Built Oregon -Oregon's Entrepreneurial Digital Magazine

The 9 Best Things About Oregon Entrepreneurs

Photo Dec 27, 2 52 52 PM

I like coffee. My drink of choice is a almond-milk latte, and I enjoy them at a wide variety of Portland espresso shops (yes, this is an awesome coffee town, with so many excellent local roasts).

This near-obsession – OK, let’s just go with obsession – works out well with another obsession of mine, talking to entrepreneurs.

There’s nothing better than sharing an hour with an entrepreneur over a great hot drink, hearing about their business, their dreams, and their stories.

(One of the children of this obsession is this magazine, since there are only so many hours in a person’s waking day, and SO many great Oregon stories.)

I’ve done probably several hundred of these coffee meetings over the past 4 years, and I’ve found that there are 9 characteristics that aptly define that special breed of business owner, the Oregon Startup Entrepreneur.  It doesn’t matter what kind of business it is – these 9 are typically all there.

And I’m happy to share them with you, so you can infuse them into your business, your dream, and YOUR story.

“Go for Broke” faith – These folks are willing to put almost every dime of THEIR money into the pot, because they so believe in what they are doing.

Innovation (with Purpose) –  Steve Jobs has to be smiling from above, because just about everyone I speak to wants their product to change the world (or at least make someone’s life better).

(Poker Player’s) Guile – I love how these entrepreneurs will raise the stakes with less than a perfect hand – i.e. like talking about the latest version of a product that is really still in someone’s head.  Putting that bet down is like a self-fulfilling prophesy –  this hand WILL be Aces…eventually.

Ability to Take Multiple Punches (The Wepner Syndrome) – My generation remembers Chuck Wepner, the “nobody” who took on Muhammad Ali back in 1975.  He took punch after punch after punch after punch, and still lasted until the 15th round.  Entrepreneurs have that same resiliency.

Innate Understanding of the value of EVERY dollar – No dollar lost (or gained) is unimportant; there are no rounding errors in a start-up.

“Spongy-ness” (for absorption of data) –  The entrepreneurs I spoke with were all great listeners; I could almost “see” the “spongy-ness” of their brains, receiving all of my feedback in their core processors.

Productive Naivete – At this stage, there is so much benefit to NOT knowing certain things – things that could cause unproductive emotions (like fear), or indecisiveness. Also, this naivete extends to the service and/or product idea itself (i.e. “we’re going to sell MILLIONS of “em!). 

The Need of the BHAG – Speaking of millions, entrepreneurs nurture the BHAG – the big hairy audacious goal – like a mother hen looking after her chicks.   They protect and defend it as if their life depended on it (and come to think of it, in some situations, it does).

So Undeniably, Positively Human  – No suits, no briefcases, no tons of cool acronyms, no executive assistant, (sometimes) no office, (sometimes) no money, no huge staff – just them.  And their dream.  And their love of the dream.   The earnestness is so truly inspiring.


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Terry St. Marie

Terry "Starbucker" St. Marie, when he isn't working with Mitch & Rick on Built Oregon, writes on his own site, TerryStarbucker.com, and is also a business consultant, Director of Finance of PDX retailer/record label Tender Loving Empire, investor in the Oregon Angel Fund, chairman of the board of Social Ventures Portland, and a general man about town (and espresso bars)