Confessions of an Eastsider building a startup in Seattle

The 520 floating bridge

I spent 13 years of my life in the Pacific Northwest living on the Eastside.

I worked at Microsoft. Then, I did my first startup in Redmond. After that, most of my gigs were on the Eastside.

When I joined Russell Benaroya to build EveryMove last year, it was the first time in my life that I’d jumped to the Seattle side. On one hand, I was a spoiled Eastsider who got used to free parking, easy traffic, Costco, Bellevue Square and many of the other perks. On the other, I was very excited about experiencing life on the Westside of the lake.

I’ve been commuting daily from Redmond to Seattle for nearly a year, and I have to say that I love it. I don’t regret the commute a bit. And things are just getting better, primarily because of the 520 tolls. [Related from GeekWire's Todd Bishop: "A big day on the 520 bridge: Why I’m happy about the tolls"]

Using 520 wasn’t bad before. If you live on the Eastside and work in Seattle you are typically going against the rush hour traffic (Seattleites working at Microsoft in Redmond), so it would take me about 30 to 35 minutes to get to work in the morning and 35 to 45 minutes to get back every evening. After tolling took effect, the traffic virtually disappeared. It now takes me 20 to 25 minutes.

Marcelo Calbucci

Marcelo Calbucci, EveryMove

Now, I could talk about the nitty-gritty of traffic and transit, restaurants, parking, office space, prices, etc. all day.

But there’s an even bigger difference between Eastside and Seattle startups (And this part may get some people upset).

It’s the culture. Not the city culture, the startup culture.

The entrepreneurial density is much larger in Seattle (the Eastside is enormous if you measure it from Issaquah to Bothell and from Bellevue to Sammamish). What that means is that you can be working in Bellevue, building your startup day-in, day-out, and you don’t bump into other entrepreneurs, investors, bloggers or startup service providers during lunch, coffee or dinner.

In Seattle, if you’re in Fremont, Pioneer Square, South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Belltown or Downtown, you’re very likely – I would say almost guaranteed – to bump into your peers.

It’s also more favorable to have your startup in Seattle when recruiting.

As a rule of thumb, Eastsiders might prefer working close to home, but they also like Seattle. Just a bit of push is enough to affect the inertia of staying on their side. Now, from my own observations, working on the Eastside is a deal-breaker for many Seattleites, primarily because of the traffic. (If it’s not a deal-breaker, these folks are usually grumpy about it).

There’s also a difference in the type of startups being built, tied to the corporate make-up of the founders. Microsoft alums are more likely to build enterprise and “platform” solutions, while Amazon.com alums are more likely to build consumer web and mobile services. I don’t think there is advantage in terms of what you are building to be on either side of the lake.

Picking the Eastside or Seattle is a matter of personal preference for the founders, as it should be. After all, the last thing you want is a founder who doesn’t like to work at his or her own startup.

At the end of the day, founders should pick locations (and technologies, markets, partners, etc.) that make them happy. And, if you’re building a company with an exciting opportunity, you can find great talent to join you on either side of the lake.

Marcelo Calbucci is the co-founder & CTO of EveryMove and the organizer of Dot Net Startup meetup group. You can follow Marcelo on Twitter @calbucci.

  • Guest

    One generalization after another, about both the Eastside and Seattle. The worst one is this one: There’s also a difference in the type of startups being built, tied to the corporate make-up of the founders. Microsoft alums are more likely to build enterprise and “platform” solutions, while Amazon.com alums are more likely to build consumer web and mobile services. I don’t think there is advantage in terms of what you are building to be on either side of the lake.

    Even if it was true that all of the entrepreneurs were Microsoft and Amazon alums, it just isn’t true that there is any particular bias as to what startups they might build. Of the hundreds and hundreds of Microsoft alums I know, I can only think of 3 who started a Enterprise software company, and they did it together.

    • guest

      Completely agree. And what is the point of this article? Come on GeekWire, you can do better than this!

      • David

        This should be on a sound transit message board as proof Puget Sounders with good jobs will not get out of the cars and ride public transit as it’s not even an issue with where a company is located (but should be).

    • guest

      Completely agree. And what is the point of this article? Come on GeekWire, you can do better than this!

  • One sided guest

    Oh, cmon. This isn’t news or even valuable opinion. The only truth here is that people who commute across lake washington every day dont’ care about the environment or the cost of gas. That’s not true either. Never mind.

  • axiomflash

    Fairly accurate generalizations. The one I’d disagree with is about Seattlites dealing with traffic and parking woes. Surprisingly I have a far easier time with traffic and parking in Seattle than I do on the Eastside. Seems counterintuitive, but its true. I went to a meeting on Mercer Island today and had to park 1/4 mile from the downtown area. 

  • Steve

    I clicked on this because I thought you meant Spokane area eastside

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ali-Babba/100002927247423 Ali Babba

    Well, I personally enjoyed the “generalizations” as they are one person’s opinion and he took the time to post them, and as a PNW expat I was grateful to have read them.