The Seattle Startup Scene

Despite an active startup scene, does Silicon Valley have a hold on us?

There’s no shortage of tech talent here in Seattle. With local giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Zillow, and Expedia (just to name a few), plus a world-class research university with a stellar computer-science department, we’re a city brimming with ideas and possibilities.

So why does it seem that our local entrepreneurial talent hasn’t started creating the next big thing in tech? If you ask John Cook, co-founder of GeekWire, it’s because of Silicon Valley. Namely the giants that call northern California home—Google, Facebook, Twitter, Oculus—are setting up shop here in the Emerald City, and are sucking the air out of the startup community. He notes that if an engineer is deciding between a $100K salary at a startup versus $200K at a bigger company like Apple, they’re more likely to pick the bigger paycheck (that also comes with less risk).

Perhaps why there’s a bit of a stall is because Seattle doesn’t want to be the next Silicon Valley. It wants to be it’s own thing. It’s no secret that for decades Seattleites have complained about becoming overrun by Californians, and the recent massive influx of folks from the Valley, enticed by lower cost of living, hasn’t helped*. So it stands to reason that when faced with the opportunity to create its own tech epicenter, we here in the Silicon Forest want to do things differently.

One key difference is the business culture. Job-hopping here in Seattle is far less common than it is in our tech neighbor to the south. There is value is staying and contributing to the tech community in this capacity, versus heading off to the next big thing at the drop of a hat. Cook speaks to this as well, hoping that those who stick it out for a while may save up their cash and either get the startup itch themselves, or invest in local companies, either way, boosting Seattle’s startup ecosystem.

Regardless, there will always remain a strong pipeline of influence between Silicon Valley and Seattle. It’s how we chose to move forward with our tech power that may set us apart.  


*Fun Fact: the flights between San Jose and Seattle are called the “nerd bird” because they’re full of geeks who work in the Valley but live in Seattle and commute regularly.

Sarah Nau

Sarah Nau

A former public health nerd turned content strategist, Sarah helps organizations make their mark and engage their community through thoughtful communication. She's currently the Managing Editor of Content for Meddle, a local Seattle start-up
Sarah Nau

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