The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network celebrates with an Academy Awards theme, praise for Oregon’s community-oriented start up scene, and zero female award nominees.
BY LINDA BAKER
Seven highlights from the 2012 OEN Tom Holce Entrepreneurship Awards:
1. Dressed in formal wear, masters of ceremony Ryan Buchanan, CEO of eROI, and Angela Jackson, managing director, Portland Seed Fund, belted out the entrepreneurial rendition of a Beastie Boy’s classic: “You gotta FIGHT, for your RIGHT, to PROFIT.”
2. Paresh Patel, CEO and Founder of VendScreen, winner of the Development Stage award, weighed in on a technology sorely in need of a reboot. “The last great innovation was when the vending industry started taking dollar bills.” VendScreen vending machine technology displays nutritional information and ads, with a touch screen interface and interactive displays.
3. Ragu Raghavan, CEO of Act-On Software, winner of the Working Capital Stage Company award, on beating the competition. “In a way I wish Jama [fellow nominee] had won. They’re customers of ours and [will] be mad at us. “
4. Nominees and award winners offering their take on the necessary role of failure in the entrepreneurial enterprise:
“The risk of failure propelled me more than the possiblity of success.” Irving Levin, Executive Chariman, Genesis Financial Solutions and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award:
“You need difficult hard times to mold the soul of a company.” Ragu Raghavan.
“You have to keep your enthusiasm when you’re failing.” Kent Holce, former CEO Cerus Industrial.
5. The elephant in the living room. None of the 14 nominees in OEN’s five award categories were women-led, and no women came to the podium. Instead, they filled the all- important Vanna White role of presenters. Really, in 2012? (OK, so that’s not a highlight.)
6. The boyish albeit inarticulate enthusiasm of certain male award winners:
“Eloquence is not my strong suit,” said Scott Kveton, CEO and co founder Urban Airship, winner of the Individual Achievement Award.
Meditating on his fondness for the word “sucker,” Kveton said he first used the term when starting UA.
As in: “We’re going to bootstrap this sucker.”
The second utterance occurred when UA moved into its new office space. As in: “We’re going to fill up this sucker.”
And the third? Last night, with Kveton holding up his OEN award. “Seriously, I can’t believe I won this sucker.”
“Wow, this is really exciting,” said James Davies, COO for Timbercon, Inc., winner of Growth Stage Company award.
“You rock!” said Davies, giving a shout out to his employees.
“We have our strengths and weaknesses,” he added, thanking Eric Meslow, Timbercon president and CEO. “But together, we rock!”
7. Award winners weighed in on the virtues of starting a company in Oregon, where entrepreneurs added 800 jobs over the past 16 months, one of several factoids released over the course of the evening from OEN’s Benchmark Survey.
“Oregon is a place where people respect people who take chances,” observed Levin. More than “iconoclasts,” Oregonians “open doors and want you to succeed. That’s what makes Portland distinct from other communities.”
“Last year, we were just two guys with an idea and couldn’t possibly imagine being up here,” observed VendScreen’s Patel, acknowledging the Portland Incubator Experiment for helping nurture the company’s growth. “It takes a village to raise a startup and this is our village.”
Linda Baker is the managing editor of Oregon Business.