Alumni, Community

Have fun chasing unicorns. We’ll be over here with our zebras.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned after nearly a decade of working with Portland startups — and startups that are attracted to Portland — it’s that financial gain is often the last thing motivating and driving our founders. And even if there are financial motives, they do not often come with a “growth at any cost” mindset.

Long story short, we do not chase unicorns. Because we do not have the resources that will help those types of companies. We have different strengths.

At PIE, we have found our motivations aligning with our founders’ motivations. We are here to build better founders. And a better community. We’re here to make new mistakes. And to help Portland be the next great version of itself. We’re not in it for the money, because honestly, there are millions of easier ways to make money than running an early stage startup accelerator — or helping other accelerators help startups.

So we’re an accelerator without the unicorns. So what do we have? What types of companies do well as part of the PIE family? To whom are we being helpful? What companies do well in Portland? And what were we supposed to call those companies?

Well, thanks to Jennifer Brandel and PIE alum Mara Zepeda, we now have a term for the types of companies that PIE loves: zebras.

Why zebras?

  • To state the obvious: unlike unicorns, zebras are real.
  • Zebra companies are both black and white: they are profitable and improve society. They won’t sacrifice one for the other.
  • Zebras are also mutualistic: by banding together in groups, they protect and preserve one another. Their individual input results in stronger collective output.
  • Zebra companies are built with peerless stamina and capital efficiency, as long as conditions allow them to survive.

Sound like something you’re building? Join your peers at Zebras Unite. And consider attending DazzleCon in October. And, of course, we’d love to hear from you, too. We could always use more zebras in the dazzle that is Portland.