Tagged: seattle

Why Seattle is the Best Place to Grow a Startup

Seattle, Washington and Mount Rainier

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:

Professional

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.

Personal

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.

Mustaches and the Lessons They Teach Us

Before getting to the main post, I’d like to add a quick author’s note. I’ve come to realize that a blog can be a fickle creature – especially when writing one for your business. Write too seldom and you won’t attract many followers or much interest. Write too often and you risk committing a cardinal sin for a budding entrepreneur: mismanaging your time.

Over the past month – I’m ashamed to say – I’ve fallen into the first category and have failed to post anything week after week. Things have been quite busy around the SUM offices and, as a result, our poor, defenseless blog slipped further and further down the list of priorities and has landed where it rests at this very moment: shamefully outdated and teetering on the brink of obscurity.

This won’t do. This won’t do, at all.

To get the lifeblood pumping again, I decided to write about a project we recently undertook that was full of humour and misadventure, but one that also taught us valuable lessons about planning, the dangers of overcommitting, and rolling with the punches.

The client was a gentleman that was organizing Seattle’s first Mustache-themed fun run, the Mustache Dache. He found us through Facebook and after he contacted us and explained the event and what he was looking for, we immediately knew we wanted to be part of the project. Marketing mustaches and merriment? How could we say no?!

We began brainstorming marketing concepts for the event and one particular idea kept rising to the top of the list. It’s a new and somewhat unorthodox guerrilla marketing tactic known as reverse graffiti. We first saw it done in Europe and while it has slowly trickled over to the States, it remains far from mainstream.

Reverse graffiti involves using a stencil and a pressure washer to “clean” a message into a sidewalk or other concrete surface. The pressure washer lifts the grime of long-ignored sidewalks away where the stencil is cut out, but leaves the obstructed portions of the sidewalk untouched. The result is a unique, environmentally friendly, non-permanent design left on the sidewalk.

Reverse Graffiti

If done correctly, reverse graffiti can be an extremely effective marketing tool because it’s quite uncommon and does a very good job of catching the eyes of passersby. We had seen it done before and wanted to try it ourselves, but were waiting for a project that would be a good fit. Something as fun, progressive, and irreverent as the Mustache Dache was perfect.

Confident in our ability to iron out any wrinkles that came our way, we pitched the idea to our client. He fell in love with the concept and we were off to the races. Seattle grime, here we come!

What followed was one of the most stressful and challenging projects we have ever undertaken. Had we all the money in the world, this campaign could have been a cake walk. But the logistics of executing this task on a budget ended up being far more difficult than we had anticipated. After countless hours of research and brainstorming, we had finally come up with a game plan that we felt had a shot of working. Following a set of less than detailed directions from a blog post about some reverse graffiti that was done up in Vancouver, BC, we set out to make it happen.

Our journey of preparation took us places no team of marketers and graphic designers feels comfortable…

Jig

And after many of the instructions in the aforementioned blog post led to failure, we had scrapped plan A…and plan B, and had arrived at the poorly thought-out and tragically underwhelming plan C. With almost no hope left for success as it was originally envisioned, we were preparing to attack the Seattle sidewalks with concrete cleaner and scrubby brushes. Needless to say, we were a little disheartened.

But then we remembered that a client’s expectations were on the line and that settling for anything less than our most valiant effort at carrying out this task as it was meant to be done, would be unacceptable. So with a renewed vigor and a rekindled sense of hope, we set out on a cold Friday morning with a gas-powered pressure washer, 100 feet of hose, and a particle board mustache stencil. We had no idea where our water was coming from or if the sidewalks would be dirty enough to leave a discernable design, but we were determined to make it work.

What followed was an aligning of the stars that defied logic and led to, believe it or not, a successful reverse graffiti campaign. After procuring a water cover access key (keep that on the down-low), we fanned out across Seattle and cleaned our Mustachioed message into the city sidewalks. The result was a beautiful thing. We ended the day cold and tired, but satisfied with the results and excited to share the news of our success with our client.

Application

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RG Done

We had managed to squeak out a “win”, but our success was based more on good fortune than efficient preparation and experience. And despite things coming together, our journey had taught us a valuable lesson about committing to an untested service, at the risk of letting down a client. Had we been more prepared, we could have saved many hours of work and prevented a few headaches, both literal and proverbial. We had experienced success, but were dangerously close to failure, and when our reputation is on the line, this should not be the case. Luckily for us, lesson learned.