Incubators Need Constant Monitoring, Or The Baby Gets Cooked

Rick Turoczy’s blog, Silicon Florist, which dutifully covers Portland’s hi tech startup scene, wrote the other day about Wieden + Kennedy’s involvement in a new venture called the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE).
Turoczy says PIE is “a collaborative project between W+K and members of the tech community designed to help Portland spin up more tech startups, more quickly.”
There was an initial meeting yesterday evening and I’m waiting to hear what the results of that meeting were. I’m also waiting to hear what Renny Gleeson–who is spearheading this from Wieden’s side–has to say. So far, there’s nothing in his Twitter stream about it, nor on his blog. Same for the agency’s blog, there’s no mention of PIE at this time.
I think we all have reason to be optimistic about the project, but the other side of the coin is doubt and one look at the comments on Silicon Florist and you can see there’s already plenty of doubt floating about town. Let’s have a look…
Mel O.D. says, “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?”
dale forrestroad says, “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.”
Raymond Brigleb asks, “So isn’t this just kind of a free office space for a privileged few who know the right people?”
Theo Goodbody says, “Hope everyone reads their contract closely… Would really hate to see our great creative minds getting screwed by the man.”
Carri Bugbee can’t believe someone thinks W+K is the man.
I can.
The most damning criticsm comes from byenow, who says, “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.”
I’m waiting to learn more. But someone from W+K needs to engage. And quickly. Or it’s just more bad feelings between town and gown (a subject I’ve addressed previously on AdPulp).

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I haven’t quite put the pieces together, but, there seems to be some LARGER PICTURE parallel connection between:
    1. The closing of PDX’s SPLASHCAST this week, where part of the blame (by CEO) was on the advertising business in general (as he tried to shift the blame off of PDX being a poor location for VC funding)
    2. The PIE debacle that W+K seemed to have concurrently supported and abandoned.
    The question is: Do W+K source locally first for ad/marketing formats, solutions and innovation? Or, do they really prefer sourcing from places that get them air miles?
    Maybe there’s no connection between these events, but, W+K are generating a less-than-friendly image locally.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts @mm_d.
    I don’t believe W+K has abandoned PIE. I think the startup world (and blogs that cover that world) move a lot faster than a global ad agency.
    Which is what it is…the problem I see is one of managing the firm’s reputation in this always on networked environment and on the ground in Portland (if indeed, those things actually matter to W+K).

  3. @david Considering W+K are in the business of Brand image and management, one would think they’d devote the tiniest of resources to their own, when their name is attached?
    I’m sure the unrentable (in this econ. climate) space they are donating is an insignificant blip on their radar. But, as they indicated an interest in reaching out to local tech/media ventures and startups in particular, then they don’t show up for the Party, well, it does impart a general feeling of lazy-fairy and la-te-da to the Locals (who don’t have many other Big Brother types to pin some hope for a leg up on).
    That’s enough mixed metaphors and malaprops for a pot of good soup.
    Ultimately, the failure may have been with the non-W+K people associated with this who made the announcement and threw the Opener? There was a certain sense that SOMETHING BIG was afoot…then, all that’s delivered is vapour.