Seattle Week in Review: Young, Rich, and Stuck in Traffic Edition

Xconomy Seattle — 

Raise a glass of bubbly, rent a boat, get out there and enjoy spring, especially if you’re young, rich, and tech-fabulous! In this edition of Xconomy Seattle’s Week in Review, we’ll grip the wheel for 66 wasted hours stuck in traffic; gauge optimism of a sample of local companies, as expressed by hiring plan for the next six months; learn more about Usermind, which raised $14.5 million in fresh capital; and wonder who is drinking all the champagne (probably all the rich millennials). All that and more…

—Seattle traffic is the worst. OK, actually the sixth worst, according to the 2015 Traffic Scorecard from Kirkland, WA-based INRIX. The average Seattle-area commuter wasted 66 hours stuck in traffic last year. (INRIX uses a complex methodology that compares free-flow traffic speeds with actual drive times, among lots of other data.) That’s a lot of time you could have been binge-watching House of Cards, or renting a boat and drinking champagne (with a sober captain, of course). Take heart, I guess: Traffic was worse in Los Angeles; Washington, DC; San Francisco; Houston; and New York.

There’s bad news and good news on the transportation front. Bad: Seattle was not among the finalists for a $40 million pot of U.S. Department of Transportation funding to create a tech-enabled transportation system, featuring things like autonomous vehicles, charging stations, and, of course, lots of data. Paul Allen’s Vulcan is adding $10 million to the pot. The finalists are Denver; Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh; Portland, OR; and San Francisco.

Good: Light rail! New Link stations at Capitol Hill and University of Washington open this weekend.

—The INRIX scorecard correlates economic growth with traffic congestion. The former appears to be continuing unabated, according to some 200 Seattle-area CFOs surveyed by staffing firm Robert Half. Asked about their hiring plans for “full-time, professional-level employees” in the next six months, 13 percent of CFOs surveyed said they will add new positions, up from 11 percent in the six months ended in February; 72 percent said they are maintaining staffing levels by filling only vacated positions, compared with 76 percent in the prior period. There is a bit of shade in the survey, however. Four percent of CFOs said their companies plan to eliminate positions in the next six months, compared to 1 percent in the prior period.

Another study finds that it’s easier to hire tech workers in Seattle than it was in 2012. Job-search site Indeed said the percentage of open jobs in tech (computer science and math fields) fell to 16.3 percent compared to 23.7 percent in 2012, reports The Seattle Times.

—You’ve heard of DevOps (right?). Now comes BizOps, a vision for connecting front-office software-as-a-service applications like Salesforce, Marketo, and Zendesk, from Seattle startup Usermind. The company announced a $14.5 million Series B funding round this week led by Menlo Ventures to push its technology, which aims to unite sales, marketing, finance, and other customer-facing functions to help companies attract and retain business.

—In bubble news, Xconomy reported this week on the closure of two food delivery services, Boston-based Chef Nightly, and SpoonRocket, out of California. Meanwhile, Bloomberg brings word that shipments of French champagne to the U.S. reached 20.5 million bottles in 2015, a level not seen since 2007.

Zillow research.

Zillow research.

—Zillow produced an interesting analysis of household income by age, city by city. In Seattle, 3.9 percent of millennial households—those headed by someone 34 or younger—had annual earnings in excess of $350,000. That’s about the same percentage as in Sunnyvale, CA. Only Huntington Beach, CA, San Francisco, and Arlington, VA, had a greater percentage of the young and the wealthy. The millennial aspect of the Zillow research, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey via University of Minnesota, got most of the attention. But Zillow also charted Baby Boomer-headed households earning $350,000 or more a year. In Seattle, that group is about 4 percent of Baby Boomer households.


—I’m on a boat, and so can you. Boatbound, the Airbnb for watercraft, relocated its headquarters from San Francisco to Seattle. The company, founded in 2012 by Aaron Hall, allows boat owners to list their vessels for rental, extending the sharing economy to the water. Hall told Geekwire that his company and employees were essentially priced out of San Francisco, and chose Seattle because it was a top market for the company’s users.

—A good read from the Xconomy network: Our Detroit editor, Sarah Schmid, reviews a new book from writer Aaron Foley, “How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass.” There’s a lot of good stuff in her review and interview with Foley about how a city balances reinvention and growth with respect for its past; the concept of democratization of opportunity; and the impacts, positive and negative, that a single billionaire landowner can have in driving development. These themes should resonate with people thinking critically about Seattle’s growth.