August 5th, 2009

Getting even more creative: Wieden + Kennedy launches Portland Incubator Experiment

Getting even more creative: Wieden + Kennedy launches Portland Incubator Experiment

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, Portland is a town full of creatives. We’ve got creatives in technology. Creatives in startups. Creatives in graphic design. Creatives in writing. Creatives in the arts. Creatives, creatives, creatives.

But if there’s one thing I don’t like about the Portland creative scene, it’s this: how divested these creative groups seem to be from one another. It’s a crying shame.

Now granted, some recent negatives have helped bring these creative groups together. But wouldn’t it be awesome if something positive did the same thing? Now, it may. Introducing the Portland Incubator Experiment, from Wieden + Kennedy.

Yes, yes. I’m known to wax hyperbole every now and again. But I mean, seriously. When it comes to creative influence in Portland, few can argue to be as much of a catalytic presence as W+K, the iconic advertising agency that has to be the most well-known presence in the Portland creative community.

And now—embracing that same kind of creative thinking that made them the agency they are today—W+K is taking another step to bolster the creative community in town. How? By stepping into the tech community with the Portland Incubator Experiment, a collaborative project between W+K and members of the tech community designed to help Portland spin up more tech startups, more quickly.

But maybe it would be wise to step back and tell a little of the back story. So here we go.

Glimmers of Portland Incubator Experiment

The idea of a hacker space, a geek lounge, an incubator, a launch pad. It’s not a foreign concept to the Portland startup scene. Any number of us have been talking about it for some time.

But then Scott Kveton of Urban Airship and Bac’n, Jason Glaspey of Unthirsty and Bac’n, and I started having some pretty deep discussions about forming some sort of office together. Sometime along the time of mid-Bacn.

What we wanted was something that helped Portland startups—and by that, we meant revenue generating ventures—get going as quickly as possible. Less a coworking space and more an incubator. Something that helped people get going and then booted the project out of the nest to fly on its own. Something Y Combinator like. Something like TechStars. And yet, something uniquely Portland.

We thought there was something there. And potential for Portland.

Hold that thought.

Along about the same time, Renny Gleeson over at W+K was pitching a similar idea to the folks at Wieden. He was dreaming of something that would connect W+K with the Portland tech community. Something that would help W+K stay in touch with the latest tech developments and would help the Portland tech community thrive.

And W+K just so happened to have a retail space in its building—sitting empty—that could serve as the perfect location for this sort of thing.

And that led to one of those serendipitous Portland moments when James Keller—who had worked with Renny before leaving W+K to form Small Society—suggested Renny bounce his idea off of some the tech types in town.

I guess everyone else was busy. Because he decided to chat with me.

As he laid out the idea and my eyes got wider and wider, we happened upon what can only be categorized as a Reese’s “you got your creative chocolate in my startup peanut butter” moment.

“Maybe we should chat with Kveton about this idea,” I said.

The crazy little idea that could

After a whirlwind of discussions with W+K and tech folks in town, it became obvious that the concept was a winning idea all around. And so it took on a life of its own.

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And now, it’s a reality. At 1227 NW Davis Street. That’s right, 1227. About a block short of being 1337. But who knows, it my get there some day.

Part shared office, part incubator, part skunk works, and part think tank, the Portland Incubator Experiment—or PIE as it’s now affectionately known—is now live. And its initial incarnation is designed to get some of the best and brightest in the tech industry working more closely with one another. And hopefully instigating a little cross pollination among their startup pursuits—and W+K.


W+K and the other founders of PIE have chimed in with their thoughts on the experiment.

Join us for a First Thursday open house

I’m the first to admit that the description seems exceedingly, well, nebulous. But so is the concept. Rather than go with hard and fast rules, we’re running the Portland Incubator Experiment like, well, an experiment.

Let’s throw some stuff together and see what happens.

Interested in learning more about the space, who’s working there, and what’s being built? Join us this Thursday—First Thursday—at 5:30 for beverages and whatnot. Meet the folks who are calling the office space home. See what’s planned for the immediate future. And revel in the “we don’t know exactly what we’re doing but we do know it’s going to be cool” blooming and buzzing confusion in which we currently reside.

We’d love to see you in the space, this Thursday. So we’re hoping you can join us. Please feel free to RSVP for the Portland Incubator Experiment open house on Upcoming.

(Image courtesy Jason Glaspey. Used with permission.)

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