A few frequently asked questions about PIE and PIE Shop

Super happy to have a bunch of awesome founders considering applying to PIE. Now, the questions about PIE and PIE Shop are starting to roll in. So we thought we would take the opportunity to answer a few of them.

What’s the difference between PIE and PIE Shop?
Programmatically, nothing. Focus wise, PIE helps founders building digital products, like Software as a Service (SaaS), mobile applications, and platforms; while PIE Shop helps founders building physical products that require manufacturing facilities.

What stage of company do you work with?
We tend to focus on early stage companies that are generally pre-revenue and/or pre-funding. Ideally, they have a usable prototype or product. But we’ll take a back of the napkin concept if the founding team feels right. We’ve also worked with companies that have already raised millions of dollars.

Honestly, we just like being challenged. And this is an experiment. We’re always looking for new types of companies that will help us expand our capabilities. If you feel like being part of that, you should apply.

What does the accelerator program entail?
The most valuable aspect of PIE is the mentorship, both peer and expert. But you also get free office space. And we try to feed you on a regular basis. If you’re in PIE Shop, you also get free access to Autodesk’s entire suite of tools. Plus, random people are always showing up in Portland and stopping by our office. So you never really know what’s going to happen. So, you know, it’s like a startup.

How do you decide which companies to invite into the program?
We have a variety of selection criteria that we use, but here’s the basic things we’re looking at and how important they are to us:

People (5.0x): We analyze the entrepreneurs to determine their level of coachability, the extent of their experience in business and/or the market they are pursuing, their existing knowledge and learning to be had, their ability to work in a collaborative space, and their willingness to participate in the program as a mentor to other members of their cohort (peer mentoring), as well as their potential to assist future members of the program (ongoing mentoring).

Idea (2.0x): Staff, partners, and mentors are asked to analyze the potential of the business idea, the market(s) to which the idea may be attractive, the feasibility of developing a product for that market(s), and whether the product is appropriately timed for the intended market(s).

Enchantment (1.5x): Staff, mentors, and partners assess the less tangible elements of the team and the product they are pursuing. Is it intriguing? Will it benefit other companies in the cohort? Are the founders likely to be helpful to their peers? Are there mentors who could have a meaningful impact on the entrepreneurs and their businesses? Is there a value to the community or other sponsors?

And yes, I’m sure you’re shocked to see that spells PIE.

I’m not sure that my company is a good fit. Should I apply?
We don’t know if your company is a good fit either. You should apply.

How structured is the day-to-day time in the accelerator?
Heavily unstructured and chaotic. We customize our program to each company — sometimes on a founder by founder basis. At best, it’s an independent study. While we have some programming that applies to all of the startups, the vast majority of our time is spent one-on-one with our companies, helping them get to the next stage that they define as their goal. We then take our knowledge of the startups and the challenges the founders face and sync them up with mentors who have expertise to explore those issues.

This matchmaking — putting startups together with the appropriate mentors for the specific problem that is impeding them and repeating that process with each new problem — provides the most value for both the startups and the mentors.

For accelerator managers, we tried to capture what a typical week looks like. It may help you, too.

Who are the mentors?
PIE has an extensive network of mentors spanning from founders, top-notch engineers, VCs, creatives, journalists, and a ton of other folks who are much smarter than we are. We also have the added benefit of having our alumni included in the mentor pool. And access to awesome employees at Autodesk.

How long have you been doing this?
PIE turns 10 years old in August. We’re throwing a little get together to celebrate. You should come.

How much does this cost?
Zero. Zilch. Nada. No equity. No cost to founders. From your perspective, it’s all free and clear.

How long does the class last?
The next class will probably last 6-9 months. Again, it’s on a case by case basis. We push our founders and companies to move further, faster than they would be able to go on their own. But that doesn’t mean pushing them out of the space until they’re ready to move on.

What benefits do you see in being in Portland?
Portland is a vibrant and growing city with very active tech, startup, and maker communities. The cost of living is rising but is still lower than most West Coast cities. And you can easily walk, bike, or take public transit to most, if not all, places. Companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Autodesk, eBay, Google, Mozilla, New Relic, and Salesforce all have regional offices here. The Bay is a quick direct flight away.

It’s not for everyone. But we like it.

No, really. How much does this cost?
As far as you’re concerned, PIE is completely free. For real. Free as in free.

What is the involvement of Autodesk in the process?
The companies who participate in the PIE Shop program have the opportunity to work with teams at Autodesk from helping you make better use of their software to folks who want to muck around on your platform. We look for new opportunities to engage with our existing and new corporate partners every year so don’t be surprised if other opportunities happen.

What’s the difference between an incubator and an accelerator?
In our jargon, an incubator protects ideas from the real world, sheltering them until they’ve had time to validate their concept and gain some traction. An accelerator exposes founders to the real world faster than they would be able to accomplish on their own. Incubators protect. Accelerators do not.

Using an automotive industry analogy, incubators are the production line. Accelerators are the crash tests.

Seriously. What’s the catch?
No catch. We just believe the prevailing mythology about how founders build startups is completely misleading. We want to demystify what it means to be a founder. And provide our founders with every opportunity to succeed. We’re incredibly lucky to have access to a supportive community of mentors who are willing to volunteer their time to help us achieve these goals.

Where do we apply?
Right here.

Want to help us generate more FAQs?
Great! We’ve got a series of events where you can ask your questions. And we can probably provide answers. Please consider joining us.

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