New Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.
New Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants to “beef up” the city’s support for startups.

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.

startupseattle12In 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.

Outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is in favor of a publicly-owned broadband network.
Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn created the Startup Seattle initiative last year.

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.”

Previously on GeekWire: Here’s how city government can help startups, according to outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn

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  • Chris McCoy

    PROTIP: Ed Lee’s playbook.

  • gseattle

    Sounds good. Yet, what is needed most? Would more of the same help a great deal or should there be something new outside the box? Maybe we could benefit with plane tickets for someone to take a look at what other ciites are doing, including Tel Aviv (ahead of us in Startup ratings now).

    As an inventor, I am incredibly frustrated. While at Microsoft and WhitePages I was collecting invention/business ideas on notes and later realized I had over 80 of them. The one I’ve chosen to focus on right now is pretty far out, I’m in the R&D phase for a mobile device to deactivate tornadoes, I went storm chasing to take measurements and believe there is solid science behind it, at least worth trying.

    I would think if I were an angel investor or philanthropist and found out about that, I would at least want to find out more, yet, nothing. I wish there were a way to be sure that it is even being seen by potential investors. Then if it is 100% rejection I could consider dropping it and move on to something they might like better. Like the encryption app I wrote or or….

    So, can some genius out there come up with a new process to make it easier for inventors and money to connect better? I can handle ‘No’. It’s that feeling of being isolated and helpless with nowhere to turn that’s no fun.

    • balls187

      Uh…welcome to the world of entrepreneurship.

      You’ll never have the certainty you need, and investors/investment aren’t the only measurement of success (just ask any VC about a company they wish they could have had a do-over with).

      How many meetings with Seattle VC’s have you had?

      • gseattle


        Here’s what I’d like to see, for example:
        A website ( or whatever) where I can select from a list of investors and pay a fee for each one, pitch my idea in writing, and where the investors also pay a fee to take part, to be receiving those pitches. Now, here’s the critical ingredient, as part of their agreement in signing up, for every idea they reject, they must provide at least ~20 words to the entrepreneur as to why they decided to say no.

        That assured response will help alleviate my current frustration of being clueless on how to reach them or knowing that I was heard. I’m about to write to Tom Perkins (think Maltese Falcon sailboat) for whom I have a high regard and yet as always it is possible that there might be no response or a form letter/email and one can’t be sure that the communication made it past the first filter.

        Looking at it from the investment firm’s perspective, an individual in the company who makes the yay or nay decisions certainly has limited time. The entrepreneur fee could be raised/lowered by agreement per investor group depending on how hungry they are to be receiving pitches currently.

        • balls187

          “I don’t know how to use a hammer, so I’m going to build a drill”

          Getting a meeting with an investor is the easy part, getting them to invest is far more difficult.

          If you’re struggling with that much, then perhaps venture
          capital/outside funding isn’t the right approach to realizing your dreams.

          I recommend reaching out to a few people and asking advice. Specifically “How do I start forming relationships with investors?”

        • Guest

          It’s going to take outside-the-box thinking like that to improve the Startup environment.

          Meanwhile here’s a resource for finding investors:

          Hope it helps.

  • axiomflash

    Great news. Startup founder here, and I’m listening.

  • balls187

    Shared Space–meh.

    Business and Technical Support, better–helping businesses get to product market fit, making introductions, mentorship and guidance, marketing and sales support–that would be way more useful.

    But this is the government, and they’ll screw it up and force all kinds of useless red-tape.

    By no means is this a definitive list, but it’s pretty damn good (not mentioned–can’t find cheap office space)

  • Joe Wallin

    One way the Mayor could help: support the state crowd funding bill that passed the House but now needs to get through the Senate.

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