The geography of tech: Seattle’s oft-forgotten tech ecosystem

Photo via Kevin Lisota

Photo via Kevin Lisota

The October 21st story in The New York Times —  “Tech Wealth and Ideas Are Heading Into News” — includes Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos among “Silicon Valley and its various power brokers.”

News flash: Amazon.com is not located in Silicon Valley.

Nor is the company that pioneered PC software (Microsoft).

Nor the company that invented desktop publishing (Aldus, now part of Adobe).

Nor the company that pioneered streaming media (RealNetworks).

Nor the companies that drove the revolution in electronic retailing in areas such as travel (Expedia), real estate (Zillow, Redfin), imagery (Getty Images, Corbis), personal care items (Drugstore.com), baby/mom goods (Zulily), etc.

Christian Chabot

Christian Chabot

Nor many key gaming industry players (Bungie, Valve, etc., not to mention Nintendo of America, Sony Online Entertainment, Microsoft Studios (and of course Xbox)).

Nor Tableau Software, a thriving Stanford startup whose CEO Christian Chabot recently remarked at a GeekWire event that “moving the company from Silicon Valley to Seattle [when it was only 3 people] turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made. We are really grateful to be in the Seattle technology ecosystem, and we hope to be there for many years to come.”

Nor, we should add – hoping to forestall a future article – are many of the nation’s most distinctive and admired traditional retailers, such as Nordstrom, REI, Costco, and of course Starbucks – companies with which Amazon shares its relentless focus on customers, quality, and culture.

Ed Lazowska

Ed Lazowska

Then, of course, there are the biomedical innovations such as ultrasound imaging, automated external defibrillators, bone marrow transplantation, renal dialysis, Embrel and Rituxan, Medic One – even your Sonicare toothbrush.

And organizations that launched global health initiatives 30 years ago, such as PATH and Seattle BioMed. These didn’t come from Silicon Valley. The Gates Foundation, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence also are not in Silicon Valley, it turns out.

And where would we be without Macklemore and Pearl Jam?

Get a map, guys!

Ed Lazowska is the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, which for those who don’t know is located in Seattle. 

Previously on GeekWireHey everyone, Jeff Bezos lives in Seattle and Amazon is not a ‘Silicon Valley’ company

  • TimT

    They do this often enough that now it seems like it must be a concerted effort :
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/technology/to-catch-up-walmart-moves-to-amazon-turf.html

  • AndrewCrocker

    Great refresher, but really: Pearl Jam, and not Nirvana?

    • Lazowska

      Uncle!

  • James Maiocco

    Ed, thanks for raising awareness. I am often reminding colleagues in the Valley and abroad of the vibrant startup ecosystem in Seattle. We are blessed with great talent (engineering, creative and business minds), a strong research institution and diverse economy. The continued success of Seattle area companies should continue to improve our perception globally (and correct a few geographical errors too).

  • Guest

    Thanks, Ed! San Francisco appears to be the hotspot for tech, but have you ever been there? Between the awful mass transit system (which is on strike), the embarrassingly high housing prices, and all the poor Spanish people I saw there, I don’t ever see a Seattleite voluntarily moving there unless he can ride the private companybuses everywhere — not just to work.

    • Seriously?

      Maybe not a narrow-minded frightened anonymous racist such as yourself, but surely some other Seattleites see value in the Bay Area.

      • boop

        What in Guest’s comment led you to believe he (she?) is a “narrow-minded frightened anonymous racist”? I think he meant “poor Spanish-speaking people” though — not actual impoverished denizens of the Iberian peninsula.

    • Smash

      Remarkably stupid comment.

      • Anton

        It’s not a stupid comment. S/he just mentioned some of the well-known significant issues in the Bay Area. Having lived in both places I must say that the Seattle lifestyle is significantly more pleasurable than the Bay Area lifestyle, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. Really the only thing the Bay Area has more of, which is pretty significant in itself, is more smart motivated entrepreneurial folks. And that by itself can make it a deal-breaker, even if the Bay Area was 10x worse on all other aspects. Seattle is getting there, but so far the Bay Area is unique in this aspect.

  • New Yorker

    Don’t take it personally. New Yorkers’ view of the world hasn’t changed much since 1976 (http://strangemaps.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/steinberg-newyorker.jpg) and probably won’t any time soon.

  • Marston Gould

    Or Classmates…..social network

  • l

    Enbrel