Franklin

Aaron Franklin has been an active member of the Seattle startup community over the years. He’s participated in Startup Weekend in Redmond, attended events like Hops & Chops and actively blogs on the Web site Seattle 2.0.

But when the 29-year-old former Microsoft employee was looking to start his new company, a task management service called LazyMeter that is launching today, Franklin decided to pack his bags for the San Francisco Bay Area.

I asked him why, and his response is one that gets to the crux of the ongoing debate on the merits of Silicon Valley versus Seattle.

Here’s what Franklin — who left for San Francisco about a month ago — had to say about the decision:

“I didn’t feel a ‘need’ to go to the Bay Area to be successful. But I felt it increased the odds of success. There are more events here for networking, and more investment opportunities. I felt as if I’d be making a trip to San Francisco at least monthly, which made up for the difference in rent.

One thing I noticed on my trips to the Bay Area was a feeling that you can change the world. It was hard to pitch a vision in Seattle, and I was asked on multiple occasions for a business plan. When I pitch LazyMeter in San Francisco, the focus is on long-term vision; there’s an excitement about how it can potentially change the world and improve people’s lives, with less emphasis on money. There were some other factors, like a more efficient public transit system, and cutting down my fiance’s commute.
Seattle has a very unique tech scene. I’ve been in the Bay Area for a month now, and I still haven’t found anything like Hops & Chops or Open Coffee to network and get support. I would absolutely consider moving back and having a company headquarters in Seattle, but my experience was it was hard to launch there.”

Franklin hits on some recurring themes that have been popping up in the Seattle entrepreneurial community — highlighted in Marcelo Calbucci’s guest post on GeekWire “A challenge to Seattle VCs: Back 100 seed-stage startups in 24 months.” There’s an opinion, at least among some entrepreneurs, that Seattle’s deal terms are too stringent and investors don’t always think openly or big about new ideas. (Of course, VCs tend to think the same of entrepreneurs).

As far as LazyMeter goes, Franklin describes it as an online task management system that’s designed to eliminate the Post-It note or pen-and-paper lists. The service offers a visual time meter showing how you are progressing on completing your tasks for the day.

There’s no shortage of competition in the space, with Microsoft Outlook, Google Tasks, Remember the Milk and Omnifocus also offering task management solutions. But Franklin said that most of the competitive offerings end up creating even more lists and — as a result — more work for the user.

“We realized we could provide feedback and help users focus on one day at a time, so they’d feel better at the end of the day,” he said.

Franklin previously spent five years at Microsoft working in the Online Services Division. Co-founder Josh Runge, 26, is a MIT grad who previously worked on Bing at Microsoft.

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Comments

  • http://www.nosnivelling.com daveschappell

    Psyched for you Aaron — you catch up with @500Startups and @DaveMcClure yet? I’d be happy to intro…

    • http://about.me/AaronFranklin Aaron Franklin

      Thanks Dave, it’s been a long journey but apparently following our guts was the right thing to do. I’ll shoot you an email to discuss!

  • http://twitter.com/moniguzman Monica Guzman

    Using Omnifocus, but wondering if I can get as much out of something less complex. Going to give LazyMeter a try. Good luck, Aaron!

  • http://twitter.com/sittingaroundco Sitting Around

    Great article! Congrats on the launch, Aaron! I think you’re right about SF vs. Seattle. Boston, however, has both of ‘em beat.. :)

  • http://about.me/AaronFranklin Aaron Franklin

    Seattle will always hold a special place in my heart, and no matter what happens, LazyMeter’s roots are in Seattle. PS: some friends pointed out I forgot to mention the weather – yeah, that was a rough winter alright.

  • http://www.samgrossberg.com Sam Grossberg

    I am also in the process of moving to SV to work on GoPollGo and feel similarly to Aaron. I’ll miss Hops and Chops but there are an order of magnitude higher concentration of startup folks in the Bay Area which means more opportunity for serendipitously meeting people who will be important to your startup or your next startup. When I’m down there I’m constantly meeting startup people in ordinary social situations.

    I do love Seattle still though, and there’s a lot of great engineering talent here. I’d love to come back in a few years and open an engineering office for a growing startup!

  • http://www.rescuetime.com Anonymous

    “It was hard to pitch a vision in Seattle, and I was asked on multiple occasions for a business plan. When I pitch LazyMeter in San Francisco, the focus is on long-term vision; there’s an excitement about how it can potentially change the world and improve people’s lives, with less emphasis on money. ”

    This is non Seattle versus Valley.  This is the difference between true seed-stage investors (oodles of ‘em in the Valley) and investors who occasionally do seed stage (for the most part, all we have in Seattle).

  • http://twitter.com/digitalCMOblog harrison magun

    Congrats on the launch and the nice press Aaron. So happy to see this come to fruition!  I will be using LazyMeter – love the concept. Don’t be a stranger when you get back to Seattle.  

  • http://twitter.com/digitalCMOblog harrison magun

    Congrats on the launch and the nice press Aaron. So happy to see this come to fruition!  I will be using LazyMeter – love the concept. Don’t be a stranger when you get back to Seattle.  

  • http://twitter.com/digitalCMOblog harrison magun

    Congrats on the launch and the nice press Aaron. So happy to see this come to fruition!  I will be using LazyMeter – love the concept. Don’t be a stranger when you get back to Seattle.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=638569946 Travis Godbout

    “It was hard to pitch a vision in Seattle, and I was asked on multiple occasions for a business plan.” 

    God forbid that a start-up actually demonstrates some semblance of a viable business model and that they have thought through things like cash flow, cost per acquisition, estimated lifetime value of customers, market sizing etc. 

    • http://about.me/AaronFranklin Aaron Franklin

      We have a revenue plan – I focused on monetization at Microsoft for 5 years, so you can trust I wouldn’t leave my job during a recession without a promising return on investment. The difference is when you’re just getting started, it doesn’t make sense to build graphs and specifics – focus needs to be getting a proof of concept to market, with a logic for monetizing it if it succeeds. I could put together a really nice business plan, but build a crappy product and fail before I ever touch CPA, etc. Or I can build a really good product that people want to use, with an idea of how to monetize it should that time come. First investment is in the vision/product.

  • http://twitter.com/nickhuzar Nick

    I agree with Tony’s statement and Aaron’s feeling about the overall reception for BIG ideas in the Valley.  I feel the same frustration.  Ironically I am writing this post from a coffee shop right now in Menlo Park after a killer few days of meetings AND already have so many intros I am already planning my next visit. 

    I love Seattle and never plan on leaving. So it seems I will be commuter for awhile.

  • http://www.MelCarson.com Mel Carson

    Well done Aaron – I knew when we kicked off adCenter all those years ago and chatted metrics in NYC, you’d be destined for great things. Good luck mate!

  • @alwaysbshipping

    Wonder what would happen if there were a high speed rail line with free wifi btwn downtown Seattle and Bay Area.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=704416836 Tim Reha

    There is a trend here with a few friends and other companies being pulled by the Silicon Valley / S.F. Gravity.  I feel that there needs to be more connectivity between Seattle and the Valley and an easier bridge to cross like a place to crash and hot desks when Seattle entrepreneurs venture south. A better startup social network, bridged ecosystem.

    This September, ironically, two Seattle based groups, Startup Weekend and us (New Media Synergy) will be helping to produce one of the largest entrepreneurial exposure opportunities in the world, working with DEMO Fall 2011 and Startup America Partnership on September 12th-15th. Thus, it is interesting that Seattle talent will be powering a new layer of opportunity for entrepreneurs from around the world, who will be in SV for the big event.

    If you are a Seattle based startup, feel free to come down to DEMO this year to get wired up. Details will be released around the 15th of August and I would be happy to share some ideas how to best navigate to get wired up. In the last year we connected with the CEO’s of Groupon, LinkedIn, Chairman of Twitter, angel investors, VCs, Corp Dev from Facebook, Google, Etc. thus there are some golden relationships available.

    Otherwise, I am here in Seattle still for the time being, but will also be setting up shop at least part time down south because, hell, I get more exposure in the Bay Area than here and I am from here an know all of the press folks here. Kind of lame.

  • http://www.timbersoftware.com Lewis

    Good luck Aaron!  Root out laziness!

  • Jon Clark

    Congrats on the launch, Aaron! Looking forward to trying out LazyMeter!

  • Near Sighted

    I’m sorry but…vision?  Change the world? Big idea? 

    Lazy Meter looks nice but its not the basis of an enduring company.  If SV wants to fund it, good on them. Maybe Google buys it.  Otherwise, its just one of the myriad of task managers out there.

    • http://about.me/AaronFranklin Aaron Franklin

      We aren’t ready to reveal where we’re going quite yet, but the management of tasks is just the beginning. Hint: everything begins with a task. For those who say “not another task manager”, we remind them that at one point Google was just another search engine, and gmail was just another email program. Stay tuned.

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

      The iPod was just another music player and the iPhone was just another phone. It’s easy to cast anything as “just another” product.

  • http://twitter.com/cohlhoff Chris Ohlhoff

    Best of luck to you Aaron, go get ‘em. The Social Network also covered the early battle between focusing on delivering a great product experience versus monetization, and if you’ve seen it you know who won. Keep fighting the good fight and help users do the same, one item checked off at a time.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2O3NI4GRY626YFBCVQRVNSHJ4Y Will

    Sorry to see you go, Aaron, but best of luck with LazyMeter.  Glad to see it come to realization.

  • http://twitter.com/heydtrain Darren Kochansky

    Good Luck Aaron!  If nothing else, it’s a good idea to get out of town for a bit – having a new environment is never a bad idea!

    Go get ‘em, then come back!

  • http://twitter.com/OpenESignForms Yozons, Inc.

    The Seattle VC community is just too small. You are right about them focused on a biz plan that is all made up anyway. The big successes rarely have such a biz plan, just a cool idea and ability to deliver product, while the losers often claim they’ll make billions in 5 years and generally come with “pedigree” (aka incestuous cross investing). The more detailed the plan, the farther off you’ll be. We are only now putting our vision into action and it’s our third product around the same concept — we’ve been learning the old fashioned way — by doing it and seeing the market react.

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