Community, events

Please join us for PIE Demo Day 2020

Strange times indeed. A year ago, we all gathered in person to celebrate the 2019 class of PIE startups. Today, that seems like decades ago as we all grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

But the show, especially for startups, very much must find a way to go on. And that’s why PIE Demo Day 2020 is working to bring you a glimmer of optimism and hope in these uncertain times. By having our traditional PIE Demo Day as a fully virtual event.


If this is your first chance to experience a PIE Demo Day, we’re glad to have you. Unlike other demo days, we’re focused on the people and their journeys. Not so much on fundraising. Or demos for that matter.

This year as in years past, PIE Demo Day will be a time of celebration, where we bring the Portland startup community together to hear from a bunch of amazing founders in our program. They’ll take the (virtual) stage to share details about the companies they’re building. And as always, members of the audience, like you, can eagerly await the opportunity to learn more about how you can help.

Sound good? Cool. Here’s how you can participate:

On March 19, 2020, at 2:00PM Pacific Time, we’ll push all of the videos live and begin live tweeting demo day, with the PIE Twitter account acting as a virtual emcee.

Please tune in, like, retweet, and support the companies in this cohort. In times like these, all we have is community. And we’re so so glad that we’re part of yours.

P.S. Wash your hands.

Community, events, News

PIE Demo Day 2020 moves to online only

We regret having to share the following news.

In the wake of the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus outbreak, PIE and its partners have made the decision to cancel the traditional in-person PIE Demo Day, slated for March 19, 2020, at Revolution Hall.

There are any number of reasons for making this decision. The primary reason is our effort to ensure the safety of the Portland startup community. Of equal concern was — given the current atmosphere of anxiousness and fear in which we find ourselves —an ever increasing lack of ability to create an event that truly reflects the positivity and support that has become the hallmark of PIE Demo Days. We truly didn’t feel we could achieve the tenor to which our community has become accustomed.

Rick Turoczy, cofounder and general manager of PIE, issued the following statement on the change:

“This decision does not come lightly. Year after year, PIE Demo Day has proven to be an impactful event for both the companies we serve and for our organization, itself. And we greatly appreciate the support that the Portland startup community has continued to show for each founder appearing on stage, over the past 10 years.

“Eliminating opportunities for founders goes against the very nature and ethos of why PIE exists. What’s more, we recognize the untold hours of preparation already incurred represents a sunk cost that impacts both the founders and the companies that they are building.

“Still, given our current understanding of the virus, we feel it would be irresponsible, at best, to bring hundreds of people together in person, simply for the sake of our demo day. The risk is too great. So while it was a difficult decision, we truly feel that canceling the in-person event is the most reasonable course of action to ensure the safety of our founders, mentors, investors, media, and the community at large.

“We always say that the ‘E’ in PIE stands for ‘experiment.’ As such, PIE staff, partners, and startups have made the decision to move forward with the event in an experimental format for us—by going fully virtual. And we would love to have you join us on March 19, 2020, at 2:00PM PDT from the comfort of your Web browser to hear the pitches from the founders in the latest classes of PIE and PIE Shop.”

PIE and PIE Shop startup discussions

Before making the decision to go forward with an online demo day, we shared the news with our current startups. In the interest of transparency, we would like to share that with you, as well.

The following was posed to PIE and PIE Shop founders:

There is really no way to say this without being dramatic. But I’ll give it a shot.

With the current state of the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus outbreak, we’re in the midst of a health crisis — and ever mounting anxiety — which continues to snowball throughout the world and shows no signs of slowing. Even with the most optimistic of outlooks.

Personally, I’ve spent the past few weeks wrestling with this. Knowing that, at some point, I’d need to make a decision. And now, we no longer have the luxury of time to weigh options. That runway is exhausted.

Given our current understanding of the virus, PIE and our partners feel it would be irresponsible, at best, to bring 750+ of our friends and family together in person, simply for the sake of our demo day. The risk is too great. In addition, we recognize that the positive and supportive environment that has become the hallmark of this event would likely be difficult, if not impossible, to come by, for both presenters and audience members.

And so with that in mind and with a heavy heart, we have made the decision to cancel the PIE Demo Day 2020 event at Revolution Hall on March 19, 2020.

Obviously, this was not an easy or welcome decision. We recognize the amount of time and work you’ve already put into preparing for this event. We understand the promise of this event for both you and your company. And we regret that the Portland startup community will not be able to gather in celebration of what your companies have achieved. (To add additional insult to injury, PIE stands to lose thousands of dollars for canceling at this time, which is difficult for any company, let alone a nonprofit.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Huzzah! No more cranky Rick tearing apart my presentation.” Hold your horses. Not so fast, tiger. This is an experiment after all.

We believe that we have two potential paths forward. And we wanted to invite you to take part in helping us come to the final decision on where PIE Demo Day goes from here. Before we communicate anything to the broader PIE family and the general public.

Door #1: We cancel demo day altogether. While we understand that this would be anticlimactic, we also recognize that you have businesses to build and run. And that this continued drama can be a detrimental distraction.

Door #2: We embrace the “E” in PIE and move forward with a new version of pitch practice. In preparation for an experimental online demo day, we’ll shift to working on recording a screenshare of your slides with a voiceover. The next week will be spent practicing in that format. Once the recording is to your liking and you have received PIE staff approval, we will upload the video to the PIE channel on YouTube. On March 19, PIE Demo Day 2020 will consist of releasing the pre-recorded pitches and amplifying them on social.

Door #3: You don’t have a definitive decision but are comfortable proceeding with the popular vote.

Given these choices, how would you like to proceed? Please advise. We need to make this decision so that we can communicate to attendees and the broader community. I’ll give teams until 5:00PM PDT today, March 9, 2020, to decide.

As a result of the vote, the decision was made to move forward with an online event.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have you considered livestreaming the event?
A live stream is a really hard format to do genuinely if you’ve never done it before. It’s actually more stressful than performing on stage. And it takes a long time to get comfortable pretending that you’re getting the same feedback from an audience on the other side of the camera that you would from a live audience.

We don’t have an opportunity to practice in that sort of environment, so it’s fraught with peril and failure. We need the PIE Demo Day experience to have a positive outcome for our founders.

Whereas with the pre-recorded format, you have the opportunity to put your best foot forward. You can practice in that environment innumerable times.

Admittedly, we were initially thinking that going down the live stream path would be an option and had already secured a venue and staff to make that happen. But given the additional cost and likelihood of a less than positive outcome, it seemed best to take a different tact.

Have you considered postponing demo day until a later date?
That was a consideration several weeks ago. However, given that we’re already seeing May and June events rescheduling for fall or even next year, it appears highly unlikely that we’ll have the opportunity to reschedule Demo Day before the next class of PIE begins.

Will startups have the option of recording a video rather than a screen share with voice over?
Founders are more than welcome to submit multiple versions of their pitch for uploading to the PIE YouTube channel. For the sake of consistency, however, the only version that will be uploaded during PIE Demo Day 2020 will be the version that is consistent with the format we have proposed. We will upload additional videos to the PIE channel at a later date, should we both agree that it provides additional value for the founder and/or their company.

Have you considered…?
Woah, tiger. Let me just stop you right there. Yes. Yes we have considered that. PIE staff, partners, and mentors have been wrestling with this decision for weeks. Please accept that we’ve thought through every possible scenario and are doing what we believe to be in everyone’s best interest at this time. It’s not perfect. But based on our experience, it has the highest likelihood of success.

How do I attend PIE Demo Day 2020?
To participate in PIE Demo Day 2020, follow @piepdx on Twitter or subscribe to PIE on YouTube.

We’re going through something similar. Can we borrow some of your language?
If any of the content above can be helpful to you with internal or external communications for your company or event, please feel free to borrow liberally. We’ve been in a bunch of these conversations, lately. And it’s a challenging topic. If our efforts can make your life a little easier, it would be nice to see some good come of this.

How can I prevent COVID-19 from spreading?
For more information about preventing the spread of COVID-19, please visit the official CDC Prevention Web site.


To better accelerate Zebra startups, we need to better understand Zebra startups

Here at PIE, we’ve been following the Zebra Movement with great interest. And it’s not just because a PIE alum is among the cofounders of the effort. (Although, we’re super proud of that.) It’s because the model they’re proposing — which counters the prevailing “Unicorn” startup thinking — seems to both resonate and reflect a number of startups with whom we find ourselves working at PIE.

But like so many things in the startup world, a lot of the evidence about these companies is, at best, anecdotal. And that’s why we were really happy to see the Zebras Unite folks making an effort to get more definitive information on the Zebra population. By running a census of sorts.

We would love to see as many companies as possible responding to this census. So if you feel like you’re building a Zebra company and are interested in learning more about your peers and the programs that are being built to support you and your company, please take a few moments to respond to this survey.

Community, News

Our newest experiment: Introducing the consumer products accelerator inaugural class

It’s no secret that PIE takes the “E” in our acronym very seriously. (The “E” stands for “experiment.”) As such, we’re always excited when someone approaches us with a new concept. And that’s why when Built Oregon approached us with the idea of a consumer products accelerator, we jumped at the chance to work on it.

And now, after months of planning, promoting, and recruiting, we’re proud to reveal the first class of the Built Accelerator, a nonprofit nondilutive accelerator focused on consumer products companies throughout Oregon.

The inaugural cohort includes:

After a decade of experimenting with technology companies, it only makes sense that the next logical phase of our ongoing experiment is to expand the types of companies with whom we work. And to test the hypothesis that the programmatic elements we’ve designed — the educational platform that we’ve built — can be applied to a far broader selection of startups than just tech companies.

We’ve always appreciated the random collisions among founders that our accelerator spaces have provided. By expanding the diversity of the types of founders and companies we’re helping, the potential for those serendipitous moments within the PIE family will increase exponentially — and that’s good for everyone.

Looking forward to the next phase of this experiment.

For more information and details on the companies, please read “Announcing the Inaugural Built Consumer Product Accelerator Class.”

Community, events

Recapping PIE Demo Day 2019

It’s good to be back.

Whether you had the opportunity to join us — either in person or on the livestream — or not, we wanted to make sure that you had access to the pitches from PIE Demo Day 2019. All told, 13 different startups took the stage to share what they were building. In show order, that included:

We took the opportunity to slice up the event into individual pitches to make it easier to digest. (But if you want to watch the whole thing — beginning to end — that’s an option, as well.)

As always, we had Aaron Hockley photographed the event. Those PIE Demo Day photos can be found on Flickr and are licensed under Creative Commons with attribution.

PIE Demo Day 2019

To stay up to date with the latest news from PIE, please consider subscribing to our newsletter or follow us on social media.

Community, events v3 Winter Tour stops by Portland

If you’ve been keeping tabs on the changing world of venture capital, you’ve no doubt come across, one of the premier funds experimenting with new ways of financing businesses — without killing the business in the process.

We wanted a path that gave founders time to deeply understand the levers of their business and the needs of their customers that can only come from focusing on profitability and revenue growth. We wanted founders to experience that the constraints of scarce resources could become superpowers as they began to scale. We wanted founders to see beyond a binary world of “going big or going home” into a world full of alternative outcomes that wouldn’t require them to trade a lifetime of ownership and optionality for a seed round today.

Sound interesting? Well, they’ll be swinging by Portland this month. And PIE is helping them out by hosting an event for the community. It’s all part of the desire to get back into being an accessible resource for the Portland startup community and the broader startup community, in general.

Needless to say, we’d love to have you join us. The event will be held at Autodesk (221 SE Ankeny, the home of PIE Shop, on January 22, 2019. Doors around 5:30PM with the event kicking off at 6:00PM. The event is free and open to the public. We simply ask that you RSVP at

Looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday the 22nd. And happy new year!

NOTE: If you’d like to stay in the loop on future events at PIE, please consider subscribing to our newsletter, subscribing to this blog, following us on Medium, or following us on Twitter and Instagram.

Community, News

Please join us — when else? — Pi Day for PIE Demo Day 2019

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a little more than four years since the last PIE Demo Day. Time, as they tend to say, does indeed fly.

During that hiatus, we’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit. Quietly, mind you. Out of the limelight of the stage. But we’ve still been hard at work. Accomplishing stuff.

Since our startups last took the stage in 2014, PIE has…

Still, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit to missing PIE Demo Days. Quite a bit. Not for all of the stressful preparation. Or the seemingly never-ending pitch practice and critiques. Or the nerve jangling day-of delivery.

Honestly, we don’t miss that all that much.

What we do miss about PIE Demo Days, however, is that they consistently served as a brief moment of celebration where we could come together to embrace and support some of the awesome founders building amazing companies in our midst. So that we could all gather together — new founders and serial entrepreneurs, established companies and startups, would-be entrepreneurs and their soon-to-be mentors — as a community.

So, with that in mind, we’re happy to announce that — 100 days from today — PIE will be hosting PIE Demo Day 2019 on, appropriately enough, March 14, 2019. Pi Day. This time around, we’ll be taking the stage at the historic Aladdin Theater in southeast Portland, a stone’s throw from the Dairy Building where the latest class of PIE spent much of 2018. Best of all, the Aladdin is our largest venue yet. Meaning that we can bring together more of the community, in person, than we’ve ever had the opportunity to do before.

As always, the event is free of charge, but space is limited. Seats are general admission. If you choose to make a donation to PIE, that will give you access to a block of reserved seats, front and center. If you’re worried about figuring out childcare so that you can attend? Stop worrying. Childcare will be provided, free of charge to attendees. We’ve arranged for our go-to photographer, Hockley Photography, to capture the event for posterity. And, as in previous years, we will be partnering with Blaze Streaming Media to ensure that family and friends from around the world can tune into the event from the comfort of their Web browser if they’re not able to attend in person.

Presenting companies will consist of a mixture of both PIE and PIE Shop companies, as well as some updates from PIE alums and our partnering organizations. (Speaking of partners, if you’re interested in joining on as a sponsor of the event, please let us know.)

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a PIE Demo Day if we didn’t have a few surprises to reveal.

Please grab a ticket and block the time on your calendar. This event usually sells out fairly quickly. And we’re sincerely hoping you can join us. Because we’re looking forward to sharing all of our amazing companies and awesome founders with you.

For more information or to RSVP, visit PIE Demo Day 2019.

Community, News

Beta testing PIE Shop, application deadline announced

While PIE has amassed nearly a decade of experience in assisting and accelerating early stage startups, the bulk of that experimentation has been with software companies. So when we embarked on a new project to apply PIE’s startup accelerator methodology to companies that manufacture physical objects, we wanted to be sure we knew how those types of companies would make use of the physical space we provide.

We understand how much space software companies use… but how much space do startups who make things use?

In an effort to answer that question, we did what we usually do. We began experimenting.

PIE Shop beta cohort

We’ve been quietly beta testing our PIE Shop space with a few different physical object startups, who were specifically selected from early applicants to help test drive the space and help us gain a better understanding of their needs and use. Given that the experiment seems to be going well, we felt it appropriate to share those companies with you, as well.

Bip: Bip is a small format connected device designed to be worn by residents of assisted living facilities as a means of opening lines of communication among residents, staff, and family, and providing critical data points that inform other assisted living management solutions.

CMDSense: CMDSense uses a variety of connected devices and other tools to gather outdoor and indoor data in cities in order to help transform cities into places that benefit every urban citizen.

Dorsum: Carrying unsupported weight puts strain on the back, increasing the risk for injury. Dorsum has designed and are developing the AdaptiveSpine™, a spinal exoskeleton and supportive device that transfers weight and stress to the hips.

Foundry Collaborative: The team who built the Adidas connected ball has spun off from the apparel company to continue to innovate on the technology they created. They will serve as both a PIE Shop company and mentors in residence for the other companies in the space.

And we’re also happy to host a couple of community pursuits that help make Portland a better place.

PDX Women in Tech: Established in 2012, we are a community-based non-profit organization. Our purpose is to strengthen the Portland women in tech community by offering: educational programs, partnerships, mentorships, resources and opportunities.

Portland IQ: A public private partnership formed when Portland’s rapidly maturing higher-ed anchor institutions recognized that shared goals, overlapping constituencies, close proximity, increasing community investment, and complementary real-estate development projects presented a rare opportunity for collaboration — collaboration that would provide exponentially more value as a combined effort than it would as individual projects.

Adding additional companies to PIE Shop

After beta testing the space, we are confident that we can likely fit one or two more companies into the space. All companies selected to participate receive free office space, access to the Autodesk desktop manufacturing facility, free use of Autodesk’s entire suite of software, and the opportunity to take part in the PIE program of mentorship and acceleration.

So if you’re interested in applying to be one of those companies, please complete the PIE Shop application. Applications will close September 16, 2018, at 11:59PM Pacific Time.

NOTE: If you have already applied, you do not need to resubmit your application. However, you are more than welcome to submit, again.


PIE 2017: A rebuilding year

We’ve been taking some time to look back at 2017, as most of us are wont to do this time of year. And now seemed like an appropriate time to share some of these reflections. Partially because it was six years ago last week that PIE staged our very first Demo Day, January 17, 2012.


As with any good reflection, we started with what we promised to do last year at this time. And to my surprise—I say, “surprise” because it didn’t feel like we accomplished much—PIE actually accomplished most of what we set out to do for the year:

✅ Completing the PIE Cookbook
✅ Expanding the PIE Cookbook community
✅ Increasing efforts around diversity and inclusion in our community
✅ Exploring new and different applications of the accelerator model
✅ Continuing to support existing partnerships
❌ Creating more content, publishing more often, and generally being more transparent

And in addition to what we set out to do, we also managed to hire a new program manager; not only support but strengthen our partnerships with Built Oregon, CENTRL Office, and Prosper Portland; organize another successful Portland Startup Week; proudly watch PIE alums like Cloudability, dotdotdash, Droplr, Lytics, Outdoor Project, Supportland, Switchboard, Uncorked Studios, and more have a strong year; and took equal pride as members of the PIE family chased new pursuits like Reflect and Torch.

Looking back, it seemed like it was a pretty productive year. So I had to keep asking myself why it felt so frustrating. Why was I “surprised” that we accomplished these things? And why was it that I still felt like we didn’t get anything done?

And then it dawned on me. It was because I didn’t feel like we had an impact. We accomplished tasks. We nudged projects forward. We kept a few things going. But we didn’t create change. We expanded our community but we didn’t strengthen our community. We didn’t push the experiment forward.

So it didn’t feel very good. It was a year of frustration, a year of questions, and year of reboots. It was a rebuilding year at best. And a gap year at worst.

But that cloud, like many, has a silver lining. The year of frustration and cynicism and disappointment also provided vantage. Enabling us to step back and to objectively reassess what it was we were doing with PIE. It gave us the opportunity to truly question what we were hoping to accomplish. And why were doing it. And what was working.

Now, we’ve realized that the main experiment we were pursuing in 2017 was a failure. Trying to work behind the scenes with other accelerator programs—a move we assumed would allow PIE to scale its impact most efficiently while providing a revenue stream for the organization—was a flop.

That wasn’t what the Portland startup community needed. That wasn’t what founders needed. That wasn’t a sustainable business model. And that wasn’t a viable means of expanding the sort of impact we had hoped to provide. Truth be told, it wasn’t even an effective means of providing the same level of impact we had managed to provide in previous years. At best, we had gone backwards. At worst, we had become completely irrelevant.

That said, like all experiments, it was good to pursue it. To test and to learn. But we’re also completely willing to admit that the experiment was a failed one. Like many experiments we’ve run over nearly a decade of PIE.

To make matters even worse, we recognized telltale signs of bonds weakening in our community. We found fragmentation and confusion. And we found folks feeling detached and disconnected. In reality, we found our community was suffering from many of the same issues that had originally inspired us to start PIE in the first place. Only with an exponentially larger group of people.

And that, to us, seemed like an opportunity.

So we hit the brakes and began listening again. Listening for what the community needed. Listening for what startups needed. And listening for what PIE could do to have a meaningful and significant impact in our community.

As such, much of 2017 was taken up with rethinking and reinventing PIE and then talking with anyone who would listen. Revising. And then talking with everyone again. Listening to their suggestions and critiques. Revising… You get the picture. We’ve torn it all down. Rethought everything. And all of that—all of that nudging things forward and rethinking everything and listening listening listening—has us prepared to dive headlong in 2018.

What we’ve come up with is a new experiment. With a new version of PIE that we hope will be a better match for the actual needs of the Portland startup community. And one that has a demonstrable, tangible, and measurable impact on both Portland and PIE, itself, this year.

So what does PIE 2018 look like? We’re glad you asked. And we’re looking forward to sharing some of those details in our next post.


Longing for a startup pitch event like PIE Demo Day? Get ready to be happy

It’s been a while since we’ve had a PIE Demo Day. We’ve helped host pitch competitions, sure. But we haven’t had a Demo Day. And Demo Days are different. Attending, you get that feeling that everyone is in it together, that everyone in the audience is there to help everyone on stage, and that every speaker is pulling for every other speaker.

And while we’re a ways off from any future PIE Demo Days, there is an event coming up next week that reminds us very much of our Demo Day dynamic: PitchBlack.

Why: To connect the region’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem with the increasing number of African-American founders.

This event is the brainchild of Stephen Green @PDXStephenG, economist, entrepreneur & strong advocate of CHEATING to support small businesses. By day he is the Community Manager for Townsquared where he is engaging area small businesses to support each other and share knowledge. Stephen, along with others in the community have been looking to spread broader narratives about black founders locally.

The event will be held August 30, 2017, at Instrument in Portland, Oregon. Tickets are available for $22 and all proceeds go to the cash prizes for the winning pitches.

If you can’t attend but are still interested in supporting the event, Business for a Better Portland highlights other ways folks can contribute.

For more information or to RSVP, visit PitchBlack.