Reflections on the first two weeks at PIE (Portland Incubator Experiment).
After our first week at PIE we’re ready to turn up the volume a bit. We came out to Portland to take the chance to grow KS12 into something bigger, and given the stage we’re at with our experience and portfolio, that means finding new partners to join our company.
We’re looking for a fellow adventurer to join our team as a producer.
You’re a risk-taker and a born entrepreneur. You enjoy making bold moves even when that means you might fail. You possess an infectious optimism and determination that energizes the people around you. You love big ideas and have the skills to execute them. You’re a tough negotiator and a sharp strategist. Numbers are your friends, whether its writing budgets, negotiating deals or calculating profits – and you possess exacting communication skills. You get the details right while staying conscious of the big picture.
But most importantly: you share our unyielding passion for telling authentic stories in the digital age.
We know that finding the right producer to join our team isn’t just a matter of reviewing your CV for qualifications and scheduling an interview. We’ll need to share creative chemistry and work together on a project or two. So here’s what we have in mind:
Introducing KS12 Story Labs
We love experimenting with new ways for telling stories: we call the frameworks for these experiments Story Labs.
During our time at PIE we will conduct a series of Story Labs, building on our existing approaches (Video Sprints, Design Fiction, etc.) as well as developing all-new methods. It’s our intention to use these Story Labs as an audition process for producers because we believe strongly in the power of hands-on collaboration to build or break working relationships.
We’re ready to share the responsibilities and the rewards of making KS12 a cutting edge creative studio. If you’re up for the challenge of building a relationship with us, we’d love to hear from you and learn how you intend to make KS12 more awesome!
This past Monday at 4:00 AM we stumbled out of bed and into a taxi to Tegel airport. After the computer system at the terminal in Berlin failed we were manually checked-in and finally boarded our connecting flight to Amsterdam. Approximately a half-day later we found ourselves in the ground floor of the Wieden + Kennedy building in Portland, Oregon at our new desk in the Portland Incubator Experiment. Needless to say it was all quite a rush. The first PIE “family dinner” – a weekly Monday-night check-in for all the companies in PIE – gave us a strong and welcoming feeling about our decision to join the incubator. Warm receptions from Renny Gleeson, Rick Turoczy and Kirsten Golden left us feeling positive, having flown from Berlin with relatively little information about what our new mentors at PIE would be like save a couple encounters with talks and interviews on YouTube.
Deconstructing the KS12 Brand
One of the hardest things to do as designers is to look objectively at our own brand identity. Yesterday we had some help doing just that from Nick Barham from W+K. He helped us shine a light on the most interesting aspects of our identity – our passion for creating innovative storytelling formats.
The conversation opened up numerous issues we’ll be working through in the coming weeks, including questions as fundamental as whether the name KS12 is still serving us the best it can given the kind of company we are/want to become. Admittedly at the time KS12 was conceived we were in an entirely different position as a business, doing client web and graphic design projects. We thrashed this week on ways to define KS12 more concretely, cycling through variations including the words “creative studio”, “story lab” and “prototype”. We haven’t settled the issue yet but we have a strong intuition that there’s room to evolve our identity to reflect our desire to include others in our creative process. Over the course of this discussion we were reminded of the newfound freedoms the “Emergence Collective” had granted us and our collaborators working on The Future of Money and The Future of Art. The full import of this fact is still settling in for us but we’d like to apply this knowledge in whatever steps we take next. We have a followup meeting with Nick next week to revisit these issues.
What do you think? Does KS12 need a rebranding?
Process not Product
One of the experiences PIE is creating for the startups here is setting up meetings with investors. These meetings provide the companies critical feedback at various stages of product development as they refine their pitches leading up to Demo Day in October. Today we had our first meeting with such an investor, a somewhat notorious personality in the Portland scene named Merrick. Having founded a very successful creative agency before moving on to the world of venture capital, talking with Merrick helped us to see a very clear fork in the road before us at PIE between product and service. After our conversation with him, and despite what were surely his best intentions, it didn’t take us long to decide (again) that we’re not eager to jump on the product band-wagon. Our primary reasons being our disinterest in managing a team of programmers and the appeal of the lifestyle associated with travelling and producing our videos. This wasn’t something we were shy about in our application to PIE, and so for the time being we’ll remain in the “wild card” category alongside our new friends Michelle Rowley and Scott Deckelmann at the Portland Women’s Software Academy, a non-profit focused on educating and encouraging would-be software developers.
Growing our Team
What has been clear for months and one of the biggest reasons we decided to apply to PIE in the first place is that we feel we’ve reached a limit as a team of two. We’ve been working together for as long as we’ve known one another (over nine years!) and what we’ve routinely observed is that our work gains additional momentum, meaningfulness and quality when we work with bigger teams. So the big takeaway for week one of PIE is:
starting next week our top priority will be reaching out to potential new partners
We’re going to spend the weekend considering the best strategy to attract amazingly talented and enthusiastic people, but naturally if you’re reading this and you know somebody who would have fun collaborating with us you’re welcome to send them our way! More details coming very soon!
While it may seem like an odd move to start our experience at PIE talking about failure, its a good reality check to help understand the challenges we face as well as the opportunities we have to learn from our mistakes. Yesterday evening at PIE Alexis Peterka and Brad Heller – members of last year’s PIE class – came in to share some thoughts on failure and the best ways to take advantage of the incubation experience PIE has to offer. We heard some familiar themes: the need for partners who are as passionate as you are; the need to speak up when you need help; the need to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. The experience had overtones of the Fail Conference and our short video Fail Safe.
In the spirit of what was kicked off yesterday we thought we’d share some of the resources we’ve turned to for inspiration when feeling vulnerable. There’s a lot of profundity in what follows, so you may want to digest these one at a time.
Ira Glass on the importance of perseverance in creative work.
An extremely motivating case for getting informed and charging forward by Jason Shen.
Seth Godin‘s short and sweet book about knowing when to quit.
What videos, essays, images or otherwise have inspired you to keep on keeping on?