CIO, an online publication for technology executives and other technophiles, recently released its list of the 15 Top Cities for Tech Startups. Many of you probably guessed that San Francisco is once again in the top spot, but some of the other contenders might come as a surprise. Philadelphia, Oakland, and Pittsburgh held down the 9th, 11th, and 13th spots, respectively, showing that technology is making it easier for startup communities to pop up anywhere talent and good ideas collide. But let’s skip to the spot on the list you (I) care most about…number 7. In that spot you will find my beloved hometown, Seattle.
Resting comfortably in the middle of the pack, Seatown is lauded for its abundance of tech entrepreneurs and VCs to support them. Home to the company headquarters of industry giants like Microsoft and Amazon, Seattle is filled with corporate techies looking to bust out of the mainstream and start something on their own. The result is a VC ecosystem worth over $600 million and the potential for huge growth. This city has the perfect ingredients to become a startup mecca. Allow me to list a few:
Talent – First, you’ve got a solid base of very intelligent people. Seattle was just named the 2nd most literate city in the US, behind Washington D.C., and while literacy isn’t the authoritative measure of intelligence, having a well-read group of employees can’t hurt. Additionally, there is great opportunity to cull the bounty of very smart (often bored) developers working at companies like Microsoft. The result is a very competent workforce that is excited to jump onto the ground floor of the next big thing.
Size – Seattle’s not too big and it’s not too small. Like Baby Bear’s porridge, the city feels juuuuust right. Startups can be drowned out by the competition in San Francisco or New York, but some smaller cities lack the resources or the financing that can be found in bigger startup hubs. Seattle has a great blend of small-town networking opportunities and big-city clout.
Energy – Sure, our energy might have something to do with the copious shots of espresso we mainline every day, but there’s something more intangible that drives the city forward. Never afraid to be different, the Great Northwest marches to its own beat (look at Grunge in the 90s) and it means that people put in good work and have fun while doing so.
Beauty – Those that have been here know that few places compare. A moderate climate, mountains, water, and more green than we know what to do with make for an amazing place to work and play. If outdoor adventure is your thing, you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere more exciting to explore. If communing with nature isn’t really your thing, at least you’ll have a beautiful drive to work.
Culture – South Seattle is still ranked in the top 10 when it comes to diverse zip codes. There’s a wonderful blend of international cultures, along with a Seattle culture all its own. More than just coffee and good music, Seattle offers its denizens a place to explore and meet great people.
Financial – Washington State has no income tax, a definite advantage over California and New York. Additionally, the cost of housing is lower than in CA and NY, but the average salaries are still very competitive.
These are just a few of the reasons Seattle has become a startup hub over the past decade, but I can’t help thinking that we have an opportunity to move up the list. In the last year or two I have noticed a significant increase in the number of startup resources available to the budding entrepreneur. Incubators are popping up left and right, along with exciting and innovative workspaces like MakerHaus, which provides amazing resources to the bootstrapping startup junkie.
As startup resources become cheaper and more widespread, the money will flow faster and in greater quantities and continue to nourish the startup ecosystem in Seattle. Realizing that opportunities are as abundant here as anywhere else, company founders will gravitate towards our tight-knit community, rather than the frenzy of Silicon Valley.
I believe as we continue to innovate and launch successful businesses, Seattle will creep up that list towards the top spot. It may take a while for the paradigm to shift, but there’s an abundance of amazing talent and opportunities here and it’s our job to spread the word. Seattle as a startup hub is here to stay.