Navigating the Seattle Startup Ecosystem

Navigating the Seattle Startup Ecosystem

Entrepreneurs create their own ecosystem in any city. There are both a good side and a bad side to the ecosystem, individuals, organizations and institutions. If your startup is going to be a success, you need to start networking and you need to do it earlier rather than later. Let’s start with the good side!

Service providers – service providers include the types of services that every startup needs to be successful. I’ve broken this list into the now and later category. They include:

  • Now
    • Legal and Law Firms – there are some great firms and individual lawyers in town.
    • Bookkeeping – set it up right the first time. Yes, you’re likely smart enough to do QuickBooks, but is it a good use of time.
    • Banks – after you’re incorporated, you need to have a business account
    • Media/News – GeekWire has done a great job of supporting the ecosystem in Seattle – and they were a startup themselves only a year ago… And they put on great events!
    • SeattleTechCalendar – was created by Roy Leban to list all of the StartUp Events in Seattle… a great resource if you’re starting out.
  • Later
    • Accounting
    • Commercial Real Estate
    • PR Firms
    • Recruiting firms

These are the type of firms that sponsor events, buy you free drinks and underwrite different activities. THANKS TO THE  SPONSORS! The value of the service provider really depends on where you are at in the maturity of your Startup. You won’t need a Commercial Real estate agent when you’re starting… but if you grow you will. You will meet them at the events – that’s because they are paying for that beer your drinking!

They of course want to meet you early in the process. They are looking for customers too and they have figured out sponsorship and advertising is the way to do it.

Individuals  – there are a lot of people in the ecosystem as well as the entrepreneurs.

  • Wannapreneurs, people who like hang with Entrepreneurs – they like the energy, they like the events, they like the occasional free drink. You’ll see them repeatedly at events and they generally come in three forms
    • They are in stealth mode – because their idea is too good to share with you or anyone
    • They had the same idea for Social Networking – before Facebook of course – but never took any action on it…
    • They are still working on the same idea they pitched at Startup weekend two years ago – but have a failure to launch
  • Early stage employees – they’ve worked for a startup before. They are used to the long hours, the uncertainty, the risk. They don’t think of themselves as the idea gal or guy, but it’s in their blood and they can’t imagine going back to work at the borg!
  • Borg Refugees – these are the people who currently work at a big company and have watched their friends or co-workers exit. The are testing the water, attending events and checking out the startup world.

Organizations & Institutions – 

  • Incubators – usually is a location and sometimes a form of capital (or the hope of capital). Chris DeVore wrote a great article on the differences here as well.
  • Accelerators – TechStars and FounderInstitute are two examples in Seattle that target slightly different groups. Over 650 teams applied for TechStars Seattle last year – they accepted 10. When your accepted you jump into a full time program. FI targets the pre-TechStars group – before you leave your job at the Borg, make sure you’ve validated your idea.
  • Groups/Associations – Northwest Entrepreneur Network or NWEN as well as The Indus Entrepreneur or TiE Seattle. Startup Weekend had its start in Seattle and is now a worldwide force… There are also Meetups and Seattle Lean Startup.
  • Angel Groups – both free to pitch and pay to pitch model exist in Seattle. They both serve a role in that they invest in earlier stage companies than traditional VC’s. There is a great GeekWire post of the entire list and the costs.
  • Universities – are now providing entrepreneurship programs and business plan competitions

What’s the bad side of the ecosystem? One of our mentors recently at Founder Institute called them the startup leeches… they come to the events, but never sponsor the events. They are looking to sell you a service that you likely don’t need (yet, at least). The other type wants to help you raise money for your startup for a fee – though they aren’t investment bankers… but more on this group later.

2 Replies to “Navigating the Seattle Startup Ecosystem”

  1. Great advice! Let’s get StartupCity up there 😉 Here’s the skinny: StartupCity is a partnership with Startup Weekend, Microsoft BizSpark, TechStars & Founders Co-op to help connect startups with events and resources that make Seattle such a great startup city! (

    Also, working on a brochure with this info that we can physically hand out to startups at events. Want to help?

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