In December I had the pleasure of acting as emcee for Pitch Oregon 2017, an annual event hosted by TiE Oregon featuring regional early stage startup entrepreneurs pitching in front of a panel of judges for cash and investment opportunities. I’ve been involved in the entrepreneur scene in Portland for more than a decade, both as a mentor and volunteer and as an employee at start-up and growth stage companies. This event serves as a great representation of what the region has to offer, and the role that leaders at startups and established enterprises can have in fostering opportunities for budding organizations.

Innovations and Breaking Barriers

I’ve volunteered as an instructor and mentor for TiE Young Entrepreneurs and TiE XL Bootcamp programs for the last few years, and the mission to inspire, challenge and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs and community members was alive and well at this event. Every year, I’m struck by the pioneering talent cropping up in the Silicon Forest and the way the community comes together to shine a light on the hard work and unique ideas from these entrepreneurs.

This year’s event was a great example of the regional efforts to level the playing field for typically underrepresented groups. Women represented over half of the pitching companies this year, and the two big winners for the event – in the concept stage and seed stage categories – both featured female founders.

The innovation represented in these pitches is also emblematic of the Portland tech scene. Companies represented ranged from health care solution and crowdsourcing apps to wearable tech – and each company is poised to disrupt their respective industries.

Community Support in the Silicon Forest

The pitch event and prizes were presented by TiE Oregon, a nonprofit local chapter of a global community working to change the face of entrepreneurship and growing businesses. TiE Oregon is one of the most active chapters of this global organization, and this event has galvanized other leaders in the space in supporting these budding companies. Winners received legal services, participation in the entrepreneurs bootcamp, and memberships to TiE and the Technology Association of Oregon. This year, it was also announced that the investment firm Elevate Capital would provide commitments to two of the winners amounting to $100,000.

Beyond dollar amount investments, the work of regional groups like TiE Oregon, Technology Association of Oregon, Startup Digest Portland and Oregon Entrepreneur Network, among others, provide a valuable resource to the region. Meetups, conferences, learning lunches and bootcamps – each of these provide a wonderful resource for these growing companies, and serve as a meeting place for like minded innovators. They can also provide great visibility for growing companies, including RADAR – winning the 2017 OEN Tom Holce Entrepreneurship Award earlier this year highlighted our accomplishments and progress to a wider regional and state audience.

A Call to Corporate Volunteerism

Pitch events and entrepreneur support organizations wouldn’t exist if there weren’t dedicated individuals and enterprises willing to give of their time and resources to positively impact our local community. At RADAR, we encourage our employees to give back to the community we live in by taking time from work to volunteer. Whether it is volunteering individually or at company sponsored events such as our recent “Kit Party” through the Business for a Better Portland, preparing kits to support individuals experiencing homelessness, we feel a sense of community and responsibility to get involved helping those in need and the causes we find in need of our support.

Portland and the surrounding region that encapsulates the Silicon Forest has provided RADAR the opportunity to grow in a competitive and nurturing community. We’ve been lucky to receive regional recognition lately, and hope to continue to support and nurture our tech community in 2018 and beyond.