TechStars in Seattle Will Be “Centralizing Force” for Entrepreneurs and Startups, Investors Say
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We wanted it to be a community thing,” Gottesman says. He adds that they want to work closely with organizations like the University of Washington, Alliance of Angels, and Washington Technology Industry Association.
It couldn’t happen any other way in Seattle, which (for better or worse) has an extremely tight-knit startup community. “In Boulder and Boston, it was individuals bringing the program to the city, more grassroots oriented,” Sack says. Seattle was different because it was vital to get support from the big players in town from the beginning. “In this case, institutionally—with the UW behind us [for instance]—we were much more strategic,” he says.
I asked him some more about the unique challenges of Seattle as TechStars moves forward here. In particular, I wondered whether some groups would feel threatened by the program, and how to overcome that. Sack admitted that some people and programs “were a little nervous before.” But he says, “In general, it was a void that needed to be filled. Nobody in Seattle was doing it.” (While there are angel investment groups that provide capital to tech startups, and plenty of networking functions, nobody has put it all together in one place, with connections to all the major VCs.) He says he’s focused now on getting the word out to the entrepreneurial community. “It’s all well and good to have investors,” he says, but “getting good applicants” will ultimately make or break the program.
Indeed, one of the most valuable things about TechStars (in my mind) is that it will draw new talent and more outside perspectives to Seattle. “I would expect 40 to 50 percent of the deals to come from outside the Northwest,” Sack says. That means people will be “applying from all over” the country and even overseas, he adds.
Culturally, he says, “fragmentation will still exist. But the nature of the program—as part startup boot camp, and part community coming together—will act as a centralizing force.”
Whether this is the sort of effort that could lead to the next Amazon or Microsoft remains to be seen, obviously. “The next Amazon is a pretty lofty goal,” Gottesman says. “There’s going to be 10 startups, and it’s important to bring entrepreneurs from everywhere. We want a wide base of folks to look at.” He adds that with new entrepreneurs, maybe their first go-around won’t be a huge success, but the next one, or the one after that, will be. “The key is to give them the resources and help, and create opportunities for entrepreneurship.”
“TechStars is really good at parties,” Sack says. “We’ll throw some parties.”
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