Life after PIE: A look back with Orchestrate

PIE 2014 is accepting applicants until April 30th , so we thought it would be nice to revisit the blog we wrote when we started PIE 2013 and see what has happened in the seven months since demo day. Surprisingly, we don’t look backwards at PIE with nostalgia. The reason is actually one of the nicer surprises about our PIE experience: many of the people (as well as the place) are still a big part of Orchestrate.

First, and most obviously, some of Orchestrate still sits at PIE’s light-filled first floor digs in the Wieden-Kennedy offices. We still work beside Rick and Kirsten, along with classmates Stand In, Teak,  Switchboard, and Fleck.  I say “some of Orchestrate” because we have doubled in size since PIE started and are now a team of 12, half of which call Portland home.

Through PIE we added key team members: Jennifer Lankford, local PR dynamo introduced to us by alum Cloudability, and Alyssa Carrizales, former PIE Intern and metrics master, both of whom officially joined Orchestrate after Demo Day.

We also get very direct support from our class mates. With commercial launch bearing down on us in early February, Asa Miller and Kat Bobbit of Stand In stepped in to help put polish on the app and web site. Some ideas for improving usability grew into some blog posts about how to build interesting things using Orchestrate (like this) that our users really dig, and have helped reach folks in the Node.js, Ruby/Rails, and front-end dev world. The class still gets together to socialize occasionally, and I am confident all of us will remain friends long past the date PIE finally disgorges us into Portland’s real estate market.

Kirsten Golden, PIE’s program manager, and Rick Turosczy, PIE’s director, continue to help us in ways big and small, offering up everything from free desks to arranging new speakers, to mentorship opportunities and introductions to investors.

Another surprising discovery… PIE has become the unofficial hub for a lot of idea sharing and community activities from entrepreneurs and local Orchestrate users, who frequently share our desk space when they want to hack. This inevitably leads to chats about projects, feedback, and learning directly from our users. It was through this extended PIE community that we learned a crucial lesson about our users and how to communicate to them.

From full stack devs looking for a fast way to build a Node.js app, to front-end devs and even designers looking to expand their control over the apps they design, to W+K producers looking to make a pragmatic decision for a client that minimizes risk and cost, we learned through PIE that the market for Orchestrate was much, much larger and more diverse than we had anticipated.

And of course, five months after the class ended, our commercial launch took place at PIE. Launch day was special in many ways, not the least of which was the dramatic backdrop. A few of the Orchestrate team (with the rest on a hangout) got into PIE around 5AM and went up to the top floor to watch the sun rise and Mount Hood swing into view, just as the embargo lifted and people started showing up to find out about this crazy new Orchestrate thing.  It was a special day for us and doing it at the PIE offices just felt right – it was something we won’t soon forget.

That feeling is the real strength of PIE and the real benefit we got from it. After all the mentorship sessions and the demo day fireworks have faded, PIE has been a home base for Orchestrate, the place from which we took our first steps toward building a product from which developers get value, and into a company people want to work with. Seven months after demo day, PIE is still home for us and, and wherever our next office is or whatever our future holds, will be continue to be.

So join the community, whether you apply for this class or not, and we hope to see you around the office sometime soon.

Antony Falco is CEO and co-founder of Orchestrate, a service that turns multiple types of databases into a simple API. A database industry veteran and visionary, Falco previously co-founded Basho Technologies, the creators of the NoSQL database Riak. At Basho, where he was COO, he met with hundreds of companies trying to build interactive applications with the diverse – but often daunting – set of open-source tools now available. Prior to Basho, he served as VP of Product Management and Technical Services at Akamai Technologies, joining the company before commercial launch and helping bring it to almost $200 million in annual revenue.  

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