Three Creeks Brewing Co. is always a good place to grab a beer and talk about business. Last Thursday, many of the movers and shakers of the Central Oregon business community did just that - in the organized setting of an EDCO Pub Talk.
Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) regularly hosts pub talks as networking opportunities for members and a chance for local entrepreneurs to present their stories to their peers. This was the third such gathering to be held in Sisters.
The evening featured a couple of homegrown Sisters businesses and a keynote speech by Sisters resident Allan Holzman.
Darrin Dow of Smart Grow talked about the strides his Sisters-based company has made thanks to very recent advances in LED lighting technology.
"We started to notice that LED was making a really big run," Dow said.
Key research partnerships are helping the company develop proprietary lighting that is more effective and efficient, which will allow Smart Grow to get into the most lucrative markets in horticulture.
"We wanted to get into the bloom market, because 80 percent of the market is there," Dow said.
The "bloom market" includes flowers, tomatoes - anything that blooms. Including cannabis.
Dow took a bit of good-natured ribbing over the nature of the market that appears to be developing in horticulture. He smiled and acknowledged that "the legal environment has changed." However, he emphasized that he considers his company's wares "infrastructure."
A major part of Smart Grow's business involves using smart-phone technology as remote control for grow-lighting operation.
Preston Thompson spoke about his newly established guitar-making shop next door to The Belfry in Sisters. He expressed his appreciation for the help EDCO provided in getting that business launched in Sisters. And it has launched strong, with orders coming in at a clip that is keeping Thompson and his craftsmen very busy.
Allan Holzman, whose career included investigating potential investments for Intel, spoke on lessons learned in a career in international venture capitalism.
He emphasized the importance of strong management. When he was looking at a technology company, he was less concerned about the actual tech involved than he was about management.
"If the company isn't going to survive, it doesn't matter how great the technology is," he said. "Decent technology and excellent management will always win. Ultimately, great management is what you want."
Holzman noted that many startups are surprisingly unaware of who and what their competition is.
"You'd be amazed how many of them don't know the answer to that question," he said.
Yet it is key to any startup's success.
Holzman said that companies with good products or services can fail if they have contentious leadership or leadership that motivates by intimidation. Better, he says, to bring people together and lead by example.
He also noted that it is not enough to judge by superficial appearances. He cited an Eastern European company that appeared decrepit because the exterior of its offices was shabby. But that was a cultural artifact - public and exterior spaces are often neglected while money is spent in private spaces. An office strewn with coffee cups and pizza boxes may be incubating a brilliant idea.
"Don't judge superficially by what you see," he said. "Dig in a little bit."
The evening was coordinated in part by Sisters Economic Development Manager Caprielle Foote-Lewis, and she told The Nugget she was pleased with the Sisters-centric theme of the evening, which showed regional partners how economically active Sisters actually is.