Seattle super angel Rudy Gadre has probably done more than just about anyone to keep the entrepreneurial flames burning bright in the Pacific Northwest.
Over the past three years, the former Facebook general counsel and Amazon.com exec has invested in a mind-numbing 60 startup companies, everything from online dating service Likebright to mobile shopping app Zoomingo to construction collaboration startup BuildersCloud.
Close followers of Seattle’s startup ecosystem have to ask themselves a very blunt question: Where would we be without Rudy?
Now, you can ask Seattle’s most prolific angel that question or anything else you want — yeah, even specific questions about your own business model — in an ongoing interactive chat taking place on Yabbly. (Yes, that’s another Gadre-backed startup). The chat ends Friday, so make sure to get those questions rolling.
Gadre, who late last year joined forces with Founder’s Co-op, grew up in north Seattle and admits to being a “Seattle homer.” And that’s a good thing for Seattle entrepreneurs, many of whom have benefitted from his cash and mentorship.
Here are a few of the questions that folks have already asked Gadre, reprinted with permission from Tom Leung at Yabbly. Check out the full chat here, and feel free to ask Gadre a question of your own.
Question: How would you compare the Seattle startup investment landscape to Silicon Valley? I’ve heard it’s harder to get venture capital here than it is in California.
Gadre: “No question it is harder to get funded up here than it is in the Valley. There is a lot more money being thrown around at every stage down there than there is up here. On the flip side, the employment market is much more competitive (i.e., you are always afraid your star team members are going to jump ship to a hotter startup) and in general there’s more of a ‘rat race”/sharp elbows mentality down there. Things have definitely improved over the last few years in Seattle in terms of startup investment however as people like Sujal Patel, Andrew Wright, Serena Glover and others have joined up with long-time local stalwarts like Geoff Entress and my new partners at Founder’s Co-op. If you are building a great company, it will get funded either here or down in the Valley.”
Question: How do you actually build a team? I tried with friends and colleagues, but it seems that few people can truly commit their time.
Gadre: “Your passion and vision need to convince your first team members to break out of their comfort zone and try something daring. If you are not gaining traction with potential team members, your pitch is missing something — either the idea isn’t compelling or your presentation of it is not conveying it well enough.”
Question: Over the course of 60 investments, do you find you are typically more excited by founders with a strong tech background (that may have a more structured and realistic product) or the ‘everyday dreamers’ who aren’t restricted by technical boundaries? What do you see as the biggest hurdle for the latter to bridge the gap?
Gadre: “I don’t necessarily see technical founders as not being big dreamers (see: Bill Gates, Larry Page & Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.), nor do I think of non-technical founders necessarily as impractical dreamers. It takes a number of skillsets to build a successful startup (engineering, product, sales, marketing, recruiting) so if a founder is great at any of those I will take a look. I do have to be convinced that the founding team has the basic skillsets covered adequately to get a product to market and establish a few proof points; after that point, it is easier to hire more specialized folks. If you are a non-technical founder, you will generally need to have a strong technologist on the team in some capacity for me to get excited, so to answer your question, I guess that attracting that person or persons is the biggest hurdle for a non-technical founder. One advantage of being a technical founder is that it is easier to pick up (or have a natural aptitude for) sales and marketing than it is for a non-technical founder to pick up coding.”
Question (from John Cook): Which company culture did you like better: Facebook or Amazon? How are they the same, how are they different?
Gadre: “When I started, they were both pretty similar culturally — brilliant, visionary, driven founder; chock full of very smart, passionate young kids out to change the world. Mark was younger than Jeff and so the original culture at Facebook was more, collegiate I guess (although AMZN was also very far from corporate in the early days). As far as which I enjoyed more, probably AMZN, only because there we were all (by and large) in our twenties together whereas at Facebook I was the old man at 35 :-). They were both terrific experiences though, I couldn’t have been luckier in the companies I worked at.”
Question: If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change about the Seattle startup ecosystem to make it more awesome.
Gadre: “I would magically create a bunch of high-quality sales and marketing folks. Seattle has tons of top notch product and technical talent, but we are sorely lacking in folks who can take a product to market.”