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Moz CEO Sarah Bird.
Moz CEO Sarah Bird.

Amazon has tripled in size over the past three years. Food delivery services are raking in the cash from investors. Zillow is rivaling the market value of some of real estate’s biggest players.

Are we in the midst of a tech bubble, getting ready to burst?

That’s one of the questions I posed to a panel of tech investors and entrepreneurs as a guest moderator at the Seattle Rotary Club #4 in downtown Seattle this week — part of a broad discussion about the state of the tech industry and economy.

The general consensus was, no, we’re not in a bubble. But the answers were more nuanced than that.

“There is not a bubble. I think the fundamentals are really strong,” said Sarah Bird, the CEO of Moz.  I don’t think we’re repeating the same mistakes. I do think that valuations are more aggressive right now … but I’m not worried about it. When you say ‘bubble,’ I think 2000 bubble, and I don’t think we’re anywhere near that.”

WTIA CEO Michael Schutzler
WTIA CEO Michael Schutzler

We are definitely not in a bubble,” agreed Michael Schutzler, the CEO of the WTIA industry association. “We are in a bull market. There’s a big difference. It’s not going to pop. It’s growing. It will decline again, but it’s not popping.”

Veteran entrepreneur Jeremy Jaech, the Aldus and Visio co-founder who is now CEO of the SNUPI wireless sensor startup, was on the same page. “I think the bubble maybe occurs on the investment side, where you see valuations go up and down, but in terms of the fundamental business, it’s good,” he said.

Julie Sandler, a principal on the investment team at Madrona Venture Group, agreed that the valuations being placed on some companies, particularly in Silicon Valley, are “hard to back up in ways we classically would like to back them up.”

Madrona is an investor in companies including the Peach food delivery service, and Sandler came to the defense of that sector.

Julie Sandler of Madrona
Julie Sandler of Madrona

“In times like this, you do see a lot of capital being poured into the same style of companies by a lot of different venture firms,” she said. “But if I were to ask 100 of you in the room, what is a challenge that you face every single day, answering the question, ‘What’s for dinner?’ is always going to be one of them.”

She added, “I think there will be consolidation, but I don’t think that’s a telltale sign of a bubble.”

That was just one slice of a much broader conversation that touched on areas including the job market, key trends and startups to watch, women in technology and many other topics. Stay tuned for a video of the full panel discussion.

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