Every other Thursday, a group of forward-thinking tech types meets at the Barn Light, a new coffee joint next door to Palo Alto Software, to strategize, share expertise and brainstorm new businesses. This year Eugene’s Chamber of Commerce invested almost $500,000 in angel investments across multiple companies. “We’re still in the earlier phases of the industry,” explains John Hull, a former venture capitalist who is currently executive director of the Business Innovation Institute at the University of Oregon. “Palo Alto Software is paving the way.”
That growth is part of a tech trend in Eugene and smaller cities outside of Portland. Over the last five years, there has been an increase in technology startups and technology-related business relocating to Oregon with Portland at its hub. But most recently, according to Newberry, other cities are benefiting from the presence of the Silicon Forest: the Columbia Gorge, Bend, Eugene, Corvallis, Medford and Ashland. Eugene, the second-largest city in the state, is starting to build a pool of software and engineering talent to support the startups moving in.
Palo Alto’s business-plan software isn’t exactly sexy. But its practical applications can’t be overstated. After taking a business course at Clackamas Community College, 59-year-old Shasta Bunnell started using the company’s LivePlan platform. “I always wanted to have my own business,” says Bunnell. “But as a young person, when I got to a point in the planning process, my lack of knowledge and skills held me back. I didn’t follow through.” Instead she worked as a cook for 35 years, eventually getting promoted to executive chef.
But now Bunnell has started an event-planning company, Custom Event Creations. “This plan helps you follow through. It challenges you to do the things you should be doing.”