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!