Photo via RootStartup
Photo via RootStartup

Silicon Valley is certainly the king in terms of venture capital and startup formation.

And while Seattle has grown as a startup city over the years, it’s certainly not quite on the level of the Bay Area.

Speaking on a panel at a Civic Cocktail event this week, Founders Co-op general partner Chris DeVore pointed to a study touting Seattle’s deep talent pool, but also indicated a lack of “startup output” from the city.

“We’re clearly punching below our weight in terms of harnessing that talent and pointing it toward building the next Amazon or the next Tableau,” he said.

DeVore referenced Microsoft and Amazon as reasons for this. Granted, without these massively successful global companies, the city would not be where it is today in a technology and innovation sense.

But his point was that the talented young minds more often than not choose a career at one of the big corporate organizations than take the startup plunge.

Chris DeVore keynoting the 2013 GeekWire Awards.
Chris DeVore keynoting the 2013 GeekWire Awards.

“In terms of the opportunity cost of an individual’s professional time, it’s easier to get on Jeff Bezos’ train than it is to start your own,” he said.

A cultural change, DeVore explained, is what Seattle needs if it wants to reach the next level as a startup hub.

“It’s about how academic institutions teach entrepreneurship, how angels invest, how entrepreneurs think and what talent thinks to do,” he said of that shift. “It’s a long cycle of cultural change that we’re making progress on, but it’s going to take a lot of effort from a lot of people to really get us where we need to be.”

DeVore pointed to education and clustered innovation neighborhoods as two ways to really propel the city’s startup ecosystem. Those are two of the initiatives for new city-implemented plan to ensure that entrepreneurs in the area have what they need to succeed.

This has been a debated topic over the past few years in Seattle and right here on GeekWire, with some blaming the lack of entrepreneurial talent and others saying it’s the lack of home-grown venture capital infrastructure in the city.

Photo via Kevin Lisota

Seattle, though, does have a couple advantages. There is no income tax, and similar to our brothers to the south in Portland, the cost of living and office space rent is lower.

But DeVore, who hashed out his thoughts on this in a lengthly piece written last December, knows it will take time before the Emerald City reaches startup stardom like San Francisco.

“The hard truth is that the Pacific Northwest is still 20-30 years away from having the kind of down-to-the-roots innovation culture that the Bay Area enjoys today,” he wrote. “We have a huge lead over most other global innovation centers, and our community is rallying around innovation with more commitment and focus than I’ve ever seen here before, but we have decades of work ahead of us.”

DeVore’s comments start at 40:10 in the video below.

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  • Guest


  • JimNonameYo

    Yes! Thank you

    There are other things as well.

    Those companies use and abuse the local talent and drive them out of the industry faster than they can run while raping from their every idea and polishing it as their own. Nothing has changed, they have only gotten better at it now that they can patent everything without even creating it anymore. Heck all they need is the idea and they churn out the patents faster than the applications. These companies ruined the internet. If you go downtown and visit the brand new amazon factilities, they resemble twenty first century sweatshops, crammed into a little space with no parking or food anywhere for miles. A bunch of rows of the same exact crammed space of people with no green anywhere. Just concrete. They came to the mountains to build and created something for a new yorker to enjoy.

    Another reason is that they flooded the state with illegal “talent” and they stayed here reducing quality of work and pay for the state. Now that the pay averages below most retail for development yet the workload has tripled, why would you spend hard earned time on things that will get stolen be people who are not even allowed to be here. Then when you go to the eastside Redmond and look inside their. You see the same thing, a 90 percent international labor force making things the locals should be doing. If you wonder why the core structure of those businesses look good on paper is those people are not protected under federal/state laws, so those companies rape and pillage as much as they can. And this affects those trying to survive with rising cost of living and reduced wages. Then you look at the internal hiring practices of those companies, since I have been at both for over a decade. I can only say that its not “TALENT” that gets these push button jobs. A monkey can be trained to push a button. A group of people who all speak a different LANGUAGE, can somehow push a button together speaking in a second language and coding in a third. Then when you look at the product managers and senior executives at these places and see how they got their. Its not their resume, its their buddy or RELATIVE. As many times as I had seen relatives hired fulltime, cause all they need is a few sign offs, and their in. All you need is a few people to sign off, so if all are relatives or from your village, your in. The relatives, real old and over 60, who were driving Windows 8.1 products teams never had worked a single day at a tech job. When they mean senior, they mean getting mom and dad to work in Redmond. Somewhat disturbing as you would have to wait as they tried to drive meetings with their laptops which was a first.
    I think good ideas come natural and not out of an institutionalized way of life. Unless you are trying to invent in this structured area of conformity and rules.

    And for those who are spell and fact checking my words to discredit me, I love you.

    So to put bluntly, its not the innovated talent that lacks in seattle
    the ideas are bread here but harvested in the valley.
    The cash. Majority of investors are in the valley and they should stay there.

    A good company doesnt need to go into debt. Plus if you look at the culture in Seattle, we are anti-establishment (i.e. yankee go home)
    and like it that way.

    • Guest

      Besides being factually incorrect (which you specifically said you don’t care about), your comment is unconstructive at best and racist at worst. If you want to stay in my city, try to improve it. If not, you’re free to leave. Don’t whine.

  • guest

    Don’t blame Amazon/Microsoft. Seattle Angels are mostly willing only to invest in companies with significant traction and full time founders. VCs don’t do angel investing. A lot of people can’t afford to go months or years without income.

    Startup: $0
    Amazon/Microsoft: $$$$

    Angels and VCs need to step up their game

    • Thomas Franklin

      Not true about angel investments. My guess is this guest didn’t get funding for some idea and blames the investing community for this failure. In the Valley, most startups don’t get funded either. They just have more investors and more startups so both the numerator and denominator are greater there.

  • Guest

    Great example of Bettridge’s law in action.

  • Thomas Franklin

    Do Google and Facebook hold back the Valley startup scene? Ridiculous question.

  • Stephen Purpura

    Chris is generally right here. The tactics of Amazon and Microsoft wrt to paying talent coupled with the city’s cultural norms put pressure on startups. As a founder that wants to work in Seattle successfully, you have to work in Seattle and SF/the Peninsula simultaneously. You need all of the help that you can get.

  • ChetCrunch

    I’m not sure that what Chris was getting at is that Microsoft and Amazon are to blame for “holding back our startup ecosystem.” (Way to grab eyeballs Taylor!) As mentioned in the article, we’d be nowhere without our little giants. It’s our job as the entrepreneurial community to provide access to resources, capital, etc. It’s Amazon’s job to run a successful company, which is not only great for our local economy, but also supports via sponsor dollars almost every entrepreneurial thing we have going on in this city. (Startup Weekend events, meetups, etc.)

    Great talk by Chris, but I don’t think this was his point. :)

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