It’s true: Our group of Armchair Mayors is rapidly approaching pantheon status. So, how does the Selection Committee do it? By surveying the vast human panorama that is Portland and mixing it up as much as possible.

For example, last month we had the enduring tradition of folk music with Richard Colombo, the owner of Artichoke Music, so this time we’re going right into the digital age. Let’s have a warm round of applause for this month’s Armchair Mayor: Rick Turoczy.

Rick Turoczy is so cutting edge that we thought of skipping the photograph and going right to a hologram. Maybe someday soon.

One night when most of Portland was sleeping, Turoczy had the inspiration to create a blog focused on new high-tech ventures in the Portland area. Dubbed the Silicon Florist, the blog led to a project called PIE, or the Portland Incubator Experiment for startups.

We’ll let him explain what he does in the world of high-tech communications, but you know this is the future when you need new terms just to describe it. In an age where words are often replaced by text abbreviations, Turoczy’s world is definitely adding to the lexicon.

One thing that’s definitely changed from last month’s Armchair Mayor: We are no longer strumming a mandolin here.

NN: Congratulations on being named Armchair Mayor. We sense this was a brilliant choice, but could you help us out a little and explain why? What is it that you do and what does “open source” mean?

Um. I’m not taking the blame for your bad judgment, if that’s what you’re getting at. Err. If that’s the thing at which you’re getting? Whatever.

I’m sorry. Where were we?

Oh. Right. I read the question again. What do I do?

To put it in the most straightforward terms, I tend to start startups that help startups.

Silicon Florist was started to help shine a limelight on the Portland startup scene. PIE was started to help startups go further, faster than they would on their own.

Honestly, when it comes right down to it, I guess I’m always trying to help people be better than they would be on their own, and get them the attention they so richly deserve. I edit. I coach. I take a backseat. And let them shine. Especially if it means I get to remain behind the curtain.

And as far as “open source” goes… that’s the idea that everyone should have the ability to change things for the better. That they should be able to work with their peers to make code better, to make hardware better, and to make technology more accessible to everyone. In other words, it’s the opposite of “proprietary.” It’s the opposite of a “walled garden.” Oh and speaking of walled gardens, here comes a question about Facebook. (I was reading ahead.) Segue FTW!

NN: You’re in one of the most dynamic industries in the world. For example, an analyst named Eric Jackson of Ironfire Capital got a lot of attention recently by saying Facebook would basically disappear within five to 10 years. I think he compared it to Yahoo’s shrinkage. Do you believe that’s going to happen, and what do you think is the next trend?

Did he really say “shrinkage”? Like they’d been in a cold pool?

Will these behemoths disappear? Absolutely. Most of these companies rocket past “too big to fail” right into “lumbering giant” pretty quickly. I don’t want to project any timelines. And I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as “failure.”

Technology will evolve. It always does. It doesn’t mean they failed. They just became obsolete. The public moved on.

I would imagine there are some pretty awesome buggy whips out there.

I mean, corded phones were pretty amazing once. And then loooooong phone cords made them even more awesome. But try to talk to a kid today about the fact that we used to be tethered to walls to have phone conversations and you’ll get a look of bewilderment. And likely disgust.

Things will keep changing faster and faster. Facebook isn’t immune. Anymore than AOL was immune. They went public and bought a media giant like Time Warner. Where are they now?

Yahoo! went on a buying spree. Gobbling up all of the awesome technology from the turn of the century. Where are they now?

To think that Facebook will avoid a similar fate is optimistic. They might be able to do it. Maybe they’ll pull a Google and continue to evolve. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Also, did I mention I’m not a betting man?

And what’s the next trend? Well, in a world where everyone and anyone can create content, we’ll need some way of effectively managing that content. The same way Google came along and helped us search the web. And Wikipedia came along and helped us organize information.

That’s the next thing.

But the filters will be slightly different and more passive than humans actively banging on a series of keys, putting together poorly phrased Boolean queries. The new filters will be things like who we know, what we like, and where we happen to be standing at the moment we request that information. And any number of permutations based on those relationships and time periods.

We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface—or service—of personalized results. And don’t even get me started on the “web of things” and how machines will better communicate with one another, independent of any human.

No, I said DON’T get me started.

NN: The world has never been hooked up like this before. Do you ever step back and ponder the big picture? How are all these high-tech communication devices ultimately going to change humanity?

I’m sorry, what? I was looking at my phone.

NN: The Portland metropolitan area is known as the Silicon Forest, so we’re obviously doing something right in this business. But, what could we be doing better?

RT: I don’t know how picking up a silly moniker means we’re doing something right, but I’ll go ahead and roll with your theory. Mostly so I can step up on this soapbox, right here.

What we could be doing better is teaching our youth to embrace entrepreneurship as a viable means of earning a living. It doesn’t have to be tech. It doesn’t even have to be big business. It just has to be empowering them with the knowledge that they can embrace opportunity. That they can be the next Mark Zuckerberg, if they want to. Or Steve Jobs. Or Bill Gates.

I want those opportunities to seem as mesmerizing as the big NBA contract or winning the lottery. Because they are. And quite frankly? Building a successful startup is far easier than some of those other dreams. It isn’t easy. But it’s definitely more attainable.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m sick and tired of “accidental entrepreneurship.” I’m tired of people having to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing their own thing. It’s not a matter of last resort. It’s simply another option.

And honestly? It’s not any more risky than a big corporate gig. Don’t believe me? I’ve got one word for you: layoffs. At least if you’re a co-founder of a startup, you’re in the driver’s seat. You’re in control. And if you fail? You’ve no one to blame but yourself. But it’s also a lot easier to dust yourself off and get going again. Because you learn from your mistakes.

And the more we can do to help every kid—regardless of gender or race—understand that startups are a very real avenue for their future, the better off we’ll all be.

The future won’t be built on the shoulders of giants. It will be built on the backs of teeming hordes of entrepreneurs.

Ahem. Let me step off that soapbox now.

NN: How worried are you that, despite our advances in tech areas, we are in danger of losing everything to financial or environmental ruin?

RT: Hunh? I’m sorry, I was looking at my phone again. You were saying something about “doom and gloom”?

We’re going the direction we’re going. It’s not good. It’s not evil. It’s simply where we’re going.

I mean, as far as environmental stuff goes, I’d like to think we’re actually more conscious of that than we’ve ever been. And that’s a good thing. I mean, I deconstruct my disposable coffee cups when I throw them out. Piece by piece. Lid goes here. Sleeve gets recycled. Cup gets composted.

If 1980s me saw me doing that, I’d label myself certifiably insane. But today? It simply means I’m conscious of my impact.

And all of the hoo-ha about technology making us more lonely and disconnected? There’s always a downside. To everything. We just have to learn how to live with it. And I’m pretty confident that this new generation is doing just fine. And they’ll continue to learn how to manage.

NN: We like to give the Armchair Mayors a chance to address their subjects directly. What would you say to the people of Portland?

RT: Dearest people of Portland. Holy crap. You’re awesome. Yes, even you asshole.

Look around. Don’t look at me. I’m not doing anything. I’m watching all of you. And waiting to see what you do next. So go.

Look at all of these amazing people in Portland. Doing incredible things.

Look at our entire city of artisans. A culture full of people who embrace and value craft over commodity. Who pay for attention to detail. Who buy local. Who support workmanship.

Look at those people and then think, “Why should they have all of the fun? What is it I can do better than everyone else? What is my craft?”

And then go do it.

Start a tech company. Start a food cart. Start your own craft brewery. Start your own coffee shop. Start your own bookstore. Start your own distillery. Start a blog. Start your own restaurant. Start building bikes by hand. Start recycling materials into new and interesting things. Hell, start a band for all I care. But start. Just start.


…And if what you start happens to be a tech company, please let me know. I’m always looking for my next blog post. Or amazing candidates for PIE.

Go. Get started. You can do it. And only you. So go. Start.