GUEST POST: For Portlanders building a company, meet PIE!

[Editor: Portland startup founder Rachel Bell submitted this guest post as a way to share her experience in PIE, an early-stage startup accelerator. And to encourage other founders to apply to the program. The following post has not been edited. Full disclosure: I am the cofounder and general manager of PIE.]

Since launching in 2009, the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) has helped more than 200 startup companies from all over the world. But what exactly does it mean to incubate a business in Portland? And why should you consider PIE as an option if you’re interested in starting your own company? 

I’m a startup founder and PIE alum. Let me outline why PIE helped get me on the right track for my business

How PIE helps founders

There are a lot of benefits to being part of PIE. First, it’s important for businesses to get off on the right foot. Joining PIE helped me establish traction as soon as possible. Second, PIE provides opportunities for collaboration and learning that can help founders grow their startups more quickly. Other than the time needed to participate and contribute, PIE is free for founders – and they don’t take equity in the business. So, you get tons of information, support, and experience without spending a dime. Bonus: when you participate in PIE, you get access to many great founder resources that you would normally spend money on for free. 

The power of community x π

The power of community is front and center at PIE. As a founder, I saw the importance of leaning into support from other founders and mentors in the program. I’ve been astonished and surprised by the time and advice I’ve gotten from mentors – and felt the deep gratitude from other founders when I’ve helped support their journey. 

I learned how to tell my brand story

When I came to PIE, I didn’t know how to describe what I was doing at all. My elevator pitch at that time sounded pretty vague and unfocused. With help from Rick Turoczy, mentors, advisors, and other startups in my cohort, my story started to take shape. As we talked about what we were trying to accomplish at Printer’s Row and why we believed it would make an impact, this gave me clear ideas for the next steps in the journey.

At the end of the cohort, I had an opportunity to take part in PIE Demo Day. While our story has continued to evolve in the past few months, I am proud of our pitch on Demo Day – and the foundation it helped lay as our story continues to evolve.

PIE helps me navigate the startup ecosystem

It can be daunting to try and break into a new market. There are dozens of incubators, accelerators, meetups, events, and more happening around us – even more since so much of the startup world has moved to virtual meetings. PIE continues to be my North Star as I navigate these options. 

Now, it’s my turn to give back

The best thing is your story doesn’t end once you graduate from your PIE cohort. My story didn’t end with PIE Demo Day. We are still growing, building our MVP, and opening a fundraising round soon. And PIE helped me pave the way. 

As PIE moves forward to its next chapter, dozens of startups, mentors, and concerned startup community members are coming together to do something a little different. As a current community member, I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview on a project that the Portland community as a whole will benefit from.

Join in on March 1st as PIE unveils its next experiment and learn how you can be a part of it!


Rachel Bell is cofounder of Overcup Press and the founder of Printer’s Row, a B2B marketplace for the book publishing industry.