Since 2009, the Portland Incubator Experiment has gone through multiple iterations but maintained a common goal: help founders build their businesses.
After shutting down its accelerator in 2015, PIE is back. This week it launched the latest version and a new cohort of startups as part of a collaboration funded in part by Prosper Portland and the Inclusive Business Resource Network.
PIE announced its fifth cohort and a new physical space in Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District at The Dairy Building. It is now a non-profit, offering participation and office space for free, with a focus on attracting underrepresented founders. PIE also is moving away from the traditional three-month format, allowing companies to stay in the new space as short or long as they need.
“Throughout PIE’s history, we’ve tried any number of experiments to help early stage startups in Portland,” PIE Program Manager Chevonne James said in a statement. “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.”
Founded in 2009, PIE started as a downtown Portland co-working space inside kingpin advertising company Wieden+Kennedy. Less than a year later, it quickly morphed into an accelerator, following in the footsteps of organizations like Y Combinator and Techstars while harnessing its relationship with W+K to help up-and-coming startups like Cloudability, Vadio, and AppThwack get off the ground with small amounts of seed funding, mentorship, office space, and access to other resources.
PIE ended its accelerator model in 2015 as PIE co-founder Rick Turoczy looked to help the Portland startup scene in other ways.
In an email to GeekWire, Turoczy noted that PIE is no longer investing any capital in participating companies.
“We’re stepping back from that investor role with this class for any number of reasons, but most importantly so that we can test whether that investment is actually beneficial,” he said. “We’ve had companies fail with our money in the bank. And we’ve had other companies succeed independent of our investment. Our hypothesis is that the small amount of capital we have traditionally invested wasn’t a factor in startup success, but we need to test that.”
In a new blog post, Turoczy said PIE is still looking for a sustainable model to help fund the program, which is supported by non-profit Built Oregon. He also shared insight into some of the recent changes.
“One of the learnings from our introspection was that our enforcing an artificial three month window, creating stress for stress’ sake, burning founders out more than building them up, introducing more emotional hardship than emotional support, and all but ignoring that founders have families and loved ones probably isn’t the most reasonable way of creating sustainable companies,” he wrote. “Our model, like prevailing models of venture capital and the like, is broken. And we’re working to fix it.”
As we’ve experienced hosting fun events in Portland, there is a bustling tech and startup scene in a city where people seem to enjoy building companies. Portland’s tech ecosystem still lacks a large homegrown tech giant and local investment funds on the level of cities like Seattle, Boston, or Austin, but it is an attractive place for many entrepreneurs and out-of-town companies like eBay, Airbnb, Amazon, Salesforce, and New Relic that have opened remote offices in the city.
Other existing accelerators in the Portland area include Founders Pad, Forge Portland, Beaverton Startup Challenge, Portland State Business Accelerator, and the Jaguar Land Rover Incubator. You can see a list and map of Seattle-area accelerators and incubators here.
Here are the companies in the fifth cohort, with descriptions from PIE:
- Additive Care offers a push button 3D printing solution for the healthcare industry
- AllGo provides insights on the comfort and accessibility of public places for plus-size people
- CMDsense is transforming the construction industry through technology
- De Las Mias empowers Latinas to live healthier lives
- Modern Adventure is an immersive travel brand offering exclusive experiences across the globe with the world’s most interesting people
- Nocturne Collective crafts the systems your brand needs
- Praxis Department helps companies create resilient cultures that scale
- Varcity is a social network connecting student athletes to community
- Werkhorse fosters intuitive on-demand staffing
- Workfrom hosts the largest database of workspaces for remote professionals