Ed Lazowska, the University of Washington computer science professor, stirred the pot a couple months ago when he said Seattle is a “minor league” innovation town, far behind the big league of the San Francisco Bay Area, so people in the Northwest should quit being smug and start doing something to change that.
This week, Janis Machala, the champion of startup creation at UW’s TechTransfer shop, offered up some of her own insights on why it is that Seattle is so far behind, during a public forum on campus. The Northwest lifestyle is so laid-back, Machala said, that it discourages the kind of all-consuming passion and drive found in the leading entrepreneurs of the Bay Area. She used the example of Microsoft to illustrate the point.
“If Microsoft had been in Silicon Valley, it would have been completely different. When people leave Microsoft, they generally retire or take another safe job. They don’t create entrepreneurs,” Machala says. “There’s a lifestyle element here. People want balance. People in Silicon Valley don’t know what balance means.”
She added: “They work harder. They live and breathe the fundamentals of startups. They aren’t worried about their next bike ride.” Then the kicker: “We have a phenomenal place to live here, but we pay a price for it.”
Machala, who lived in both Boston and Silicon Valley before coming to the Northwest, made her comments on Wednesday at an event organized by the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association, held at the UW Law School. She was joined on the panel by moderator Stephen Graham of Fenwick & West, WRF Capital CEO Ron Howell, Insilicos president Erik Nilsson, and UW law professor Sean O’Connor.
The other panelists tended to talk more about symptoms of the problem rather than discuss why the innovation and entrepreneurship gap is so wide between San Francisco and Seattle. Nilsson pointed out that Seattle has a “shallow bench” in terms of executive management talent … Next Page »
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