I moved to Seattle in 2000 after selling abuzz technologies to the New York Times Digital in 1999. When I arrived in Seattle, I scoped out the entrepreneurial landscape. I met the Madrona folks -- more specifically, Matt McIlwain and Greg Gottesman. I remember talking to them about the Seattle entrepreneur landscape. Compared to Cambridge, MA -- the landscape was barren. Sure there were a few venture capitalists and a few angels and some awesome companies -- but the landscape for supporting entrepreneurs was non-existent.
In the last 10 years, I've seen that landscape change. When I look around today -- I see TechFlash, Seattle 2.0, Lunch 2.0, OpenCoffees, Hops&Chops. There's WTIA, alliance of angels, NWEN, UW center for commercialization. The landscape is active -- sprouts in lots of places. That's good. But the landscape is fragmented and at times unnecessarily competitive. I would also say that when talking to people in the Seattle area -- people had 2 concerns:
- where the next BIG company was going to come from
- attracting more entrepreneurial talent to Seattle (as opposed to MSFT or AMZN or other big company recruits)
When I heard that TechStars was expanding to Boston in Jan 2009, I emailed Brad Feld and David Cohen and suggested that if they ever wanted to consider Seattle as a place for TechStars -- I'd be interested in talking to them. Why? Seattle needs TechStars!
I had been tracking TechStars since it started and in fact, TechStars was an inspiration to me when I co-founded Founder's Co-op with Chris DeVore in 2008. In fact, Chris and I had thought about trying to compete with TechStars and Y-combinator by creating a similar model in Seattle. We decided that we'd rather have a seed stage fund that engaged more directly and long term with companies than TechStars and Y-combinator did. Much more recently, we made a conscious business decision to partner with TechStars rather than try to do a similar program under the Founder's Co-op brand.
Why? Seattle needs TechStars! I became very clear that this wasn't about me, Founder's Co-op, or any deal or local venture capitalist. This was about Seattle and the opportunity to unify and energize the early stage technology scene in Seattle. I saw how TechStars had done this in Boulder and Boston and wanted this for Seattle. This resonated with others -- you can already see evidence of the power of TechStars in the list of mentors and investors supporting the program. This is the first deal where nearly all the local venture capitalists are investing together -- they saw the same thing. Seattle needs TechStars.
TechStars Seattle is addressing the 2 concerns I mentioned above. The program attracts national talent to the area (about 50% of the companies come from outside Seattle). The program attracts local and national mentors to Seattle. The program may well give birth to the next BIG company in the Seattle area. Moreover, the program will act as a unifying force and will collorate with all the other green sprouts of activity aimed at supporting early stage entrepreneurship in Seattle. I'm super excited for Seattle!