Cost of living. A competitive talent pool. The University of Washington.
By now, it’s no secret that Seattle is a thriving entrepreneurial hub, one that is attracting folks from not only Silicon Valley but around the world.
But what exactly makes the Emerald City an effective and enjoyable place to build a technology company?
Three veteran CEOs from local companies spoke today at the annual Technology Alliance luncheon in Seattle, where more than 1,000 people gathered at the Westin Hotel.
Arivale CEO Clayton Lewis, Pixvana CEO Forest Key, and Impinj CEO Chris Diorio spoke briefly about their companies before coming together for a panel to discuss the future of technology and why they prefer to grow their startups in Seattle.
Key, a tech entrepreneur who sold his last company to Priceline and now runs a virtual reality startup called Pixvana, noted how he’s fallen in love with the region ever since he migrated north from San Francisco more than a decade ago. He specifically pointed to a competitive labor pool and low cost of living, while also adding that there are fewer “distractions.”
“I don’t recognize the Bay Area when I go back there,” he said. “When starting Pixvana, I thought about going back to the Bay Area, and we did a family visit there. We realized that everything we need and more is here in Washington.”
Lewis, another veteran entrepreneur who also is a competitive triathlete, heads up Arivale, an up-and-coming startup in Seattle that blends comprehensive, cutting-edge genetic analysis with personal coaching to help people improve their overall health and minimize their long-term risk of disease.
Lewis said that he likes the pattern of companies and industries based in Seattle that have taken big data and transformed consumer behavior, whether it’s Zillow with the real estate market or Expedia with travel. He wants Arivale to continue that tradition.
Lewis also credited the University of Washington as an important part of the technology ecosystem in Seattle. That was echoed by Diorio, who co-founded RFID-maker Impinj 16 years ago in Seattle. Diorio noted that he originally came to Seattle to work at the UW’s nationally-recognized computer science department.
“It was really the draw of the university and the entire ecosystem that a large prestigious university creates, and how it draws students and industries and people and faculty,” he said. “The bandwidth of the community here as a consequence of that university is transformational.”
Diorio added that he loves how “things don’t have to happen overnight” in Seattle.
“We’ve been around for 16 years and our venture investors are still with us after 16 years,” he said. “If we had been in the Bay Area, I wonder how many venture investors would have the perseverance to stick with us for 16 years to see this vision of connecting every item in your everyday world start to come to a reality.”