After nearly five years helping drive economic development initiatives at the City of Seattle, Rebecca Lovell is jumping back into the startup world as a director at Create33, the new “founder center” established by Madrona Venture Group.
Lovell this week stepped down from her position as acting director at the Office of Economic Development with the city, where she led various workforce-related initiatives including the creation of Startup Seattle and co-leading the first Small Business Advisory Council.
A longtime mainstay of the Seattle startup scene, Lovell will join Create33 on Nov. 13. Create33 opened this summer, aiming to be an epicenter of the Seattle startup ecosystem where entrepreneurs can learn from mentors and network with peers. It’s a unique hybrid of co-working space and a community nexus, and is the brainchild of Madrona, one of the largest venture capital firms in the Pacific Northwest.
Lovell will team up with fellow Create33 directors Micah Baldwin, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who previously led a startup program at Amazon, and Jaren Schwartz, former Techstars Seattle program director who joined Create33 in September.
“When you get an offer you can’t refuse and the opportunity to work with an absolute dream team doing what you love, clearly, you say yes,” Lovell told GeekWire in an interview on Friday.
Lovell said there’s a big opportunity in Seattle to help founders who raised initial funding for their startup and need help getting to the next level. She’ll also draw on her experience with the city as a neutral force aiming to connect different stakeholders and resources.
“In our case at Create33, we only exist to serve founding teams,” she said. “I am really excited to take that lesson from the city — the power of convening — and bring that to the community at Create33.”
Lovell also focused on issues of race, social justice, and gender equity at the city, and will continue that work at Create33.
“When we look at underrepresentation and sectors such as information technology, it has absolutely nothing to do with willingness and ability, and everything to do with being denied access to opportunity,” she said. “I hope that in spreading the word far and wide, I can help the Seattle startup ecosystem bust out of that echo chamber and really broaden the set of folks who are considering doing a startup, and broaden the opportunity for people who are already out there working away at it and need access to resources.”
Lovell added that working alongside Schwartz as a leader at Create33 “sends a powerful message around equity and inclusion.”
In addition to joining Create 33, Lovell will return to the University of Washington’s Foster MBA program as an adjunct professor in the winter quarter. She was previously an instructor at the university for seven years.
Before joining the City of Seattle, Lovell was the interim executive director of the Northwest Entrepreneur Network, which was acquired by the Washington Technology Industry Association in 2014. She was also previously GeekWire’s chief business officer and has served as a Techstars mentor, among other roles in startups and the community.
“The four and a half years I have spent in the Office of Economic Development have been transformative for me, and it’s been a pleasure to see the department grow, thrive, and absolutely earn the reputation as the “mouse that roared” (in the words of Mayor Durkan),” Lovell wrote in an email to colleagues and friends. “OED is an amazing and talented team that delivers tremendous value with minimal resources.”
Karl Stickel, previously director of entrepreneurship and industry for the City of Seattle who recently helped lead the KeyArena redevelopment project, has replaced Lovell on an interim basis.
“His leadership, thoughtfulness, and deep relationships have and will continue to serve this City and Office brilliantly,” Lovell wrote in the email.