TAO-ing the line: Tech group gets into equity
The Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) has four board new members. The association, which promotes the growth of tech companies statewide, is pushing diversity, chiefly geographic diversity. Its new members will represent more firms outside of Portland.
These new board members will serve an initial three-year term. The TAO said two current board members will serve a second three-year term. Monica Enand, CEO of Zapproved, is the new Chair of the board of directors. Steve Marsh, CEO of Smarsh, the recent chair, will stay on the board.
Skip Newberry will remain as President and CEO.
TAO's goal is to create "a world-class and inclusive innovation economy in the region through programs and initiatives that focus on industry promotion, advocacy, professional networks, and economic and talent development."
Three of the new board members hail from the Columbia Gorge and the Southern Willamette Valley,
New inclusiveness — even Vancouver
Skip Newberry, President and CEO of TAO, promised in a statement that this was not the end of it. "[I]n future years we will be continuing to add new board members from different areas in Oregon and Southwest Washington."
With offices in Portland, Eugene and Bend, TAO also holds events across the state and in Southwest Washington. Member companies pay dues that start at $180 per year and go up to $6,000. TAO has 28 board members and four directors.
Newberry told the Business Tribune, "From a policy standpoint, we're dealing with legislators from all over." TAO talks to them about the tech companies in their districts, the role of technology and how it is used on their constituents' jobs. "We cover everything from agriculture to forestry and extraction, and technology is a narrative or a piece of all that."
He added, "Obviously we need gender diversity, and we're striving for people of different ethnic backgrounds of color. Geographic diversity is important too, and diversity that cuts across different stages of companies. We don't just want large companies, but startups and growing companies. And not just semi conductors, but software, device and Internet of Things companies."
As the influence of technology on traditional pursuits such as agriculture, there are also thousands of remote tech workers. "Someone who needs good wireless, a computer and roof over their head can be wherever. There are lots in in rural communities around Ben, Prineville, Sisters, in the Gorge and not just Hood River but out to the Dalles, and on the other side of the river. We've got a certain amount of mobility, people choosing to live where they want to live."
Non-Portland companies that come to mind who are active in OEN are Supergenius, the video game makers in Oregon City. "They're pretty important contributors to the downtown presence, and they're active in political and economic development conversations." Another example of the type of board member they are going after is Elisabeth Richard, the Chief Information Officer for Greenbriar. "She's more in line with what we're looking for: CIOs and IT leaders."
Shake it up
The organization also has programming that includes professional development training and does economic research. And public relations, "telling the story of technology in Oregon, and why anyone should care."
TAO has been looking to diversify its board for a long time. At the recent TAO annual awards, the MC was an Indian American woman — Monica Enand, CEO of Zapproved, a sight not seen in the old Silicon Forest days of white men from semiconductor companies.
Newberry said TAO works with IT leaders, people who are in charge of infrastructure at big companies such as Nike and Columbia Sportswear, as well as hospitals and utilities. TAO was formed from the Software Association of Oregon and the Oregon brand of TechAmerica.
Change is coming.
"We're not doing something for a narrow a band of companies any more. Technology is now about health, local government delivering services, keeping infrastructure safe. It's increasingly at the center of all of them."
And on the need for different looking people at the boardroom table?
"The global population is diversifying and changing, and tech companies who want to sell products need know what those people are dealing with on a daily basis."
He says white males CEOs needn't worry about being forced out.
"The good managers executives are not afraid of putting themselves out of a job. They always think 'What's the best possible outcome, and how are we going to build a fantastic organization that gets the results we need?'"
"Very few people (in tech) think they're going to have the same job in 20 years. I'm
seeing a cultural awareness of disruption: the need to change things up, disrupt yourself."
The newest TAO board members are:
Celeste Edman, CEO, Lunar Logic, a Eugene firm providing software and analysis for clients who want to connect, see, and understand their data. Edman is a proponent of STEM & CTE education and mentors entrepreneurs at the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, RAIN, and SBDC.
Mike Graham, Founder and President, Real Carbon, a manufacturing firm located in Hood River, which makes composite structures and components for windsurfers and drones. He is also on the board of directors of the Gorge Technology Alliance.
Charlie Kawasaki, Principal, Software Diligence Services which consults at cybersecurity related software and networking companies in the Portland-area and has been on the boards of the Software Association of Oregon, Smart Grid Northwest, and Regional Alliance for Infrastructure and Network Security.
Mohan Nair, CIO, Cambia Health Solutions, a holding company consisting of 25 companies, including several emerging and established entities in healthcare. Nair was President of ProTools Inc, which was acquired by McAfee, President of ABC technologies, acquired by SAS corporation, and a marketer at Mentor Graphics Corporation and Intel.
The renewing board members are: Wayne Skipper, CEO, Concentric Sky and Scott Waddell, CTO, Iovation.
About the Technology Association of Oregon
Technology Association of Oregon is a local nonprofit that empowers businesses and entrepreneurs through networks, events, advocacy, resources and more. With over 400 member-companies, TAO's network brings together some of the largest companies in the world, small startups, and tech-enabled companies that are using technology to drive growth and innovation.