The Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) is off to a rockin’ start. Over 300 companies have applied to be part of this program, which is hosted by Portland-based advertising shop Wieden+Kennedy.
The idea is simple. Take the incubator environment – patterned after the success of YCombinator, or Dave McClure’s 500 Startups – and pair it with some of W+K’s blue chip clients (Coke, Target and Nike) and technology partners like Google.
Budding entrepreneurs get $18,000 of starting capital and 3 months of office space at W+K’s eclectic Pearl District offices to build their idea. But perhaps more importantly, they get access to some of the world’s top brands to help them craft their products and a potential real-world customer base post-launch. I’d love to see something like PIE in real estate
NAR’s investment arm, Second Century Ventures, has laid some groundwork here – but to the small entrepreneur, I would hazard, SCV’s application process appears mighty long and overwhelming. And the companies receiving funding to date – Docusign, ePropertyData, and ifbyphone – are all mature ventures.
Last year, MRIS launched its Real Estate Innovation Contest, where companies were invited to submit apps and compete for a $25,000 cash prize. It was a meaningful effort to be sure.
Cash alone can’t cut it
The PIE model brings connections to the table. And I think that’s what budding companies need most.
Day in, day out, I speak with smart entrepreneurs trying to bring new ideas to the real estate market. Their biggest challenge? Figuring out how to enter this space efficiently.
On the other hand, I also speak with brokers every week who are desperate for technology solutions to their challenges.
If we’re ever really going to find our way out of the wasteland, finding a way to bridge this gap meaningfully is what we really need.
So like Coke, Nike or Target did, I’d love to see any of the big brands in real estate, the franchise networks, the MLS’s or the independent brokers come to the table and fund something like this.
On the other side, I’d love to see the big technology players in the space participate too – to share their wisdom and help the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Who’s with me?
[Disclosure: 1000watt Consulting has provided consulting services to ifbyphone and MRIS in the past]