I was invited to participate in a group to meet in Bend, Oregon with Senator Wyden to talk about his recently passed legislation to fund a Venture Catalyst position for EDCO - Economic Development of Central Oregon. The idea is to fund a mechanism to put investors and entrepreneurs together. For those who dont know, Bend is a town of about 80 thousand and is the largest town in very large, three county area with perhaps 200 thousand residents. Its an area that historically was almost entirely dedicated to timber and agriculture. Tourism is big, good skiing, great golf courses and some of the best fishing in the world are attracting some very good business and engineering talent.
Im sure it wont be a surprise to learn that most of the group's participants are plagued by their inability to get capital. Angels and venture capitalists are pretty much on the sidelines, banks arent lending and the little software company owners cant finance growth by limiting out a bunch of credit cards or taking out a home equity loan like they used to. I was impressed with the level of activity in a surprisingly broad range of technology niches in what I must admit is a somewhat remote corner of the U.S. About 35 people involved in aircraft manufacturing, pharma development, medical devices, software, biofuel, solar and local government contributed to the discussion about what was needed and how the government could help, or at least get out of the way. There was a strong sense of optimism in the room and I got the strong feeling that good old American initiative will save the day as it always has.