You may be sick and tired by now of hearing about the rivalry between Seattle and Silicon Valley — with Concur co-founder Raj Singh recently noting that there almost seems to be a cottage industry of writing about the differences between the two technology hubs.
Both are unique places, with particular strengths and weaknesses. And both have there fair share of important tech titans, and emerging startups.
Even so, the question still routinely pops up: What does Seattle need to do in order to emulate Silicon Valley?
That was the question that Chef CEO Barry Crist asked Seattle venture capitalists John Connors of Ignition and Bill Bryant of DFJ at an open house event for the company’s new headquarters in Pioneer Square.
Connors, the former Microsoft CFO who joined Ignition in 2005, offered an interesting response. Here are his full remarks.
“First of all, the Bay Area has had an early and large start, and has some fantastic assets: Stanford University, a VC community that is deep and talented and it has a very broad technology industry. If people are not happy with the deal they are in, they go find a new deal.
It creates a level of urgency that is almost maniacal to make progress with your company. So, the first thing I would say is that you just have to have an extraordinary level of urgency if you want to build a winner, and it doesn’t really matter if it is in tech or anything else. You’ve got to have an incredible level of urgency.
The second thing that is very important is that you have to be very good at storytelling, and good at thinking big. The Valley companies and the Valley has a very rich history of dreaming big, and telling great stories. It doesn’t matter what your product is, if it is going to be a big thing, you’ve got to dream big and you’ve got to tell a great story.
The third thing we have to continue working on is — every coffee shop, every restaurant, every bar, no matter what it is in the Valley, it is a very tech-centric industry. One of the things we are blessed with in Seattle is we have a very diversified economy with lots of different industries that are very healthy and good, so we are not nearly as tech-centric as the Bay Area. But the tech industry here has to continue to work the way the Bay Area does, where you are constantly keeping abreast of what are the new projects that are starting, what progress are they making.
And then, finally, we just need to have more hits so there is more serial entrepreneurs, CEOs, sales leaders, biz dev leaders, marketing leaders. We’ve got a very deep pool of engineering talent, particularly with complicated platform-like products. We don’t have the pool of serial CEOs, biz devs, sales, marketing, and that is probably the area that I would really work on. So, if I were governor for a week, the first thing I would do is go to California and recruit a bunch of those companies to come here, and remind them that we don’t have a 13.3 percent income tax. It seems like a pretty easy sale.”
Earlier in the talk, Connors noted how Seattle is perfectly positioned to take advantage of some important shifts in the technology landscape.
“It is a great time to be in Seattle because it is easy to make the case that the two most important companies in the future of enterprise computing are located in the Seattle metro area. I think AWS is the insurgent that is defining what the future looks like, from a compute perspective, particularly if you look at infrastructure. And Microsoft is, without a doubt, the single most important vendor to the majority of the companies around the world, and they are coming at it from a very, very strong position…. We really couldn’t be in a better city for where enterprises are looking for leadership.”
You can listen to the full remarks from the talk — including why Connors and Bryant think the cloud is so critical — below. The remarks from Connors and Bryant start in minute 7, following opening remarks from Barry Crist of Chef.