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Portland Ten launching new incubator program, charges entrepreneurs $1500 (siliconflorist.com)
24 points by mountaineer on Feb 11, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 26 comments

A comment from one of the advisors:

(We have a $100 challenge– if any of the founders in Portland Ten are able to quit their day job during the program, because they’ve generated sufficient revenue/funding, we will give them $100).


$100!? That is insulting... It doesn't look like they have very good advice to give when they have something like that.

Its a symbolic reward.

There are actually a bunch of triggers for getting the $100. Like getting outside investment, deciding that the business won't work and quiting, and a pile of others.

Its like getting a coffee cup at work with the company logo on it for being there a year. Its not the reason you do the job.

It still seems weird to give a small amount of cash as a reward for attracting a much larger amount of cash.

Yeah, I'd take the coffee mug.

[We’re looking for] an entrepreneur right on the cusp of starting a high-growth business. A teachable entrepreneur who will commit to the required activities, and the optional activities when possible. An entrepreneur who will consider themselves the first investor in the project and raise the funds to pay the $500/month program tuition.

Huh? They should be paying THEM to participate! What value-add do they actually provide? If they're mentoring, what credentials do they have? From what I can see, they interview you and tell you your idea/product sucks or rocks and either boost or crush your ego. Is that all? You can find a desk in some quiet office for less than that amount and hack something out on your own and let the market tell you if your product is any good.

They don't even say if they're taking any equity for this 'service' that they're providing... but they must be. They also don't say how exactly they'll find your project once your own funding runs out. They're throwing the $1M figure around but they're not saying that they'll be actually providing you with that amount of funding or they expect you to make $1M by then end of 2010. My guess is the latter.

They are not taking equity, looks more like a consulting firm.

"we don't invest capital" @ http://portlandten.wordpress.com/about/

"Portland Ten is a Y-Combinator-like incubator for high tech startups in Portland, Oregon, with one caveat– we don’t invest capital; we train entrepreneurs to get things done without it, and attract the necessary funds or resources as a result."

That's a rather big caveat. I wonder how they train people not to eat.

Meditation! I hear some Indian Yogi don't eat for months.

But seriously, they're getting very little for this "tuition." Unless they have Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla or Marc Andreessen mentoring them, I wouldn't pay a dime.

$500 a month isn't bad if it's going to pay for lunch, books, field trips, and group work space.

I know one of the people involved in this, and the lack of financial realism ($100 to quit your job! Woo hoo! Pay us for advice! Sounds good!) is par for the course.

My experience with the Portland "startup" scene was that there were a lot of MBA-toting shysters with little-to-no ability to develop a product on their own, cashing in on the "it's cheaper to live here than in San Francisco" tech crowd by offering below-market compensation.

I hate to be so disparaging, and I'm sure there are good startups up there. However after working for a small company there, interviewing elsewhere after it was obvious it wasn't going to work out, and talking to lots of other people in similar situations... I ended up moving back to San Francisco and not looking back.

One of the larger problems with Portland are the consultants and business coaches that network like crazy but don't develop any skills. Connections do not equal competence. The best and the brightest in the service industries rarely need to network because they have built up an impressive track record over 20 to 30 years. In Portland, you seem to get a lot of 20 somethings that spend all day blogging and tweeting about their skill but have never honed it.

"The only place a writer signs a check is on the back" - James D MacDonald

This reminds me a lot of a vanity book editing scam, cash up front to make your work "submission quality".

Learn to earn $5000 at home every month... on the internet!

Don't get me wrong, this is probably no scam. It just seems like it's aimed at exactly the wrong people: million-revenue earners on the way up who would've figured all this out anyway. And if you believe pg, cash on the table is the resource startups need most...

Honestly, calling this VC, or even an incubator, is probably a misnomer. This is an entrepreneurial bootcamp. Whether or not the training you receive in the program is worth $1500 is up for discussion, of course.

I'm going to upvote this because I want to see the discussion. This is a poor way of going about things.

500 a month for advice is consulting. This is a wolf in sheeps clothing.

1 million is a very arbitrary number. What size businesses are they going for? If it's a venture backed size business, 1 million could be a failure. If it's a lifestyle business, that's awesome. A hard feat to accomplish.

I'm sure the intentions are good, but the execution isn't there in my mind.

Hey if you pay up in full you get a $100 discount.

Is the startup scene in Portland that bad, that people have to compete for the privilege of paying for startup advice?

How's this for startup advice? If things are that bad in Portland, move to Silicon Valley. Come to the Hackers and Founders Meetup, or any number of other meetups in the area. We'll give you all the advice you want for free, and we'll probably buy you a beer in the process.

Actually I know the people putting this on.

Long story made short, its a training program to get your business to the point where you can can take outside investment. This is a very solid program developed by an expert in the fund raising process, for getting the financial and business put together so your startup doesn't flame out.

The $1M figure is from the goal of the program which is to develop at least Ten companies in Portland (i.e. Portland Ten) with over a million dollars in REVENUE. So you don't necessarily have to get outside funding, but in either case your ready to grow.

No equity is being traded for this program. The costs are quite low compared to other programs of its kind.

Also office space is not provided, its an add-on at the new Portland co-working space, http://nedspace.com you don't need to use it but its recommended.

The program is solid. Check out http://bigpaperblog.com/ for the program developers website.

A few problems:

1) Not sure about the quality of advisors - doesn't mean they're bad, I've never really heard of them.

edit: It seems that although Carolyn may be well connected, she hasn't run a startup herself. Not promising.

2) I don't really see a lot of conviction in their ability to pick winners, else they would be more interested in equity.

3) "we don’t invest capital; we train entrepreneurs to get things done without it" - It seems kind of funny that they expect entrepreneurs to pay to learn how to conserve capital :)

If I were YC, I'd be annoyed that they claim to be similar.

1) The name recognition of advisors is part of the joy of the Portland technology scene. Which hopefully this program will help fix. Portland has astounding things happening, but no one ever hears of them or the people doing the work.

2. The equity question is something that I asked about... basically the thought was that its your work, you should get to profit from it. Just like when you buy a server from dell, dell doesn't get a slice of equity from your company.

3. This program as being run as a low cost high impact bootstrapped startup itself. That said the costs are a LOT lower than just about anything like it. Tech Stars for example is six percent of your company for office space, and coaching for 120 days. This is just $1500, for just the coaching. (And there are quite a few coffee shops in Portland that will let you work from them if you so choose.)

In response to 3. Techstars has a good reputation. They have been one of the most successful incubators for their 2008 programs. They don't just coach you but they connect you with potential capital/funding or companies that might acquire or partner with you. That is much bigger then getting coached.

1) I don't doubt that. But if I were to pay for mentoring , I'd rather have access to people that have built profitable companies, or sold companies.

2) I'm not sure the analogy makes sense. Dell doesn't judge a company's business plan before it decides to sell you a server.

One of the important considerations with Portland 10 isn't whether or not I should get 100% of the ownership/profit, it's whether or not their advice helps me grow my business enough that I don't care that they get a cut of the equity.

3) That's fine - I don't agree that the trade-off (upfront capital with relatively unproven advisors vs. giving up equity with more proven investors who have a track record of investing in strong companies)is optimal.

It seems to me that it's a question of aligning incentives. In this case, they've made their money no matter how you do (although if everyone fails, they probably won't do it again, so they probably hope it's not a disaster). In YC's case, though, they're very directly interested in your success because their money is riding on it too.

That said, it's good to see something happening in Portland.

Thank you to everyone for your comments & suggestions on Portland Ten. Some very valid concerns & feedback were given, and I appreciate this very much, because it will help us to make Portland Ten better at being/becoming something that is useful and appropriate for the startup community.

Here are some of my thoughts and responses to specific items discussed:


For those who are excited about the project, we appreciate the support. For those who have concerns, I appreciate your effort in letting us know, and hope that you'll continue to follow the project and help us stay on track, or make changes when necessary.

Personally, I would feel more comfortable with an advisor, which actually took a small stake in my venture.

Generally speaking, this isn't an entirely crazy idea. I'd argue that YC is primarily a networking service too. And it takes a much larger cut from successful startups.

YC doesn't get paid if the startup doesn't do well. The Portland 10 model talks about creating million dollar businesses but all of their compensation is up front. It appears to me that calling this a YC like program is not accurate. It looks like the $1500 is per person, not per team since they are talk about one on one interviews to get accepted.

Portland10 looks more like the UC Santa Cruz Extension two day Startup Foundry (See http://www.ucsc-extension.edu/startup ) that costs $855-950

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