Tag Archives: cubespace

Impromptu Digital, Twitter Barn Raising CubeSpace Benefit Party at Whiffies

I was exchanging some direct messages this morning with Gregg aka @whiffies after my earlier CubeSpace post, and he is generously offering to do an old fashioned barn raising for CubeSpace this evening sometime around 11pm at the Whiffie’s pie cart on Hawthorne and 12th. He has 40 sweet and savory pies left over from last night along with lemonade and iced tea. He’s willing to donate all of the proceeds from the evening to CubeSpace. It’s a 3 day weekend, and tomorrow is a holiday, so you really don’t have any excuse not to join us. Don’t be late, we only have 40 pies!

We’re also looking for a DJ who wants to come out and entertain us for the evening for a good cause. Ping me if you are interested.

Here are the details:
Time: Sometime after 11PM. Look for a tweet from @whiffies later tonight for a more exact start time.
Location: Food Carts on Hawthorne and 12th
Come hang out & buy a pie or some lemonade in support of CubeSpace
RSVP on Upcoming

CubeSpace: The Importance of Community

Officially, CubeSpace is a local for profit business in Portland, OR with two sides to the business. They started as a coworking space where people can work or hold meetings with all of the amenities of a traditional office, but they recently expanded into consulting where they bring groups of freelancers together to bid on bigger projects. Both of these efforts generate revenue for the CubeSpace business.

Unofficially, they are the adopted home of the Portland technology community. They donate their space in the evenings to user groups and other technology gatherings without asking anything in return. They have generously let me hold Legion of Tech meetings, community manager meetups, and they have been a great partner in many of the bigger local events, like WordCamp, CyborgCamp, BarCamp, Startupalooza, and more.

Earlier this week, they put out an open letter to the community letting us know that they were having financial difficulties that would likely result in eviction from their space and / or bankrupcy. I was personally very concerned and sad and outraged by the way US Bank was responding and worried about losing CubeSpace and about the impact this would have on so many of my friends, particularly Eva and David. Most of my friends were experiencing similar emotions, and there was an outpouring of support and offers of help from far and wide within the technology community in Portland.

The community gathered online and offline to find ways to help. We were discussing CubeSpace in the halls between WebVisions sessions, at lunch, and everywhere else we gathered in real life. People started Tweeting with the #savecubespace hashtag. Several ways to help have been emerging: a site where you can donate money (they have raised over $5000 so far), an auction, and more. Various ways to help have been included in the comments of the Silicon Florist post.

All of these activities generated a huge amount of activity on Twitter, which attracted the mainstream media. Stephanie Strickland start putting in calls to US Bank for comment and later KGW did a news story about the incident. Mike Rogoway wrote a great article for the Oregonian. The grassroots support on Twitter led to mainstream media coverage, which finally got US Bank to the table to provide CubeSpace with some options.

Community Case Study

This level of support from the community, both online and offline, is not typical behavior when you are talking about a for profit organization having financial difficulties. Had this been a place where people rented office space and went home at the end of the day, few people would have cared if they went out of business. Because Eva and David have always been so generous with their space for the technology community – letting community user groups meet at CubeSpace for no charge, the community wants to give something back to them. They have been so generous with the community, and now that they are struggling, the community wants to help them.

They didn’t create the Portland technology community, but they joined the community and became active participants. They gave generously to the community, and now the community wants to give back. This is the way strong communities respond when one of their own is in trouble. This isn’t the first time the community has bailed someone out of a tight spot; one of the best examples was the Bram Pitoyo bike fund when his bike was stolen last year.  Eva and David are in trouble, and the community is pulling together to help. I think the past few days in particular speak to the strength of the Portland technology community.

Next Steps

Eva and David have quite a bit to think about this weekend as they weigh their options and decide which path to take. I expect that they will need to take a hard look at their business model and cost structure if they decide to continue with CubeSpace to avoid ending up in a similar situation again. Personally, I think that they should get rid of some more cubicles and increase the flexible space or provide bigger, dedicate office spaces to small companies. So many of us left the corporate world to escape the cubicles and aren’t eager to jump back into one.

I have also been holding off on making any donations until I see how I can best help. Donating money isn’t always the best option depending on which path they choose, so I want to make sure that I can help in a way that would be most productive. Whatever Eva and David decide to do, I will be there to support them in any way that I can as a member of the community that they have been so much a part of. I wish them the best of luck whatever they decide to do.

Update June 16: The end result is that CubeSpace has decided to shut down their business, but I wish them the best of luck in future endeavors.

Taking Your Idea From Side Project to Startup

I spent last evening and most of the day today at From Side Project to Startup. I had a great time, and I want to start with a huge thank you to Eva, David, the rest of the team at CubeSpace, the volunteers and the sponsors for putting together a great event! Great sessions, cool people, and peanut butter and jelly for my bagel(s).

I also took a bunch of notes during the sessions that I attended. Hopefully some of this will help people who missed the event or those who attended different sessions.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that these are my notes from the sessions. I tried to capture as much as I could, but I certainly missed a few things, and there are probably a few mistakes in my notes. These are also in the words of the speakers and participants in the sessions, and I may or may not agree with the advice below.

Basics of starting your Business
Led by Jacqueline Babicky-Peterson: Business Advisor at the PCC SBDC

The PCC SBDC and OTBC are good resources in pdx for startup information.

You have to be ready to adapt your plan and never go on autopilot. Planning is helpful in the process to think longer-term, balance alternatives, prepare finances, and remember why you did this in the first place. Many people go the startup route because they want to do things their own way. It’s also very stressful, since you are managing so many things at once and troubleshooting, but many people who start businesses also like this environment despite the higher stress levels. It helps to look at your personal goals and why you started the business. If you started your business for personal or lifestyle goals, you might want to think of the business as a tool to accomplish those goals.

You need to be careful about requests that are outside of your core business. In some cases, they may make sense, but you need to be careful not to let it spiral out of the scope of what you want to do. Sometimes your whole business can shift in a direction that isn’t what you want to be doing. Feature creep can cause this, too. It happens to all of us.

You can easily form an LLC yourself without any professional help; however, if you need a contract, have intellectual property, want to take investments or hire employees, then you should get help from a lawyer. It also helps to have a CPA organize your books while they are still easy.

The Mistakes we made because we thought we were “different” despite the warnings
with Rabbi David Kominsky, Wm Lehler, and Bart Massey

You will make mistakes because you need to take risks, but you should be making new mistakes, not just repeating all of the mistakes others make.

You need way more money than you think you do. A 6 month runway is not enough no matter how unique and cool you think you are with your startup. Don’t invest too much money on things you may or may not need (CubeSpace & too many phone lines) buying for the long haul rather than what you need right now in a cash flow restricted environment (volume discounts are not always great for startups). Similar issues can also be caused by not having a realistic business plan.

It’s a mistake to think that money will solve your problems. You will tend to use all of the money you have available, and some of the companies with the most money have the most difficulties. They start to spend money on stupid things that they don’t need.

Don’t think that being acquired by a big company will solve your problems. They will crush your soul. Avoid those multi-year golden handcuffs if possible.

Funding requires that you give up some control of your company. If you want control, you need to bootstrap. If you need to grow quickly and get big, then you need to give up control and take funding.

Number one indicator of success for a startup is having multiple people involved in the startup (but don’t hire a relative). Never ever hire someone that you can’t afford to fire (whatever the personal reasons).

If the business plan only works if you don’t pay yourself, then it isn’t a valid business plan. If it only works if you work 80 hour weeks, it also isn’t valid. Realistically, you will probably work 80 hours anyway, but if you plan for 80 hours, you’ll probably realistically need to work 120 hours.

When you hire people, you want to hire them for the things that you don’t like to do. You should focus on the things that you love and what to do.

Overprotecting your IP is another mistake: “I have this really great idea, but I can’t tell you about it.” If someone can steal your idea based on a simple conversation, it isn’t a good idea for a business. Networking and getting feedback are too critical to avoid talking to people about your startup. They can also help you find your competition and make suggestions.

If you don’t think you don’t have competition, you are wrong. Find them and learn as much as you can about them. The competition also may not be obvious. For CubeSpace, the competition was mostly coffee shops more than other co-working spaces. Talk to your competition and make them your friends. There should be enough to go around if it really is a viable business. If you have more work than you can do, throw some of that business to other people and you can develop cooperative niches.

Not networking enough is another mistake. You can call almost anyone in town and convince them to have breakfast or coffee. But you have to be willing to give back later and meet with other people to give them advice.

Biggest mistake is not having tiers of savings. It can drain way more quickly than you expect, especially for freelancers. Don’t overspend early and take on debt (especially credit card debt) for things you don’t really need, which creates even more financial pressure. You are better off avoiding debt and giving away equity for startups.

Investing many months of your life to join a startup with no salary can also be a mistake. Don’t ever do this unless you are willing to kiss the money goodbye if it doesn’t work out. That’s why you start these as a side project and turn them into a startup while you still have other income coming in.

Don’t be desperate. Don’t under price your services to beat the competition – it can bleed you dry, drain your finances, and eventually put you out of business. It is better to walk away from this type of business.

Don’t bid on a contract outside of your core competency. Even if you think it might work and you might be able to pull it off. Ultimately, it won’t be a great fit and will cause lots of stress. It takes too much out of you and you start not feeling great about what you do. It’s also related to desperation.

Look at all of the realistic risks and the unrealistic risks. Get help figuring out what the risks are, and have contingency plans for them.

You are not special and you are not different. This is the anti-gen y mindset.

When you price, don’t price it based on what it costs to produce. Find out what it is worth to them and charge that. 2-3x what it costs to produce it is probably what you should charge. Even in hourly rates, if it takes you an hour to do something that takes others 5 hours, you should charge appropriately. Also look at what competitors charge to get a gauge on the market.

Common thread: talk to people every step of the way, and take people’s advice; however, don’t make drastic changes in directions based on every piece of advice. Hear the advice and make corrections along the way based on the common themes that you hear from multiple people. Sometimes smart people can’t always give you tangible reasons why, but don’t just discount it because they can’t give you specific reasons.

You need to be genuine about who you are and what you do. Don’t try to become something you aren’t just because you think it is what people expect of you or your role (like dating advice). Open yourself up to people you work with and form emotional bonds with the people you work with. Don’t try to isolate yourself from them to maintain authority.

Big mistake: Not putting things in writing. Take notes and send them out in writing. Always have an employment contract even for a couple hours of work and specify who owns what intellectual property. Get signatures on documents to avoid legal troubles.

You have to be willing to do sales and marketing (esp for freelancers). If you aren’t willing to go out and sell your services, then you shouldn’t go into business, or you need to bring in a partner who is willing to do the sales. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of other resources (people and infrastructure).

Don’t forgo the good in pursuit of the perfect. Don’t look for the solution that will do everything, unless you are a software company, don’t write your own software. Find something good enough for your purposes.

You will either have engineers who think that marketing is worthless and / or salespeople who think that engineers are interchangeable. Both marketing and technical skills are important.

Go into business with the right person: someone who will challenge you and knows you well enough to call you on your bullshit. Have a board of advisors that are willing to give you advice. Consult them on a regular schedule and give them a little stock / equity in exchange for their help.

What kind of funding are you eligible for?
with Carolynn Duncan

Start by thinking about what type of business you have. Certain types of businesses fit better with specific types of funding.

  • Microbusiness (start on $10k or less, 1-3 employees, $100k revenue) – bootstrap, self-funded, credit cards.
  • Small business (start on $100k, 1-5 people, $1m revenue) – Savings, government (women, minorities, economic dev), credit cards, bank loans, friends and family.
  • Growth business (start needing $500k-$2m, 5-20 employees, $20m revenue) – Angels.
  • Mega-growth business ($2m-$10m to start, bunch of employees, $100m+ revenue) – VC or Government grants (biotech / research at a lab)

Investors will never tell you no. They just stop taking your calls. Need to read their signs to decide whether they are serious.

Steps to get Angel / VC funding:
Note: expect it to take at least 6 months, and think of it like any sales process; you are selling them a part of your business.

  • Meeting: Get an intro from someone or meet them at pitching events. Your elevator pitch in the first 30 seconds can make or break your chances. 1-2 weeks.
  • Marketing: Business plan, financials, and pitch. 2-4 weeks.
  • Selling: Start discussing concrete stuff like percentage of equity. They will start doing due diligence on you and will ask for a million things as part of the process.
  • Closing: If they say yes, they’ll send you a term sheet, lawyers get involved, and you start negotiating. Until the final deal is signed, it could fall apart anytime up to the very end.

Look at economic development development companies (usually county-based) if you need information about micro-lending opportunities.

When someone says no to you on funding, you should get as many specifics as possible about why they said no. Fix those before you move on to the next source. Don’t burn a bunch of bridges with the same mistakes.

What you need before you start:

  • Elevator pitch
  • Balance sheet for 1 year and 3-5 years
  • Cash flow statements
  • Business plan
  • 10 page pitch presentation.

Start thinking about the due diligence checklist to get an example of what they’re going to want after they decide they are interested (Google Due diligence checklist to get examples).


These are only three sessions, and it is quite a bit of information to process. I had a great time and had interesting conversations with fun people.

Feel free to fill in any gaps that I missed in the comments.

Portland Tech Events for August / September

We have some fun events planned for the next month here in Portland, and I wanted to take a minute to highlight some of them.

Sarah Lacy Tweetup (business week reporter, author, and more)
Monday, August 25, 2008 at 6:00pm
Green Dragon Bistro & Brewpub (on the patio) 928 SE 9th Ave
RSVP on Upcoming.

Legion of Tech Happy Hour Meetup
Thursday, August 28 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Green Dragon Bistro & Brewpub (on the patio) 928 SE 9th Ave
RSVP on upcoming.
Contact me if you are interested in sponsoring the meetup.

From Side Project to Startup
Friday September 12, 2008 (5:30pm – 9:00pm)
Saturday September 13, 2008 (9:00am – 5:00pm)
CubeSpace 622 SE Grand Avenue
Details about the event.
RSVP on Upcoming.

Haunted Lunch 2.0
Wednesday September 17 from 12:00pm – 2:00pm
SplashCast 226 NW Davis Portland
RSVP on Upcoming.

WordCamp (all about WordPress):
Saturday September 27
CubeSpace 622 SE Grand Ave

I hope to see you at some or all of these events!

Don't Miss BarCampPortland May 2, 3, & 4

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you might not know that we are holding our second annual BarCampPortland this weekend. Here are a few things you should know:


Friday, May 2: 6PM-10PM
Saturday, May 3: 9AM-11PM
Sunday, May 4: 9AM-2PM

622 SE Grand Ave
Portland, Oregon

The event is completely free, but it would be great if you could RSVP on Upcoming

What is BarCampPortland, and Why Should I Attend?

I think that I did a reasonably good job of explaining this in a Silicon Florist blog post last week: BarCampPortland: Five reasons to attend

But I’m not technical enough to attend …

Bulls**t! All you need to attend BarCampPortland is a passion for technology in some form: as a user of technologies, as a Twitter addict, as a blogger, as a programmer, as a food geek, as a sys admin, as a …

Last year, we had hardcore programming discussions along with conversations about online communities, science fiction, Lost TV show conspiracies, knitting, and so much more. I don’t want people to self-select out of BarCampPortland because they aren’t programmers. I haven’t written code in years, and I’ve been to a bunch of BarCamps (in Portland and elsewhere), and I always feel welcome. BarCamps use the “law of two feet”; if you get to a session and decide that it isn’t useful for you (too technical / not technical enough), you can just get up to walk out and join another discussion.


Portland has a huge Twitter community, and we will be using Twitter for updates during the event. Please follow BarCampPortland on Twitter to get real-time updates during the event. We will also have a space on your badge for your twitter name, so if you haven’t yet joined Twitter, now would be a great time!


Are you a WordPress user? If so, you will want to attend the mini-WordCamp running along with BarCampPortland on Sunday. We will also have plenty of other sessions on Sunday, too if WordPress isn’t your thing.

Bubble Tea and Bacon

Let’s just say that I’ve heard rumors about Bubble Tea and Bacon (separately, because together would be yucky). Nothing confirmed and no promises. I’m just sayin’ that I’ve heard some rumors.


We are still looking for volunteers, so if you would like to volunteer, you should contact Raven Zachary.

Just shut up and go already

I had a blast at the event last year, and I expect this year to be even better! Attending BarCampPortland is highly encouraged (and not just because I’m organizing it!) 🙂