Image by: flexpoint
By Dexter Lunde
When you think of start-ups, what region do you think of first? Silicon Valley, right? It pops out start-ups at the same rate that Orlando puked out boy bands in the 90’s. Yes, we all like to forget about those mistakes. Sorry about the reminder.
If there was a number two in the race to pop out more tech start-ups, we wouldn’t normally think of Seattle, but they are gaining some headway in the industry. From the city that birthed Amazon and Starbucks, come smaller tech companies like Zillow, PicMonkey, Moz, Spoon.net, Tableau, and INRIX. Do these companies know something that we don’t?
Perhaps the constant rain and the high caffiene intake are the keys to steady growth? Let’s check the stats.
#1) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Seattle’s been experiencing a steady growth of tech start-ups in the past 20 years. When crunching the numbers, it’s pretty easy to conclude that Seattle’s been a quiet tech hub that has been hiding in the shadows since the 1980’s.
The reason that Silicon Valley is such a big region for tech start-ups is because of the high amount of venture capitalists there. So what makes Seattle so great (if they don’t have the same components as their California competitors)?
They couldn’t do anything without some local capital, some great local events to help fuel their fan base and connections (word of mouth is the best advertising tool after all of these years), and access to great universities. The University of Washington is right in the heart of the big rainy city. When kids aren’t distracted with things like “sunshine” (just kidding), they study and in UW, they have to tools at their fingertips.
#2) Need Some Inspiration?
If you need some inspiration, turn to some of Seattle’s tech start-ups for motivation:
PopCap is the game company that gave you some great mind-numbing and time-passing games like Plants vs Zombies and Puggle (kind of looks like BeJeweled only there were unicorns involved, I think – don’t judge me). Well, they just sold for $1.3 billion. So you can judge all you want but in the end, they’re the ones laughing all the way to the bank.
Cheezburger is one of the great websites that brought you funny cat pictures (“I can has cheezburger?”). Yes, they’ve helped to catapult cats to stardom while simultaneously ruining our spelling and grammar. They’ve also given us LOLcats and Failblog. Yes, they have the internet meme market cornered. But did you know that their website gets as much traffic as the Wall Street Journal?
You can laugh all you want but they raked in $30 million in January. How? Ads, my friend. Ads.
Geocaching was big in the early 2000’s. You might not have heard much about them these days but it’s not that they’ve gone away. They’ve just gone underground. There are over 5 million active geocachers around the world. It’s a great hobby and is also a great way to get off of your couch.
Zulily is definitely one of the fastest growing tech start-up in Seattle. What are they? They are a retailer for moms and their kids. They also sell toys, gifts, and home décor. They focus on scouring the internet for sales that generally last about 72 hours. They bring those sales to their consumers who can snatch up the good deals. Handy, huh?
Big Fish is another gaming company based out of Seattle. They had 1 billion downloads last year, not too bad for a start-up that was founded in 2002. That means that they’re not legally allowed to drive yet; the company is just 12 years old. Technically they might not be a “start-up” but they’re proof that Seattle’s got something good within its city limits.
#3) ”Shop Locally”
When regions have local press, websites, and organizational tools at their fingertips, they are more likely to succeed. So what does Seattle have? They have GeekWire, which is an independent tech news site (like TechCrunch but in the rainy city). They spotlight start-ups, “apps of the week” and the latest news on Seattle’s biggest tech companies: Amazon and Microsoft. If you want to check it out, visit their website here.
Be it ever so humble, a lot of the smaller start-ups are going up inside of the smallest garages in the heart of the city. On the Seattle.gov website, Mayor Murray says,
“So much of our recent economic growth has been due to the success of high tech companies and start-ups that have chosen to make Seattle home. Yet not all Seattleites are benefiting from our technology boom, and we know that some neighborhoods today lack adequate, competitive choices for broadband internet access. CenturyLink’s announcement to bring fiber internet access to tens of thousands of homes is an important first step in my broadband strategy, but there is more we can do as city to bring equal and affordable access to all.”
They have the tools, they have the know-how, and they have the caffeine. Seattle is growing steadily and there are no signs of it slowing.
Now it’s your turn. Do you live in the rainy city or the great Pacific Northwest? What do you think is behind their growth? Do you think they will be the next Silicon Valley? Got something on your mind? Let us know what you’re thinking by putting your ideas and questions in the comment section below.