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The State of Startups in Seattle

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

I joined the Lighter Capital team just over a month ago as VP of Business Development and it’s been an absolute blast. We have a great team with a vibrant, entrepreneur-friendly culture and investment model and a strong track record.

While I learned a lot investing over $40M as an early-stage VC in the early 2000s, this is something altogether different—and much better! We have several strong tech ecosystem partnerships in place and I’m excited to build on this foundation.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Iconic Seattle. The CNBC and Inc. Magazine teams did an amazing job capturing the energy, excitement, and lessons learned when it comes to starting up a new venture. I wanted to share just a few highlights, thoughts and observations from the event as they relate to startups.

#IconicTour16 brought together a bunch of thought leaders from Seattle and far beyond, including Shark Tank notables Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec, co-founder of Paul Mitchell and Patron Spirits, John Paul Dejoria, the cerebral founder of ZipCar, Robin Chase, and Danae Ringlemann, the Founder and CDO of IndieGoGo, among others.

Fearless in Seattle

One of the highlights of Iconic Seattle was the chance to reflect on Seattle’s startup scene. There’s plenty of friendly dialogue about Seattle vs Silicon Valley out there and we’re a relatively low key bunch here in the Puget Sound, the “Fearless in Seattle” panel discussion got everyone fired up about the state of startups and investments in the area.

The organizers picked three great panelists who represented a cross-section of Seattle:

  1. Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow

  2. Julie Sandler, Principal at Madrona Venture Group

  3. Cal McAllister, Founder and Creative Director at Wexley

Moderator Jon Fine (Executive Editor of Inc. magazine) challenged the panel to define what distinguishes Seattle’s robust startup and entrepreneurial culture from other cities like San Francisco and Boston. The group also discussed where the Seattle community should invest to further develop a supportive startup and investor culture.

I wanted to share just a few of the more interesting points I took away from the discussion.

What is Seattle doing well? What are Seattle’s strengths relative to other cities?

  1. The University of Washington contributes enormous resources in terms of education, capital, talent, and intellectual property.

  2. Leading tech giants such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Expedia et al have done an amazing job of drawing people to the region. Other tech companies such as Apptio, F5, Tableau, Zillow and Zulily also play a big role in attracting and developing talent.

  3. The Seattle startup community is smaller, more accessible, and friendlier. It’s a tight-knit, supportive community and people are collaborative and involved.

  4. Employees in Seattle are more loyal than some other tech markets; typically, employees stay longer.

How would you improve Seattle’s investor culture?

  1. Seattle needs to promote its assets more actively. Culturally, Seattle is a more conservative, reserved community, but we’ve had a number of exceptional successes and as a community we need to promote our accomplishments more.

  2. It would be great to have more than just the big 3–4 VC firms in Seattle! The gap between angels and the limited number of VCs we have in town is significant. There’s a stigma associated with a Seattle startup getting rejected by all the Seattle VCs then trying to raise in the Bay Area.

  3. It would be great to see Seattle angel investors be more aggressive and take on more risk by getting into deals earlier.

We’ll add a link to the video of the panel discussion when it becomes available from Inc. Magazine.

Part of Lighter Capital’s mission is to bridge the chasm between Angel/Friends & Family financing and Venture Capital—a gap that the Seattle panel talked so much about. Along with TechStars and other organizations who support seed and early-stage companies, we’re excited to continue playing an active role in nurturing the evolving entrepreneurial culture of Seattle.

Our team funds viable firms that angels understand but that banks and VCs aren’t ready to fund. So bring us your recurring revenue models—we’re excited to explore entrepreneur-friendly funding options you may not have considered.


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