PIE announces goal shift to housing crisis

Illustration by Sofia Reeves

The Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) has taken on a new “class” of local entrepreneurs. PIE is a business incubator that provides mentorship and resources to the startups it selects.

PIE offers a variety of services: PIE Shop, PIE and PIE Consumer. PIE Shop helps with prototyping and product development, PIE is an accelerator that helps push various start-ups forward and PIE Consumer is a partnership tool for established companies to grow. Wonderfil, a company created by LC alumnus Amelia Eichel ’20, was a member of their 2020-21 class.

Local entrepreneurs, typically those with product-based ideas, apply for PIE’s resources under the condition that their products address a certain need or initiative. Past projects have ranged from a Pacific Northwest Tech Fest to a virtual hub. This year’s application period closed on March 13 and required submissions related to housing security.

The idea spawned when Brad Berrens, PIE consultant and interactive advertising bureau editor-in-chief, suggested that they look at problems within the community and address them directly.

“This is an opportunity to reverse the growing pessimism and cynicism plaguing our community,” Co-Founder Rick Turoczy said. “This is an opportunity to regain our ethos of optimism, creativity, and collaboration to help our fellow Portlanders.”

Berrens was also quick to acknowledge the depth and severity of the housing crisis. He explained that while the organization understands that they do not have all the answers, they remain committed to helping people nonetheless. PIE will go about this by communicating with the formerly and currently unhoused to ground themselves in their mission, educate the next generation of entrepreneurs on the gravity of the issue and work with other companies for funding and ideas.

In the past, PIE has boasted collaborations with large corporations such as Nike, Coca-Cola and Intel. They have also expressed interest in working with Street Books, Central City Concern and R2D2 Investments in their most recent undertaking. In addition, the Portland government makes an interesting prospect, and they too have collaborated with PIE in the past. However, Turoczy does not expect to work with the city government any time soon.

“The Portland government needs to

be part of the conversation,” Turoczy said. “Organizations that are going to be more nimble and able to work quickly around these issues are going to be where PIE will tend to gravitate.”

The government has been unable to solve the issue thus far, and that is why Portlanders like Toroczy are frustrated. Since 2011 — when the statistic was first calculated — 643 people have died without a home in Multnomah County alone. Weekly, there are around 350 active campsites and 200 inactive ones. PIE wants to do something about it, this entrepreneurial think tank is how they begin.

“Start-up folks bring risk tolerance, a sense of urgency, comfort with failure, and a passion for solving riddles,” Turoczy said.

He believes their model could provide fresh new ideas and potentially make a difference.

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