There’s certainly been a lot of discussion on GeekWire in the past few weeks about the vibrancy — or some may say lack of vibrancy — in the Seattle startup community. But, sometimes, it is good to take a moment and reflect.

Speaking at the Hacker News Meetup Tuesday night, Seattle 2.0 founder Marcelo Calbucci gave a “brief history of Seattle Startups” from 2004 to 2011, telling the story through his own experience in the startup community.

The ex-Microsoft manager described those early years of his startup career as the “dark ages,” with few events, investors or lawyers to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. There was “no community, there was nothing here,” he said.

Calbucci went on to describe how that lack of infrastructure led him to create Seattle 2.0, a blog and directory for startup entrepreneurs. Today, he said, with the number or resources available to entrepreneurs “it is so much easier to start a new startup or to join a new startup,” he said.

But, even so, he’d like to see more. Much more. And that came across in the Q&A portion of his talk in which he said there just aren’t enough early-stage investors supporting startup companies.

‘We have a lack of lead investors in town. There are probably five lead investors in Seattle, and if you don’t get one of those, you are fucked,” said Calbucci, adding that there needs to be more education for some of the wealthy folks in Seattle who are not investing back into the community.

“Microsoft doesn’t have a culture of investment, and there are so many billionaires and multi-millionaires that could be doing that if they were taught how to,” he said. “The Alliance of Angels does some good work educating them, but not enough.”

Here’s more from Calbucci’s Q&A with folks at the Hacker News Meetup.


And here’s the first part of Calbucci’s talk:

Previously on GeekWire: How do we make the startup ecosystem stronger?

Comments

  • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

    Yes, Seattle went from almost nothing to a good deal of opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs. I can only imagine how great it will be in 3-5 years if we continue this pace.

    Here is my easy call to action for people to start helping today:
    http://www.seattle20.com/blog/The-one-thing-you-can-do-today-to-help-Seattle-startups-850.aspx

    And here is the link to the slides from yesterday’s talk:
    http://www.slideshare.net/calbucci/a-brief-history-of-seattle-startups

    • johnhcook

      There’s a lot of good momentum right now in Seattle with new support systems being built for entrepreneurs, but I agree that more needs to be done to get the rich ex-Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia and RealNetworks folks investing in startups. 

      There’s a good opportunity for a cast of Seattle super angels to emerge to help push the community forward in new ways. Of course, that will take money and hard work.

      Reminds me of this story from a few months ago: “Adeo Ressi to Seattle angels: It’s time to get off the sidelines”

      http://www.geekwire.com/2011/adeo-ressi-seattle-angels-time-sidelines

      Not sure that I agree with your assessment that there was nothing in Seattle startup community seven years ago. After all, a number of the high-tech law firms, banks and VCs had set up shop in town in the late 90s, during the first boom. 

      BTW, I think I’ve already done my part today by writing about one Seattle area startup. :)

      • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

        “almost nothing” is the term I used. :)

        There was something, but it wasn’t a community-driven / entrepreneur-driven culture. It was a top-down culture based on the “old ways” of building startups (no MVP, multi-million seed rounds, top heavy startups, etc.). 

        And thanks for blogging about a startup… You should ask for a raise! 

      • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

        “almost nothing” is the term I used. :)

        There was something, but it wasn’t a community-driven / entrepreneur-driven culture. It was a top-down culture based on the “old ways” of building startups (no MVP, multi-million seed rounds, top heavy startups, etc.). 

        And thanks for blogging about a startup… You should ask for a raise! 

  • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

    Yes, Seattle went from almost nothing to a good deal of opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs. I can only imagine how great it will be in 3-5 years if we continue this pace.

    Here is my easy call to action for people to start helping today:
    http://www.seattle20.com/blog/The-one-thing-you-can-do-today-to-help-Seattle-startups-850.aspx

    And here is the link to the slides from yesterday’s talk:
    http://www.slideshare.net/calbucci/a-brief-history-of-seattle-startups

  • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

    Yes, Seattle went from almost nothing to a good deal of opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs. I can only imagine how great it will be in 3-5 years if we continue this pace.

    Here is my easy call to action for people to start helping today:
    http://www.seattle20.com/blog/The-one-thing-you-can-do-today-to-help-Seattle-startups-850.aspx

    And here is the link to the slides from yesterday’s talk:
    http://www.slideshare.net/calbucci/a-brief-history-of-seattle-startups

  • http://blog.abodit.com/ Ian Mercer

    The software start-up culture in this area goes back a long way before 2004.  Back in 1994 we had companies like BSquare, Traveling Software, Amaze Inc, Automap Inc. and many others.  We used to talk to each other face-to-face to share advice and the WSA (now WTIA) organized many great events.  It certainly didn’t feel like ‘zero’ or ‘the dark ages’.

    • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

      I wasn’t here in 1994. I was referring to 2004 when I left Microsoft. There wasn’t much going on here. The bubble burst of 2001 probably caused the devastation of the startup culture that existed previous to that. I didn’t witness that so I can say how it was, but in 2004 was hard, very hard to find other entrepreneurs, angel investors or people to talk about tech and startup. It was the “dark ages” from my point of view.

    • Ray Burt

      Tons more including a number that went IPO.  Maybe today’s companies should look to the 1994-2004 timeframe for lessons learned..more than the 2004 and on????

      • http://blog.abodit.com/ Ian Mercer

        @Ray, indeed.  There’s a great poster illustrating the NW startup ecosystem here: http://wtia.micromaps.com/ 

  • Guest

    Oh, yes, the startup ecosystem here revolves around Marcello. He was at BigCo before 2004, so nothing before then counts and all the good stuff after that is because of Seattle 2.0. The dozens of other booster groups around town are irrelevant.

    The complaint about lead investors is tired. Build something real, get customers, earn money and investors will be a lot easier to find – or maybe you won’t need them.Build something interesting, then come back and talk to us.

    • Founder2.0

      Yes. Marcello has done a great job kissing up and building a “brand” for himself. He does a lot of talking. Let’s see how well his new start-up does.

    • Founder2.0

      Yes. Marcello has done a great job kissing up and building a “brand” for himself. He does a lot of talking. Let’s see how well his new start-up does.

  • NotAFan

    Didn’t you hear? Startup history has been broken down into two periods: AC / PC … Ante-Calbucci / Post-Calbucci, given his seminal impact circa 2004.

    PS: We’re working on rewriting the Wikipedia entry now.

  • NotAFan

    Didn’t you hear? Startup history has been broken down into two periods: AC / PC … Ante-Calbucci / Post-Calbucci, given his seminal impact circa 2004.

    PS: We’re working on rewriting the Wikipedia entry now.

  • Entrepreneuring since 1988

    Marcelo needs a history teacher !  There was the start of a software startup community dating back to the late 1980s/early 1990s.  We had a few early breakout companies – Microsoft of course, but also Aldus (started 1984), Microrim (Rbase was the #2 database to Dbase), General Software, Traveling Software and later Visio (started 1991), Corbis (precursor formed 1993) and other pioneers whose names are distant memories. There were three or four venture funds (OVP, then called Olympic;  Cable Howse; Phoenix Partners; Polaris Ventures and Fluke are names that I recall), and Perkins Coie was just forming an emerging business practice.  There were maybe 5 active angels in the community, with names like Hunter Simpson, Herman Sarkowsky and Sam Stroum.  There was no attorneys focused on startups other than Perkins, and even then it was like 2 attornies.  The only meetup was the WSA (the predecessor to WTIA) SIGs and MIT Enterprise Forum.

    If 2004 felt like the Dark Ages to a budding entrepreneur, 1992 would have felt like the Iron Age.

    Things are orders of magnitude better & easier for entrepreneurs today than in 2004, or 1994, or 1984.

    Against that backdrop, we have come a very long ways.  Even if we have some distance to go, the community and climate today are so much more vibrant than the Old Days. 

  • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

    For goodness sake, read the blog post from John and read my presentation on SlideShare. I didn’t claim the world of startups started in 2004. I just gave a presentation based on my experience building startups between 2004-2011. That’s it. My view, an opinion. 

    I don’t claim to know what happen before it, I don’t claim to know how other feels about it, I don’t claim to know the exact facts and stats even of the 2004-2011 period, just what I experienced. I’m not trying to teach anyone anything. I was invited to speak at this event and I thought there is no better story than telling your personal story.

  • Ray Burt

    Hey all you Calbucci haters out there: GET REAL.  Marcelo writes about stuff he has personal knowledge about — AND he bothers to take valuable time to write it.  You guys with all that additional history and knowledge do no such thing….but you are ready to HATE on the guy for not writing about things he doesn’t know about — and you do.  But you DON’T write things..you only react.

    GET REAL, haters.  Marcelo is an asset to this community — even if he wasn’t around as long as all of you — at least he’s willing to share his views (complete or not, controversial or not) to try to make this a better place for entrepreneurs in 2011.    

    So stop HATING….and stop DENIGRATING….and maybe start sharing something useful and positive instead of HATEFUL and reactionary.   

    • Not A Hater

      This community is extremely fortunate to have many, many people who help startups and entrepreneurs. Many of these people do it quietly, behind the scenes. And then there are other people who spend far more time touting themselves than helping others.

      • http://www.thoughtful.co Chris Lynch

        No offense, but it’s hard to respect or put much into anonymous comments bashing Marcelo. While you may not appreciate a his approach/style, Marcelo has helped myself and others in the community. There are also many others who do the same, day in and day out.

        At least have the decency to post as yourself to be part of the community and discussion.

        • http://twitter.com/stephenmedawar Stephen Medawar

          Agreed. 

          Seattleites, 

          Stop getting so defensive and stop bashing someone who is trying to boost the local startup ecosystem. Marcelo (and many others…he’s not alone here) have made the point that we need to band together to make improvements. We should be careful not to try and silence those calling for advancement. 

          Effectively, your anonymous posts are calling for things to stay the way they are. 

          Seattle is great for startups and entrepreneurs! Let’s make it better!

          Stephen Medawar <—not anonymous 

        • http://twitter.com/stephenmedawar Stephen Medawar

          Agreed. 

          Seattleites, 

          Stop getting so defensive and stop bashing someone who is trying to boost the local startup ecosystem. Marcelo (and many others…he’s not alone here) have made the point that we need to band together to make improvements. We should be careful not to try and silence those calling for advancement. 

          Effectively, your anonymous posts are calling for things to stay the way they are. 

          Seattle is great for startups and entrepreneurs! Let’s make it better!

          Stephen Medawar <—not anonymous 

        • http://twitter.com/stephenmedawar Stephen Medawar

          Agreed. 

          Seattleites, 

          Stop getting so defensive and stop bashing someone who is trying to boost the local startup ecosystem. Marcelo (and many others…he’s not alone here) have made the point that we need to band together to make improvements. We should be careful not to try and silence those calling for advancement. 

          Effectively, your anonymous posts are calling for things to stay the way they are. 

          Seattle is great for startups and entrepreneurs! Let’s make it better!

          Stephen Medawar <—not anonymous 

        • http://twitter.com/stephenmedawar Stephen Medawar

          Agreed. 

          Seattleites, 

          Stop getting so defensive and stop bashing someone who is trying to boost the local startup ecosystem. Marcelo (and many others…he’s not alone here) have made the point that we need to band together to make improvements. We should be careful not to try and silence those calling for advancement. 

          Effectively, your anonymous posts are calling for things to stay the way they are. 

          Seattle is great for startups and entrepreneurs! Let’s make it better!

          Stephen Medawar <—not anonymous 

  • http://profiles.google.com/clive.boulton clive boulton

    Lack of velocity resources for enterprise startups building out with consumer technologies came up, ironically afterwards a meeting with Orrick biz dev on possibly replicating in some form Orrick SVs Total Access Breakfast series here in Seattle. The main point is lack of velocity resources, only 5 or 6 funding resources vs 50 or 60 or so in the SFBA.      

  • http://www.puzzazz.com Roy Leban

    I just watched the videos and I have to say I disagree. Marcelo tells a good story, but it simply doesn’t match reality.

    I have lived and worked in both Silicon Valley and the Seattle area, and I’ve started companies in both places, and worked at startups founded by other people founded in both places. The Seattle area is a great environment, has great entrepreneurs and great investors, and the roots are long and deep. Per capita, I think we compare pretty favorably with Silicon Valley.

    The majority of people in the tech community have never heard of Marcelo or Seattle 2.0 (or SeattleTechStartups or the things I’ve done for the community, including SeattleTechCalendar, SeattleTechWiki, and UX Office Hours). The community is huge and even the GeekWire readership doesn’t encompass all of it (yet!). You want to help other people? Great! There are ample opportunities to do so. You want to take credit that the thing you’ve done has moved the needle for the whole community? I don’t think so.

    I don’t agree that someone who only has a spec doesn’t have a startup. There is no central office that gets to determine what is and isn’t a startup and who is and isn’t an entrepreneur. The idea that anybody gets to judge anybody else’s efforts on these grounds is ludicrous.

    But I do completely agree with one thing. If you want to create something, you should spend your time doing just that, not complaining. Spend your time creating something (bootstrapping if you have to, as Rebecca says), not trying to get investors when you only have an idea.

    And now I have to get back to writing code and shipping products.

    • http://www.bluestoneacct.com BlueAcct

      Exactly right. 

  • Bob Crimmins

    What a disappointment to see the hater nonsense.  Thanks, Marcelo, for all the time and effort you’ve invested in supporting the Seattle startup scene.  If anyone has a problem with you getting a little notoriety out of that effort they are seriously flawed.  I have only a half-assed understanding of time, money and anguish you’ve put into it but I’m pretty damn certain that you over-paid by a long shot if what you were looking for was personal promotion. 

    And, haters, if you feel you’re ready to cast the first stones then please do come out of hiding and let us all see your greatness.  Seattle could use some more luminaries coming to our rescue, helping us all understand the right way to do things.  Everyone has their flaws and their skeletons.  The best learn from their mistakes and keep trying… even harder, in fact.  I suspect you all have more respect for the first time entrepreneurs who hit it big their first time out.  Good for them… totally awesome… lot’s of different reasons why it turned out that way for them.  But Marcelo, and most serious successful entrepreneurs, don’t hit it out of the park the first time… or even the second time.  Marcelo has shown amazing  fortitude in staying with his passion for startups.  I wonder if you would have the balls to continue to work hard at a really hard thing for ten years without a break.

    In terms of the theme and content of your presentation, thanks for filling in some gaps and presenting an interesting perspective.  I’d love to see an organized focus on dreging up the full spectrum of Seattle’s Startup Story, beginning with Microsoft’s founding in 1975.  The lore that comprise the Valley storied past is well known far and wide.  I’d bet more Seattle folk know the Valley stories a lot better than they know the Seattle stories.  That’s a shame. 

    Marcelo, I hope you’ll keep doing what you’re doing (if you can still afford the effort) and just know that most of us appreciate it a lot. 

  • Bob Crimmins

    What a disappointment to see the hater nonsense.  Thanks, Marcelo, for all the time and effort you’ve invested in supporting the Seattle startup scene.  If anyone has a problem with you getting a little notoriety out of that effort they are seriously flawed.  I have only a half-assed understanding of time, money and anguish you’ve put into it but I’m pretty damn certain that you over-paid by a long shot if what you were looking for was personal promotion. 

    And, haters, if you feel you’re ready to cast the first stones then please do come out of hiding and let us all see your greatness.  Seattle could use some more luminaries coming to our rescue, helping us all understand the right way to do things.  Everyone has their flaws and their skeletons.  The best learn from their mistakes and keep trying… even harder, in fact.  I suspect you all have more respect for the first time entrepreneurs who hit it big their first time out.  Good for them… totally awesome… lot’s of different reasons why it turned out that way for them.  But Marcelo, and most serious successful entrepreneurs, don’t hit it out of the park the first time… or even the second time.  Marcelo has shown amazing  fortitude in staying with his passion for startups.  I wonder if you would have the balls to continue to work hard at a really hard thing for ten years without a break.

    In terms of the theme and content of your presentation, thanks for filling in some gaps and presenting an interesting perspective.  I’d love to see an organized focus on dreging up the full spectrum of Seattle’s Startup Story, beginning with Microsoft’s founding in 1975.  The lore that comprise the Valley storied past is well known far and wide.  I’d bet more Seattle folk know the Valley stories a lot better than they know the Seattle stories.  That’s a shame. 

    Marcelo, I hope you’ll keep doing what you’re doing (if you can still afford the effort) and just know that most of us appreciate it a lot. 

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