Oregon Startups Compete, Collaborate For a Piece of the Pie

Founded four years ago, the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) is a project with the power to launch a small business off the ground. Companies selected by PIE gain office space in Portland, advice from experts, and intensive (and they mean it) training.

PIE started out as simple office space shared by several small companies. One of the original companies to come through that space was Urban Airship, a smartphone technology company co-founded by Scott Kveton, an OSU alum. Today, Urban Airship has more than 130 employees, offices in London and the Bay area, and has secured more than $43 million in venture capital. Not bad for a company that started with a workforce of three-and-a-half guys (“Their CTO was working a couple other jobs,” noted Rick Turoczy, General Manager at PIE).

At PIE, it started with shared office space but soon the companies began to share more than the rent.

“As we stepped back we decided we were being too passive,” said Turoczy. “We were helping by providing office space, but we weren’t taking an active role in their development.”

The current model is an intense startup accelerator. “Now what we do is we also take the startups through an intensive three-month mentorship,” Turoczy said. “We give them $20,000 in capital and really work to make the startups uncomfortable. We push them faster than they might be willing to go in the hopes of creating sustainable businesses that are going to scale rapidly.”

In other words, PIE will kick your butt—but only because it loves you. After those three months are up, companies strut their stuff at a Demo Day, which can be a product launch, call for investors, or other call to arms.

Today, PIE accepts applications from all over the world. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still love locals.

“Applications are open until April 15, so maybe we can get a Corvallis company into this class,” noted Turoczy.

Six to eight companies will be selected; class starts in July. For more information, visit www.piepdx.com.

by Jen Matteis

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