It has been a great run for the Seattle tech community in the past 18 months, with spectacular IPOs (Tableau, NanoString and Zulily) and mega financing rounds (Apptio, Redfin and Juno Therapeutics).
But, as we all know in the tech industry, things can change fast. And you’ve got to make sure there’s a pipeline of activity and a group of up-and-comers emerging in line to be “the next big thing.”
In that regard, Seattle could use some help. A new analysis from The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Venture Source shows 37 privately-held tech companies that have joined “The Billion-Dollar Startup Club.” In other words, those that have achieved a valuation of $1 billion or more in their last round of funding.
Seattle, for all of its strengths, doesn’t have one company on the list.
Zero. Zilch. Nada.
And just so we don’t feel left out of the club, Boston too is lacking startups in the billion-dollar club. That may irk Fortune’s Dan Primack even more, who just last week penned a fascinating column dubbed “What’s really wrong with Boston tech?” (Just for the record, I don’t necessarily agree with Primack’s thesis that a strong tech media scene would help spark Boston innovation).
Not having any private Seattle tech companies in the club is a bit disconcerting, and worth pondering. Making matters worse, one of the Silicon Valley powerhouses that makes the list — Box — was started in Seattle 10 years ago by former Mercer Island High School grads Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith. The Los Altos, Calif.-based company now has an estimated value of $2 billion.
In fact, 21 of the 25 U.S. companies on the list happen to be based in California, from Dropbox to Jawbone to Beats Electronics. New York, the technology up-and-comer, shows three companies in the club by my count (Fab, Gilt Groupe and MongoDB) while Florida boasts one in Fanatics, the Jacksonville-based sports apparel online retailer.
So, where are the Seattle startups?
One could argue that the big ones have already graduated to IPO status, with Tableau and Zulily pricing shares last year at multi-billion dollar valuations and Zillow going public in 2011. But IPOs also have been occurring in the Bay Area with regularity, including companies such as Twitter, Workday, Rocket Fuel and FireEye.
That means one thing to me: Seattle just needs to work on the strength of its bench.