Silicon Prairie News

Could the Silicon Prairie use a slice of PIE? A look at the Portland incubator

Omaha August 4, 2011 by Danny Schreiber Only 15 days until Big Omaha. Get your tickets before they sell out!

One of our friends in the Pacific Northwest, Rick Turoczy of the blog Silicon Florist, is about to help serve up the second helping of the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) as co-founder. Modeled after TechStars – a Boulder, Co.-based startup accelerator that takes an equity stake in exchange for its three-month program involving seed funding, mentorship and an investor pitch day – PIE is touting an added ingredient to create a recipe of its own – involvement from leading brands.

"The Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) is a partnership among leading brands, technology innovators, and Wieden+Kennedy – the largest privately held advertising and communications company in the world," the PIE website states. "It serves as a hub for community, entrepreneurship, and creative thinking."

Applications for PIE have been open for nearly a month, and the application process closes on Monday. PIE will be accepting 8-10 "brand-collaborative startups" to spend three months, Sept. 1 - Dec. 15, in Portland. Each startup will be provided with an $18,000 stipend, office space, and mentorship from Google, Target, Coca-Cola, Nike, Wieden+Kennedy and an array of tech and startup mentors.

At this point in the post, I must admit that Turoczy gave me heads up about PIE over a month ago and I mistakenly put it on the back burner. Sure, we'd selfishly like to see startups blossom in the Silicon Prairie. But this is a great opportunity, and if you think it's a fit, we encourage you to apply … and then, of course, move back after you've acquired the know-how and relationships to succeed.

When I asked Turoczy about the startup community that surrounds PIE, his response was reminiscent of what we're seeing come together in the Silicon Prairie. "Portland has an incredibly collaborative, welcoming and supportive startup scene," he said in an email interview. "Every startup wants to see every other startup succeed."

To learn more about PIE, check out its website, piepdx.com, and the following articles for background and context:

Where's our slice?

And now back to the Silicon Prairie: When will our region get its own slice of the incubator pie? 

Most recently, we saw discussion on this topic pick up following William Fisher's post, "Noodling…", which laid out five elements of an ecosystem. "We need an incubator that supports entrepreneurs and provides the right kinds of assistance in order to help them be successful," Fisher wrote for one of the elements.

Outside of Fisher's post, I hear the the need for an incubator mentioned weekly in conversation with people in the community. Sometimes individuals tell me they're going to be the ones to start it; other times, they tell me how much it's needed.

In Omaha we saw Halo Institute come and go (it relocated onto Creighton University's campus). There's also Scott Technology Center, which has an on-site and virtual incubator currently open for business.* In Kansas City, Think Big Partners has an incubator as one of its offerings. In Lincoln, we see a similar but different model being established at Nebraska Global with Don't Panic Labs. And in Des Moines, we see the foundation being laid for StartupCity Des Moines.

But even with these efforts, there's still talk of what's next. It's evident something more is needed to fill the appetite of startups in the region, and, if done really well, possibly startups outside of it. Imagine, a year from now, a post published by Turoczy on the Silicon Florist announcing applications opened for a startup incubator based not in Portland but in a city in the Silicon Prairie. That, I have to admit, would be pretty sweet.

*Update 5:30 p.m. – When published, Scott Technology Center was unintentionally omitted. It has been added and we apologize for not listing it earlier.

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