Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn did his best to create ways for the city to support the local startup ecosystem. His successor, however, wants to take it up a notch.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who took office on Jan. 1, has plans for a more aggressive approach in using the city’s resources to help entrepreneurs succeed.
In an interview with GeekWire inside his new office at City Hall, Murray said he wants to create a more robust partnership with startups, in addition to finding ways to help University of Washington researchers turn their innovations into commercialized products.
McGinn, who was mayor for the past four years, created the Startup Seattle initiative last year to support and expand the city’s startup community. But funding for that project was nearly slashed this past November when some City Council members voiced concern for “preferential treatment for startups,” and the fact that there were “no metrics attached to the project.”
However, it appears that Murray is in full support of helping Seattle become the premier city to incubate startups — so much so, in fact, that he wants to allocate even more resources to the initiative.
“We’re going to beef it up,” he said.
Still, Murray admitted that Startup Seattle, which initially started as a private project in spring of 2011, is “an idea without a fully fleshed out program at this point.”
“To satisfy the Council, and rightfully so, we have to actually show how this program is going to work,” Murray said.
So how exactly can city government help startups? Murray said it can be through a variety of avenues — offering up shared office space or providing technical and business support are a few examples he gave.
The mayor is also bullish on the work coming out of the University of Washington, a place that could soon become a new thriving startup hub.
“I think that the UW and the city together have a real opportunity to really make this a place where people come to do startups,” Murray said.
Murray made it clear that he doesn’t like “the old model,” which he described as cities and states stealing companies from each other by offering attractive incentives like tax breaks.
“That is the losing model,” he said. “You don’t gain any money off it. How you gain revenue and gain jobs is by actually incubating your own startups — companies that choose to be in this city. We want our startups to be home grown, and we want people to move here who have good ideas, or for the people already here who have good ideas, we want them to have access to more resources.”
When asked why startups are important to a city like Seattle, Murray repeatedly spoke about job opportunities created by small businesses and attracting talent to fill those positions.
“We have an incredible wealth of resources here,” Murray said. “People start out at Microsoft or Amazon or another major corporation and at some point spin off and do their own startup. We want to keep those people here. We want them to be able to see, if they leave one of those companies, that this is a place to do business — not San Francisco and Silicon Valley or some other place.”