In the latest Federal rankings, Oregon is fourth among US states in job growth, and Portland is eighth among all US cities. How does a small city like Portland create a large footprint in the startup world, while stimulating employment and economic development? We think it’s partly thanks to a great and growing base of programs offering assistance to small businesses. After several years of rapid growth, there are now 35 business incubators, accelerators, and support programs in the Portland area.
Beyond working space and crucial programs like mentoring, skills-building, and networking, you may be surprised what resources you can find in this ecosystem of supporting organizations. Need a commercial kitchen? A pop-up shop downtown? A 3-D printer? Alongside the Portland Business Journal’s recent Portland Incubator Roundup, we hope this post serves as your 2016 directory for local incubators helping small businesses thrive. Let us know in the comments if we missed anyone!
Impact Entrepreneurs: Embedded in PSU’s School of Business Administration, Impact Entrepreneurs provides an online Certificate in Social Innovation for students and community members, the Social Innovation Incubator for more established ventures, and leadership trainings for the staff of large organizations.
HATCH: A set of linked offerings for social entrepreneurs and community businesses, Hatch offers co-working and office space, member workshops and public events, and a platform for equity crowdfunding in Oregon.
II. General Business Incubators, Accelerators, and Co-working Spaces
Best HQ: A business incubator, best HQ provides the support and resources for entrepreneurs to establish and grow their companies, in addition to providing workspace and management and leadership training.
CENTRL Office: A collaborative workspace in Portland’s Pearl District providing flexible full-service workspace for leading entrepreneurs, free agents, start ups, and work groups in the historic GE Supply Co. building.
Entrepreneurs’ Organization Portland Accelerator: Provides educational small-group meetings for entrepreneurs and ties to EO’s global network of successful business owners.
Forge Portland: Forge is a shared workspace where members have access to free accounting templates, legal referral, business
development, mentorship and intern placement.
The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE): Designed to accelerate the successful development of member companies, TiE provides support services including rental space, an incubator program, pitch sessions, and mentors.
Mercy Corps NW: Mercy Corps NW supports small businesses and entrepreneurs through microloans, matched business grants, and small business classes taught by business professionals.
NedSpace: This co-working resource has 14,000 square feet of great office space in the heart of downtown Portland for co-working, startups, entrepreneurs and remote workers.
SCORE: Score is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses with free personal counseling, ongoing mentoring, and 100+ high quality, modestly-priced workshops each year.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC): FREE to Oregon businesses and entrepreneurs, SBDC services include financial, marketing, production, organization, and international trade and feasibility studies.
Starve Ups: A virtual incubator and accelerator with peer mentoring as its cornerstone, Starve Ups is an end-to-end educational approach helping companies to survive, strive and thrive.
Startup PDX Challenge: Hosted by the Portland Development Commission, this annual competition connects startups to Portland’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and provides funding and workspace.
TenX: An open source, business frameworks education company, TenX provides content, events, conferences & learning programs to generate growth & acceleration for high potential organizations & individuals.
WeWork Custom House: The Portland branch of the well-known global co-working/event space and entrepreneurial community.
III. Tech Incubators and Accelerators
e1ectr0n: A hardware incubator, powered by Axiom Electronics, that provides manufacturing and engineering capability to startups.
Jaguar Land Rover Innovation Incubator: Focused on supporting technology startups developing new in-car entertainment, communications, and interaction technology.
Oregon BEST: The Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center provides funding, grant connections, links to investors, and research and commercialization support for cleantech entrepreneurs.
Oregon Technology Business Center (OTBC): OTBC helps entrepreneurs identify and attain their goals at every stage by providing entrepreneurs with office space, access to coaching, workshops and seminars.
The OTRADI Bioscience Incubator (OBI): A bioscience-specific accelerator that provides scientists and young companies with the resources and expertise needed to take their research from the lab to the market.
Portland Seed Fund: The Portland Seed Fund is a privately managed fund and non-resident accelerator focused on providing emerging companies the capital, mentoring and connections to propel them to the next level.
Portland Startup Weekend: A 54-hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation, Startup Weekend brings together developers, designers and business people to build applications and develop a commercial case.
Portland State Business Accelerator (PSBA): Recognized by the NBIA as the top tech incubator in the US, and by UBI as one of the top 25 in the world, the PSBA offers office and lab space, networking events, and educational workshops for tech and bioscience startups.
IV. Creative, Craft, Culinary and Design Incubators and Accelerators
ADX: ADX is a 12,000-square foot facility that combines membership, fabrication services, classes and co-working to make ADX a hub for design and innovation in Portland.
KitchenCru: A shared-use community kitchen and culinary incubator that supports culinary entrepreneurs in developing, operating, and growing a successful business.
Oregon State University Food Innovation Center: The Food Innovation Center partners with the Department of Food Science and Technology to provide educational programs and with the SBDC to provide support to local food startups.
Oregon Story Board Accelerator: Through mentorship, co-working space, collaboration and networking, the Oregon Storyboard Accelerator is helping a budding industry of digitally-enabled storytellers thrive in Oregon.
PCC Getting Your Recipe to Market : In an intensive 14 weeks, this program will help you make your culinary idea commercial ready, with food industry experts that will take you step by step to produce, promote, and sell your product.
PNCA Bridge Lab: Provides entrepreneurship development and resources for artists by helping artist-entrepreneurs focus your vision, connect you with business resources, and assist you in building your own personal network in the Portland creative community.
V. Incubators and Accelerators for Women and Minority-Owned Businesses
Portland State University Business Outreach Program (BOP): Helps local small businesses, including emerging minority and women-owned businesses, achieve their potential by providing technical assistance and business consulting services.
Hacienda CDC Community Economic Development: Serving low income microentrepreneurs at any stage of business development, the organization offers a culturally-specific Microenterprise Program that incubates businesses by providing training, access to capital and selling opportunities, affordable commercial kitchen rental and, in the future, retail space at the Portland Mercado.
Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO): MESO improves the economic opportunities of underserved individuals through empowerment, education, and entrepreneurship for the benefit of families in the greater
Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs: Participants in the Association can access the Incubator With Walls or the Incubator Without Walls. Both offer market rates, individual technical assistance, counseling with OAME’s staff or volunteers, cooperative marketing and business growth, and development support.
Women Of Mindful Business (WOMB): WOMB helps women create a natural framework for business and marketing efforts, and
is a platform for collaboration with a small group of heart-centered entrepreneurs and opportunity to learn to weave the feminine into your business.
Women’s Plaza: opening in 2016, Women’s Plaza will offer co-w0rking space, childcare, catered meals, wellness advisors, and networking opportunities.
Note: we periodically update this post to ensure that it remains timely. Last update: April 18, 2016. Header photo by Cacophony, used through CC Attribution-Share Alike license.
After seven amazing years at Portland State University, I’m leaving my role as executive director of Impact Entrepreneurs.
As with many startup stories, the birth of Impact Entrepreneurs was an answer to a calling with the faith that a vision would come. Carolyn McKnight and I joined forces to launch Impact Entrepreneurs in 2010 when we discovered a shared purpose to create more joy and less suffering through social entrepreneurship and found a mutual respect and desire for collaboration in each other.
Since then, we’ve had the honor of working with hundreds of students, social entrepreneurs and changemakers as we have explored social entrepreneurship together and worked to strengthen each other and the field itself.
Working with many of you directly, I’ve gained more than I could possibly ever offer in return. You’ve shared your greatest dreams and vulnerabilities as you’ve navigated the discomfort and thrill of creating something from nothing. It has been humbling, exciting, and even heartbreaking. Social entrepreneurship can be addictive and temperamental like that.
In partnership with you and a coalition of colleagues and organizations, our small but mighty team at Impact Entrepreneurs has built an internationally recognized program that has directly educated thousands who have, in turn, touched millions of lives. Two of the many highlights for me were the realization of our Business of Social Innovation Certificate, funded by the reTHINK: PSU Provost’s Challenge, and our selection to the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium.
Our core team members Jacen Greene and Abby Chroman have dedicated their innumerable talents and resilient attitudes toward making our programs shine and thrive. Carolyn and I are pleased that Jacen will continue leading Impact Entrepreneurs’ core programs in the School of Business Administration as Program Director. In addition, Abby will continue providing project management across our suite of programs.
It’s been a gift to expose people to social entrepreneurship over the years and see their eyes and minds light up. It’s been almost 20 years since I first heard about social entrepreneurship. Only one person I knew had heard of it, and she taught me! My life was calling me to align my work with my purpose, and I was all in.
I believe now more than ever that business can and MUST be a force for positive change. From what I can gather, there are now millions of people who share this belief. It’s powerful to be in such great company. While sometimes I pine for those “Wild West” days of social entrepreneurship when it felt like we were just making it all up, I am heartened that we now know so much more about what it takes to build high-impact social ventures.
Businesses matter because they are uniquely able to build velocity and scale. A single company can get products and services to millions and even billions of people. It can inform and educate. It can make life-saving choices readily available. That’s why I want to see “do-better” businesses succeed and grow, and it is why I want to help in any way I can.
As I reflect on where it all began for me and where I’ve been, I find myself with the opportunity to leap back into the business sector. I’ll be joining the talented team at Koopman Ostbo Marketing Communications as their first Chief Marketing and Impact Officer. I’ll be dedicated to increasing impact internally and strengthening our ties with impact-driven organizations. And I’m delighted I will still be a resource to our community of changemakers. Please feel free to drop me a line any time.
Feelings can be boisterous when change is big, and I can tell you that right now joy and gratitude are loud and clear. When life called me to social entrepreneurship nearly 20 years ago, I replied “Yes!” and it has been an awesome adventure. Still, here we are today with much work left to do. Let’s support one another to keep up the good work. I would love to hear from you. What is calling you to take action? What’s new in your life?
Impact Entrepreneurs would not have happened if Carolyn McKnight and I had not combined our efforts with optimism and commitment to reaching a future state unknown to us at the time. Just as we could not imagine where we would end up now, I know that Impact Entrepreneurs is poised to achieve bigger things that we can’t even foresee right now. I can’t wait.
Here’s to remaining hand-in-hand in the pursuit of making choices that reflect our deepest hopes and dreams for the world, including those in our own lives. Thank you for believing that it’s up to us to make that difference.
Co-founder & Executive Director, PSU Impact Entrepreneurs
In February 2016, Impact Entrepreneurs’ annual Elevating Impact Summit made a new home on Portland State University’s campus in the historic Lincoln Performance Hall. 450 attendees signed up to spend a full day together. They ranged from members of Roosevelt High School’s Rough Writers program to the Mayor of Portland, to academics, business executives, nonprofit and social enterprise professionals, designers, architects, and more.
The event was a meeting place for changemakers working across professions. The presentations, performances, and discussions demonstrated creative ways individuals and teams are creatively solving pressing social and environmental challenges, and introduced the promise of social entrepreneurship and innovation to a broad and diverse audience.
- “You have an army behind you – you just need to remember to turn around.” – Amelia Pape, Founder of My Street Grocery
- “We are meant to tell stories. We are designed for it. It is our native language.” – Noah Schultz, Founder of Verbal Escape
- “Be ready to be changed” – On Your Feet
- “Equity is believing that we all have a shared fate and our success is interdependent.” – Nichole Maher, Founder and CEO, of the Northwest Health Foundation
We encourage you to keep the momentum going: follow up with your connections from the event, take the next (or first) step toward unleashing your vision no matter what stage of your career you’re in, and collaborate with fellow changemakers to truly elevate your impact. If you are interested in Impact Entrepreneurs’ certificate in the Business of Social Innovation and other programs, you can find information at pdx.edu/impactentrepreneurs or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, we’d like to leave you with Noah Schultz’s poem “Changemaker Militia:”
As my eyes scan this ocean of people they
are filled with the beautiful sight of changemakers.
Wrapped in skin and bone ready to explode
onto the scenes of a broken city.
An educated militia, marching to compassion,
Ready to implement action on massive
scales with the tactics of loving hearts.
Armed with the knowledge they learn from
text books, amplified by unique gifts
and personal experience.
The ones who see through the confusion,
and meet the status quo with innovation;
Who set up shop in deserted locations
because their hearts said so.
Because they know if they don’t take the
first steps they will never pass go.
So never stop moving;
Feet that move forward bring you
closer to improvement.
Stop saying start doing, because
you are changemaker.
A soldier not a student,
A lion not a lamb,
Link minds with those like yours and create
unbreakable bonds of hearts.
There is no turning back;
Because memories live in the past
and you are the future.
Life is a moving train, so there
is no being neutral.
Pledge allegiance to love and
acknowledge your greatness;
Because you, my friend,
are a changemaker.