Community

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.

pie-demo-day-1-2012

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.

Advice, News

An open source guide for building the startup accelerator of your dreams

pie-cookbook-beta-complete

It’s been one year since the completion of the PIE Cookbook Kickstarter campaign, so it seemed only fitting that we let you know that we’ve reached the PIE Cookbook 0.9 beta release!

That’s right! All of the content in one spot. With a table of contents, even.

Now, admittedly, the beta still has quite a few flaws. There are any number of typos. It’s repetitive in sections. It’s repetitive in sections. And we have an ever-growing list of things we still desperately want to write.

Still, even with all of that, this release provides plenty of details and tips on how to start and manage your very own startup accelerator — and provides you with plenty of opportunities to tell us how to improve it.

In this version of the PIE Cookbook, we cover things like:

But we’re not stopping there. We remain dedicated to continuing to write, refine, and publish this guide, out in the open, so that we can create the most comprehensive documentation available to support folks who run accelerators — or who dream of building their own one day.

Read the PIE Cookbook 0.9 beta.

What’s next?

  • Realizing that a Github repository isn’t the easiest format to consume, we’re working to make versions of the current document available in a more digestible web format, in PDF, and in ebook format. Stay tuned!
  • We’re continuing to refine the document in preparation for the release of PIE Cookbook 1.0.
  • If you have suggestions for topics, find typos, or need us to provide additional content on an existing topic, please feel free to submit an issue on Github.
  • If you want to stay up-to-date on the PIE Cookbook and collaborate with other folks in the accelerator community, please consider joining our Slack channel.

More soon! ❤️

Advice

An early stage startup accelerator is an emotional rollercoaster

We’ve all heard it. “Going through an accelerator is an emotional rollercoaster.” And we’d be the first to agree. It’s not an easy or smooth experience. For anyone.

But what, exactly, does that rollercoaster look like?

At PIE, we’ve spent time analyzing the behavior of founders in our accelerator as well as other programs in which we’ve had the opportunity to participate. And that analysis has led to a rough sketch of the general ebb and flow of emotions that founders experience throughout the course of an accelerator program.

News

Why is PIE open sourcing its learnings?

Since 2008, PIE has been an ongoing series of experiments. First as a coworking space then as an early stage startup accelerator then as an accelerator for accelerators. Now, we’re embarking on our next experiment: the PIE Cookbook, an open source guide designed to help anyone, anywhere accelerate anything.

We’re excited to share what we’ve learned over the last 8 years — especially with the hopes that we help you avoid the mistakes we made.

To provide more context on the PIE Cookbook and why we’re so motivated to give away what we’ve learned for free, we’ve gathered up some of our Medium content for you:

We’ll continue to publish on Medium and here as we learn from — and screw up with — Kickstarter, as we work to develop and share our content out in the open, and as we collaborate on this new offering with communities around the world.

And if you’re interested in getting more details on the PIE Cookbook and its potential applications — even if you have no desire to start an accelerator of your own — please visit us on Kickstarter. We’re hoping to connect with as many amazing startup communities as we possibly can.

Community

What experiment is PIE cooking up next?

It’s no secret. We’ve been rethinking the Portland Incubator Experiment. (It’s an experiment, after all.)

What began eight years ago as a collaboration between the largest privately held creative agency in the world, Wieden+Kennedy, and the Portland startup scene led to a coworking space, an early-stage and mid-stage startup accelerator, a corporate accelerator, hackdays, startup events, and a hub for community, among other things. And all these iterations have been valuable.

As we’ve been evaluating PIE, we wanted to continue to provide value to the startup community—in the broadest sense—and use our resources in the best way possible.

So after a number of conversations with startups, mentors, advisors, peers, and patrons, we’ve hit upon what we should be doing next. And now we’re ready to share the next phase of the experiment with you.

Introducing the PIE Cookbook

 

The PIE Cookbook will be an open source guide for creating, building, and improving your startup accelerator. Starting one from scratch? Already have one running? Traditional startup accelerator, new take on the accelerator mode, or corporate incubator looking for inspiration the PIE cookbook will have something for you. Once complete, it will contain everything we’ve learned over the eight years of running PIE—successes, failures, and everything in between. What’s more, it will be completely free and open source so that anyone, anywhere, can put what we’ve learned to good use.

Why are we open sourcing our program and processes?

 

First, we believe the most efficient way to scale PIE is to provide direct access to our learnings. Second, we believe each and every community—enabled with the right tools and insights—has the potential to assist and accelerate promising folks further and faster toward success. Third, we believe there’s no secret formula to running an accelerator, and that sharing is the best way to help us all help each other.

And that’s just good for everyone.

Even if all we manage to do is simply document the PIE process, we’ll consider this project a success. But we hope the PIE Cookbook is the beginning of something much more meaningful. As an open source project, you will have the opportunity take part in creating the most effective documentation for startup accelerators, ever. And anyone can use the PIE Cookbook as the basis for documenting and running an accelerator program—whether it follows the PIE path or just avoids our mistakes.

If this sounds interesting to you, please take a look at the PIE Cookbook Kickstarter campaign and join us on this project.

More to come…

 

We realize that many of the folks who follow PIE are founders. And their interests lie not in building an accelerator but in being accelerated. Rest assured, we haven’t forgotten our roots as a program designed to build better founders. There’s more coming in that regard. 2016 is going to be a lot of fun, and a lot of hardwork, and the PIE Cookbook is just the first experiment we have planned for this year.

So please stay tuned. We’re excited to share the next phase of the experiment as it comes together.