Last week I traveled with 61 fellow Kansas City Centurions
on a benchmarking trip to Seattle. Besides seeing Microsoft’s technologies of the future at their world headquarters and a surprise appearance by Eddy Vedder, we learned some great insights about the Seattle tech scene. TechStars
, the “number one startup accelerator in the world” hosted a discussion focused on Seattle’s tech community. The panel, sponsored by Kansas City’s Ecco Select
and Perceptive Software
· Steve Shivers, Doxo
· Julie Sandler, Madrona Venture Group
· John Cook, Geekwire
· Mark Nager, Startup Weekend
· Sarah Bird, SEOmoz
The panel shared their thoughts on the importance of being connected, access to capital and attracting the right talent.
The scale of technology in Seattle is, well, just amazing. Microsoft employs more than 40,000 people in the region, Amazon employs almost as many. Microsoft will spend $9 billion in research and development this year alone. The result is a city extremely entrenched in technological creativity, (comparably) easy access to capital and tech companies in various stages of development on every street corner.
Some Things to Remember
Be yourself, emphasize your strengths, not your weaknesses.
All of those self-esteem things you learned in grade school apply here. Several panelists emphasized the importance of NOT trying to be the next Silicon Valley. Sarah Bird took it a step further, “I’ve been to Silicon Valley and I like it, but I don’t want Seattle to be Silicon Valley. We have a very different, more inclusive culture here. In order to compete and foster true creativity we need to consider what unique offerings our community holds and figure out how to leverage them.”
Startups must be creative when attracting talent.
Remember that whole, “emphasize your strengths thing”? The panelists were unanimous in the realization that startups in Seattle cannot compete with Microsoft and Amazon on salaries alone (average salary at each company is north of $95,000). Startups can compete by emphasizing the many benefits of working at a startup, like the opportunity for employees to get a serious sense of accomplishment, real ownership and flexibility of working hours and location.
We need to work to keep the community informed.
It is important to foster opportunities for entrepreneurs to network, collaborate and learn from each other. Brad Feld taught us all the need to let the entrepreneurs “lead” the charge, but the “feeders (nonprofit and government support organizations, policy makers, etc.) need to be informed and coordinated as well. Having strong communication channels to broadcast activity in the community is essential for the startups to thrive. Julie Sandler noted Geekwire does an amazing job of this in Seattle.
Content contributed by Jeremy Hegle, MOSourcelink.
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