Ways Technology is Advancing Business in Oregon

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(Photo above: Hallelujah for investors! Local entrepreneurs participating in the SVTG accelerator program smile with good reason | courtesy of Sustainable Valley Technology Group)

As much as new technology can be a distraction, new tools are nearly always worth checking out. Emails were rare just a few decades ago. Direct to consumer marketing happened primarily on paper. And company-issue phones were anything but smart. Fast forward to today, and technology initiatives are changing the way we do business at firms of all sizes. A small business can be a global business thanks to phablets and other mobile devices, which are making the world a much smaller – and more accessible – place.

That’s good news for entrepreneurs who don’t relish the thought of having to relocate to a major metro area to achieve their dreams. Thriving in the hustle and bustle (not to mention intense competition) of the big city used to be a prerequisite for big business success but technology has made it possible to grow a business anywhere.

Just ask the founding members of the Sustainable Valley Technology Group, an emerging startup incubator based in Medford, Oregon. The group’s goal is to take the best principles from that other notable tech valley (startup resources, information sharing, mentorship and, of course, technology) and use them to nurture business growth in the southern half of the state. Then there is venture capitalist Dino Vendetti, whose goal is to establish his home City of Bend as the next hot entrepreneurial hub.

It all comes back to accessibility. The availability of people, first and foremost. Of physical space. The ease of communication between not only colleagues sharing an office but also between colleagues half a world away and between those people and the customers they serve. Here are some ways techis promoting traditional business success in Oregon in decidedly non-traditional ways:

Coworking spaces are popping up aroundthe state – like Bend Tech and The Wilds in Bend – suggesting that traditional working spaces aren’t the productivity drivers they were supposed to be. Whether it’s self-employed workers sitting at rented desks or remote employees, there’s no reason to be tethered to a big city office when carriers like T-Mobile offer more than a little free 4G LTE data for tablet customers.And what is especially intriguing about coworking spaces is how they can promote creative collaboration across industries.

Telecommuting and teleconferencing are making it easier for startups to thrive in Oregon. Talent not ready to leave California can still be snatched up by the business leaders in other states because the ability to work from home is sometimes just what it takes to sweeten the deal. Eventually, that reluctant talent is ready to migrate to the state, in turn inspiring investors to take a longer look atlocal prospects for big returns. In cases where on the ground talent can’t meet human resource needs, virtual communication allows for bigger customer service or data analysis teams.

Virtual payments, social media and remote customers make it simpler for small businesses to make a buck. Even businesses once entirely tethered to point of sale systems (e.g., farmers market vendors, food trucks and solo artisans) can take credit cards, which is a blessing in a society that is increasingly cashless. And in the kind of small rural areas that can be found around Oregon, where your closest customer might not be right around the corner, having the ability to get the word out to buyers, investors or customers across the country is huge.

Big data offers stability. It may be the newest business buzzword but shouldn’t be dismissed as a distraction. The ability to analyze customer habits from nearly any angle is giving today’s Oregon startups a leg up over the entrepreneurial projects of the past, potentially leading to greater strength for the state’s expanding economy. The dreamers turning Bend and other cities into vibrant tech hubs aren’t operating on dreams alone, but rather hard data that shows why customers do what they do. Investors? They like that.

More business owners and entrepreneurs are asking themselves if being where the action is really means anything when technology is making geography a non-issue. Oregon’s tech centers haven’t yet made any of the big top ten lists for best cities for startups but expect hot spots like Bend to make an appearance soon.

Jessica Oaks
Freelance Journalist
Editor at Freshly Techy
@TechyJessy | Google +

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