Is KS12 a Startup?

We went on a road trip last year from Portland to Big Sur. It really gave us a chance to recharge our batteries after the Object Oriented production wrapped and think a bit about the future of KS12.

A couple days ago I was having a Skype call with my sister. That’s not easy – we’re nine hours apart – with her living in Portland, Oregon and us here in Berlin. So we usually connect on the weekends when she’s not working. Since last year she’s been at Wieden + Kennedy as an Interactive Strategist. I was telling her about how we’d like to grow KS12 and she asked me whether I thought KS12 is a startup. I said it depends. Considering we’ve been doing this for years now it doesn’t feel new the way a startup is new. On the other hand, we’ve had ups and downs figuring out what exactly it is that KS12 does. If you’ve been paying careful attention to our website there are pages which have come and gone over the years as we’ve iterated on our identity and process. So yeah; KS12 is sort of a startup in that we’re still defining things, and also not a startup because we’ve been at this for a while.

Then my sister told me about the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE). According to them, they are “bringing together the brightest minds in business, marketing, and technology to create the most interesting and engaging startups imaginable.” At first glance I was drawn to the video content on the site – YouTube pitch clips of previous incubator participants. Watching a couple of those videos started to bring up familiar and contradictory feelings; on the one hand identifying as an entrepreneur, on the other hand not having an interest in building a web platform or mobile app. But luckily today I dug a little deeper. I found out that PIE has been involved with a handful of companies that are producing media: Uncorked Studios, Refresh and Epipheo.

Me and my sister last summer in Big Sur.

Our curiosity is officially sparked: can KS12 get itself incubated?

We’re going to give it a shot at least. Seems like a good time to try. We’re going to use this blog to chart the process of trying to define the KS12 product as something worthy of investment. The worst thing that can happen is that we’ll get rejected. The best thing that could happen is you could be seeing a lot more KS12 videos soon. Cross your fingers for us – the deadline for the application is next Tuesday!

Footnote: I wonder if there are any other incubators with this sort of relationship to an advertising agency. From my knowledge of these sorts of initiatives, PIE does seem unique.

12 Responses

  1. Great post Gabriel. Familiar feelings and thoughts…
    I think @jkleske shared some months ago a piece about startups vs. indie business.. which i think fits more than the whole idea of a startup, which is to attract investors and raise great amounts of money (a.k.a. debt)
    Anyway… the idea of experimenting the startup thing is nice!

    There are similar initiatives around.. JWT sponsors Techstars!/content/449951/jwt-to-sponsor-techstars-the-no-1-startup-accelerator .. there’s COMMON (by former CP+B partner Alex Bogusky), and agencies like BBH have the ‘incubator’ idea in their soul.. .. and others are using brands in between.. but PIE is unique.

    1. Hey Andres – thanks for the feedback! It’s not surprising to hear we may be treading on territory familiar to Johannes. The fact that this is a trend which has popped up around other agencies makes a ton of sense.

    2. Just had a chance to read through the “Rise of the Independents” article plus all the comments and it definitely resonates. We’ve already agreed if the process of financing our growth as a company doesn’t work out in the startup context it’s not the only path we could take. Mainly we’re curious to see what the deal is, and feel like PIE could be an interesting match to our experience.

    1. Hey Rick – it’s our pleasure! Stay tuned, we’ll be posting again before Tuesday’s deadline.

  2. Rick’s comment shows you’re already on the PIE radar, that’s good – because from a personal point of view, companies who are driven by emotion – not just the quest to hear the roar of the cash register – are always more interesting and exciting … and the way you have written this post indicates to me that you’re much more the former, than the latter.

    Good luck. Have fun.

    1. We’re flattered to be on Rick’s radar – and your’s. We just read through this article about your perspectives on generalists, talent and fame and can see why what we’re doing resonates for you. Regarding the fame aspect, this post I wrote last year after touring through Scandinavia with Creative Commons might be of interest to you.

      Thanks so much for the encouragement – reading your comment made our day today before our day even started.

    1. Since you’re ahead of us by several time zones we got your comment more or less while we were still waking up πŸ˜‰ More on its way later today.

  3. I am certain you’ll succeed as you continue to develop relationships with other creative people. Your ideas are groundbreaking, Gabriel. With money, time and support your projects will surely blossom.

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