Capturing the moment

Entrepreneurship is about searching for opportunities, identifying your strengths, and capitalizing on the moment. It requires a drive to take action now, a need to create and build something new. It cannot wait.

Our community is at the brink of creating a unique place where companies can launch and flourish, but we must be willing to act quickly and pull together to identify our strengths and explore new opportunities. We must ask ourselves: in what areas are we uniquely qualified to compete in the global market? What are our strengths?

Over the last few months, I have been in on meetings with city officials, county representatives, and members of local economic development agencies who are working hard to answer those questions. Everyone has been taking a critical look, and asking, what do we have here in Eugene that will allow us to leverage our strengths, and will give us a competitive advantage.

So far, two areas have emerged as our biggest opportunities: software publishing, in particular educational technology and game development, and food and beverage production.

So, why are we uniquely qualified to compete in these industries?

Eugene currently has five times more people per capita engaged in software publishing than the national average, and growth in the local software publishing industry has outpaced both the state and national average over the last ten years. Nationally, the software publishing industry is expected to grow by an additional 20% over the next ten years.

Commercial food and beverage production is expected to grow by even more, up by 30% over the next ten years. Our region is already home to a diverse array of organic foods companies and craft brewers. Major national companies are already looking to acquire Oregon companies so they can enter the craft beer and organic foods markets.

Our biggest strength, however, is our ability to form unique collaborations that could only happen here, like game design and educational technology. Eugene has long been the home of the state’s game development industry, which is already among the top ten in the country. We’re also home to a talented research community at the University of Oregon that is a recognized national leader in education research.

The landscape of U.S. education is rapidly changing as the emergence of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and experiments with flipped classrooms—arrangements where students learn content from videos and games at home and work on homework and projects at school—change how students learn material. This period of change is also one of great opportunity.

The challenge today is to create educational games that are actually fun to play while still teaching important skills, something I think our region is ideally positioned to accomplish, if we work together.

By building to our strengths, we can begin to raise the visibility of areas where we are already seeing success. These efforts have a way of compounding: as they begin to grow and attract talent and investment to our region, more will follow. We must be willing, however, to set the process in motion by first investing in ourselves.

Over the next year we’ll continue to explore the software publishing and food and beverage production sector strategies: why they are a good investment for our region, profiles of companies and entrepreneurs working in them, and discussions around how we can organize and support growth and connectivity in these areas.

Join us in taking action to build a community that supports creative enterprises and bold innovations. Let’s spend the year thinking big, building to our strengths, and working hard to capture this moment before it slips away.

-Joe Maruschak, Director of the RAIN Eugene Accelerator