Jim Harrer


5 Great Startups in Bend, Oregon. A Startup Friendly City.

Bend Oregon EntrepreneurBend, Oregon, is a great place for entrepreneurs. Located in the center of the state, east of the cascade mountain range which provides year-round recreational activities (snow skiing, hiking, fishing and mountain biking) and collects most of the rainfall Oregon is known for. For example, Bend averages just 11.4 inches of rainfall each year and records 295 days of sun shine. This is far better than Portland's 43.5 inches of rain and 200 days of blue skies. The pure beauty of the area, pleasant weather, and year-round activities make it a great place to live. The friendliness of the people in the community make it the best place I’ve ever lived.

I’m not alone, about 76,000 people agree. What many people don’t know is, Bend has an active mentor community filled with successful executives from every industry. Technology, medical, oil & gas, education, legal, software, fashion, film, theatre and sports, just to name a few. We have a lot of 50 “something” retirees who live in the area, looking for worthy startups to mentor. This past saturday I met a retired Navy SEAL commander who is volunteering his time to help as a project manager.  "Failure is not an option" has a totally different meaning for him.  He's impressive and so are all of the other mentors I have come to meet and now call friends. 

With the help of EDCO and the leadership of Roger Lee and Jim Coonan, we’re starting to see these mentors organize. It started as an excel spreadsheet of local “Stable of Experts”, a list of people who are willing to help entrepreneurs in the area, often for no-charge. Now we have our Bend Venture Conference and the VentureBox business accelerator joining the ecosystem.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with five startups in Bend, Oregon. All were in our VentureBox business accelerator program. We met each Wednesday (3pm-8pm), for 12 straight weeks.  The founders, working with local mentors develop their business strategy using customer development and other lean startup principles. These companies have taken off and are now seeking business and strategic partners, customers (beta testers and early adopters) and angel investors. 

Here are 5 great startups in Bend, Oregon.

JettStream, Inc. (http://JettStreamInc.com)JettStream-Logo-300pxl

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Recent Comments
Guest — Entrepreneur Magazine
In the August 2012 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, the editors named Bend, Oregon as a city "Destined For Greatness". The issue i... Read More
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 5:05 PM
Guest — Greg Broderick
Jim -Thank you for the informative article. I live in Bend, OR - and did not even realize some of these companies even existed. Th... Read More
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 3:03 PM
Jim Harrer
Hi Greg,I personally believe there is a really good pipeline of startups in Central Oregon for exactly the same the reason you sta... Read More
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 2:02 AM
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The Lean Start-up MVP – One size does not fit all.

Eric Ries’s bestseller, The Lean Startup, is a thoughtful book that has created a conversation about startups.  It focuses on how to go from the back of the napkin to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), to get in front of prospects in order to see if the idea is viable.

As with any new methodology, framework or process for the matter, I do not think audiences can truly measure its viability until they practice it themselves and spend time teaching it to others.
Lean-Startup-MVPI’ve had the chance to do both, use it with a couple of startups I’m involved in and teach it in the VentureBox business accelerator in Bend, Oregon.

The key principle of The Lean Startup is BUILD-MEASURE-LEARN.  The goal is to come up with a minimal feature set, bring it to market, measure actionable metrics and finally learn from the experience and then start again.  It barrows heavily from agile software development and favors learning from early adopters versus relying deeply on requirements management by someone in marketing.

I’m all for Build-Measure-Learn, what I have a problem with is Minimum Viable Product (MVP).   What is the definition of “Minimum”? I’ve witnessed entrepreneurs get so caught up in this MVP concept, that they test a product too soon and pivot based on incomplete data.  In my opinion, more time, not less, needs to be spent defining the MVP, including who the audience is that will see it, at each iteration.  Don't make the mistake of thinking the MVP is outside of the product lifecycle. 
MVPs should be matched to audiences. For example, your first MVP may be designed to only been seen by the development team, then management, then marketing and then prospects under NDA.  My point here is, be thoughtful about the process and audience.  Showing it to management or marketing, can quickly throw the team off the rails.  An MVP has its own product lifecycle development process, some stages should only be viewed by the core team.

Keep in mind if you’re building hardware, versus software, you have more challenges because of soft tooling requirements.  Also, don’t under-estimate the power of look and feel.  Ignoring UX/UI in some applications can take you down a rat hole you didn't intend. Each product is different. Craigslist appealed to its audience with it's simplistic UI.  Instagram's UX/UI from the get-go is what helped it go viral. 

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Xbox 360 and the battle for the living room

Let me start-off by saying, "I love my Xbox 360". It's actually hard to believe it just celebrated it's 7th birthday (May 12th).  According to Microsoft, about 70 million consoles have been sold.  When you think about it, a piece of hardware that has lasted 7 years is pretty amazing. It's a testament to the design team, I tip my hat to them.  

the-cable-guy-photoLet me switch gears now and discuss what puzzels me about their strategy. Perhaps some of you can comment and help me better understand what I have wrong.

My living room has an Xbox 360 + Kinect, DirecTV HR20-700 DVR and LG BD670 BlueRay Player all connected to my home theather and Sony 55 Bravia/  It's a nice system, not great in today's terms.  The LG BluRay player is less than a year old, everything else was purchased when we bought our home in 2007.  The piece of equipment I hate the most is the DirecTV DVR.  If you scan our recordings, we only watch like 10 channels on our DTV. It's not worth the $100 bucks a month we pay for it.

In an ideal world, it would be great if my Xbox 360 could be hooked up to receive my free, over the air, HD channels and allow me to record them, like the old Microsoft TV.  That would get me pretty close to dumping DirecTV altogether.  It would be great if they could add the balance of the channels offered on PlayOn (a neat application to sling content from your PC to any DLNA device). It would allow me to turn off my PC, save power and add videos from NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, Comedy Central, TV.com, TBS, Spike, and a dozen more. I often wonder why Microsoft doesn't just buy PlayOn from MediaMall and grab Jeff Lawrence (President and CEO) and David Karlton (Chief Technology Officer) two smart and passonate guys?  

Next, I would do everything possible to make sure every living room and bedroom had an Xbox 360 in it.  Here are some of the things I would talk to the team about:

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A great customer experience begins with a smile

The Power of a Smile

It was a cold, dark January morning. The clock on my truck read 5:32am as I pulled out of my garage for a business meeting over to Portland. Two tons of steel was protecting me from the outside elements, yet I shivered as the ice mist hit my windshield.

My brain needed a jolt, so I headed over to Dutch Brothers Coffee, pulled up to the window, and was greeted with a big smile - “Good morning, what can I make for you this beautiful morning?” I’m charmed by her positive, friendly outlook. The combination of the friendly service and fresh roasted coffee resulted in a great way to start my day.

Dutch Bros. CoffeeCan a smile change where you do business? As I drove to Portland I reflected on my own experiences and thought about where I spent my money.

Magazines like Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Small Business have been writing articles covering great customer service for years. I love the legendary story of the Nordstrom clerk who accepted a return of automobile tires from a customer, even though Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires. However, most businesses simply can’t relate to that tale, and never focus on what they can do to improve repeat business. Can it be as simple as a smile?

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© Jim Harrer

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Selling what you believe, the power of Why before How and What.

The work with our startups intensifies this week as we continue to work on Customer Development and The Lean User Experience. As our Founders move closer to defining their Minimal Viable Products (MVP), they have gone out in the market and interviewed potential customers of their products. As a result, some of our startups have made pivots in their business plan.

I like to celebrate these pivots with our startups. We're six weeks into the process, we've saved monthes of development time by not building software no one will purchase. We're learning more and more about their market segment each and every day. One interesting observation is, with each pivot, the founders are becoming even more passionate about their business. I contribute this to the fact the nine founders are going through this together\, and they're gaining positive energy from the team. This is another benefit of an accelerator; you push through the challenges at a much faster pace.

why how whatThe importance of WHY, before HOW and WHAT.

Simon Sinek, an adjunct staff member of the RAND Corporation, one of the most highly regarded think tanks in the world. He wrote a best seller, "Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". Yes, his principles focus on leaders and the importance of communicating "why". I could write about this topic for pages, but I want to stay on point for this post, so...

Sinek believes you should communicate to your customers: WHY your product/solution matters, than HOW it does it and finish with WHAT it does. We believe most companies do this in reverse. Starting with what features the product has, how it does it so well and finishing with why you should but it.

"Sell to people who believe what you believe." Says Sinek. "People don't buy what you do, they purchase why you do it."

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