Archives For Portland

People are dissatisfied with banking. A recent study from the Rassmussen Report reveals that American Consumers hold a grudge against banks who they hold responsible for the great recession. Many consumers believe that banks don’t have their best interests at heart. Bank fees are often confusing and hit your checking account when you can least afford them. People feel like idiots when they are hit with a bank fee. Most people, at one time or another, have had a nightmare customer service experience with a large bank. Large banks have some of the lowest customer experience and customer service ratings. People feel powerless to change things. Banks talk about being customer focused but very few of them empathize with the needs of their customers. Banks make money by keeping people confused. 

Like many people, Josh Reich got fed up with his bank after it charged him overdraft fees and he lived through a painful customer service experience. This motivated Reich, a software engineer from Australia, to come up with a better more human way to bank. 

Reich created Simple, an online banking company that was founded in Brooklyn and relocated to Portland, Oregon. Simple offers customers free checking and data analysis of their transactions and spending habits. The company, which began signing up customers in 2012 now has more than 80,000 accounts and has processed transactions worth more than $200 million. Simple does not have retail branches.

The Simple Bank Brand was developed to help people better control their finances. All employees in the company are unified in support of this common purpose. Their goal is to make banking more human by putting customer service at the core of everything they do. Simple is targeted to people who are dissatisfied with their current banking relationship. A Simple account empowers customers with powerful budgeting and savings tools built right into their account. These tools show customers how much money they have to spend and help people save for specific goals like vacations. Their website and mobile apps are clean, simple and easy to use. Simple gives people tools to help themselves, while still making sure knowledgeable, friendly people are there to help when you need them.


The company’s biggest challenge is customer acquisition. Despite their current dissatisfaction, it is difficult to get customers to change and leave their current bank. Changing banks is a lot of work.

Would you leave your current bank if a better more human option was available?


I recently had the opportunity to visit Portland, Oregon on a job interview. Portland is a beautiful city that has a lot to offer. In certain circles, Portland is known as Beervana due to its high number of top-quality microbreweries. 31 breweries operate in Portland, that’s more than any city in the world. One of my favorites is Widmer Brothers that is famous for their Hefeweizen.

widmer-hefeweizen current

Widmer Brewing was founded in 1984 by brothers Kurt and Rob Widmer. Kurt and Rob were tired of their day jobs and frustrated by having trouble finding beer in the United States that they liked to drink. They started by brewing Altbier, and Weizenbier their interpretation of a filtered wheat beer. They were among the early pioneers of the micro-beer movement in Portland and the United States. At the time they opened there were only 83 breweries in the country.

The early brewers faced a number of barriers: they were mostly uneducated about large-scale brewing; almost none of them had ever worked in a brewery before; they had to learn how to brew with makeshift equipment in makeshift buildings; they had to invent a market niche and create interest in a product customers didn’t know they wanted. They learned the beer business along the way.

They discovered success somewhat serendipitously. In 1986, the owner of the Dublin Pub Carl Simpson, which carried the Altbier and Weizenbier was eager to expand his offerings. He asked the Widmer Brother to make a third beer for him. The brewery only had two fermenters at the time. So to save space and time, they simply left the Weizenbier unfiltered and cloudy, thus creating the first American style Hefeweizen. When he added the lemon wedge, it took off. Widmer Hefewizen was the first “it” beer in Portland. Within a few years, it became the Merlot of beer–the cloudiness was a calling card for diners at upscale restaurants, and the flavor was very different. I discovered Widmer Hefewizen in 1995 on a trip to Seattle for the NCAA Final Four.

The Widmer’s have been very involved in promoting  Portland’s beer culture.  They were one of four breweries who helped start the Oregon Brewers Festival. Widmer always sends a special beer to the festival. They continue be active in the Portland beer scene. Hefewizen remains their biggest seller.


The Widmer Brother have been in business for nearly thirty years. Along the way they have had their ups and down but they built a success story. It is a great example of how far passion, innovation and entrepreneurship can take you if you are willing to learn along the way. They have developed a unique culture that has helped them be successful. In 2008, they merged with Red Hook Brewery to form the Craft Beer Alliance an independent publicly traded brewing company. Today, they are the 9th largest brewery in the country.

Have you tried a Widmer Hefewizen?