PIE has successfully incubated some great tech companies, but this year marked the first effort to bring in storytelling start-ups that served up more content with their technology, and “Earlystage” is further evidence that in an age of rapid change, storytelling is both a deeply human need and a business-critical skill.
Begun four years ago as a collaboration between Wieden+Kennedy, entrepreneurs, technologists and brands, PIE is a constantly evolving tech-fueled experiment in business and creative innovation. After an intense three-month program, six members of PIE’s current class (codename: #blueberry) took the Gerding theater stage to show their stuff on October 5th, 2012.
Next up was a company that put the “experiment” into Portland Incubator Experiment: Code Scouts, PIE’s first non-profit startup. Founder/Exec. Director Michelle Rowley created Code Scouts to tackle both the worsening developer shortage AND the chronic lack of women coders with a flexible training regimen + internship opportunities meant to “change the face of technology”. She used the #piedemo stage to describe the pilot program’s success and how she intends to refine and scale the offering nationwide. (see her presentation here.)
KS12 was another experiment for PIE: our first content-based, “social video” startup. KS12 co-founders Patrizia Kommerell and Gabriel Shalom want to build the future of events – starting with how they are documented – through a collaborative, on- and offline content-generation process they call a “videosprint“. Onstage at #piedemo, they unveiled #earlystage, their current piece tracking fellow blueberries through PIE and the broader startup ecosystem. The finished ‘sprint’ is to be unveiled November 16th (follow their sprint liveblog here, and see their #piedemo pitch here.)
Appthwack co-founders Trent Peterson and Pawel Wojnarowicz are ex-Intel guys who saw the tidal wave of mobile app development blow all to hell on the cliffs of Android ecosystem fragmentation and built a testing solution for Android apps so good that Mozilla has made it a mandatory QA step for all Firefox-for-Android releases. Appthwack used the #piedemo stage to unveil their plans to expand their offering to serve mobile web (done, check) and iOS testing (in the next two months).
Lytics.io “makes big data useful”: CEO James McDermott and CTO Aaron Raddon saw lots of reports coming out of current analytics platforms, but didn’t see that data making software smarter. Anyone selling anything is now competing with Amazon and its big data – Lytics offers businesses a chance to level the playing field in terms of personalization and automated business decision-making. Aaron tells how Lytics can be YOUR “Moneyball” here.
Stublisher CEO Kyle Banuelos believes collective experiences like concerts and sporting events are our shared social roots, and the Stublisher team wants to reinvent how we experience events before, during and after, using geo-fencing and social streams to tell new kinds of stories. “What Wikipedia did for knowledge, we’re doing for experiences.” Kyle tells the Stublisher story here.
The Google team said (their words, not mine) ‘having been small tech start-ups at one point, Google and YouTube are thrilled to join in supporting the Portland Incubator Experiment [and] helping next generation tech start-ups.'”
The Google/YouTube mentor list will include folks from a diversity of Google departments, including YouTube, Android, Google Ventures, Google+, etc. We are excited to have them on board, and we know they’ll provide valuable insight for participating start-ups – and the applications surged after the announcement hit the wires.
Additionally, we’ve got VC’s from Intel Capital, Founders Co-op and Voyager Capital participating as mentors and prospective backers for companies seeking outside funding.
Just today, some PIE guys were working on a unique monitor/dashboard that should provide a lot of utility/info/visualization possibilities for participating start-ups…
“PIE is technology accelerator/incubator seeking 8-10 brand-collaborative startups who’ve identified an emergent opportunity in brand-aligned and business-aligned hardware, software, services or experiences – and we’re particularly interested in mobility. Applicants need an existing prototype or proof of concept, and a scalable, viable idea deployable in 3-9 months. Most importantly, they need a collaborative spirit and want to work with some of the world’s greatest brands – including Coca-Cola, Target and Nike!”
I believe you don’t really talk about something until you’ve got something real to talk about. Crazy, I know, given the business I’m in, but hopefully fair when you consider that Dan Wieden (the guy who let us set up PIE in his building) speaks pretty convincingly about brand voice and brand truths. We wanted to make sure we had a few before we ran off at the mouth.
This is why my first blog post about the PIE experience comes a full year after it began, when a motley band of W+K’ers, technologists, entrepreneurs and ne’er-do-wells set up camp in the old PICA/Icebreaker space at the corner of NW 12th and Davis in Portland, Oregon.
PIE was initially conceived as a social and entrepreneurial experiment by four folks – myself, Silicon Florist blogger Rick Turoczy, serial entrepreneur/mobile force of nature Scott Kveton, and the man who has turned the notion of ‘side projects’ into an art form, Jason Glaspey. But it wouldn’t have been what it became if the idea hadn’t caught the imagination of a wider group of interesting people – what we called PIE’s “crust” and “filling”. [insert your own bad joke here – lord knows we have]
All of us (from the fruity middle to the flaky edges…I know, I know) wondered: what would happen if you put a bunch of entrepreneurial technology optimists into an open space? Would you get a brilliant hive mind? SkyNet? Given the ready availability of solid off-the-shelf and web-based software packages, how quickly could you build entire businesses (Bac’n took 21 days) ? What happens when you bring iterative speed development by folks who don’t eat if their idea fails, inside Wieden’s walls? Would the proximities and adjacencies in PIE make ideas better than they might have been otherwise? would unexpected things happen? would it be fun?
Short answer? Yes. And the keg helped.
Taking the name “Portland Incubator Experiment”, or “PIE”, we set out with some pretty vague but audacious goals – build a techno-cultural social hub for Portland, launch new businesses fast, build platforms/cultural disruptions not one-offs. We didn’t know what to expect, but we did know that there was a lot that PDX tech culture and W+K culture could learn from each other.
In our first year, PIE was home to 20 startups, and amongst other things, generated 3 venture-backed companies, hosted a wide range of interesting events and kicked out a book on fast innovation, fast-ly.
So with that under our belts, and some innovation where our mouth is, we are taking off our stealth paint.
PIE 2.0: fresher and more delicious.
This time around, Wieden+Kennedy and a hardy band of technology innovators and entrepreneurs are joined by tech-forward brand partners Coca-Cola, Target, and Nike. We’ll work together to explore and redefine brand experiences. PIE will continue to serve as an active hub for the PDX tech community, entrepreneurship, and creative thinking, but now we’ll collaborate to help brands find unexpected solutions, accelerate mobile efforts, share brand wisdom and insights with young startups and expose brand organization to the wacky world of real-time, startup-flavored innovation. Each brand has volunteered amazing mentors for the program; they and the extended PIE mentor network of tech entrepreneurs, geo-location wizards, mobile gaming experts, open source advocates and techno-cultural disruptors will look to make communications objects/products more compelling and our lives a little more interesting.
The application for PIE is here. Got a business idea, a dream and a prototype? Want to work with some of the world’s most amazing brands and the insight and scale they can provide? Applications close August 1st. September 1st, the new class takes their seats.
Renny rambles about things he likes, but mostly technology, culture, and marketing. Any resemblance to anything that seems like something his employers would condone is purely coincidental. As is his consistent and annoying use of the third person. Which he should stop.