Startup accelerator also plans educational programming to inspire next generation of startups
March 1, 2022 — PORTLAND, Ore. — PIE, a nonprofit startup accelerator, today announced a “Call for Startups” to encourage companies focused on providing solutions for the unhoused, the house insecure, and/or the service providers supporting those populations — or products which can be repurposed to support those populations — to apply for its program. Applications for startups applying in response to this call as well as startups focused on traditional PIE disciplines (software, hardware, and consumer products) are open until 11:59PM Pacific Time on March 14, 2022, at https://piepdx.com/apply.
As PIE works to develop a robust and sustainable, long-term solution for inspiring, cultivating, and supporting startups focused on unhoused and house insecure populations, the organization has chosen to first focus on an area where it can confidently take immediate action: working with existing startups. This Call for Startups — which serves as the beginning of the first phase of a multi-phased effort — enables PIE to immediately apply its proven, highly intensive mentorship offerings toward solutions that are critical to both PIE, the broader Portland community, and potentially other communities struggling to address chronic houselessness.
“There is a palpable and growing sense of urgency in our community in regards to our neighbors who are living on the streets, as well as those neighbors who are experiencing insecurity in their living situations,” said Rick Turoczy, cofounder and general manager of PIE. “Given our established role as a community convener and support mechanism for startups with innovative and creative approaches, we wanted to start where we could have the most impact: with startups. But we are not stopping there. We are motivated to continue to extend our program offerings to support folks pursuing solutions designed to address the incredibly complex situation of our unhoused neighbors as well as the service providers who support those populations.”
PIE will continue to support software, hardware, and consumer product startups, augmenting those typical cohorts with applicable companies that respond to this Call for Startups. Selected companies will be integrated into the virtual programming for the 2022 cohorts based on their product offering, enabling them to work alongside peer companies and founders pursuing a variety of other market opportunities. This includes ongoing collaborations with organizations like Autodesk.
“It is incredibly important that Autodesk supports each of the communities where our employees live and work, including Portland,” said Kevin Schneider, Senior Director, Design and Manufacturing, Autodesk. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to extend our existing relationship with PIE and support their efforts to address houselessness here in the city.”
In addition to Autodesk, current organizations engaged in the effort include Built Oregon, Business for a Better Portland, Central City Concern, PDX Women In Tech, a collection of PIE mentors and alumni, and other members of the community. PIE is actively seeking additional mentors, partners, and sponsors who are interested in collaborating on this effort. Organizations or individuals interested in participating — or those who are simply interested in remaining apprised of this PIE effort — are encouraged to complete a brief interest form, at their convenience.
“Central City Concern is thrilled to have support from a tech giant like Autodesk,” said Juliana Lukasik, Senior Director Public Affairs, Central City Concern. “We appreciate their willingness to engage with PIE and CCC to support our efforts to end homelessness.”
Phase 2 of the project, which begins in parallel, involves embarking on an extensive partnership and educational project designed to raise the visibility of current solutions, share lived experiences, and reveal areas of potential opportunity with regards to unhoused, house insecure, and service providers — like Central City Concern — for these populations in Portland. That education will then transition into better-informed conversations, coalition building, ideation, brainstorming, and collaboration with the intent of stimulating a significant amount of startup activity — informed by actual lived experience — that helps address the challenges of the unhoused and house insecure populations in Portland and beyond, enabling PIE to field a complete cohort of unhoused-focused startups in 2023.
“We are fully aware of the prevailing — and not wholly inaccurate — stereotype of the well-meaning but often ill-informed startup founder ham-fistedly seeking to ‘disrupt’ existing industries with innovation,” said Turoczy. “That’s why it’s incredibly important to us that we enter into this work with humility, acknowledging the vast amount of expertise and knowledge that existing organizations have gathered through their work. PIE looks forward to collaborating with these critical partners in activating a community of startup founders, as we know these entrepreneurs to be an incredibly motivated and creative collection of folks driven to explore solutions to complex riddles like this one.
“We’ve learned that the best solutions start with education, creating points of inspiration, creativity, and collaboration that are informed by lived experience. That’s why this announcement also serves as a signal of our overt willingness to partner with existing Portland organizations already doing the work — as well as individuals with lived experience — with whom we can co-create this offering and prevent obvious mistakes from being made.”
To kick off the effort, PIE will be hosting a virtual event to discuss additional details of the project and answer questions from the public. This virtual event will be held March 1, 2022, at 4:00PM Pacific Time. There is no cost to participate and the public is encouraged to attend. Questions may be submitted ahead of time. For those unable to attend, the event will be recorded and posted for later viewing.
For more than a decade, PIE has continually engaged in experiments designed to enable established organizations — like corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions, among others — to collaborate with the Portland, Oregon, startup community in mutually beneficial ways. Throughout its history, PIE has served as a curated coworking space, a community event space, a startup accelerator, a flashpoint for corporate innovation, an accelerator for accelerators, and a home-away-from-home for startup types — and the startup curious — from around the world. PIE is part of Built Oregon, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. For more information, visit https://piepdx.com/.