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Entre-geography: Five Seattle entrepreneurs pick the place they’d build a company if they weren’t in the great Northwest

Entre-geography: Five Seattle entrepreneurs pick the place they’d build a company if they weren’t in the great Northwest

Panelists at the Pioneer Square Labs one-year anniversary event in Seattle. From left to right: Aaron Easterly, Sarah Bird, Scott Moore, Dan Shapiro and moderator Brad Feld.
Panelists at the Pioneer Square Labs one-year anniversary event in Seattle. From left to right: Aaron Easterly, Sarah Bird, Scott Moore, Robert Schulte, Dan Shapiro and moderator Brad Feld.

If you could pick anyplace to build your company — except for Seattle, of course — where would it be?

That was the question posed today to a group of five Seattle entrepreneurs who participated in a panel discussion as part of an event hosted by Pioneer Square Labs, the startup studio based in Seattle. Interestingly, three of the five entrepreneurs picked places outside of the U.S.

Here’s what they each had to say:

Aaron Easterly
Aaron Easterly

Aaron Easterly, the CEO of online pet sitting marketplace Rover, picked Portland or Sydney, Australia. The reason for Portland is that it is a tech community that is “just weird enough to give you the benefit of the doubt” on a crazy concept like Rover. Easterly, a former aQuantive executive, said he’d steer clear of San Francisco because it’s really “difficult to hire in the Valley.” As to Sydney, Easterly said the Rover business is driven by the concept of “dog as child” and he said that mentality is very much alive in Australia.

Robert Schulte, CEO of Pioneer Square Labs spin out LumaTax, said he’d go to Austin, in part because it was his second choice to Seattle when the former senior sales tax auditor with the state of California was looking to start a new company. He said Austin has a great ecosystem and a great university. “Anywhere but California, honestly,” he said to laughs.

Dan Shapiro
Dan Shapiro

Dan Shapiro, CEO of 3D laser printer maker Glowforge, offered a little bit of a curve ball with his answer, saying he’d pick Shenzhen. But he also requested that he’d be able to change his city of birth to the Chinese city as well. “What I would want to do is found the company in Shenzhen and be native born there, and U.S. educated because we are taking people from a culture that has an amazing industrial infrastructure and incredible manufacturing expertise — bringing them here, educating them and giving them all of our know how … — and then sending them back into an environment where it is far faster and easier to create hardware-based companies and create the hardware itself, than in many cases it is here, because the ecosystem is so incredibly agile there for producing hardware.”

Sarah Bird
Sarah Bird of Moz

Sarah Bird, CEO of online marketing company Moz, initially picked New York City because of its high concentration of advertising businesses. But then Bird said she couldn’t imagine living there long term, so she changed her answer to Ireland because she likes the beer, the accents and the weather.

Scott Moore, former CEO of Cheezburger who is now running a Pioneer Square Labs spin out, also thought New York could be a good fit given the ability to target customers in the advertising arena. But he also mentioned Tel Aviv, in part because it is an “incredibly dynamic startup scene” with a phenomenal talent pool.

Moderator Brad Feld — a venture capitalist at Foundry Group and co-founder of TechStars who resides in Boulder, Colorado — concluded the topic with a joke that he asked the question because he’s really just scouting for the next TechStars location.

Earlier in the panel, Feld asked each of the entrepreneurs what is missing in Seattle’s startup ecosystem, asking them what you’d put on “the sucky list” about Seattle.

Shapiro, who previously founded Ontela and Sparkbuy, immediately grabbed the microphone and surmised that everyone would say angel financing.

“In Seattle, I think angels are much more provincial,” he said. “You have fewer professional angels who are looking to find the next deal, and more people who are investing in their network and fewer angels.”

Shapiro concluded by saying that”it is just brutal as a first-time entrepreneur without a network getting financings done in Seattle. “The early-stage here is just really rough,” he said.

Schulte, a transplant from California, countered that opinion and noted that the tax infrastructure in California is just “crippling.” He added that he didn’t find as much difficulty in Seattle fundraising, noting that the early-stage round for LumaTax was among the easiest in his career. “I deliberately moved to Seattle because of the ecosystem up here,” said Schulte, adding that if there is a weakness at all to Seattle it is the lack of younger entrepreneurs. (A topic I addressed as a moderator of an earlier panel with four venture capitalists).

Startups – GeekWire http://www.geekwire.com/2016/entre-geography-five-seattle-entrepreneurs-pick-place-theyd-build-company-werent-great-northwest/

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