Community, News

Applications still open for 1776 Challenge Cup, PIE… and Shark Tank

PIE is excited to once again play host to the first round of the 1776 Challenge Cup, a global competition taking place in 75 cities around the world in an effort to identify promising early stage startups who are talking complex challenges that impact cities, education, energy, food, health, money, security, and transportation.

So excited, in fact, that we’ve extended the deadline for applications. But just a few more days. Startups interested in applying must do so by June 18, 2017. The event takes place at Revolution Hall on July 6, 2017. It will be livestreamed, as well.

The event is free to applicants and attendees.

As an added bonus, any company who chooses to apply for the 1776 Challenge Cup will be automatically advanced to the second round of the next PIE application period—whether you’re selected to pitch or not. (You read that right. We’re beginning to ramp up for our next flavor of PIE and we’re super interested in the awesome startup you’re building. More details about that in the coming weeks.)

So it’s two applications for the price as one.

Finally, the folks at Shark Tank—yes, that Shark Tank—are on the prowl for more companies to participate in the popular ABC program. If you’re willing to make a deal with the sharks, you might consider throwing your proverbial chum in the water. You can apply by sending Shark Tank an email.

shark-tank.jpg

Community, News

REMINDER: You have one week left to apply for the 1776 Challenge Cup Portland

PIE is once again playing host to the 1776 Challenge Cup Portland, a pitch competition for early stage startups.

[1776 Challenge Cup is a] global competition for the world’s most promising startups tackling complex, regulated challenges to share their vision on a global stage, engage with industry leaders, and win grand prizes.

That’s all good. What’s not so good? The looming deadline. Which is June 9, 2017.

So if you’ve got an early stage company that deserves an audience with the Portland startup community — and potentially the entire world — please get your applications in before the deadline.

P.S. As an added bonus, any startup that applies to the 1776 Challenge Cup Portland will be automatically advanced to the second round of the companies being considered for the next PIE cohort, which is currently in the planning stages. So get those applications submitted.

Community

1776 Challenge Cup Portland: Apply today

PIE is proud to continue our collaboration with our friends at 1776, as we once again serve as the host for the first round of the 1776 Challenge Cup, a startup competition that has founders all over the world pitching their startup ideas at local and regional competitions with the hopes of making it to the main stage for the global finals.

Fun fact: One of the winners of the last Portland competition, NoAppFee.com, went on to win the People’s Choice Award at the global finals in Washington, DC.

Anyone is welcome to apply to the 1776 Challenge Cup Portland competition. You don’t even have to be located in Portland—just so long as you can make it to Portland for the event. Likewise, Portland-based companies are welcome to apply to any of the local competitions, around the world.

What types of startups should apply? 1776 is specifically interested in startups who are using their creativity to solve problems with civic impact. So if you’re working on solutions for cities, education, energy, food, health, money, security, and/or transportation—or you can tell a compelling story about how your startup positively impacts any of those areas—you’ve got a good chance of being selected to pitch.

Applications are currently open. They close June 9, 2017. The pitch competition will be held in Portland on July 6, 2017.

Advice

Filing our TPS reports: What we look for in PIE startups

So… yeah.With the PIE application period officially, officially closing tonight at midnight, we thought it might be beneficial to share some of the reasoning behind our selection process. You know, to help you understand how we’ll be evaluating your startups as we work to select the next class of PIE.

We’ve learned a lot over our five years. And every class, we learn a great deal more about what types of teams excel in our environment. We work those learnings into our selection process with the hopes that we can be as helpful as possible for the founders who come through the program.

The selection criteria can be easily summed up in the three letters: TPS.

Well okay. It may take a little more explanation than that.

So here’s what the PIE selection committee considers in each application.

Team factor

Good, well rounded teams can attack any problem. So first and foremost, we evaluate the team—or individual—who has applied.

We start asking questions like:

  • Is it a diverse group of people?
  • Are there clear roles and responsibilities?
  • Are there clear lines of ownership? For example, does one founder clearly own decisions on technology?
  • Is this actually a team or is it just an amalgamation of highly proficient individuals?
  • Can members of this team serve as mentors and collaborators with their peers?

Three months is a quick, stressful, and intense period. Being able to divide and conquer is one of the traits that helps teams excel at being accelerated. And there always, always, always has to be a builder on the team—someone who can make things. Three months is too short of a time period to rely on contractors and conflicting schedules.

Another thing we try to deduce is the team’s “coachability.” Is the team capable of taking criticism and questions? Do they seem like they can deal with conflicting feedback? Are they willing to accept that there might be another way of attacking the problem? Can they take action with the feedback they’re receiving? Because when you exist in an environment that is full of mentors deconstructing and critiquing your concepts and business, you have to be able to make use of that feedback. Otherwise, it’s just a distraction.

And yes, sometimes we do pass on very promising teams because they don’t seem very coachable. Even when we know the business will be successful. Some founders are headstrong—okay, they’re stubborn—and while they may knock it out of the park, PIE is an environment which could prove detrimental for both the uncoachable teams and the other teams in the space.

Product factor

Once we’ve evaluated the team, we turn our focus to the product. The team is going to be selling something to make money. And we want to make sure that they have the best chance of generating interest, getting traction, and succeeding with that idea.

For product, we ask questions like:

  • What exactly is the team building?
  • How big is the market?
  • Is it a point solution or a platform? (HINT: We tend to do much better with platforms than point solutions.)
  • Are they early or late to market?
  • Can we effectively accelerate a product like this?

Some accelerators shy away from companies that appear to be a feature for an existing product. But here at PIE, we’re equally interested in exploring those sorts of solutions, as well.

One of the most important product qualifiers is actually quite subjective for the committee. That’s the determination of whether it sounds like a product we would like to use or not. And while that doesn’t immediately qualify or disqualify a product, that strong emotional tie can be very valuable in helping us select the product with whom we want to work.

Serendipity factor

The final component of the selection criteria is the most nebulous of the criteria. We try to decide if there is a serendipity inherent in the solution—or if there is someway to manufacture serendipity around the product.

To get to serendipity, we ask questions like:

  • Is this technology interesting to our partner Wieden+Kennedy?
  • Could this technology be influenced or useful to a company on W+K’s client roster?
  • Does this company help PIE explore a space about which we’re curious?
  • Do we have mentors with expertise that will be especially salient to this company? Or, conversely, will the product enable PIE to expand its mentor network by recruiting talent to satisfy this company’s needs?
  • Is there something particularly interesting about having this company work with the other companies in the incoming class or PIE alums?

Yes, it’s incredibly subjective. But that’s important. Because part of our job here is creating community and networks of companies that help one another. So this can be a very valuable means of rating companies on what they bring to the table.

Compiling our TPS reports

No one factor determines a startup’s success in PIE, so we take all factors into account. But they are weighted differently. We may take a strong team that has a weaker product idea. Or we may take a strong product concept that has a less compelling team dynamic.

It’s an experiment, after all. We’re still trying to figure out what works. And it’s constantly changing.

So, if you haven’t completed your application, get it completed. We’re looking forward to reviewing your Team, Product, and Serendipity factors.

Advice

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.

News

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.