[FoRK] today

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at jarbox.org
Sat Jun 1 18:38:42 PDT 2013

On Jun 1, 2013, at 12:17 PM, Stephen D. Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> Engineer VCs that you come in contact with in Seattle, or everywhere?  I suspect there are thousands of multi-millionaire / billionaire engineers within 20 miles of me who are or could/will be angels/VCs.

I was referring to institutional VCs in Silicon Valley. Anecdotally, they seem to have become less technical on average over the last decade. The long-term focus on social media startups, which rarely involve any significant "tech", seems to have selected for a different type of VC in the ecosystem. 

Santa Clara county (Silicon Valley) and King county (Seattle) are estimated to have about the same number of liquid millionaires per capita, and both are in the top 10. Seattle produces a steady stream of billion dollar startups but they aren't media sexy like Teh Facebook. 

> We have a developer in Seattle.  Who in Seattle isn't working or hasn't worked or isn't planning to work for Microsoft or Amazon or Boeing?

A huge number of Seattle engineers have formerly worked for Amazon or Microsoft because their companies were acquired by Amazon or Microsoft and moved there from Silicon Valley or elsewhere. Or they were recruited out of the universities and moved there. Most engineers are not natives; they do not stay at Microsoft or Amazon too long but they rarely leave the area once there.

Aside from the myriad Seattle-based tech companies, Google's third largest office in the world is in Seattle. Facebook had a major engineering office there years before their IPO. Twitter, Ebay, VMWare, Zynga, etc all have engineering offices there. I know a few engineers that recently decided to work for Salesforce in Seattle. Everyone is trying to hire so good developers have an absurd number of options.

> I'm curious how many startups are there, investments, and the profile of successes.  

There are around a few hundred active startups with at some level of funding and at least a few I can think of in the billion dollar valuation range (e.g. Zulily). 

Seattle startups trend toward e-commerce, enterprise software, infrastructure systems, games, and a healthy dose of bio/med tech. No trendy social media to be found, so that's probably why you can't think of any. Nonetheless, it produces a steady stream of boring billion dollar companies. The last big Seattle IPO was Tableau two weeks ago, at a billion+ valuation.  I don't follow it that closely beyond what transits my Twitter feed. 

There is an interesting bubble of startups in the pipeline all based on hardcore computer science (e.g. fundamentally new algorithms) focused on things like massively parallelizing analytics that are technically impressive. 

> Glad there is a good alternative.  I'd rather have 5+ solid alternative areas competing solidly.  Seems patchy at best, but I haven't been analyzing, having finally and comfortably insinuated myself into the center of Silicon Valley.

There are other places as well, such as Portland and Boulder with good ecosystems that attract outside VCs. Portland is a great city these days. I know a number of excellent tech people that moved to Portland from Silicon Valley and NYC on purpose and they love it. 

> And the sky is blue here.

Silicon Valley's winters are definitely nicer -- Seattle is quite gray -- but its summers are worse. 

> In NYC, there is sort of even better density, but I suspect the range of business accommodations is far less variable which probably leads to a fairly high bar to initiation.  

Manhattan (I am less familiar with the other parts) is dense but the diversity is not well-distributed. I frequently find myself traveling relatively long distances that would be a much shorter trip in some other cities by virtue of how things are distributed.

> It's been written in the past that this cross-pollination is what really makes Silicon Valley work.  By tradition, and California law for some time, large-scale cross-pollination is explicitly legal here while it is murky or partially constrained elsewhere.

This is true. 

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