News

PIE a la mode: A new class in an old dairy

Today, we’re announcing our fifth startup accelerator class — after a four year hiatus —through a program funded in part by Prosper Portland and its Inclusive Business Resource Network. The program, helmed by PIE program manager Chevonne James, is housed in The Dairy Building in the central eastside industrial district at the southeast corner of the Portland IQ, through a collaboration with Intrinsic Ventures.

The companies in the fifth cohort of PIE are:

“Throughout PIE’s history, we’ve tried any number of experiments to help early stage startups in Portland,” said James. “Through that experimentation we’ve determined that providing a shared workspace where founders can collaborate with one another is critical to our program. While we’ve been working with these companies virtually for a number of months, we’re already seeing exponentially more progress now that we’re all in the same physical space at the Dairy Building.”

“The Dairy Building is very excited to be hosting PIE and the burgeoning new companies they house,” said LeAnn Raschke, Real Estate Manager for The Dairy Building at NAI Elliott. “With private call rooms, large central meeting area, conference rooms, and a common kitchen, The Dairy Building provides the perfect meeting place for collaborative events and meet-ups. PIE is a welcome addition to the community of like-minded small business owners and entrepreneurs in the building. We look forward to seeing the growth and networking opportunities that PIE will bring.”

The latest version of the ongoing PIE experiment in collaboration among the Portland startup community and other established organizations—like corporations, government, and educational institutions—refactors its former model for early stage startups, moving away from the typical “three months and out” format to embrace a rolling cohort model where mentored companies grow up and out of the space as quickly or as slowly as needed. In addition, through its partnership with Prosper Portland, PIE has increased its efforts to attract founders who identify as women and/or people of color in an effort to better represent the wealth of entrepreneurial activity in the Portland community. Two of the companies in the current cohort, Additive Care and AllGo, are graduates of the TiE XL Bootcamp, which is also part of the Inclusive Business Resource Network.

“PIE has long been an essential partner in our work promoting inclusive entrepreneurship in Portland, and we are excited to support Chevonne, Rick, and the PIE team as they mentor a new group of startups,” said Prosper Portland Executive Director Kimberly Branam. “These businesses represent the full array of diverse founders, interests, and industries that reflect Portland’s vibrant startup scene.”

About Prosper Portland Inclusive Business Resource Network
From tech startups to neighborhood retail, small businesses are vital to the city’s economy. The Inclusive Business Resource Network is a citywide program that brings multiple services for small business into a single network to provide greater efficiencies and cross-functional innovation. The Network leverages the power of partnership to increase the success of underrepresented entrepreneurs.

Through focused resources, collaboration and client-centered services the Network seeks to drastically shift outcomes for business owners of color, immigrants, women founders, and other underrepresented minorities. Approximately 600 businesses are served through the Network each year, and 400 businesses – 65 percent owned by women and 75 percent owned by people of color – receive long-term support (30+ advising hours a year).

For more information, visit https://prosperportland.us/portfolio-items/inclusive-business-resource-network/

About Intrinsic Ventures
Intrinsic Ventures and its affiliate companies acquire and develop commercial real estate in transit-oriented, urban areas, and endeavor to create public benefits in unique locations. Our goal is to invest in the future of urban areas and to establish projects in pedestrian districts where alternative forms of transportation, like buses, bicycles and trains, are easily accessible. We create some measure of public benefit through our efforts in conjunction with a viable investment.

Our buildings—which include The Dairy Building—are vital, mixed-use hubs that thrive because their location and close proximity to other, minor-commercial properties creates a draw for local, repeat customers. By developing clusters of contiguous properties, we create a sense of community amongst our multi-tenant buildings. Developing and preserving historic buildings on tree lined sidewalks, establishing thriving communities in open public spaces and job creation are at the core of Intrinsic’s philosophy.

For more information, visit http://www.intrinsicventures.com/

About PIE
PIE is an ongoing experiment designed to enable established organizations — corporations, government, and educational institutions, among others — to more effectively 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. To further support all startup communities, PIE provides access to its learnings and programs through the PIE Cookbook, an open source guide for building a startup accelerator

PIE is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization through its fiscal sponsor, Built Oregon. PIE and Built Oregon are founding partners of the Portland IQ.

For more information on the program, visit http://www.piepdx.com/. To access the PIE Cookbook, visit https://github.com/piepdx/pie-cookbook/blob/master/README.md  

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MEDIA CONTACT

Rick Turoczy
Cofounder and General Manager, PIE
rick@piepdx.com

News

PIE 2018: What experiments are we cooking up next?

Looking back at 2017, PIE managed to accomplish quite a bit. Even if we didn’t feel like we did. In fact, we only realized what sort of progress we had made because we had taken the time to publish a list of objectives for 2017, and that gave us a yardstick to measure our accomplishments. With that list as a reference, we had to admit that we’d made progress. Which is probably why people make lists.

Bear in mind, we’d made mistakes, too. And failed. But that’s all good in our book.

In that same vein, we now want to have a list to consult in 2019, in case we’re burdened with a similar sense of un-accomplishment. So we thought it might be beneficial to share some insights on what PIE is working to accomplish in 2018.

Besides, it helps keep us honest. About both successes and failures.

As with last year, all of these thoughts come with a caveat:

Let’s be honest. Talking about the past is a lot easier than guessing about the future. Regardless of how sound your strategic thinking. All we know for certain is that we’ll continue experimenting. Because that’s what we’re best at doing. And it’s in our name.

With that in mind, here are some of the areas where the PIE team will be intentionally focusing our time and energy this year.

NOTE: In the spirit of brevity, we’re just going to lightly touch on some of our objectives. Not go into great depth. Because we recognize that each one of these topics deserves a post of its own. And those will be forthcoming. But that desire to provide more detail has simply been preventing us from getting this post out the door. So we’ll work to flesh out each of these topics over the coming weeks.

  1. Build an hors d’oeuvre section to the PIE Cookbook. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, PIE completed the initial version of the PIE Cookbook in 2017. It’s become exceedingly obvious, however, that consuming that entire book is a difficult first step for many folks. It’s way too daunting. That, of course, was not the intent. The intent was to demystify accelerators and to make the concept more accessible. But that clearly requires something that is easier to consume. So we’re going to create something more accessible that helps you quickly determine if you’re ready to start building the accelerator of your dreams before you have to dive headlong into a ton of content.
  2. Experiment with a nonprofit model for PIE. We’ve tried for profit. In fact, we’ve experimented with that model for nearly a decade. But there’s one small problem. PIE is not driven or motivated by profit. We’re driven by purpose. So it’s time for something new. Becoming a nonprofit might not be the right thing to do, but it’s an experiment worth pursuing. If only to help others understand the pros and cons.
  3. Build an accelerator that is more authentic for our startup community. A lot of what PIE has done in the past has been based on prevailing and accepted accelerator models. And to be honest, those models have both structure and artifice that only works within certain environments or with substantial resources and partnerships. We don’t have those same resources. And Portland isn’t the same kind of environment. So we’re reimagining what a Portland-flavored startup accelerator could and should look like. We’ve already got some good ideas about what that might mean. And we’re looking forward to putting those ideas into action in 2018.
  4. Build out a physical space that can serve as a hub for early stage founders. Many of our conversations in 2017 centered around the absence of PIE as a physical space and how that vacuum was negatively impacting the startup community. The prevailing feedback hinted at the role PIE had played from 2009 until 2015. As a center of gravity. So in 2018, we’d like to get back into the role of being that hub. And being the open front door and welcome mat for new founders. And to do that, we’ll need physical space.
  5. Return to building better founders. One of PIE’s founding tenets was “Build better founders.” To us, that meant that we were more interested in helping people than companies. We didn’t care if the companies succeeded or failed. We cared that everyone in the PIE family—founders, mentors, investors, partners, and staff—would be better off for having participated. Our shortcoming? We only focused on the business aspects of making founders better. In hindsight, this was a mistake. So this year, we’re looking to focus holistically on building better founders. From mental health to community engagement to family support, PIE is going to build the best founders we can.
  6. Begin building better staff. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made with PIE in the past is not providing effective and clear paths for the staff to move into leadership positions within PIE. While we’ve provided opportunities for professional growth and enabled staff to propose and execute different experiments, we’ve failed to give them upward mobility. Admittedly, part of this was due to the fact that I didn’t even really understand my role. But whatever the case, this was on me. To make the model sustainable, that needs to change. This year, we are likely to have several opportunities to provide upward mobility for PIE staff. And as we learn how that works, I hope that we can add guidance to the PIE Cookbook about how to more effectively engage and enable accelerator staff to grow into accelerator leaders.
  7. Expand the PIE family with a new class of startups. Once we secure physical space, we’re going to need some activity in that space. And some people. And startups. I mean, if we’re rebooting this whole thing, let’s reboot it. So if you’re building a startup and you think PIE could be helpful, be on the lookout for a whole new PIE application period opening this year.

That sounds like a lot. But it sounded like a lot last year, too. And we managed to complete all but one of those objectives. So we’re tentatively optimistic that we can get it done. Will we succeed? Who knows? But we’ll experiment. And fail. And maybe succeed. And we’re hoping you’ll continue to stay tuned as we do.

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.

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

News

1776 chats with PIE

Nice writeup from an interview with startup accelerator 1776. (PIE partners with 1776 to host the 1776 Challenge Cup Portland on July 6, 2017. If you’re interested in applying, the deadline for applications is June 9, 2017.)

From a coworking space to an accelerator, PIE, or Portland Incubator Experiment, is focused on creating successful startups in Portland, Oregon. PIE is constantly changing its own methods to better fit the local startups’ needs and has transitioned from a coworking space to an accelerator.

For more, read “Portland Incubator Experiment: Evolving With Its Startups.”

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.

Community

A sampling of PIE in 2016

It’s that time of year. You know, that time when you’re supposed to take a moment to reflect on your organization and its accomplishments over the past year? Or maybe it’s more that your team has been so heads-down-busily-quiet over the last few months that you want folks to know what you’ve been doing. And your team hasn’t been publishing as much as you thought they would. Because they’ve been working on any number of things… Read More

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.