Seattle has long been known for inciting the country’s coffee culture. But now that we’re all sufficiently caffeinated, these days it’s the technology scene causing a buzz. Situated well north of the traditional tech enclave known as Silicon Valley, Seattle has come into its own as a magnet for innovative companies and a supportive community that’s mission-driven to improve the status quo.
Seattle’s recent growth trajectory looks like the Space Needle — extending boldly into the sky.
Not a city to be pigeonholed, its growth represents a rainbow of industries. According to Seattle’s Office of Economic Development (OED), the city’s key industries now span from manufacturing, maritime, life sciences, and technology to green energy, music, entertainment, and hospitality. There’s just no way to put on a label on that kind of diversity.
Seattle’s Super Sonic Technology
According to a 2018 report from CBRE, no city has added more tech jobs in the last two years than Seattle. The greater Seattle area added 33,803 tech jobs in 2017 and 2016, outpacing even Silicon Valley (which came in second at 24,971 jobs added). While some of those numbers represent big firms expanding outside their HQ cities or new compelling jobs, roles and responsibilities within large corporations — the most significant area of growth is in startups and smaller businesses.
Several of these startups have achieved bonafide success — particularly in developing fields such as Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI). One such success story is Validar, an event marketing software company. “Quality data was a constant struggle,” says Validar CEO Victor Kippes. “So we decided to do something about it. Fortunately, the Seattle tech scene was on the rise, so there was some excitement and experience around town. It became the perfect backdrop for our success.”
The technology revolution paved the way for other startups, too.
Consider Yapta, for example, a travel management site that uses intelligent technology to help consumers streamline travel expenses and save money. Valerie Layman, Yapta’s Chief Product & Services Officer, believes Seattle’s reputation as a laidback city works in its favor: “Seattle’s reputation for being laidback is indicative of our willingness to collaborate and our desire to see others in the community succeed, versus the hyper-competitive edges we’ve seen from small businesses in Seattle is both impressive and inspiring.”
Says Enrique Ortegon, SVP of SMB Sales at Salesforce, “Companies are breaking new ground in meaningful ways. It was an easy decision for Salesforce to direct more efforts here.” To that end, Salesforce hosted one of its acclaimed Growth Camp events in Seattle at Block 41. Startups and small businesses looking for free help, advice, and resources attended.
Higher Grounds: Escalating Performances
Several high-growth startups are truly jolting the national scene. Leading that charge is Groopit, a Seattle-based software company that helps leaders engage teams outside their four walls. After twenty years at Microsoft building products used by hundreds of millions of users, Groopit Co-Founder and CEO Tammy Savage saw a void in how organizations manage indirect people.
The importance of data
“The growth of cloud computing in Seattle has been impressive,” says Savage. “But at the end of the day, all this technology needs to help companies engage their networks to tackle the hardest problems that will bring the next wave of progress.” The surge of advancement can be seen in the Groopit app. It lets you manage teams outside your organization and collect the corresponding data.
That data might be a corporation identifying the on-the-ground security issues. It could also be a government asking citizens to help them understand a problem.
A nonprofit tracking volunteer services has always been an issue for the volunteer and the for the company they’re serving. The community, public, and society want their stats to compare themselves against for self-improvement or productivity. And a company engaging key customers to expand their footprint is a must.
A concentration of engineering talent
Another rising startup is Dreambox Learning, an interactive AI-based student learning tool. Lorenzo Pasqualis, Dreambox’s VP of Engineering, believes the company’s success stems from a combination of two factors: Seattle’s willingness to think beyond what’s possible with new technology, plus its rapidly increasing concentration of engineering talent.
Seattle’s savvy talent engineering business talent has the expertise and capacity along with the skills to design and build those necessary solutions.
Pasqualis conveys, “At Dreambox Learning, we constantly explore new frontiers of adaptive learning technology. We design it to personalize every student’s educational journey. Sure, most people see the value that technology adds to a school environment. However, they usually don’t realize how rapidly evolving disciplines such as AI, machine learning, and cloud computing can increase the value students achieve from the limited time they spend using technology.”
Seattle’s Best: A New Breed of Empathetic Entrepreneurs
But Seattle’s emergence as a technology hotbed isn’t confined to corporate applications and big data. There’s a growing subset of entrepreneurs who are passionate about helping others — and creating businesses to prove it.
Among these skilled entrepreneurs is Dani Cone, the founder of Cone & Steiner General and Fuel Coffee. Cone is the chair of the Seattle Entrepreneurship Committee for the Greater Seattle Business Association — the largest LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce in North America. He is passionate about equality and inclusion and believes community is what sets Seattle apart: “Seattle’s such a strong and vibrant city, economically and socially.
“At its roots are the people who build everything from airplanes to tech. These are people who believe that the impossible is possible, and people who believe in community. Community is what drives me each day to create spaces where ideas are shared. And, people also come together over good food and drink.”
Another enviable expert is Saif Hakim, Vice President and Senior Business Lender at Craft3; a regional nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Craft3 extends loans to strengthen the local economies in both Oregon and Washington.
After nearly two decades in commercial banking in the Puget Sound Area, Hakim saw the discrepancies in those who are able to achieve funding.
Now at Craft3, he’s able to target an underserved population. This includes startups and growing businesses that are not traditionally ready for bank capital. “It just felt right to move into a more flexible area of lending,” says Hakim. “The Pacific-Northwest is inspiring in so many ways. Craft3 is really focused on doing everything we can to make this a vibrant, growing area of the country.”
Fueling Up: Seattle Runs on Technology
Certainly, Seattle may be famous for rainy days and coffee, but today’s entrepreneurs are working hard to change that. Is Seattle posed to be the country’s new Tech Town? All signs point to the affirmative.
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