fbpx Skip to main content

Rick Turoczy is a serial entrepreneur with many successes under his belt – all stemming from a popular blog about the Portland, OR startup community. Rick has applied his experience to an accelerator program in Portland called PIE – the Portland Incubator Experiment.

In this episode, Rick talks about the creativity of entrepreneurs and how, through various endeavors, helps entrepreneurs interact more creatively. And of course, how to ask for help to succeed (or fail faster).

TOPICS DISCUSSED INCLUDE:

  • PIE – how large corp can effectively work with startups and vice versa
  • Converted from co-working space to an accelerator
  • Opportunity to take active role in maturing and growing startups
  • Entrepreneurs are just a different flavor of creative (bus or tech)
  • How do we get more creatives interacting more creatively?
  • How to help build better founders to teach them to be better at what they want to do so it’s easier for companies to start up and stay in Portland
  • Good business but much better at what we do by the accelerator
  • Serial entrepreneurship and the curse of knowledge
  • Learn what works to enhance the entrepreneurial creativity
  • Accelerate creative output in any form
  • Trust to ask for help
  • Keep your eyes open so you’re not blind to a really good opportunity
  • Everyone is capable of being a mentor
  • Have to be willing to be receptive to feedback – take advice and figure out what to do with it
  • What you do everyday is one small tiny step towards your big vision (one of millions)
  • Every time you start a company, is the first time you’re starting the company

 

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

WANT TO GET IN TOUCH WITH RICK?

 

MORE ABOUT RICK TUROZCY

PDC Software Cluster DiscussionRick Turoczy  has been working with startups in the Portland area for 20 years. As founder of Silicon Florist, he has blogged about the Portland startup scene for more nearly a decade, even though numerous people have begged him to stop. That side project led Rick to cofound PIE (the Portland Incubator Experiment), a startup accelerator formed in partnership with global advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy, creators of “Just Do It,” the Old Spice Guy, and the agency of record for Facebook.

Those efforts led him to cofound TechFestNW, a tech event run in collaboration with Willamette Week and MusicFestNW; Oregon Story Board, a startup accelerator focused on the digital storytelling industry in Oregon; and Built Oregon, a digital magazine revealing the stories of founders from around the state.

Rick currently serves on the board of the Technology Association of Oregon; Oregon Smart Labs; and the Oregon Game Organization. In 2014, he was named the “Small Business Advocate of the Year” by the Portland Business Journal.

All because of a blog. Weird.

Melissa Anzman (00:00): This is the launch yourself podcast with Melissa Anzman episode, number 28, featuring Rick Turoczy.

Melissa Anzman (00:09): Hello and welcome to the launch yourself career, business, and brand advice to help you be seen, make an impact and deliver at your maximum potential. And now here's your host, Melissa.

Melissa Anzman (00:27): Welcome to the launch yourself podcast. I'm your host, Melissa Anzman. Today we will be chatting with Rick [inaudible]. Rick has been working with startups in the Portland area for 20 years as founder of Silicon florist. He's blogged about the Portland startup scene for more than a decade, even though numerous people have begged him to stop that side project led Rick to co-found PIE the Portland incubator experiment, which is a startup accelerator formed in partnership with the global advertising for Weiden and Kennedy. And the firm are the creators of the, just do it campaign, the old spice guy and the agency of record for Facebook. Those efforts led him to co-found tech fast Northwest, which is a tech event run in collaboration with William at week and music fast Northwest. He also does Oregon storyboard a startup accelerator focused on the digital storytelling industry in Oregon and built, or again, a digital magazine revealing a stories of founders from around the state.

Melissa Anzman (01:31): Rick currently serves on the board of technology association of Oregon, Oregon smart labs and the Oregon game organization. In 2014, he was named the small business advocate of the year by the Portland business journal and all of this because of a blog. Weird. I want you to know this is one of my favorite interviews of all time. I know you're going to love it as much as I did. Rick has so many great things to share. We'll focus on pie mainly for the conversation, but please a warm welcome to the show. Welcome to the show.

Rick Turoczy (02:05): Thank you. It's great to be here.

Melissa Anzman (02:07): Absolutely. So our friend Mac Prichard from Prichard communications actually connected us and you're based in Portland like so many of my favorite people. And I know it just so happens. I love going to Portland because appear, I apparently know everyone there. But that being said, you know, here at launch yourself and particularly for this podcast, we really like to talk about that one moment in time that one sort of specific launch where you've decided to be better grow, think bigger. So with that in mind, what launch would you like to share with us today?

Rick Turoczy (02:42): So I would like to I'm the cofounder of a an experiment called PIE, which is the Portland incubator experiment. It's a, it's really trying to figure out how large corporations can effectively work with startups and versa and won the launch. I would really like to dig into here is PIE's kind of this ongoing experiment. And, and so it changes all the time and relaunches all the time, but probably the one that was the most challenging and interesting was when we converted pie over from a pure kind of coworking space where it was just a bunch of startups sitting in the same space and, and kind of peer mentoring one another to actually formally changing it into a, an early stage tech startup accelerator and making a more formal program of the, of making a more formal program of PIE and making a more formal relationship with the, with the startups in the space.

Melissa Anzman (03:43): Yeah, I think that's such a good, an interesting launch because I'm sitting here thinking about it when you talk about it. Not even knowing where I w I would start with that. So it's, it's kind of a big change, right? From a coworking space to an accelerator program. So if you could maybe talk through the why behind the change there and sort of what that thought process was when you were approaching it. Yeah,

Rick Turoczy (04:09): It's, I, I, I have to admit I I have the luxury of working with a sponsoring partner that really pushes, pushes us to be experimental and to test things and to push the envelope. That partner is, is widening Kennedy, which is a global advertising agency. Even if you don't know the name, Weiden and Kennedy, you likely know some of their work, they are Nike just do it. They're the old spice guy, they're the Coca Cola, polar bears. Like they do that kind of, that kind of work. So big global brands, and they're headquartered here in Portland. And so we had, we had started the experiment just as a way to allow WK, to interact authentically with startups in Portland. And that, that coworking kind of concept seemed to be the best way to do that, but what it is, and that's what we became known for right.

Rick Turoczy (05:06): Really rapidly as a, as a coworking space. But as we continue the experiment it dawned on us that we were being far too passive about our engagement with the startups and that there was the opportunity to take a far more active role in really helping them grow and mature and make the connections they needed. And that was kind of scary, right? It's like we were doing one thing and we're like, Hey, this is working really well, but you know what the opportunity is actually over here. And, and I think what really helped us in making those scary transitions or, or moving to that next launch stage was really having a firm understanding at the, at the foundation of the experiment about what we were actually trying to accomplish. And that was based on two particular pursuits from the Weiden and Kennedy side of the house.

Rick Turoczy (06:02): Their hypothesis was that technology people you know, entrepreneurs are really just a different flavor of creative that, that isn't any different than, than, you know, what they were doing upstairs with film. And yeah, the imagery these people do the technology or with business thinking, right. That's how they express that to the medium in which they choose to express themselves. So that was their hypothesis. So how do we get more creatives interacting more effectively? And then our kind of our kind of focus on it from the startup scene was how do we help a build better founders? You know, how do we, you know, they might not succeed with this business, but how do we teach them how to be better at what they want to do? And then how do you make it easier for companies to start up and stay in Portland? How do you, how do you remove some of those barriers that, that make it more difficult for them to build compelling businesses in Portland? And so it was really with those two things in mind that even though it was scary, transitioning from a a thing that worked and we knew worked and was a decent business, it was a good business to be in. We thought that it was the opportunity to be like much, much better at what we do by, by making that transition to start up accelerator.

Melissa Anzman (07:28): There is so much good juicy stuff and what you decided. I love it. I love it. One of the first things that just really, you know, came to mind was what you just summarized in that even for something that's successful, even for something that has backing, which a lot of entrepreneurs are eagerly going after, right. There's still an opportunity to pivot, to change, to change directions, to do more, to grow bigger. You didn't just sort of say, this is working awesome. We made it, but really look that which a lot of us want to do. Right. But you really looked at it as far as, you know, are we actually doing what we set out to do and is there a way to do it better? And I think a lot of entrepreneurs get scared of that.

Rick Turoczy (08:15): And I'm a huge fan of, you know, I've read way too many business books and a lot of them, you know, some stick and some don't, but I'm a huge fan of Jim Collins and good to great. I think it's a really nice kind of touchstone for, for anybody that's either launching a business or has a, a business that they would like to, you know, kind of take to the next level. And it's really that consideration of, you know, you can be good, like, like hundreds of other people are good at a certain thing, or you can figure out those, those particular niches or areas of expertise that can truly make you great and set apart and put you at the, you know, the, the number one or number two spot instead of on the, somewhere on the list of the top 100. So it's really, and every time we start rethinking the experiment, I go back and read the grade and I'm like, do I know, am I thinking about this the right way?

Rick Turoczy (09:14): Cause it really gives you that kind of confidence to rethink what you're doing because quite frankly, a, a launch is scary. A relaunch is even more frightening, I think, because you've got a good thing going and what if I make the wrong decision and screw this up, but I seem to think there's something better. I mean, it's, it's, it's really challenging to kind of get up the courage to make that leap, especially after you're, you know, you're still probably a little scarred and bruised from the initial launch still and the things you wish you'd done differently. So it's, it's a really interesting opportunity to kind of get the, get the chance to reinvent this thing again and again, and figure out how to relaunch it again and again.

Melissa Anzman (09:59): Absolutely. And you're very experienced and successful entrepreneurs. So I want everyone to just know that you've been doing this for a long time. Do you think this type of reimagination relaunched sort of re-engineering of what you're doing is that only for experienced entrepreneurs or is that something that even at a smaller scale, you know, someone a year end is able to do and tweak?

Rick Turoczy (10:22): I think, I think it's available to anyone. I think, I often think that people who don't have as much experience and, and, you know, as many as many war stories and are sometimes better off, I think, I think serial entrepreneurs sometimes suffer from that curse of knowledge or or the danger of making intuitively sort assumptions that they assume are common sense. You know, I always say common sense. Isn't common, you know, you, you think it's common sense because you focus on a day in and day out or because you've had this wealth of experiences, it seems to be common sense to you, but it's not. And so sometimes it's often harder for people who were, who've had their failures, you know, I've had, I've had a lot of really interesting opportunities. I've been part of things that were successful. I've also been through a lot of like things that failed and failed miserably.

Rick Turoczy (11:25): So sometimes it's really hard when you've, you know, you've got something going and you're like, Oh yeah, last time we tried to do that. We really screwed up. And do we want to do that again? Or should we just kind of stay on the, stay on the straight and narrow, whereas for new entrepreneurs, they don't have any of that baggage. Right. They're just like, well, this isn't working, maybe we try something new or you know, maybe it would be better if we focused on a different market. And so I think sometimes they're much better at doing that sort of thing. Then then more kind of serial entrepreneur types.

Melissa Anzman (12:02): Yeah, I agree. And one of my things that I've found, you know, after being an entrepreneur is that you are constantly changing that. I mean, it, it may not be big sweeping changes like what you've done with PIE, but I do think there is a lot of opportunity to tweak and grow and change even within what you do to be better, right. To get from, from good to great. And if you're not doing that, you're really missing opportunities, but I digress. That's just my own experience or maybe my excuse for why I've had so many of those changes my own businesses. So something else that you mentioned, which I have never heard it so succinct and so right on. And that wasn't a seventies references just in generally right on was the creativity of entrepreneurs and how it's so close and closely aligned to, you know, what we would say is typical creative, you know, movies and ad agencies and all of that. How did that sort of come into play? Obviously your partner probably had some some ideas with that, but how have you seen that transform how you're reaching your audience?

Rick Turoczy (13:17): It's been really interesting. And again, for people who aren't familiar with Portland it's a very, it's a, it's a small metropolitan area, right? Like it's a big, small town is what it is. And it happens to be just like chock full of all these random types of creatives. So it's got like people who are running food cards or running restaurants or their craft brewers, or there's a great art scene, or there's a great music scene or tech, or, you know, amazing agencies in town of all sizes. So we have this kind of like, it's just big enough that there's diversity of creativity here, but it's small enough that you remain connected to all the different aspects of creativity in town. And so, you know, I think the thing we've found that is most interesting is across the board, and this is a broad generalization, but it's pretty much across the board.

Rick Turoczy (14:21): All of those folks have a very similar kind of personality or bent to what they're doing. They're all temperamental artists, they're all kind of like, you know, crotchety chefs. They're like, you know, they want they, and they have this sense of craft and, and that they want to build the best possible thing. They want the best possible aspect of their work that realizes the vision that they have. And that's been consistent across all of our experience that our startups you know, the creatives we get to work with at WK, they're all just, you know, intensely focused on building the best possible thing they can build. And so what that has allowed us to do is kind of experiment with those different types of creatives and figure out what, what works do enhance that creativity. And I think where we're starting to get with PIE as part of this experiment is we, we currently classify it as a tech startup accelerator, but really what we were learning how to do is accelerate creative output in any form, or create an environment that enables those types of creative individuals to feel more comfortable expressing themselves, or feel the kind of trust to ask for help in, in what they're doing and, and in, so doing it really accelerates the, the things they're able to produce or how rapidly they're able to produce them.

Rick Turoczy (15:57): So, I mean, that's, that's been the most interesting thing to me. I never got into this thinking, Oh, you're going to figure out how to accelerate creativity, but do, it sounds like an impossible kind of thing, but but that's kind of where we're honing in on and we're, and so we look at that as, and how do we use that? You know, we've learned that process. So like we've helped start another accelerator called Oregon storyboard which is focused on digital storytelling. So things like film and video or video games published content podcasts the, the, the technology that supports that industry and kind of taking what we've learned at PIE and pointed it at that creative industry and said, you know, can we accelerate creative output here? So it's just interesting that you kind of have to keep your eyes open and not be so beholden to your original vision that you're blind to a really compelling opportunity.

Melissa Anzman (17:00): Absolutely. And so here's one of these areas where you being the expert in this every day may not translate to people outside of what you do and outside of sort of well known entrepreneurs and maybe a big school MBAs, or what have you could, who would come to the incubator? What kind of people, what is it for? Like, just talk, if you could explain a little bit more, because while I'm familiar, I don't think a lot of people out there have sort of a high touch with that incubator type of

Rick Turoczy (17:31): Sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. So really where this came from, I mean, in this there've been any number of companies that have taken a run at this kind of model and it wasn't until the past decade or so. And this kind of new, you know, web based mobile based applications in technology that this model of acceleration or incubation really came into play. And the, the big, the big leaders in our industry are to specific to specific companies. One of them is called Y Combinator. The other one is called tech stars and, and their framework is basically give a company a little bit of money, a little bit of seed capital to help them get their, get their business going, and then provide them with mentorship and, and resources. And, you know, sometimes it's, it's someplace to sit. Sometimes it's access to networks of individuals but basically in a very tightened timeframe.

Rick Turoczy (18:42): So most everyone works in a three month timeframe from the day you start to the day you finish is a really hectic and furious kind of three months. So the idea there being that you're pushing the startup further, faster than it's comfortable going on its own. But getting them to getting them to hopefully either helping them accelerate. We always say, we're an accelerator. That's not necessarily a positive thing. You know, some companies, we will accelerate into the ground, that's where we accelerate, but that's good, right? Like maybe, maybe idea's not right. Maybe the team's not ready yet. Yeah, exactly. But at least they're not wasting their time, money and energy on something that has, doesn't have a chance of success currently. So the types of people who are attracted to that environment tend to be very early stage founders. So we generally work with teams of two or three folks.

Melissa Anzman (19:49): They're at that point of concept or early prototype and the the graduate in order to graduate from the program, they need to have product in market that can be, you know, an early alpha or a beta or a closed beta or something along those lines. But it has to be something that someone besides people in the company and their family are using, they're getting outside feedback on. And that's really the only, that's the only, the only requirement for a kind of graduation for us. So we often get, we often get people who have a prototype that they haven't quite figured out what the market is, or they figured out the market, but they haven't fully built their product or they've got the product and the market fit, but they haven't really figured out how to tell the story around it, or they don't, they don't know what they're, they don't know what it should be called.

Rick Turoczy (20:43): Right. Like they've got a name for it, but they don't know that that's the right name. So we get them all across the spectrum. And we try and experiment with different kinds of companies as well. So we've brought a nonprofit through PIE to see how you can accelerate that kind of activity. We've had an open source project come through PIE to see, like, what do they have to deal with when they're, you know, they have an open source community and then they need a proprietary business to help manage that open source project. We bought, we brought high school kids through because they have that unique unique kind of teenage hubris that makes perfect entrepreneurs. So, so that was interesting to us. We brought solo founders through which we were curious because as technology becomes more and more accessible individuals are able to do more and more than they than they've been able to do in the past. And so we were curious as to, as to how a solo founder would, would work in the, in the environment. And so when it, when it comes right down to it, it's really our job over those three months. And what we're hoping the startup experiences over those three months is we're really breaking through that founder, entrepreneurial veneer. We, we always say, you know, founders are the best liars in the world, you know, everything, everything's great.

Melissa Anzman (22:17): Always working with contracts,

Rick Turoczy (22:21): Take a second mortgage out on the house. That's like easy money once we, once we're successful. So, you know, they're always, they're always having to defend themselves to their family, their friends, investors, they're in, they're in a very like tenuous situation. And, and it's our job to help them understand that they can ask for help. And they're going to let that wall down and be vulnerable and be a failure and, and feel like they're not to feel like they don't know what they're doing, and we will help them figure out how to get around that. But you really have to break through that, that veneer to have that conversation started happening. So I always feel we're successful. We're only successful after those three months. I mean, I don't care if they raise millions of dollars. I don't care if they hire hundreds of people. We're we as Pyre only successful after those three months, if those founders are starting to come to me or other members of the PIE team and ask for help, that's how we know we've been successful. And that's really the only indicator that we have.

Melissa Anzman (23:27): I love that. And one of the things that you do with PIE that you didn't mention that I think is so important is that sense of community as well, right? Taking your roots from a coworking space and, and creating, you know, a community of entrepreneurs and maybe different areas, places and stuff, but giving them that type of support.

Rick Turoczy (23:50): That's a great point. I'm glad you caught that because the other part that I think a lot of people overlook is the aspect of peer mentorship. Like everybody's capable of being a mentor. You don't, you don't need somebody. Who's just been, you know, they've been in the business for 20 years, they're expert in this particular facet of business, like having startups sit next to one another and talk to one another about the problems they're having or things they're experiencing is a really good way to solve those problems and enhance that sense of community, right? Like it's, they develop an affinity for one another similar to, to help people do going through college or in high school or the, you know, they just proximity has a huge amount of value to these fences, especially if they're all trying to build businesses in Portland.

Melissa Anzman (24:43): Yeah. Yeah. I think for me that was one thing that I could have used.

Rick Turoczy (24:48): Yeah.

Melissa Anzman (24:48): You know, I, I recently reflected on how I had this great idea and I shared my idea and my friend stole it. And so I, since then, that was really early on. I kind of held everything so close to my chest because I didn't sort of have that sense of community or have those trusted advisors in place and, and sort of let go also of the fact that ideas can get stolen, you know? And so I love that you have that. And particularly for these people who are creative, who are creative in general, first and foremost, but also creating physical products, I think whether it's an app or an idea or software, you know, whatever, the litany of things that your people are doing, it's just so good to have that sanity check, that sounding board that most of us don't have,

Rick Turoczy (25:35): Or even the insanity check. Right. It's nice to be sitting around a bunch of people who are just as crazy as you are. We're all pursuing this random dream. And you're like, okay, well, I guess if they're making it, I can figure it out too.

Melissa Anzman (25:49): Sure. For sure. Hey, it's not that I'm not that crazy comparatively that's

Melissa Anzman (25:54): Go.

Melissa Anzman (25:56): Fantastic. Well, we are running sort of out of time, which I can't believe, but if you could maybe just share sort of your best advice for someone who is, you know, either looking for a situation like you're joining an accelerator program, or simply just starting to be an entrepreneur, what would your best advice be? Yeah.

Rick Turoczy (26:16): And it's very, I mean, it's very simple. A lot of people are reasonably kind of paralyzed by the fear of messing up or the fear of of doing something and doing it wrong. I think you just really have to get out there and try things and, and you, you can't worry about it being perfect. I always advise, I always advise people who are considering being entrepreneurs to you know, and are kind of stuck with this. Well, it's not good enough yet, or I don't, I don't quite have the idea already to go do a search for like original landing pages for Twitter and Facebook and, you know, Microsoft and like, look at those companies when they were in their infancy and they'll go nine times out of 10, the person will go, I could design a better landing page than that.

Rick Turoczy (27:12): And I don't even have it, you know, I don't even do web design. So it's like, yeah, but look at those companies now. And they wouldn't be where they were if they didn't try. And if they didn't put something out there that allowed them to start getting real feedback and allowed them to kind of get out of their own head and get out of their own way and figure out what, what the market really wants. And then you also, the other side of that is you have to be willing to be receptive for that feedback. The best, the best entrepreneurs are. You know, there are rare exceptions of very like, you know, I think stubborn kind of bullheaded entrepreneurs who find success that always happens. But the vast majority of successful entrepreneurs are people who can take advice and figure out what to do with it.

Rick Turoczy (27:58): And then finally, I think the most important point is when you're starting, the, the people you're starting to with these archetypes of entrepreneurs that have all already been successful and I've already achieved their big vision. And so I think a lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking. They have to have a big vision, and that's where the big company is going to come from. I always caution them to think about it kind of the opposite way. It's the, everybody has big visions. Like everybody sits there day in and day out and goes, you know, the world would be a much better place if X did Y. And if I could build that everybody, you know, world piece, it would be great and everybody has the visions, but the people who are truly successful are the ones who are able to keep, I call it entrepreneurial schizophrenia, right?

Rick Turoczy (28:46): Like you can have to keep that big vision of where you want to go, because that's what helps you get out of bed every morning. But what you do every day is one small, tiny step towards that. So the best entrepreneurs are the ones who can, who can chop that big vision into millions of tiny steps that aren't in a straight line, they're all scattered across the board, but they're at least helping you work toward that, that kind of earth shattering vision. And then she, you know, it's like Zuckerberg started with Harvard. Like that's where, you know, that was, there was a very small look book for Harvard and now. And you know, either the, the Apocrypha on eBay was it had to be something that was so simple that people who traded Pez dispensers could use it. And if that was the only market then great, you know, but like start with something really focused and small that you can be, that you can achieve. You can be ultimately expert in, and it's a step, the path to achieving that larger vision.

Melissa Anzman (29:44): I think that's the best advice we'd have we've had on the entire podcast, because a lot of people, yeah, thank you. A lot of people say, you know, just start and I agree, you do have to start, but the way that you framed it in, you know, don't try to boil the ocean is what I like to say when you start. And that for me, was something that held me back is, you know, is it good enough? Do I know enough? Is it a big enough problem I'm solving, right. All of those things versus just getting started. It's such great advice.

Rick Turoczy (30:12): Yeah. And every time you start at, no matter if you're a serial entrepreneur or first time entrepreneur, entrepreneur, every time you start a company as the first time you started the company so much has changed since the light. It doesn't matter if you're just, you're starting a new company six months after your last company so much has changed since the time you started that last company, that nobody knows what they're doing. Every single time you, you, you kind of gained some knowledge and you're like, Oh yeah, I remember how that got screwed up last time. Or I need to incorporate this way. Like, like there are things like that. But for the most part, the vast majority of building the business is a company you don't know, it's a complete unknown. So you just have to, you have to get going and start.

Melissa Anzman (30:54): I love it. Thank you so much. Right. I think that's amazing advice. And so glad we had you on, if you could just share where everyone can find you online and I'll be sure to make sure to include them in the show notes.

Rick Turoczy (31:06): Sure. The easiest place to usually reach me is on Twitter. I picked Turoczy because it was obviously so easy to spell. It's T U R O C as in Charlie, Z as in zebra, Y, and that's where I'm most active and easily accessible.

Melissa Anzman (31:23): Fantastic. Well, thanks again. It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much. I hope you enjoyed today's episode with Rick [inaudible]. I think you can tell, I thought it was one of the greatest interviews maybe of all time, simply because he had such actionable advice for people. He's worked with so many different entrepreneurs and in an accelerated format that his advice was spot on, and I hope you learned a lot from it. And if you'd like to get the show notes for this episode, you can go to launch yourself.co/session 28. Again, that's launchyourself.co/session 28. And if you enjoyed this episode, please be sure to subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes and leave us a great review until next time.

Melissa Anzman (32:07): Thanks for listening to the launch yourself podcast. Join the conversation at launchyourself.co.