Alumni, News

PIE alum Vadio partners with Shazam

Shazam now delivers the video of that song you’re trying to identify. All thanks to PIE alum Vadio.

Vadio-powered video channels make it possible for people to consume music video content through the sites and apps they already use. By partnering with companies like Shazam, Vadio anticipates video views to skyrocket month over month. Vadio music video channels can be assembled in several different ways. Now when a person Shazams a song, they are presented with a music video channel. Video channels can also be curated by editors, automatically generated by trending data or built by brands to reflect genres or the interests and attributes of their audience segments.

With this partnership, Shazam is extending the opportunity to engage audiences in more than 190 countries with highly engaging videos of the latest artists and popular music from around the world. Currently, there are over 1,800 artists verified on Shazam that are sharing content with their over 3 billion cumulative followers. The addition of music video playlists powered by Vadio makes it possible for brands to connect audiences through content that is relevant, targeted and highly engaging.

For more information, see the Shazam press release.


Why is PIE open sourcing its learnings?

Since 2008, PIE has been an ongoing series of experiments. First as a coworking space then as an early stage startup accelerator then as an accelerator for accelerators. Now, we’re embarking on our next experiment: the PIE Cookbook, an open source guide designed to help anyone, anywhere accelerate anything.

We’re excited to share what we’ve learned over the last 8 years — especially with the hopes that we help you avoid the mistakes we made.

To provide more context on the PIE Cookbook and why we’re so motivated to give away what we’ve learned for free, we’ve gathered up some of our Medium content for you:

We’ll continue to publish on Medium and here as we learn from — and screw up with — Kickstarter, as we work to develop and share our content out in the open, and as we collaborate on this new offering with communities around the world.

And if you’re interested in getting more details on the PIE Cookbook and its potential applications — even if you have no desire to start an accelerator of your own — please visit us on Kickstarter. We’re hoping to connect with as many amazing startup communities as we possibly can.


What experiment is PIE cooking up next?

It’s no secret. We’ve been rethinking the Portland Incubator Experiment. (It’s an experiment, after all.)

What began eight years ago as a collaboration between the largest privately held creative agency in the world, Wieden+Kennedy, and the Portland startup scene led to a coworking space, an early-stage and mid-stage startup accelerator, a corporate accelerator, hackdays, startup events, and a hub for community, among other things. And all these iterations have been valuable.

As we’ve been evaluating PIE, we wanted to continue to provide value to the startup community—in the broadest sense—and use our resources in the best way possible.

So after a number of conversations with startups, mentors, advisors, peers, and patrons, we’ve hit upon what we should be doing next. And now we’re ready to share the next phase of the experiment with you.

Introducing the PIE Cookbook


The PIE Cookbook will be an open source guide for creating, building, and improving your startup accelerator. Starting one from scratch? Already have one running? Traditional startup accelerator, new take on the accelerator mode, or corporate incubator looking for inspiration the PIE cookbook will have something for you. Once complete, it will contain everything we’ve learned over the eight years of running PIE—successes, failures, and everything in between. What’s more, it will be completely free and open source so that anyone, anywhere, can put what we’ve learned to good use.

Why are we open sourcing our program and processes?


First, we believe the most efficient way to scale PIE is to provide direct access to our learnings. Second, we believe each and every community—enabled with the right tools and insights—has the potential to assist and accelerate promising folks further and faster toward success. Third, we believe there’s no secret formula to running an accelerator, and that sharing is the best way to help us all help each other.

And that’s just good for everyone.

Even if all we manage to do is simply document the PIE process, we’ll consider this project a success. But we hope the PIE Cookbook is the beginning of something much more meaningful. As an open source project, you will have the opportunity take part in creating the most effective documentation for startup accelerators, ever. And anyone can use the PIE Cookbook as the basis for documenting and running an accelerator program—whether it follows the PIE path or just avoids our mistakes.

If this sounds interesting to you, please take a look at the PIE Cookbook Kickstarter campaign and join us on this project.

More to come…


We realize that many of the folks who follow PIE are founders. And their interests lie not in building an accelerator but in being accelerated. Rest assured, we haven’t forgotten our roots as a program designed to build better founders. There’s more coming in that regard. 2016 is going to be a lot of fun, and a lot of hardwork, and the PIE Cookbook is just the first experiment we have planned for this year.

So please stay tuned. We’re excited to share the next phase of the experiment as it comes together.

Advice, Community

Want to build a startup accelerator?

At PIE, we’re extremely lucky in that we get to talk to amazing founders and startups, day in and day out. But they’re not the only folks interested in chatting with us. We also get a lot—a lot—of inquiries about how PIE came to be. And how they can go about building a startup accelerator for their respective communities or cities.

So we took a few minutes to crank out some content in this regard, featuring the seven easy steps for building a startup accelerator.

This isn’t a guide. Or a regimen. This isn’t the answer. This is simply how PIE became an accelerator. There is no right timespan for this. For some communities, it happens more quickly and organically. For others, it takes a long, long, long time.

For more, read “Want to start an accelerator?


Community, News

Getting an early start on 2016: Accelerator and startup opportunities

Where did the year go? We’ve been meeting with awesome startups. And working with amazing accelerators. And helping our alums. And, and, and… time just flew by.

But we know you’ve been busy too. So we wanted to take a few minutes to highlight some opportunities that you might have missed—both for awesome startups and those who are interested in helping awesome startups.

1776 Challenge Cup Portland

This year, PIE is proud to partner with our peers back east to play the local host for the 1776 Challenge Cup competition. The free, quick pitch competition provides startups an opportunity to showcase their efforts to their local community and the possibility of moving on to larger and larger stages at regional and global competitions.

All of the regional winners and a host of wild cards will be invited to participate in the Challenge Cup Global Finals next June in Washington, D.C. There, they’ll compete for over $1 million in prizes, as well as spend time with the investors, customers, media and other key connections that can help them succeed on a global scale.

PIE is currently seeking startups for the December 10, 2015, local competition at OMSI. We’re looking for startups that are providing solutions for: cities, education, energy, food, health, money, security, and transportation.

Working on something that fits? Please submit your 1776 Challenge Cup application no later than 11:59PM Pacific Time on November 30, 2015.

For more information or to attend the event, visit 1776 Challenge Cup Local: Portland, hosted by PIE.

Interested in helping startups?

Portland is home to a number of incubators and accelerators that support both local startups—and entrepreneurs from around the world.

If you’ve ever been interested in helping startups, there are a number of interesting opportunities to get involved:

(Image courtesy Hockley Photography. Used with permission.)


It’s time for a new flavor of PIE

When Wieden+Kennedy collaborated with the Portland startup scene to make PIE a reality, it was an experiment. A way to test collaboration between the agency and startups. Truth be told, none of us foresaw it becoming an accelerator.

But that’s exactly what we became.

As such, PIE has spent five of the last six years building an accelerator program. Borrowing ideas from industry leaders like Y Combinator and Techstars — and imbuing them with a distinctly Portland flavor. In so doing, we created a platform that continues to explore how to help a wide range of startups and growth-stage companies. We found ways to collaborate with the largest privately held creative agency in the world — an agency with “Fail harder” built into its DNA — and the global brands that agency continues to attract as clients. We even had our share of exits with companies like AppThwack, Nutmeg, and Orchestrate.

So it seems to be working. And we’d like to think that these efforts have had a positive impact on the Portland startup scene. And maybe, even beyond. Hopefully, Portland feels the same way.

Speaking of Portland… wow. Good job, you! We’ve had an amazing vantage point to watch our once nascent startup scene grow, mature, and succeed. New companies. New support vehicles. New investments. And with that growth and maturity, things have changed. And many of the original challenges that PIE was designed to address have been overcome.

But, luckily, a whole new set of challenges have replaced them.

And that got us thinking about the next phase of our experiment — and how PIE should evolve to tackle these new challenges.

You see, we don’t talk about this much, but when we began the accelerator experiment, we designed it with a limited lifespan — like a fund. Or like a Replicant. And with that three-class lifespan in mind, we ran the accelerator as efficiently as we could. Experimenting with our resources to see how much could be done with how little. And how efficiently our capital could be used to help startups and create value.

We did okay. It was neither a raving success nor a miserable failure. But it was a good experiment. That ran efficiently and effectively. We ran it so efficiently in fact, that instead of ending with the three classes we’d planned, we wedged in a fourth. And now, after a lot of late nights, intensive mentoring, tears, cheers, and four graduated classes, we are proud to have had a hand in supporting a diverse portfolio of companies and a dynamic pool of incredible mentors from around the world who continue to be connected to the Portland startup scene.

PIE became an accelerator. Not because we planned it that way, but because we had to. Our proverbial gut said that it seemed like the right experiment to run at the time.


But it’s not that time anymore


You see, despite some pretty kick-ass results, PIE was never meant to be an accelerator. PIE was meant to be an incubator for on-going experiments.

PIE incubates new ways for corporations and startups to work together. PIE tests how those with scale and resources can collaborate with innovators to create mutual value. PIE unlocks the tribal knowledge of entrepreneurial ecosystems to help build better founders — and help some of those founders (predominantly Portland founders) to be more successful. PIE fosters interesting services and technologies — and hopefully, makes it easier to start successful companies in Portland.

PIE enables us to explore concepts. To put hypotheses to the test. To work. To try. To fail. To learn. And to have the wherewithal to get up and go at it again.

First, as a coworking space. Then, as an accelerator.

In our current iteration, the easiest — and most straightforward — thing to do would be to continue running the accelerator as we’ve run it to date. Well, okay, not easy… but it would be us doing what we’ve gotten pretty decent at doing. With outcomes that would be relatively predictable.

But easy is not what we do.

We like to fix problems. We like to try new experiments. We like to make things difficult to make them interesting. Long story short, we like to start new things.

And so, even though it’s going to be scary and messy and rife with uncertainty, it’s time for the next phase of the experiment.

We’re not changing everything, mind you. One thing will remain absolutely consistent: we’ll continue to strive to help Portland startups and the Portland startup scene. Because that’s what makes PIE, well, PIE.

But the fresh PIE — the new experiment — will be different. Familiar, but different. Because what’s needed now is different than when we began.

Without giving too much away, this new experiment will tackle how we provide the same type of assistance we’ve provided in the past. But this time, at scale. So we can help more than the handful of startups we traditionally welcomed into the space, every year. So we can help more and more founders. To find new ways to collaborate and create value. And help ensure that this amazing momentum that Portland has harnessed, continues. In Portland… and beyond.

Even better? The next phase of the PIE experiment is already underway. You may have noticed some telltale signs of this next version of the experiment. Such as:

But that’s just the beginning. There will be much, much more. Some of it will work. Some of it will fail miserably. Like any new thing, this is going to be messy and difficult. And full of highs and lows. And along the way, we’re likely to accidentally stumble into some awesome things we never really intended. Because this is — and will continue to be — the Portland Incubator Experiment.

We realize that this is a lot to digest. Undoubtedly, this will raise a few expletives. And probably some questions. Let’s cover the questions:




Will there be an application period for a class, this year?

Nope. There will be no formal application for a new class this year. We are always interested in working with teams building amazing things, so please don’t be shy about reaching out to us. But we will be focusing our efforts on things beyond our traditional three-month accelerator program.

But let’s say that I was really hoping to go through an accelerator. What then?

If you’re seeking an accelerator program, the following applications are either open or opening soon:

How can you help more startups without hosting a class?

Whoa, nelly! Stay tuned.

So you’re never doing an accelerator again?

Never say never. This is an experiment. We’re not ruling anything out. And we’re constantly re-evaluating PIE and its impact. We simply need our time and resources to be completely focused on the next phase of PIE at the moment. After that, who knows?

If you’re not going to do a class, how are you going to keep busy?

Don’t you worry. We aren’t kicking back and taking a break. But we also haven’t hit “the big reveal” yet. One effort, for example, has us focused on assisting our portfolio companies —  helping us understand what growth stage startups need and how an accelerator might benefit that stage of startups. Another has been collaborating with other local and regional incubators and accelerators. Still another has been figuring out how the PIE model might be applied in other communities or industries. But there are a bunch of other things in the works, too.

I see you work with other accelerators in Portland. Do you work with accelerators outside of Portland?

Most definitely. PIE has been lucky enough to chat with accelerators and incubators from all over the world. If you’re running one of those programs or are thinking about starting one of those programs, please — by all means — get in touch with us.

Do you have any podcasts you’d recommend?

That’s a really odd question. It’s almost like we asked you to ask that. But since you asked… we’re in the midst of starting up a podcast by accelerators, for accelerators. It might be worth a listen.

I like Slack. How do I get invited to the Portland Startups Slack?

Seriously? This is just starting to sound like one of those pseudo FAQs that folks make up. Fine. Just head over to the registration page. We’ll look forward to chatting with you.

Is Wieden+Kennedy still involved with PIE?

Oh good. A serious question again. Finally. And the answer is yes, most definitely. W+K keeps looking to increase their impact on the startup ecosystem. And that’s another part of the “Experiment” — capital “E” — you’ll be hearing more about.

Is this simply because you couldn’t come up with a PIE flavor that started with “e”?

No. For the Python (Monty, not the language) fans out there, “Elderberry” is waiting in the wings. (Fun Fact: PIE classes are designated by pie flavors, in alphabetic order. Like Android releases, but better.)

More soon.

Renny & Rick


PIE is now more CENTRL-ly located

Six years ago, PIE began as an idea. An experiment. An experiment that was founded on the idea of helping and supporting the Portland, Oregon, startup community. Since day one—when we walked into an empty retail space at the corner of NW Davis and NW 12th on the first floor of Wieden+Kennedy’s global headquarters—we’ve tried to remain true to that founding principle.

The Portland startup community has grown and changed a great deal over the course of those years. And PIE has changed with it. Serving as coworking space, an early stage startup accelerator, and a home away from home for visiting startup and technology types from around the world.

But we still felt like we could be doing more. Like having more events. Making PIE even more accessible. Helping more startups and founders in Portland. Making more connections.

But to do that, we always felt like we needed a bit more space. And so we’ve been working for the past couple of years trying to come up with a way to pull that off. Now, we’re happy to report that we’ve figured that out.

PIE has relocated to CENTRL Office, a new coworking space in the Pearl District of Portland.

Okay. Admittedly, it’s only a block away from where we were. But it provides us with resources that allow us to get even more involved with our awesome startup community.

As part of the move, PIE gains the opportunity to collaborate with CENTRL on more programming and gatherings for the broader Portland startup community. Furthermore, it presents opportunities to make PIE’s existing resources and alums more accessible to everyone in startup community, whether they have been formally connected to PIE or not.

Local who wants to see where we sit? Startup type visiting Portland? We’d love to have you swing by. Come find us at CENTRL Office, 1355 NW Everett Street. We’re up the stairs on the westside. The friendly CENTRL folks will point you our way.

And stay tuned as we start ramping up events and activities. (HINT: We may already have one on the books.) We’ve got a little more room with which to work. And we’re looking forward to taking advantage of that—for all of us.

Advice, Community, Mentors

How to filter through all your startup advice this Thanksgiving

“Here’s what you should do.” It’s a sentence you’ve probably heard a lot. Friends, family, peers, mentors, investors—they all have helpful advice, but when your cousin Billy gives you business advice this Thanksgiving that conflicts with advice an investor gave you just last week, what should you do?

First, take a big bite of stuffing.

Then think about it. Advice and feedback is important, but you simply can’t weigh all feedback the same. Startups at PIE have spoken to peers, investors, and dozens of mentors over the past few months and here’s how they’ve sorted through it all.

How invested are they? How much care / concern do they have for you and your goals?

Kai, cofounder of Krumplr thinks about this every time he chats with someone. “You learn a lot of how to read people over time—customers, your bosses, people you manage, and across many different cultures. I start out by saying, ‘Does the person I’m talking to like me or not? Does the person I’m talking to care or not?’ And that’s something that you can very quickly establish. If it’s a positive relationship, I multiple pretty much any critique I get by a factor of five.”

You might meet with someone who doesn’t care and isn’t willing to put in the intellectual effort. Their feedback may be vague—platitudes in a way—like “focus your message”, “find your target audience.” It might be helpful to ask probing questions to find out if they really understood your problem.

There are on the other hand also people who don’t really care but are still willing to put in the intellectual challenge. “Those are good people to listen to,” says Kai. And finally, people who care and invest their time and effort to understanding your problem and thinking about your solution. That’s a given, pay attention to their input.

How experienced are they?

This one’s a little trickier to navigate because it’s often easy to confuse loud volume and confident delivery with actual success and experience. Aunt Susan’s confident remarks on how you should launch your business may sound extremely persuasive, but being an excellent baker doesn’t mean she has relevant experience in your industry. The same is true with anyone else who gives you feedback—investors, mentors, peers. Just because something worked a certain way in their field doesn’t always mean it’ll translate to yours. Levi from Droplr looks for people who have a track record of experience and success. He’ll give them extra attention if they’ve achieved success in his particular industry.

Are they willing to tell you the truth?

Kevin from Nutmeg appreciates individuals who exhibit a sense of trust with no hidden agenda. “The most value we received from PIE were from mentors who weren’t afraid to call bullshit right away. They’d say, ‘you should do x, and here’s why.’” Are the people you’re hearing from worried about offending you or hurting you? You might want to be careful if all of a mentor’s feedback is as sweet as that pumpkin pie. There’s nothing wrong with good feedback, especially if you’re on your A game as a startup, but make sure the person you’re talking to isn’t afraid to make you cry if they need to.

Are you receiving repetitive feedback?

Imagine arriving home on Thanksgiving day only to find your friends and family sitting in a semicircle around the front door. You soon realize that this is a planned intervention. They have a message to tell you—it’s important and everyone seems to realize it except you. (Let’s hope this doesn’t actually happen!) The point is, while there are multiple ways to run a business, hearing repetitive advice from a number of people is probably a good indicator that it’s worth listening to.

What’s your gut telling you?

Lastly, here’s the comment I heard from nearly every startup. Learn to listen to your gut. Ultimately, it’s your business. Deep down inside you know where you want to steer this ship, and you wouldn’t feel comfortable going against this anyway. Use feedback as a way to rethink your direction, but at the end of the day, if you can’t convince yourself that the advice you’re hearing is good and true, you might just have to go with your gut.

And while you’re having that Thanksgiving conversation with your friends and family, don’t forget to get seconds on that stuffing.

One can always make better decisions with stuffing.

Advice, Community, Mentors

How to find a mentor by not asking for one

I’m here to talk about building mentor relationships. I wish I could write a listicle or “how to” document. The truth is that building mentor relationships is complicated. There is nothing more personal or nuanced. I’m going to try to put into words how we over at Switchboard built our mentor relationships, and maybe parts will ring true to you.

1. The mentor arrives
The mentor doesn’t announce herself. She doesn’t arrive on horseback and blow a bugle to signal her arrival as The Mentor. The best way to describe the feeling of knowing the mentor has arrived is to recognize the feeling of wanting to be led by the person before you.

As David Foster Wallace said… “[A] real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”

When that person arrives, I feel a stirring in my heart and a desire to download that person’s brain. I follow my intuition, seize the opportunity, and figure out a way to do that that is fun for the both of us.

2. Call the mentor into service
There are a few things that I’ve learned about asking for a mentor’s help. We never ask them to be our mentor. This sounds counterintuitive. Sheryl Sandberg writes about this in a chapter in Lean In called “Don’t Ask Anyone to be Your Mentor.” And I think she has a point. Corbett Barr says something similar over at Fizzle. ” In the real world, mentors are usually organic relationships without specific titles, goals or responsibilities.”

We at Switchboard often ask people to help us solve problems during a defined period of time. Sometimes that means informal drinks every month. Sometimes that means having a jam session where we brainstorm a new feature or streamlined a process with a “think tank” of mentors (pictured above with Tom, James, and Jessica). There are many benefits to this approach: a core team is formed, we don’t have to play “telephone” in translating one person’s opinion to another, and there’s an energy of excitement and shared purpose.

We ask for unorthodox favors. For example, I once posted on PDX Startups Switchboard in which I asked if any local founders would be willing to invite me to their all hands staff meetings. Our team had just expanded. I didn’t know how to structure or lead a meeting. As you’ll see from the post, Cloudability’s Mat and Little Bird’s Marshall generously hosted me and I constantly refer to what I learned there.

If we find a mentor who is an exceptionally busy person (like Matt the founder of Metafilter, pictured), we’ll ask them to come in to PIE and give a talk so others in the office can benefit and we can hear the questions that other companies have. We also have many mentors who are younger than us (like Kaori). This is often overlooked. As Bill Nye put it, “Everyone you meet knows something you don’t.”

3. Listen to the mentor
It may seem obvious, but I’m constantly working on how to listen better to my mentors. I’ll vision how I want the time to go before we meet. I say things to myself like,  “I will ask questions that start with ‘how did you…” and ‘what did you…'” “I will listen more than I talk.” “These are the points they made last time I’d like to follow up on.” Larry King put it,  “I’ve never learned anything while I was talking.” Listening, truly listening without looking for the opportunity to respond, is a difficult art.

4. Thank the mentor
This cannot be overstated. Thank. The. Mentor. We do our best to follow up. Whether we work with someone over months or just one afternoon, we make sure to follow up with the outcome of our time together. This is in the form of a quick email. “Just wanted to let you know that the feature we talked about is live!” This makes mentors feel like their time is well spent and there was a tangible outcome to our work together. We send thank you notes and describe how they helped us and why we value their contribution. I once ambushed Guy Kawasaki at a conference and, for that hour, he was an invaluable mentor who gave us input that significantly changed the direction of our product (his thank you card and keyboard stickers pictured). I’ve found that no act of mentorship is too small to be acknowledged.

The full circle of our time as mentees is that we are now called on to mentor in return. And the best way those relationships begin is not with, “Will you be my mentor” but rather “Hi. Let’s hang out.”


Mara Zepeda is the cofounder and CEO of Switchboard as well as a mentor at PIE. Find her on Twiter @marazepeda and visit Portland Startups Switchboard to see how they’re helping the Portland startup community.
Advice, Community, Mentors

The Next Year (& Beyond) Plan – Part 1

You’ve had a piece of the PIE… Now What?

As this year’s PIE class wraps up it’s official program and settles down to dig in and advance their products and companies, I thought it would be useful to put together some strategies for thinking about the future.

This two part series highlights the more operational areas of growing a company and supporting the product once it’s launched. It is not meant to be a “how to” but a guide to start thinking and planning best and worst case scenarios.

So what’s your first year plan look like? How should you be thinking about it?

There’s no hard and fast rules about “the right” way to grow and maintain a company except that revenue should exceed expenses to be sustainable. A business plan helps, and those of you who are beginning to look at seed investment will need to at least have a cursory version of one.

Operational Forecasting

It takes money (cash) to launch and continue running a company. From the companies I met with at PIE, many were hitting the VC trail to pitch for Seed funding. An important thing to think about at this stage is until the Seed funding comes in where is the cash coming from and how much do you think you need?

Running models which forecast out spend through anticipated Seed then spend once the check has cleared (let’s say a 12mo. cycle) is going to be helpful. On the expense side this includes travel (to pitch), legal fees, marketing efforts, money needed to support the product (hosting, licenses), insurance and current payroll. One of the bonuses of sticking around PIE after the session has ended is free rent, which alone could save your company five figures this year of expenses, so take advantage!

From here, sales/revenue forecasting (being as realistic as possible). Where do customers (or sponsors, advertisers) 1-100 come in, 101-1000, and what would be an average percentage to use for growth? (I use 3% as a safe metric).

Overlay the expense forecast against the revenue one and you’ve got an initial idea of your company’s break even point, operating costs and revenue opportunities.

I also think it’s wise to run a Plan B scenario where the company doesn’t land funding (we all know it happens) or the lead time takes 2-3x longer than anticipated. Can the company quickly produce enough revenue to be sustainable? How does that affect the growth plan?

Understanding both sides of these scenarios will help inform how the company should operate and where there might be major decision factors to consider.

Goals, KPI Creation & Monitoring

With so many moving parts required to operate a business, it’s important to set goals to measure company performance against. These goals, measured over a set time frame will allow founders and the management team to gauge how different areas of the operations are doing.

A couple of examples of goals and their associated KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are:
Increase App Downloads 10% in next month. KPI’s could be traffic/user sources, daily downloads, social media mentions.
Increase Sales on Website 20% over a 3 month period. KPI’s could be daily sales, shopping cart abandonment %’s, and competitive pricing.

Setting goals should inform business decisions in areas such as your product, positioning, pricing, traction in the market, customer service and define areas which need help or re-strategizing. KPI’s are used to drive the actions in these areas.

There are several KPI dashboard tools out in the market which could be worth researching and investing in to help.


Allison Krug wrote a strong piece about hiring for startups back in September. Areas I think worth expanding upon are:

Inventory the capacity your current team (I know that sounds terribly Dilbert-esq). Are they fully booked with work, and are there opportunities to cross train which would give both the company an additional skill set and the employee a chance to learn something new? Understanding where your team is now and what they can produce informs your product milestones, roadmap and operational capabilities. Running an OPE (Overall People Effectiveness) model, which supports the Lean Startup methodology, is a useful tool to understand the productive %s of your team.

When budgeting for new hires, if they are full time salaried, add ~22% to the market base salary. This will cover the company’s piece of employee taxes, any benefits given plus on-boarding costs (e.g.: a new laptop). Based on the percentage above every 5 hires will cost the company roughly the equivalent of a 6th employee.

One last (potentially eye opening) note about the realities of hiring, once you bring on a hire as an salaried employee (not consulting) the company becomes liable for part or all of their unemployment payments (in Oregon at least) should the employee file within 24 months of working for the company. The company pays into the Oregon Unemployment Insurance fund through their share of the employee payroll taxes, so take Alison’s advice to heart, make sure your hire is a good fit on all sides!

Next post, I’ll cover strategies about product and issues which could affect you as a founder. Other PIE mentors, it would be great to see additional thoughts and input to what I’ve outlined above!

Kris Pennella is a business operations and product strategy consultant focusing on start-ups to mid-size companies, as well as a mentor at PIE. Find her on Twitter: @littlepots or connect with her on LinkedIn.