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

Wouldn’t it be awesome if something positive did the same thing? Now it may. Introducing the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) from Wieden + Kennedy (W+K).

[HTML2]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.

[UPDATE]

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.)

  1. I would come, but am stuck in Palo Alto. I will be at the next one. Sounds like a great damn concept.

  2. Holy Mary Mother of God, that is cool.

    See you tomorrow to learn more.

  3. The phrase “for the win” doesn’t even begin to describe how fantastic this. I am so glad to see that space being used for something so cool.

  4. Awesome Rick. Would love to hear more about how W+K intends to support the startups.

  5. Nice. They’re not charging everyone 10k apiece to collaborate with creatives?

  6. Great – I’ll have to walk downstairs and see what you’re all up to after work on Thursday. I’ve been holding back from just barging in. 🙂

  7. Sounds like a fun endeavor. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it. Does anyone have a recommendation for a good hashtag (#) for this space?

  8. OK, I get the enthusiasm, I mean, someone is doing SOMETHING, so that’s kind of cool.

    But, what is it exactly? I mean, WK know how to write a press release, but here, they tell us nothing.

    They have some empty office space. They let people with no money (but, whom presumably have passed some cool-factor test) sit there. Which, in turn, takes away from the tech shared space revenue (who are having a tough time as it is)…

    What are they actually providing? A chance to have your pic taken with a large Beaver?

    Sorry, I don’t get it? They opened up some unused space and (likely Heineken) and we’re to fall on knees in praise of, what?

    Guys, wear your Old Spice and 5-year old Nikes for extra points. Gals, do the same.

    m.o.d.

  9. so how does one apply to become part of the experiment? What is W+K offering to companies? Do they take equity? Rent?

    I can’t make it to first thursday….my opposite-of-creative job has me working in spreadsheets till midnight or so.

  10. This town is in a cre8tive mood and its time to lead the world in the future of interactive. AR is going to change the game and when you add the “Sixth Sense” machine interfaces on top of it, well TICK TICK BOOM!

  11. #mmmPIE – oh, wait, that’s taken.

    @m.o.d. lighten up please.

    PS: Rick – this is really cool!

  12. This is great news and I look forward to the event on Thursday! Portland has so many talented individuals who with resources like this can take their business to the next level. How do I sign up Taplister.com?

  13. Very cool development. Great list of people to start incubating with too! Looking forward to seeing where PIE goes.

  14. @gary and you are the heavy/light gestapo? sorry I stepped out of line. i’ll fall right back in to whatever your political correctness dictates. don’t you worry. i’m back in line. promise .sorry, back in line, i’m back. really. won’t happen again. sorry. sorry.

  15. The article is high on enthusiasm, but low on specifics, and this has led to speculation on the part of the posters. I understand the enthusiasm, but there is something to be said for understatement. Rick seems to have shed his objectivity, perhaps due to his unvarnished participation.

    I’m supposing that this will be more of a gathering place than an actual workspace – but then I’m speculating as well. Hopefully there will be more details at the meeting tomorrow, and maybe even a website with some specifics.

  16. sounds neat. but, as mel o.d. suggests, this smells a little fishy. sure… good PR for W+K. but what are they really providing creatives / startups? in exchange for what?

    cool! progressive! uber-foward-thinking! but WHAT is it really?

    sorry to seem overly cynical, but this just seems like a big fish in town executing a strategic initiative masked in a community collaboration / support initiative.

    but silicon florist was certainly stoked to print the press release… and let the community FEEL the excitement!!! !!!

  17. dale forrestroad August 5, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    The line:

    “And yet, something uniquely Portland.”

    Really says it all.

    READ: No money attached.

    But, good times promised for All.

    Of course, we’ll all go, since we only care about good times and First Thursdays and suchlike here in our wee bit o’ heaven.

  18. Rick, you never cease to amaze me. The most creartive man I have ever worked with is now the chocolate in the most creative peanut butter I ever worked in – W & K (this plus stuff (+) is too mod for me). Super proud. Will try and be there if I can. Nicole

  19. So isn’t this just kind of a free office space for a privileged few who know the right people?

    Just lacking in specifics. Guess I’m with Mel O. D. there. But I’m glad everyone else is so excited!

  20. From what I’ve heard, this is a “pay to play” situation– don’t these participants have to contribute to cover the costs of the space?

    Also would like a little more clarity around who owns the ideas in the end, because I’m going to guess that it’s not the people actually generating the ideas, but the agency. Hope everyone read their contract closely… Would really hate to see our great creative minds getting screwed by the man.

  21. Dear @TheoGoodbody,

    My goodness, how rumors fly. As long as you bring all Senior Interactive and Creative Directors drinks (1/2 decaf extra hot, but, not too hot, Lattes) and clean up their desks (and, never look them directly in the eyes), you will find that the T&C are quite reasonable, even our dress code (Never, ever, ever wear sportswear from “x” (the name that can’t be spoken ///=hint) includes a voucher for a certain retailer’ Outlet Mall shop that is very generous.

    Love ya,

  22. Please folks, before you even consider carrying your machine full of your own hard work into that building and using their network talk to a good intellectual property attorney. There are far better ways to collaborate- you don’t need a multimillion dollar clubhouse to do it in, unless of course you do, in which case you’ll learn your lessons sooner or later. Or not. Best of luck traversing the gateway into hell. You’ll never ever get your soul back the way it was before you entered.

  23. Sounds interesting Rick – I’ll be there this evening to get a better understanding of what it is. It certainly sounds like at least a co-working space. But an incubator? Successful incubators (and I include Y-Combinator and TechStars) are not just a place. They include a program that provides education, coaching, accountability, and networking to help people (typically first-time entrepreneurs) build companies. (And the two mentioned above take a chunk of equity too.)

    Peer to peer help is good (Starveups has proven that) but there’s more to Y-Combinator and TechStars than peer help. (I guess I could say the same for OTBC!) So I’ll be interested in finding out what the “I” in PIE means.

  24. Okay, but what the hell is Incubator? And why are you showing a photo of what looks like Glaspey with his feet up? And why would sticking a bunch of “creatives” (who apparently aren’t too busy with client work) in one room suddenly yield something new and brilliant?

  25. Sorry I couldn’t make it there tonight. I’m sure it’s a slick space with a hip vibe that is absolutely ripe for a First Thursday wingding. But before I was even two paragraphs in, I was curious about how this is different from OTBC or the Portland State Business Accelerator space (and was glad to see Steve Morris mention that in the comments).

    That said, I was really surprised to see so many naysayers here. And cracked up when someone described W+K as “the man.” But if Rick says it’s an “experiment,” those involved are willing to wing it, and W+K has some high-priced real estate sitting empty, why not try it? If nothing else, Scott, Rick et. al. will have a cool space to hang and a chance to introduce entrepreneurial types to “the man.” When the economy improves, they’ll move elsewhere and another overpriced clothing shop will occupy the space. Seems like a win-win for now.

  26. Sounds like a fresh and original idea! If it already wasn’t done by places like Nedspace and Souk.

  27. “we don’t know exactly what we’re doing but we do know it’s going to be cool”

    You’ll fit in quite well with the new Wieden. And you won’t have to spend all your nights and weekends not knowing what you’re doing, but knowing it’s going to be cool.

  28. @carri – high priced real estate sitting empty like much of the Pearl, probably getting a tax write off for “donating” the space to the homeless/tech community? let’s not give them too much credit for doling out space they couldn’t rent to a gallery…

    /////

    not to be cynical, but, this posting had no information, the comments didn’t bring anyone out of the woodwork to add information. then, guess what? they gave out no information at the event (perhaps even less than the posting).

    i stand around for an hour w/PBR ) (WK didn’t break out the good stuff) talking to same old same old, and we get nothing, nada, squat in terms of what this means. a one minute, “hey drink our (cheap) beer” was all the data disseminated?

    worse, near as i could tell, no one from WK was in attendance? certainly, they didn’t engage and look for some “next new big thing” they could sell onward to their clients. they didn’t say, “hey, we want to start a dialogue…we want to source and work locally, just like burgerville…”

    PIE=wank.

    sorry. waste of time. now I’m deleting my siliconflorest.com bookmark, since I have lost confidence in this site and see a great need for some harder edged approach to getting the pdx emerging/start-up tech community to flourish. this isn’t a game or a pipedream for most of us, it’s work.

    the CASUALNESS that PIE was treated with is exactly the reason the portland tech community should not be treated seriously by VCs and the like — we appear like a bunch of flakes. time for a change, anyone?

    bye.

  29. Sooo….like this maybe?

    http://citizenspace.us/

    Or this could be a good model for you.

  30. Party like it’s 1999…Whee !!!

  31. @Carri – if W+K is not the man (and I’m almost willing to buy that), the clients they serve clearly are. Coke, Nike, P&G…all men.

  32. Let me know if TechStars can help. Well done, looks fantastic!

  33. Wished I would’ve seen this post earlier. How’d it go? When’s the next one? First Thursday? Ok, September 3.

  34. I had a similar experience to “byenow”, though there was zero reason for me to drink their PBR with Deschutes right down the street. Why would you buy a bunch of beer imported from out of state? It also struck me as extremely odd that someone printed out a bunch of twitter tweets and placed them all over the room. That seemed to entirely contradict the purpose and usage of twitter. Anyway, I hung around for a little while, ate a few chips and took off. I wish the PIE all the luck in the world and hope it’s productive. But this particular event wasn’t useful to me.

  35. I had no pre-conceptions or expectations of what this event was about. That said, I engaged many people in conversation, learned what folks are doing, exchanged some business cards, and generally had a really good time. On balance, I give the event good marks from the perspective of meeting new people and introducing the concept of our startup business.

    Everyone I talked to was very friendly and put up with my shameless plugging of our start-up bicycle delivery service, Portland Pedal Power. (see, there I go again!).

    The highlight for me was being asked to help make a beer run with the PPP delivery bike.

    Thanks Rick for posting the notice of this event. Best of success to everyone. I hope to learn of more events like this in the future.

  36. @Ken

    So does the so-to-speak incubator already have tenants? Who where they and how were they selected? Do other startups have a chance to join the program or is it full? Is it a VIP, know someone who knows someone sort of program?

  37. @Jmartens

    Good questions. Yes, there are tenants representing at least 2-3 startups based on my conversations. There may be more. I don’t know much more than this. As previously stated by others, there was little in the way of structure and information provided in a formal way. I asked a couple of PIE tenants for an introduction to someone representing W+K and was not successful. My suggestion to anyone looking for space is to call W+K directly and ask for someone working with PIE.

  38. Interesting. A big principle of thermodynamics – squish things together in one place to get more heat! But where is the plug in to VC’s or other ‘next step’ players?

    Still – interested, and would like to get on the access list.

  39. Renny fills in the blanks on his blog: http://wk.typepad.com/weblog/2009/08/fresh-pie.html

    Here’s a slice of what he has to say: “What’s in it for W+K? The chance to learn. An opportunity to help our clients make leaps. The chance to make participatory digital culture. And if something really blows up big, we’ll all be happy.”

  40. Wheres the beef?

    Interesting article/concept but zero details as to what PIE really is; services provided, requirements, cost, etc.

    How about a Q&A with a Weiden exec to ask the questions we would all like answers too.

  41. […] Last week I posted about the launch of Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE)–a new project from Wieden + Kennedy and a loose collection of local technology innovators–after reading about it on Silicon Florist. […]

  42. […] Getting even more creative: Wieden + Kennedy launches Portland Incubator Experiment (41) […]

  43. creative = yuppie trustafarian

    get a job you wankers.

  44. […] Getting even more creative: Wieden + Kennedy launches Portland Incubator Experiment (43) […]

  45. Uhm….do they realize there already is an event in Portland called Incubator? A rather long standing arts event that has been going on for 3+ years? Because that’s at the very least confusing, and at the most..a little insulting..it’s even in the same part of town at Someday Lounge…

  46. […] my man while he’s at work. He works in downton Portland at a wonderful place called PIE. It’s a real treat to see him during the day, and not only that but his work is surrounded […]

  47. […] Getting even more creative: Wieden + Kennedy launches Portland Incubator Experiment (47) […]

  48. […] was founded in August 2009 as a way to connect people in the Portland tech/startup scene with W+K’s resources and […]

  49. […] Getting even more creative: Wieden + Kennedy launches Portland Incubator Experiment (51) […]

  50. […] Getting even more creative: Wieden + Kennedy launches Portland Incubator Experiment (51) […]

  51. […] Getting even more creative: Wieden + Kennedy launches Portland Incubator Experiment (53) […]

  52. […] Getting even more creative: Wieden + Kennedy launches Portland Incubator Experiment (53) […]

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