From the minute I arrived in Seattle, I had a good feeling about my trip as the weather forecast showed nothing but sunshine for the next couple of days. The trip was a long time coming as I had been talking to lots of people around town for months about the local startup ecosystem, and I was thankful that I could explore town with the added bonus of staying dry while doing so!
Soon after arriving in town, I headed north to meet with Connie Bourassa-Shaw, Director of the University of Washington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I had heard and read nothing but great things about UW’s commitment to entrepreneurship. This commitment was immediately confirmed before I event arrived at my meeting when I saw the incredible new addition to the Foster School of Business complex! Connie graciously took an hour out of her very busy schedule to tell me more about entrepreneurship on campus and beyond. I learned about the CIE’s annual, statewide Business Plan Competition that attracts teams from a wide array of industries from cleantech to high tech to service and retail to nonprofits. Connie also explained how 175 PhD students in sciences and engineering are enrolled as certificate students within the CIE and how 100,000 alumni live within 40 miles of campus. I left the meeting more impressed than ever. The way entrepreneurship permeates every aspect of the school is a great model for other schools to look to for guidance.
My next stop was the brand new HUB Seattle, part co-working space, part office space, and part event space. I had the chance to meet with Daniel Rossi and Caitlin Goetze of the Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN) in their new office within the HUB. Long before it was popular and/or cool to do so (for over 25 years), NWEN has been working tirelessly to help entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest achieve their goals through events and other resources. After chatting about the amazing breadth of NWEN activity, Caitlin was kind enough to give me a tour of the entire HUB space. She explained to me that the magic of the HUB isn’t simply the incredible venue, but rather the fantastic mix of social impact organizations, sustainable nonprofits, innovative startups, students, investors, and other passionate people brought together all under one roof. During the tour, I had the chance to briefly meet Jacob Colker, one of the HUB Seattle co-founders and COO, as well as Christine Hanna, Director of the Seattle Good Business Network, one of the awesome companies working out of the space.
After visiting the HUB, I walked over to check out another brand new piece of the startup ecosystem: SURF Incubator. I was lucky enough to meet with both of SURF’s fearless leaders, Neil Bergquist and Seaton Gras. Like NWEN, SURF is a fantastic resource network for entrepreneurs, and similar to the HUB Seattle, the space has multiple functions as part incubator, part office space, part co-working space, and part event space. At first blush, Neil and Seaton appear to be an unlikely duo, but their shared commitment to helping foster the Seattle startup community is evident simply from walking through the space and seeing the amazing diversity of companies and people working there.
My final stop on my trip was at StartupSeattle headquarters to meet with the one and only Red Russak. Red was the first person I connected with a few months back about bringing CoFoundersLab to Seattle. He is committed to one goal and one goal only: helping Seattle startups thrive. Red started StartupSeattle as a platform and resource to bring all the different pieces of the ecosystem together. The site is a user-generated blog, a startup job list, and even a startup event calendar. Red’s latest creation is the immensely valuable and comprehensive ‘Guide to the Seattle Startup Community.’ Like any good entrepreneur, Red saw a missing piece in the market and thus created this awesome resource to fill the void.
In addition to running StartupSeattle, curating Seattle’s weekly StartupDigest email, and spending every waking moment helping make the Seattle startup ecosystem better and stronger, Red also runs the event space The Easy. The Easy is where I hosted our inaugural Co-Founders Wanted Seattle event on Thursday, November 15th. The event was my primary reason for coming to town, and it was one of three featured events (along with Portland and LA) CoFoundersLab held as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week! About 80 people attended the kickoff event, and I was incredibly impressed with the diversity of industries represented, as well as the quality of talented, passionate people. CoFoundersLab holdsin-person events quarterly in a number of markets across the U.S., and we rely onlocal volunteers to help us organize and run the events. Before I even had the chance to alert the group that we are looking for local volunteers to carry the torch forward in Seattle, at least 5 different people approached me and offered to help out.
This is the magic of the Seattle startup community; like Red, there are a whole host of local entrepreneurs looking to do everything in their power to help Seattle startups thrive. As Brad Feld points out in his new book ‘Startup Communities,’ in order for a startup ecosystem to be successful, it has to be led by the entrepreneurs themselves. I was very pleased to see that Seattle has this critical piece firmly in place. Combine that with a large pool of talented and passionate people looking to solve real problems, a large network of mentors and investors, and you have a recipe for startup success.
All of the above mentioned people and organizations, along with many others like Rebecca Lovell of Geekwire and uber startup helper/connector John Sechrest, were all extremely helpful in helping me navigate the Seattle startup community and spreading the word about the CoFoundersLab Seattle launch event. I can’t thank them enough as the event definitely would not have been possible without them. From the minute I first connected with Red a few months back, I was blown away by the generosity and willingness to help of everyone in the Seattle startup ecosystem.
Our mission at CoFoundersLab is to connect talented people across all industries with the goal of creating lots of great companies. Whether you’re looking for someone to join your startup, looking for someone else’s venture to join, or open to either, CoFoundersLab can help. Create a free profile on CoFoundersLab.com today to begin networking with thousands of potential co-founders and attend anin-person event in Seattle or a city near you!
AUTHOR INFORMATION: This is a guest post written by Michael Hughes of CoFoundersLab, the largest online marketplace of entrepreneurs seeking a co-founder to launch or grow their business.