Pioneer Nation 2014, D.I.Y. Revolution and Oregon Adventure

Written by Azat MardanMay 01, 2014

The Pioneer Nation conference was all about living your dream. It was held in Portland, Oregon. I was due for a vacation after DocuSign Momentum and always wanted to visit this city, so the excuse was perfect. It turned out to be a perfect rainy getaway from the tiresome dry, sunny, and hot Bay area winter!

Tiny Alaska Airline plane from rainy Oakland, CA to rainy Portland, OR

I was headed to the inaugural Pioneer Nation 2014 conference. I found out about this event almost by accident. Firstly, a few people whose opinions I respect suggested the World Domination Summit which is another conference in Portland organized by Chris Guillebeau et al. Chris is the author of inspirational The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future . I signed up for the sale notification to WDS, but missed the second ticket sale wave by only a few hours. I checked my email at night and 500 tickets were sold, with the email blast having just gone out that morning. What a high demand; good job, Chris! That’s how I learned about Pioneer Nation.

The theme of PN is simple: create your dream job, escape 9-5, and be an entrepreneur. This is more in line with my mood than WDS, which is more general and not all about business. Also PN is smaller in attendance than WDS, which was held three times already (or something like that). Because of that, not getting a ticket to the World Domination Summit allowed me to come to Pioneer Nation, so the outcome was to my benefit. I’m happy about the fortuna despite the former being a better cocktail party conversation starter than the latter.

The Nines lounge view on downtown Portland, OR

At the Pioneer Nation, about 400 of us socialized, listened to talks, and applied what we learned right away at workshops. For those of you who have read/listened to The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future , it’s a very good book with a lot of case studies and inspirational stories (We all love stories, right?).

I stayed at a wonderful place in Kenton, which I later discovered belongs to and is run by entrepreneurs and Pioneer Nation volunteers! The Kenton neighborhood is famous for its statue of a lumberjack.

The Kenton statue, Portland, OR

Before committing to the trip, I lowered my expectations, and the plan was to enjoy my vacation, visit Portland and take the train (Coast Starlight) back to the Bay Area. But the event turned out really well. I learned quite a few cool new things, met with interesting and inspiring people and came back for tons of new ideas. My main take aways—besides the nice swag that they gave us, including a book(thank you Nathan Barry!), hoodie, mug and compass—are:

  • Have a marketing plan and calendar, and be disciplined and strategic about them
  • Video courses are huge right now. I rejected the PacktPub offer to do the Express.js video course in order to produce mine independently
  • Chris Brogan’s quote: “Usually it’s not the book-smartest who succeed, because those people never start, but the other people: they don’t know stuff, but they start anyway”
  • Just a side note: Portland has good coffee and lots and lots of organic juice bars
  • The path to new age entrepreneurship is doable and doesn’t take long: most of the speakers been doing this entrepreneurial thing only for about 2-4 years. In some of the break-out sessions, speakers were sitting in on the other sessions and learning something themselves!

Now I’m full of motivation and have a new mini-community of creative risk-takers. Go pioneers!

On my way back, I took the Coast Starlight train for the sake of adventure, scenic views and ability to get started on my new book ProgWriter. The lack of WiFi internet didn’t bother me because I had MoFi (but never needed to use it). I actually found it better not to be interrupted by the Internet research when I was writing. Needless to say, the ride was spectacular and surprisingly convenient: there was more legroom in coach than in a business class airplane seat. The conversations and people who travel on trains were amazing. I met with a city counsel of Bend, OR (a town near Mount Bachelor ski resort in the middle of Oregon), and she told me about their BYOJ (bring your own job) and startup initiatives. By dusk when we were crossing the Cascades, there was snow and scenic views. Maybe I should travel with Amtrak more often?