Seattle, the emerald city

Famous for its coffee culture, grunge music scene, and chewing wall gum, Seattle boasts beauty, greenery, and elegance. What’s more, when I picture the City, I think of ferry boats and the space needle, all thinks to medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. All these things make Seattle a great tourist attraction, but is Seattle a suitable city to launch a tech startup?

Thanks to COVID

Seattle’s technology industry is booming, thanks to COVID-19. Seattle-based startups raised 3.1bn across 205 deals in the first half of 2021, up $1.8bn from the same period in 2020. Healthcare, AI, enterprise, and gaming have been found the most successful industries.

Telemedicine platform, 98Point6, that allows patients to talk with doctors via text chat, grew from 350,000 to three million users. Similarly, mobile gaming startup, Flowplay, capitalised on the large number of people seeking at home entertainment during lockdowns.

Emerging sectors include the commercial space industry which has soared due to increased production and launch of satellites for communication and observation. 40 businesses in the sector employ over 6,000 people in the Seattle area.

Seattle is the ideal place to launch a technology startup and be immersed in the action.

Talent and tech giants

Technology talent is widely available in Seattle, with the population expanding 25% between 2010 and 2020.

Seattle’s engineering history began in World War II when Boeing made the city its manufacturing base. Since then, the industry has contributed to one of the nation’s highest minimum wages by providing thousands of jobs to the city’s growing population.

A key driver of this are tech giants, Amazon, Microsoft, and Nintendo, all of which are headquartered in Seattle, drawing in talent from all over the world. The tech giants employ a combined 100,000 employees in Seattle and the surrounding area. Some argue that these tech giants are making it harder for startups to offer competitive salaries, theorising that they are even taking away would-be entrepreneurial talent.

Top performing companies including Uber, Twitter and Facebook also have established offices in Seattle.

Reputable world health institutes and research centres operate within the city, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre and the Centre for Infectious Disease Research. These institutions have helped shape Seattle into a reputable medical centre around the world.

Tech companies have also expanded their footprint in Seattle, attracted by a wide talent pool and stream of graduates from local universities, including the nearby University of Washington.

Support systems

Seattle has been dubbed by many as a rival of Silicon Valley, boasting over 12 unicorns.

Local universities are instrumental in producing technology startups, offering entrepreneurship programmes. The University of Washington produces 600 graduate software engineers every year, also offering a plethora of startup resources. Seattle University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre offers grants, mentors, and networking to startups in the city.

Local accelerators and incubators including Techstars Seattle, New Tech Northwest and 9Mile Labs provide funding, mentorship programmes, networking opportunities, and workshops to entrepreneurs.

Microsoft also runs its own four-month venture accelerator in Seattle. It is a mentor-driven programme to help entrepreneurs scale up.

Seattle itself offers a plethora of startup resources through its Office of Economic Development, including data and insights about the local startup landscape and efforts to measure and promote the impact of tech startups.

Liveable city

Culture, talent, infrastructure and capital all play a part in how suitable a city is for a tech entrepreneur. However, cost of living, access to education and transport connections are also highly important in deciding how liveable a city is.

Ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the US, Seattle might have a reputation for being a rainy city, but this only helps its lush forest surrounding. What’s more, the city is famous for being environmentally friendly.

Residents can also earn above average income, which is useful as Seattle is almost twice as expensive to live as the average US city. The largest expense is housing, however other categories such as groceries and healthcare are similar to other US cities.

A study by WalletHub also ranked Seattle’s public transport system as the best in the US, due to its diversity, safety, and reliability.

Grow and prosper

The startup scene has never been stronger, becoming a centre of opportunity. Seattle demonstrates no sign of slowing its progress, climbing to the top of various economic and social ratings including being ranked as the 13th best place in the world to start a business by a recent study from Oberlo.

From its well-developed culture, diverse talent and host of accelerators, Seattle stands as a dream city, continuing to grow and prosper. With all this in mind, why would you not launch your startup in Seattle?

This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe.