase. But capital investment is in companies rather than land.

Maybe the story we as a city need to tell is that we want early adopter investors and more “artists and weirdos” who are passionate about what they do.

It’s a tough analogy, because we don’t have the same geographical or physical world indicators. When gentrification occurs, there aren’t always clear signs in the beginning. But as the process unfolds, people physically move in and out of a tight geographical area.

To put a spotlight on what’s going on with the tech industry, we need for some better indicators! Have a look at the employment graphs like the Oregon tech job employment indicator:

I don’t think it tells the whole story. There are also indicators about VC, but again, I don’t think it is capturing the nature of what is happening in Portland.

To start, I’m interested in a finer-grained look at the jobs associated with small software and IT firms. I’m not sure if there’s a way to pull that data out of what is typically tracked, but I’m going to try.

What indicators do you think we should be tracking?

Open Data Hackathon Day: Oregon Business License Registry

At the Portland Software Summit on Thursday, a couple people mentioned that it was hard to keep track of new businesses that pop up, and that merger and acquisition activity wasn’t being sufficiently publicised.

I thought – maybe we could get this information in an automated way!

I started with the state of Oregon’s business registry search site. Unfortunately, they limit search results for business searches to 1000, and they don’t paginate their results. So, we kicked ScraperWiki into gear, and wrote a very simple scraper with @maxogden: http://scraperwiki.com/scrapers/oregon_business_registry/

Next, I wanted to find out information about businesses specifically in Portland. The City releases information about this, but in PDF form: http://www.portlandonline.com/omf/index.cfm?c=32192

I wrote a quick and dirty Python script to scrape out information, and am getting probably 250 of the 300+ businesses in the November release. Next, I want to cross reference this data with what’s in the Oregon site. I’ll be publishing the Python scripts over the weekend. Hopefully ScraperWiki will add pyPDF to their Python repo support and I will be able to publish the transform there so it can be easily linked to the Oregon data.

Two lessons today:

  • Governments: Please don’t publish data in PDFs. YUCK.
  • Governments: Please paginate results from your site! Hard limits are just kinda lame.

The alternative to scraping the state of Oregon’s site is to order a CD-ROM for $50. I think this is such a stupid profit center for the state. I’d be interested to know how much money they’re really making off of it, and whether they could take a page out of Metro’s book and find a way to share the data with a different, more useful service.

User Groups redux

lousy cup!
actually, i love this cup. thanks, eric! 🙂

It’s a bit late for an “announcement”, but Gabrielle and I are re-presenting the User Groups talk to the Portland Linux Users Group tonight. We’re all about audience participation, and so we’re going to focus on helping PLUG pick a few topics and presenters for upcoming meetings. And whatever else they want to talk about 🙂

Meeting starts at 7pm and here’s where:

Fariborz Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science Building
Room FAB 86-01 (This is in the basement.)
The building is on SW 4th across from SW College Street.
See location H-10 on map at http://pdxLinux.org/campus_map.jpg

Beer afterward at Jax!

Jax Bar And Restaurant
826 SW 2nd Avenue