Community, News

Application Issues

At PIE, we like startups. It’s why we started this whole experiment in the first place. So, whenever we have the chance, we opt for using startup products as part of our process. Whether they are PIE companies or not.

We just like supporting startups.

Most of the time, taking these calculated risks is positive all around, for both PIE and the startup. (Like Kato, am I right?) But every once in a while we encounter some issues. Which brings us to today’s post.

Unfortunately, we are experiencing an issue on the application platform we tried out for this class. A handful of folks have reached out to us, seeking confirmation that their application went through, as they did not receive the confirmation email. When we went searching, those folks didn’t turn up in the database.

Cue cold sweat.

We’re still working to diagnose the problem. And applications have officially closed. But given the issues, we are now put in the uncomfortable position of having to ask these already overtaxed entrepreneurs to resubmit their applications.

Again, this has only been an issue for folks who 1) Submitted their application via the PIE site and 2) Did not receive an email confirmation. If you applied via AngelList, you’re good to go. Additionally, if you applied via Google Docs, you are okay.

The startup is working with us to figure out the problem, but there is no simple explanation or reason why.  Long story short, we’re embarrassed and sorry and still trying to figure out how to resolve the issue and retrieve the data.

But at least they’re getting some good bug reports, right? (That’s what we call looking at the bright side.)

So for those of you who are affected by this issue, again we apologize. We’ve created a Google Form to apply to PIE as a backup. If you are among those folks affected and would like to resubmit that way, you may. We will keep that form live until May 6 so that you have some breathing room.

Alternately, if you completed the cheat sheet, we will happily take that in place of the formal application. As this is an issue on our side of things, no one will be penalized. Please try to get that to us as soon as you can.

We know how stressful applying can be. We want you to know that we are doing everything in our power to find a solution, because we value the time and effort you spent working on them.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions. Thank you for your patience and understanding while we sort this out.

And again, our apologies. We’re truly sorry to be in this situation with you.

Kirsten & Rick  +

Alumni, Community, News

Things Worth Sharing: A Portland Round Up

It is great to be a part of a community like Portland that always has interesting things going on and interesting folks to keep you inspired. In case you missed them, here are a few things that caught our attention around the startup scene last week.


You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers – Some FAQs About PIE

Below are some of the frequently asked questions that PIE + co has been getting regarding Portland, the PIE experience, our partnership with Wieden+Kennedy, and a few other things for good measure.

What sort of companies do you work with and what stages?
Our area of expertise tends to be technology companies, specifically platforms and enabling technologies.  We focus on early stage companies – that can mean a lot of different things for our companies – pre revenue or revenue positive, back of the napkin concept, bootstrapping there is no right answer. Honestly, we like being challenged.  We’re always looking for new types of companies that will help us expand our capabilities.  See a full list of our companies here.

What requirements do you have for being in PIE?
We require that the team has someone who is a technical “builder” It doesn’t have to be a founder, but someone on the team needs to have technical acumen.  Why? Well, the second requirement of PIE is that you have product in market (meaning someone besides your team and your mom needs to be using your product, early alpha, beta, etc.) in order to go on stage for demo day.

How structured is the day-to-day time in the accelerator?
Heavily unstructured and chaotic.  We customize our program to each company; acceleration is not a one-size-fits-all solution.  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 that intimate knowledge of the startups and the challenges they 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 they are attacking that day and repeating that process with each new problem— provides the most value for both the startups and the mentors.

Who are the mentors?
Tech + business powerhouses – who else? PIE has an extensive network of mentors spanning from founders, top-notch engineers, VCs 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, as well as the creative folks who make up all 8 of Wieden+Kennedy’s offices.

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 low and you can easily walk, bike or take public transit to most, if not all, places.  Companies like Airbnb, Mozilla, New Relic, and Salesforce all have recently opened offices here.  The bay is a quick and direct flight away.  Oh, and Portland is gorgeous in the summer time, why else do you think we run the program from July – October?  Don’t just take our word for it, check out this post on the AppFog blog.

What is the involvement of W+K in the process?
The companies who participate in the PIE program have the opportunity to work with teams at Wieden+Kennedy from branding and strategic positioning, to folks who want to muck around on your platform.  We look for new opportunities to engage with Wieden every year so don’t be surprised if other opportunities happen.

Where do we apply?
Right here.


The Future of Stuff

At PIE, we like to take advantage of our name—after all, it’s the Portland Incubator Experiment. And as such, we like to try new things. It is this spirit of experimentation, that brings a new level of energy to each class, and also pushes us to find ways to make an impact in the community.

Last year, we launched PIElette, a seven-week intensive entrepreneurship program for underserved teens, in partnership with local Portland nonprofit, Self Enhancement Inc.  The program brought in 8 teens, a dozen mentors from around the community, and culminated with a demo day  – attendees included members of the local media, the Portland Development Commission, local tech startups, and the Technology Association of Oregon.   The development for PIElette continues, and we’re excited about future sessions.

As class 4 approached, we were once again, presented with an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.  After hearing about PIElette, TED-fellow and founder of New York based, Project Breaker Juliette LaMontange came to Portland and met with the PIE team.  We learned that Concordia University and the Construct Foundation were working on setting up a two week Portland based Breaker Project called The Future of Stuff, and they wanted PIE to be involved.

So, what is The Future of Stuff and why does it matter to Portland and for PIE to be involved? From May 4 – 19, 2014 the facilitated design challenge will have students from across the city researching, designing, and testing the viability and social impact of business opportunities they identify for making and manufacturing industries. It also presents a unique opportunity for executives, school administrators, designers, teachers, and community based organizations to learn with and from the Breaker team as they explore the intersection of challenge-based learning, design-driven innovation, and social entrepreneurship. With local organizations like ADX, Spooltown, and the ever-expanding maker/manufacturing community, you might say that Portland is leading the resurgence of American Made. The Portland Development Commission thinks so, and since 2009 has dedicated resources to promoting advanced manufacturing and the athletic/outdoor industries, adding high wage jobs and growth to the economy.

Want to be involved or know a student (17-24) who should join us? Applications are still open.

We’re looking forward to adding another experiment to the PIE portfolio, and believe the impact of Breaker will reinforce the advancement of the maker movement.


How to pick the best accelerator for you

You’re starting a company.  Your product is the next big thing, that no one had thought of – or at least executed well.  Your founding team is comprised of top-notch thinkers and doers and your network has assured you of one thing: People Will. Want. This.

So now what?  For many, the next logical step would be to apply for an early stage accelerator.  But with +800 accelerators in the US alone, deciding which one is the best for your company is hard.  Sure there are the media darlings, the TechStars, YCs, and 500 – but what about the sector specific programs, or the corporate accelerators, or even PIE?

Deep breath.

It’s not easy. Picking the right accelerator is like picking a life partner.  Your relationship with them should go beyond an announcement of being selected and a demo day round up.

So how do you go about picking the right one?  First, you need to understand that there is no right choice. There is only the right choice for you and your company. Companies that fly high at YC may be miserable in other programs. Startups that work well in corporate accelerators may flounder in less focused efforts.

Long story short, you need to find the accelerator that  most closely matches your startup’s need. And here are our tips on how to best to do that.

Experience : Who is driving the ship?  What is their reputation around town and around the industry? Are they credible?  Remember, this relationship will be a very important part of your company, from here forward. And you’ll be relying on them a lot during and after the program.

Alumni : How many have gone through their program and where are they now?  What types of companies have found success in the program? Not all success stories are newsworthy, so do some homework. Pro tip: Be strategic, alumni typically know when application windows are open and their referrals go a long way.

Capital : What is their track record?  It’s important that you understand how their investments are structured and what it means for your cap table. Because that could affect your investors down the road.  Do they follow on? Are their alumni successful at raising their next rounds?

Network: The program directors and managers are only part of the equation. Find out who makes up their network and how involved they are. Mentors are not only great for their copious amounts of battle stories and wisdom, but often become go-to candidates for advisory boards and can potentially unlock more introductions.  A good network goes beyond alumni + mentors. Look into who else they have good working relationships with – VCs, law firms, or even other startup companies that might not have gone through their program.  It takes a village to raise a startup, so make sure they’ve got one.

Resources: Mentors, partnerships, and special perks are an important part of a balanced breakfast… err accelerator. Many accelerators have sweetheart deals with vendors and services that are helpful to a growing company.  Take advantage of them.

Momentum: What are you looking to get out of your experience with said accelerator? And do you honestly think they can help get you there?  You’ve typically got 3 months – 1 year in this program – and every day counts.  Think about your roadmap. The right accelerator should be able to get your further.  And finally, understand what success looks like to them. Is that a mold you’re ready to fit in?

You should believe in your accelerator as much as you want them to believe in you.  The relationship needs to be mutually beneficial, to be successful.   The same logic we use to decide each class is the same logic you should use to decide which accelerator to join.  Like with any other major decision, do a gut check – does it feel like the right decision?


Now Accepting Applications

Have you heard? We’re accepting applications for our 2014 class from now until April 30th, 11:59 PST.  The program runs July – October, official dates to be announced.

The application is now available here or via AngelList.  Be prepared to talk about the awesome product you’re building, the dream team you’ve got behind it and even why you think you’d be a good addition to the PIE portfolio.

Not sure about PIE or what it is?

The Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) is a partnership among leading brands, technology innovators, and Wieden+Kennedy — the largest privately held advertising and communications company in the world. It serves as a hub for community, entrepreneurship, and creative thinking. To date, PIE has had the opportunity to work with more than 40 startups. PIE alumni have created more than 500 jobs and raised more than $110 million in funding.

We’ve been home to companies like OrchestrateSimple, Lytics and Urban Airship.  Check out all of the companies we’ve worked with here.  Any one of those folks would be happy to chat with you about their time in PIE … so ask them.  Who knows, maybe you could get a referral out of them.

Still have questions?  Stay tuned for an Ask Us Anything style live chat with the founders and managers of PIE.

So go apply already.