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Building a startup accelerator is hard. That's why PIE wants to open source its learnings. So anyone can build one for their community.
Building a startup accelerator is hard. That's why PIE wants to open source its learnings. So anyone can build one for their community.
Building a startup accelerator is hard. That's why PIE wants to open source its learnings. So anyone can build one for their community.
603 backers pledged $23,135 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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PIE Cookbook: An open source guide for startup accelerators

$23,135

603

*** STRETCH GOAL: 66 backers from your community? PIE is coming to visit

*** Community is our currency. Back at a buck. Just join us. ***

We’d love to have you join us in building the PIE Cookbook, an open source guide designed to help anyone, anywhere build the startup accelerator of their dreams. Why are we doing this? Because we believe that each and every community — with the right tools — has the potential to assist and accelerate its most promising folks further and faster toward success. And that’s good for everyone.

By joining us, you’ll gain access to everything we’ve learned from nearly a decade of accelerating startups, building relationships that strengthen community, and facilitating creative output. What’s more — since this is an open source project — you’ll have the opportunity take part in creating the most effective documentation for building, managing, and running a successful startup accelerator for your community — whatever that community may be.

So let’s get started!

What is PIE and why should I care?

In 2008, we brainstormed a concept that — at its most basic — was designed to support the Portland startup community. The result of that brainstorming became PIE, the Portland Incubator Experiment, an ongoing collaboration between the Portland startup scene and the Portland headquarters of global creative firm Wieden+Kennedy.

Over nearly decade, the experiment has taken many forms: a coworking space, a community hub, a leading early stage startup accelerator, a platform for global brands to engage with startups, a “sourdough starter” for corporate incubator/accelerators, and a home away from home for visiting technologists from around the world. But throughout its existence, it has remained true to its core as an experiment in how startups and corporations can collaborate without killing one another.

PIE startups hard at work
PIE startups hard at work

PIE has had the pleasure of working with more than 40 early stage startups, engaging with hundreds of mentors, collaborating with multiple global corporations, and watching as our alums have built — and exited — successful companies.

During the startup accelerator phase of the experiment, we were regularly listed as one of the top accelerator programs in the world. We've had the chance to work with organizations like Coca-Cola, Daimler, Google, Intel, Nike, the Oregon Governor's Board of Film and Television, the Portland Development Commission, and Target, among others. And, in years past, when we’ve opened our application period, we'd be floored by the breadth and depth of hundreds applicants. During our last application period, for example, we happily received submissions from every continent except Antarctica. (Secretly, we’re still hoping to get an application from the South Pole.)

Portland startup community attends PIE Demo Day
Portland startup community attends PIE Demo Day

Along the way, we have found that the key to any successful accelerator is the community that surrounds it. And so we've also been happy to chat with anyone and everyone who was curious about accelerators, not only within the United States but in countries around the world. We've shared our story with folks from Brazil, Colombia, China, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Moldova, the Netherlands, Oman, Russia, Thailand, and many more. And we want to share our learnings with many, many more.

The problem with all of these awesome conversations is that they don’t scale by themselves. So we want to take what we’ve learned and make it more accessible to everyone — and to you. 

Even more importantly, we know we're not the experts here. And we know for certain that we aren’t the only ones with useful information to share. That's why we're here on Kickstarter. To enable the most creative community on earth to be a part of this process, too.

So what, exactly, is the PIE Cookbook?

We are going to document the learnings, failures, mistakes, and happy accidents that have been baked into our process - and to make it as accessible as possible, we’re going to open source our learnings as the PIE Cookbook. With this project, it is our hope to empower anyone, anywhere with a framework for building an accelerator for whatever community they choose.

With your help, the PIE Cookbook will begin as a collaborative Slack community and an open Github repository, enabling anyone with a Github account to track, comment, contribute, or fork the project for their own needs and ongoing development.

But since Github isn’t always the best format for consuming content, we’ll partner with PIE alum Read the Docs — the de facto standard for Python documentation around the world — to ensure that the PIE Cookbook is a well-formatted and accessible document, freely available to anyone on the Web.

What the PIE Cookbook will cover

PIE cofounder Renny Gleeson chats with founders
PIE cofounder Renny Gleeson chats with founders

The PIE Cookbook will cover basic ingredients for a successful startup accelerator including:

  • In depth overviews of accelerator models with which PIE has had direct experience including accelerating startups, services companies, nonprofits, and (bonus) accelerating accelerators 
  • Learnings from accelerating startups from seed- to middle-stage 
  • Critical skills — and personality types — for accelerator program management 
  • Suggestions for accelerator methodologies unique to corporate and brand incubators/accelerators 
  • Funding sources for accelerator activities 
  • Tips for recruiting, managing, and rewarding a successful mentor pool 
  • Guidance for mentoring mentors 
  • Required elements for the physical coworking and accelerator space 
  • Compelling qualities of founders and teams who do best in a startup accelerator environment 
  • Specific criteria that PIE weighs when selecting the startups for each cohort 
  • Preferred means of providing capital to startups with “founder friendly” investment vehicles 
  • Best practices for ensuring startups, mentors, investors, and the community get the most out of the program 
  • Day-to-day logistics for running an accelerator program 
  • To ‘demo day’ or not to ‘demo day’? 
  • … plus questions and concerns raised by the PIE Cookbook community

Why open source?

PIE was born in Portland, Oregon, and Portland has long been a hub of open source activity and community. A significant number of the startups PIE has accelerated grew out of that very same open source community — and the hackathons, collaborations, and distributed user groups it has spawned. So it seemed only reasonable that we, in turn, participate as good open source citizens and share our learnings.

That’s why we're not just documenting our learnings. We want to open source the PIE Cookbook. So what we’ve learned will be accessible to everyone. For free. To use as they see fit. And hopefully to continue to test, debug, contribute, update, and improve as time goes on. Because that just helps everyone.

PIE and Nike host an open data hackathon
PIE and Nike host an open data hackathon

Like any good open source project, we look forward to collaborating with you to create the best accelerator documentation possible. We want you there — from the messy beginnings to the subtle refinements that will make this documentation the best it can be. We need your help to point out the bugs and ask for clarification and provide your own insights about what works and what doesn’t. We need this to be a conversation and a collaboration — for all of us.

Together, we have the opportunity to share the “secret sauce” and create the best possible guide for building and running a successful accelerator program. And that’s just awesome.

Why Kickstarter?

We’ve always been curious about Kickstarter. And Kickstarter's ongoing connection to the Portland community. We even hosted Kickstarter events for Portland's amazing independent creative community at PIE, early in Kickstarter’s existence.

We see you — and Kickstarter as a whole — as a powerful voice for nurturing and accelerating creativity. A platform where risks are embraced. And a place where people band together to ensure that the creative ideas they love get the oxygen they need to survive and flourish.

So where better to accelerate the creation of a handbook to accelerate accelerators?

Spoiler alert. Unlike many Kickstarter projects, this isn’t an all or nothing sort of thing. We're not interested in holding your feet to the fire. We're interested in working together. So, we’ll pursue this project whether this campaign is funded or not.

Long story short, Kickstarter is the most relevant platform for discovering and engaging folks like you. People we would be proud to call “our community.” 

Undeniably, we are hopeful that this project will strengthen our connection to our existing peers and colleagues. But more importantly, we are incredibly hopeful that promoting this project on a platform like Kickstarter will help us to discover a more wide ranging and unique collection of folks who find value in what we're building. To find the collaborators and contributors that can help make this project better than we could do on our own. And to discover the like-minded individuals out there who share in the sheer reckless optimism that there is a better way to do things.

How we did it, not how you should do it

Our PIE journey has been filled with learning, some happy successes, and a lot of mistakes. A lot. We’re not claiming to be the “startup experts” or "accelerator gurus" but we have been doing this for a while. And we have the bruises, scars, and stories to prove it. Our hope is that that this experience can help you with what you’re building — and save you from making the mistakes we made.

There are some amazing models for accelerators out there. We've learned from many of them. But we believe that “accelerators in a box” are flawed notions. Because we don’t really believe that anyone has truly created a "right way" to do this — not even us. In our experience, it comes down to operating principles — and magnanimous objectives — more than rules. And uniquely crafting the accelerator experience that best serves your community.

Early notes on the original PIE space
Early notes on the original PIE space

That’s why we’ll share everything. Down to the nitty gritty details. From our original strategy to our day-to-day existence. From finding creative ways to scrape together funding to learning how to recruit compelling mentors. From helping accelerate startups to new heights to accelerating startups right into the ground. (Yes, that happens, too.)

Throughout the PIE Cookbook, we’ll tell you what worked, what hasn’t, and where we’ve just been lucky. We’ll help identify the types of partners and participants that made PIE a success. And we’ll share everything we can to help you identify similar opportunities within your community.

Most importantly, we want — and need — your input and insights. Together, this gets way more interesting. Together we can identify common fails and winning solutions, in broader contexts. Together, we can accelerate business and creative innovation beyond what any of us could accomplish alone.

This is how it starts

When we started the formal accelerator part of our experiment, we had a program-length curriculum chock full of training, mentors, and intensive coaching. It didn't work. So after 48 hours, we threw it out and chose instead to learn what our community of startups needed, right now. We discovered that this educational process has to be fluid and iterative. What's more, it has to be customized, class by class, startup by startup, and founder by founder.

While we've learned a lot and made a ton of mistakes, had happy accidents, and uncovered genuine success, our first priority with this Kickstarter project is to ask you — and this growing community — to help us prioritize the content:

  • What’s most useful to you, right now? 
  • Perhaps you want to stand up a new accelerator. What is the community outside its walls that will help it succeed? 
  • Maybe you are standing up an internal accelerator to unlock hidden innovation in your own company. If so, how do you build internal support to make it happen — and succeed? 
  • Curious about costs and budgeting? Happy to start there. Interested in the criteria we use to select startups and program a class? Great. Vote for that.

How do you vote? 

Should the project complete successfully, you will receive one (1) vote for each dollar spent. Again $1 = one vote. If you support at the lowest level, first off, THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING THIS PROJECT! Second, you’ll get one vote for telling us where to begin.

Want more votes? We think you see where this is going. It’s pretty straightforward. Support at higher levels and you’ll get more votes. 

Pro tip: Certain levels will give you even more votes than a dollar per vote. 

So if you really want to tell us where to go… err what to do, make sure to select a reward that gives you the influence you’re seeking. At the very least, you’ll get some awesome rewards. At best, you’ll be helping the community decide where to focus its energy first. And second. And third. And so on. In order from most votes to least.

We’d love to have you join us in making the PIE Cookbook a reality. Let’s get started.

[Credits: 1) THANK YOU to Jotham Porzio and team for helping produce the awesome video. We couldn't have done this without you. 2) Video soundtrack courtesy Azureflux. 3) "PIE Demo Day" photo courtesy Aaron Hockley.]

Risks and challenges

First and foremost, we are dedicated to pursuing this project whether it successfully funds or not. Your backing and this project completing successfully promises to accelerate the timeline on which we can get this project completed and delivered.

Like any open source project, more participation can mean both more productivity and more voices to assess and evaluate. Because of this, we will work to carve out a bare-bones, must-have version of the document as quickly as possible, before spending our time fleshing out sections, responding to bug fixes, and making the document more well rounded. Because of this, some of your questions may take longer to answer and some of the details you need for your accelerator may be further down the pike. We will do our best to ensure that you have the information you need as quickly as possible.

With regard to rewards, we will do our utmost to ensure production timelines are met and deliveries are handled in the most expedient fashion. As there are a few links in the supply chain, however, we are always beholden to the time and availability of others. Rest assured, that we will keep you up-to-date on production and shipping through the (hopefully) good and the (hopefully not) bad.

Finally, it probably goes without saying but inevitably these things always take longer than we would expect — especially given our optimism at the outset of this project. Our hope is to begin the Slack community immediately following the campaign closure in April 2016, to begin roughing the initial document in May 2016 as part of a Github repository, and to work to have enough content to make the Read the Docs version usable by Fall of 2016.

That said, there is always the chance that the scope may expand or change based on backer feedback. As such, these timelines may shift. But please, rest assured, that first and foremost this is a project about communicating. So we'll always work to keep you in the loop and remain transparent about this entire process — for better or for worse.

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    SLICE OF PIE

    Not ready to take on a whole PIE. But you like the idea of an open source accelerator framework and you want to remain in the loop on the project? That's awesome. Thank you! Virtual PIE-five! Contribute at this level and you'll be an official PIE Cookbook backer. With all the backer updates you can eat. Also, don't forget that you get a single vote to help us choose the most relevant topic for the PIE Cookbook to cover first.

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    Pledge $3 or more About $3

    I LIKE PIE

    Maybe you like PIE. Maybe you like pi. (We would have given you the option of 3.14 but we can't do decimal places.) Or maybe you're simply intrigued by what we're doing and want to see it happen. That said, you've got to watch your burn rate. We get it. That's cool. Join us at this level, we'll invite you to the private PIE Cookbook Slack community so that you have direct access to all of the folks who have joined the PIE Cookbook project. What's more, you'll get the three (3) votes to cast for the topic(s) we should cover first.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    NOTEWORTHY PIE

    What good are great accelerator ideas if you don't have anywhere to write them down? Support us at this level and you'll be the proud owner of an official PIE notebook. Perfect for sketching out your accelerator planning, taking notes during startup interviews, and writing down snarky comments during pitch practice. Everything an accelerator manager needs. Sponsor at this level at we'll throw in a PIE sticker and a PIN, too. And don't forget, this level gives you 15 votes toward your favorite PIE Cookbook subject(s).

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    PIE STEPPIN'

    Taking the leap into the world of accelerators requires taking a risky step. So let's make sure that you're stepping in style. We'll make sure that those risk taking feet of yours are stylishly covered in custom PIE socks. Quietly providing you the strength you need to put one foot in front of the other. You'll get not only one sock but two! And a PIE sticker and PIE pin and access to the PIE Cookbook Slack community. Plus, you'll get 20 votes to cast for your favorite PIE Cookbook topic(s).

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    KEEP ON TRUCKIN' PIE

    Your favorite part of the PIE acronym is "Portland." And you're looking to embrace that with as much hipster verve as you can. Support us at this level and you'll get access to the PIE Cookbook Slack instance and a PIE sticker and pin. But we'll also send you a limited edition PIE trucker hat, the perfect way to complement your Portland look while you're cooking up a tasty startup accelerator. Or increasing the amount of buffalo check plaid in your wardrobe. Or whatever. Plus, you get 25 votes for your preferred PIE Cookbook starting spot(s).

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    YOU'VE GOT PIE ON YOUR SHIRT

    Random PIE trivia: We created a new shirt for each class that went through PIE. Even more random PIE trivia: We named each cohort after a flavor of pie. Join the PIE Cookbook community at this level and we'll provide you with a PIE sticker, a PIE pin, and a limited edition tshirt reflecting your participation in this very special PIE cohort. It's codenamed Filbert PIE, by the way. What? It's the Oregon state nut. Not only will you get an awesome shirt. You'll get 31 votes plus 14 more for a total of 45 votes toward your favorite PIE Cookbook topic(s).

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    FILL UP ON PORTLAND TECH

    During PIE's existence, we've had the opportunity to help cofound other resources that help the Portland startup community. One of those is resources is TechfestNW (http://techfestnw.com/), an annual tech event that brings folks together to experience what's happening in the Portland startup community. For this year's event, we have a limited number passes to offer to our backers. Back at this level to secure one (1) full event pass. NOTE: Before pledging at this level, please make sure you can be in Portland on April 25 and 26, 2016.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    MORE PIE PLEASE

    You love PIE almost as much as we do. Support the project at this level and you'll get access to the invite only Slack community, one PIE sticker, one PIE pin, one pair of PIE socks, one PIE trucker hat, and one limited edition PIE shirt. Looks like you just completed shopping for all of your gift giving for this year. Best of all? We'll increase your votes by 50. That's 150 votes for instead of 100! And that, my friend, is some significant input on where we begin with the PIE Cookbook.

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    Pledge $314 or more About $314

    ALL THE PIE YOU CAN EAT

    Whoa. You're all in. Thank you SO much! By supporting PIE at this level, we'll happily welcome you to the community and provide one of each of the rewards above (sticker, pin, socks, hat, shirt). You'll be a cherished member of the PIE Cookbook Slack community. And, in addition, we'll invite you to the kickoff party celebrating the launch of the project. Meet PIE staff, mentors, alums, and other members of this amazing PIE Cookbook community. Plus, you'll be among the first to know what PIE Cookbook topic was the most popular request. Speaking of… We can't thank you enough for your support. But we can give you more votes. Support the PIE Cookbook at this level and we'll round you up to 400 votes for your favorite PIE Cookbook topic(s).

    NOTE: PIE Cookbook kickoff party will take place in Portland, Oregon in April 2016. Items will arrive in June 2016.

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Funding period

- (32 days)