WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
Few good things have come out of this pandemic.
But Amanda Oborne, executive director of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, says a lot of great companies are being born in living rooms and garages right now.
"I think the wave of innovation we're going to see over the next couple years is going to be completely off the chain," Oborne says. "This has been a turning point for people. They're waking people up in a really serious way to the things that are important to them, and to the things that the world needs. They are ready to dig in."
The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network aims to help these new enterprises take flight. In September, OEN hosted Oregon Angel Food (OregonAF, get it?), the finale to a four-week workshop for food-and-beverage entrepreneurs and investors in the Northwest.
The winner was TakeTwo Foods, which makes a plant-based milk alternative from spent grains left over from the beer-brewing process. Normally, brewers toss the barley they use. TakeTwo "upcycles" the stuff and "rejuvenates" it to make barley milk.
"It is so creamy and good, you can cook macaroni with it," Oborne says.
OEN had hoped to raise about $200,000 in angel funds to invest in the OregonAF winner. Last year, first prize was $155,000. But investors got so excited about TakeTwo that they stumped up $1.1 million.
Another Portland company that's making gold out of other people's byproducts: Wheyward Spirit. It's taking dairy whey, the nutritious, complex stuff left over from making cheese, and turning it into a vodkalike spirit.
After almost eight months of quarantine, I'll take a double.
Oregon Entrepreneur Network's next event is the OEN Entrepreneurship Awards on Nov. 19. Oborne thinks everyone should register and come see some good that's coming out of 2020.