You're going to need a bigger oven: Looking back on PIE as we grow into new space… on Pi Day, of course

It seems oddly appropriate to be sitting here at PIE today. On 3/14/15. It is, after all, the most perfect Pi day most of us—at least us folks who write dates that way—will ever experience. And while sitting here at PIE is an entirely different PIE experience than that which I’m used to, it’s a particularly momentous one. Why? Because after today, this space at 1227 NW Davis is no longer PIE.

[Fair warning: While I cover a lot of tech news here, when it comes right down to it, this is really just my personal blog. And sometimes I have to get a little schmoopy and feely. This is one of those times. You have been warned.]

Still here? Good.

I have to admit, standing here—in this once again cavernous and empty space—feels an awful lot like it did the first day I walked in here. In 2009. When it was nothing but an empty retail space in the Wieden+Kennedy building. And you know what else feels oddly similar? The feeling of the ridiculous amount of opportunity and potential that lay before us now with PIE. Just as it did back then before we even knew what it was going to be called. Let alone do.

You see, we didn’t really have any idea what we were doing when we started PIE. I mean, we were originally considering calling it the “Digital Incubator Experiment,” until we looked at the acronym and decided that might not be the sort of message we wanted to send to startups. So yeah, we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into. Truth of the matter is that we still don’t.

But we knew we had to do something. And to try. And to change. And to experiment.

And over these past six years, that’s served us pretty well. Here in this space. On the first floor of one of the most amazing creative agencies in the world.

We’ve had some successes. We’ve had a bunch of failures. We’ve made interesting mistakes. And we’ve stumbled serendipitously into amazing things that we never saw coming. All because we just took a chance to do something.

It was a startup to help startups. And brands. And Wieden+Kennedy. And it has worked. Maybe not perfectly. But it worked. And everyone who has set foot in this space has contributed in their own way. And for that, we should all be pretty damn proud.

Wait a sec. Why is this reading like a eulogy? It’s not meant to be one. At all. Well maybe for the space. But not for PIE. Unless that means that for the next version of PIE we’re going to be coming back from the dead as a zombie that helps startups. Which, come to think of it might be pretty awesome. We would be more impervious to…

Ahem. I digress.

Where was I? Oh yeah.

I guess I’m just getting all emotional and feely because I’m just pretty nostalgic about having had 1227 NW Davis as my business address for longer than any other job. For nearly six years, I’ve been walking through the same door every morning. And often not walking back out that door until late at night.

And while serving as a coworking space and an early stage startup accelerator for a ton of amazing companies—more than 50 startups all told—we also had the opportunity to play host to a bunch of other random events and stuff. And that’s what made PIE so cool.

How random? Well, I’m glad you asked. Did you know that PIE…

  • Hosted a Django codesprint for Djangocon, reconfiguring the whole workspace so that we could wedge more than 100 people into the space?
  • Asked the residents to tear down the entire space—their workspace—so that PIE could spend a weekend serving as the home for 30 Hour Day, a livestreaming telethon that raised a bunch of money for charities? And that even after uprooting them, every single PIE resident asked “How else can we help?”
  • Hosted hackathons for a ton of different people, from local user groups to local corporations like Nike and Intel?
  • Served as a home away from home for any number of visiting tech types from the US and around the world, like folks from Automattic (WordPress), Facebook, Google, Instagram, Kato, Keen, Kickstarter, SendGrid, TechStars, Twitter, and many many more?
  • Welcomed economic development and educational envoys from more than 10 countries and a bunch of cities throughout the US?
  • Proudly provided a base of operations for Design Week Portland?
  • Let any number of companies use the space as a secret offsite space? It’s true. Pinterest even talked about it.

PIE existed before the constant photo documentation that is Instagram. So some of the early photos are more difficult to come by. But here are a few shots from throughout the history of the space.

So we’re moving. And this space is no longer PIE. But it will always be PIE for so many of us who have had the chance to be part of this project. And for me who, Forrest Gump of the Portland startup scene that I am, who had the weird serendipitous luck of having helped cofound this experiment. And who remains tasked with continuing the experiment into its next phase.

PIE isn’t the only thing that has changed over the past five years. The Portland startup scene has changed. A ton. It has grown exponentially. It’s unveiled new challenges. And shown us new gaps and opportunities. PIE has always worked to change with the Portland startup scene. To help however it can. To fill the gaps. And to make it easier to start startups in Portland, Oregon. This next phase of the experiment—starting with a new location—is just the beginning.

I’m really looking forward to where it goes from here. We’ve only just begun.

And please come visit us at PIE’s new home, 1355 NW Everett, as part of CENTRL Office.

Oh. And if you’ve made it this far and you’re still quizzically scratching your head at the headline. Here you go.

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