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PIE 2018: What experiments are we cooking up next?

Looking back at 2017, PIE managed to accomplish quite a bit. Even if we didn’t feel like we did. In fact, we only realized what sort of progress we had made because we had taken the time to publish a list of objectives for 2017, and that gave us a yardstick to measure our accomplishments. With that list as a reference, we had to admit that we’d made progress. Which is probably why people make lists.

Bear in mind, we’d made mistakes, too. And failed. But that’s all good in our book.

In that same vein, we now want to have a list to consult in 2019, in case we’re burdened with a similar sense of un-accomplishment. So we thought it might be beneficial to share some insights on what PIE is working to accomplish in 2018.

Besides, it helps keep us honest. About both successes and failures.

As with last year, all of these thoughts come with a caveat:

Let’s be honest. Talking about the past is a lot easier than guessing about the future. Regardless of how sound your strategic thinking. All we know for certain is that we’ll continue experimenting. Because that’s what we’re best at doing. And it’s in our name.

With that in mind, here are some of the areas where the PIE team will be intentionally focusing our time and energy this year.

NOTE: In the spirit of brevity, we’re just going to lightly touch on some of our objectives. Not go into great depth. Because we recognize that each one of these topics deserves a post of its own. And those will be forthcoming. But that desire to provide more detail has simply been preventing us from getting this post out the door. So we’ll work to flesh out each of these topics over the coming weeks.

  1. Build an hors d’oeuvre section to the PIE Cookbook. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, PIE completed the initial version of the PIE Cookbook in 2017. It’s become exceedingly obvious, however, that consuming that entire book is a difficult first step for many folks. It’s way too daunting. That, of course, was not the intent. The intent was to demystify accelerators and to make the concept more accessible. But that clearly requires something that is easier to consume. So we’re going to create something more accessible that helps you quickly determine if you’re ready to start building the accelerator of your dreams before you have to dive headlong into a ton of content.
  2. Experiment with a nonprofit model for PIE. We’ve tried for profit. In fact, we’ve experimented with that model for nearly a decade. But there’s one small problem. PIE is not driven or motivated by profit. We’re driven by purpose. So it’s time for something new. Becoming a nonprofit might not be the right thing to do, but it’s an experiment worth pursuing. If only to help others understand the pros and cons.
  3. Build an accelerator that is more authentic for our startup community. A lot of what PIE has done in the past has been based on prevailing and accepted accelerator models. And to be honest, those models have both structure and artifice that only works within certain environments or with substantial resources and partnerships. We don’t have those same resources. And Portland isn’t the same kind of environment. So we’re reimagining what a Portland-flavored startup accelerator could and should look like. We’ve already got some good ideas about what that might mean. And we’re looking forward to putting those ideas into action in 2018.
  4. Build out a physical space that can serve as a hub for early stage founders. Many of our conversations in 2017 centered around the absence of PIE as a physical space and how that vacuum was negatively impacting the startup community. The prevailing feedback hinted at the role PIE had played from 2009 until 2015. As a center of gravity. So in 2018, we’d like to get back into the role of being that hub. And being the open front door and welcome mat for new founders. And to do that, we’ll need physical space.
  5. Return to building better founders. One of PIE’s founding tenets was “Build better founders.” To us, that meant that we were more interested in helping people than companies. We didn’t care if the companies succeeded or failed. We cared that everyone in the PIE family—founders, mentors, investors, partners, and staff—would be better off for having participated. Our shortcoming? We only focused on the business aspects of making founders better. In hindsight, this was a mistake. So this year, we’re looking to focus holistically on building better founders. From mental health to community engagement to family support, PIE is going to build the best founders we can.
  6. Begin building better staff. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made with PIE in the past is not providing effective and clear paths for the staff to move into leadership positions within PIE. While we’ve provided opportunities for professional growth and enabled staff to propose and execute different experiments, we’ve failed to give them upward mobility. Admittedly, part of this was due to the fact that I didn’t even really understand my role. But whatever the case, this was on me. To make the model sustainable, that needs to change. This year, we are likely to have several opportunities to provide upward mobility for PIE staff. And as we learn how that works, I hope that we can add guidance to the PIE Cookbook about how to more effectively engage and enable accelerator staff to grow into accelerator leaders.
  7. Expand the PIE family with a new class of startups. Once we secure physical space, we’re going to need some activity in that space. And some people. And startups. I mean, if we’re rebooting this whole thing, let’s reboot it. So if you’re building a startup and you think PIE could be helpful, be on the lookout for a whole new PIE application period opening this year.

That sounds like a lot. But it sounded like a lot last year, too. And we managed to complete all but one of those objectives. So we’re tentatively optimistic that we can get it done. Will we succeed? Who knows? But we’ll experiment. And fail. And maybe succeed. And we’re hoping you’ll continue to stay tuned as we do.

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