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TechStars Seattle applications for year four of the program are now open! The startup community in Seattle is expanding rapidly and TechStars Seattle is right in the middle of it all, located in South Lake Union surrounded by Amazon, Microsoft and tons of other amazing startups. We’ve been investing a lot in Seattle lately beyond TechStars, including BigDoor, SEOmoz, Cheezburger, and most recently Rover. We love Seattle as a startup community!
TechStars Seattle teams will be working out of Founders Co-op which is also home to The Microsoft Accelerator (powered by TechStars) and CodeFellows programs. There’s a lot of startup talent as well as investors and other members of the tech community around to help out.
Think you might be a good fit for TechStars Seattle? Apply now!
Wednesday night I’ll be in Seattle doing a Startup Life Meetup with some of the contributors to the book Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur.
Well – I’ll be in Seattle all day (and all day Tuesday) meeting with Startup Weekend, Rover, SEOmoz, Cheezburger, and BigDoor, but the real fun will happen at the Hard Rock Cafe between 5:30pm and 7:00pm on Tuesday. Or maybe after 7:00pm.
My co-hosts will be Emily Huh (Cheezburger Network), Geraldine DeRuiter (Everywhereist), Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz), and Keith Smith (BigDoor). great relationship in the context of the crazy, high intensity startup life we all life.
Woof! We just announced Foundry Group’s investment in Rover.com this morning. We led a $7m financing in the leader in digital dog boarding that connects dog owners with approved, reviewed, and insured sitters. Rover.com is part of our marketplace theme, which now includes investments in SideTour and PivotDesk. I’m psyched to be joining the board, working with my good friend Greg Gottesman at Madrona on another Seattle-based company.
Two years ago we probably wouldn’t have considered Rover.com as it would have fallen outside our active themes. Marketplace is a good example of how our themes evolve. Seth and I worked together on ServiceMagic in the 1999 – 2004 time frame (IAC acquired it in 2004 for $180m) so we had a deep understanding of how a heavily metric-based buy/sell marketplace worked. However, at Foundry Group, we didn’t start paying attention to this theme again until we made a seed investment in SideTour coming out of the TechStars New York program. In this case, Seth had been SideTour’s mentor and we classified it as “other” as we sometimes make exceptions and invest in companies outside our themes when (a) we love the founders and (b) we are interested in what they are doing.
Last summer, Jason mentored the founders of PivotDesk as they went through TechStars Boulder. At the end of the summer, we decided to invest as well as categorize SideTour and PivotDesk together in the same theme, which we originally named RAM, after Ryan’s initials, which happened to be the same as the abbreviation for “remnant asset monetization”, the key element of each of these companies that we were interested in.
Specifically, we aren’t interested in investing in any two-sided marketplace. Instead, we are looking for ones that have a very clearly defined inefficiency around “remnant assets”, or assets that expire if not used in a timely fashion. We’re also looking for ones that have huge under-accessed supply or demand, where mobile and location have an immediate impact on utilization, and where existing transaction friction – either as a result of process or trust – exists.
Rover.com was the first of over 100 companies we’ve seen in the last three months that fit these criteria. As a bonus, we loved the entrepreneurs and the domain, as three of the four of us are dog lovers (Jason, sadly, goes for cats, but we have Cheezburger for that.) Furthermore, it’s our fifth investment in Seattle, joining SEOmoz, Cheezburger, BigDoor, and Gist (now part of RIM). And it’s got two linkages to Startup Weekend (where I’m a board member) – they are both Seattle-based and Rover.com was conceived at a Startup Weekend.
I’m psyched to be an investor. And, every time I get in my Range Rover, I’ll think of Aaron. Especially when I’m with my golden retriever Brooks.
I spent the day in Seattle yesterday, starting off with an awesome early morning run along the ocean near downtown and ending the day walking back with some folks from a bar at UW in a freak Seattle snowstorm.
I spent time with four different companies yesterday – two that I’m an investor in (BigDoor and Gist) and then two others that I’m working on interesting things with. As I went from meeting to meeting, I reflected on the tempo of the Seattle entrepreneurial community and how it feels like it has really come alive in the past few years.
I’ve been coming to Seattle for a long time. In the mid-1980′s when I was an undergraduate at MIT, Microsoft and Oracle were two of the hot companies at the time who were aggressively recruiting at MIT. For a brief moment in time I thought about seeing if I could get a job at Microsoft in 1986 but I was already working on my first company and was about to start a master’s program. That moment passed, but in 1990 when my first company was growing, we joined the very first Microsoft Solution Provider program (created by Dawayne Walker if I remember correctly) and as a result started coming to Seattle regularly.
Over the years I’ve made plenty of investments in companies here. Today it’s a regular part of my monthly circuit due to investments in BigDoor, Gist, Impinj, and activity around TechStars. I like it here a lot – the food scene appeals to me, the city is manageable, the people are smart and fun, and every now and then you get totally bizarre weather like we had last night.
I’m going to head out for another run this morning before heading to LA for a few days and as I’ve tried to wake myself up from a very late night, I find myself reflecting on something I said at the UW lecture I gave last night at the MBA school. Among other things, I talked about why I do what I do. My answer was pretty simple – “because I love working with entrepreneurs and helping create new companies.” But I could have just said “because I love what I do.” Because I do. And, bleary eyed at 5:51am, it’s really satisfying to both write those words and ponder that thought.
After my talk, a few of the folks in the audience asked me in different ways the question of “what should I do.” Some of them presented me with two options; others presented with with a more open ended question. The thought that guided my answer was “do what you love.” It seems so simple and yet is often so hard. But, as a guiding principle, I don’t know of any better one.
I formally declare year one of TechStars Seattle a huge success. I was absolutely blown away by the companies at Demo Day last week along with the reaction and support of the Seattle tech community.
John Cook at TechFlash wrote a great summary post titled My five favorite startup pitches from TechStars Demo Day. There’s been plenty of great chatter among the blogosphere and folks I’ve talked to. But what was really remarkable to me was the tone in the room during, around, and after demo day.
The Seattle tech and entrepreneurial community has really embraced TechStars. Andy Sack, who in addition to running TechStars Seattle, also runs Founders Co-op and Revenue Loan, did an incredible job of engaging a broad set of the Seattle entrepreneurial community in TechStars. TechStars wouldn’t have ended up in Seattle without Andy continually nudging, pleading, and demanding that we pay attention. Greg Gottesman from Madrona also deserves a special call out for encouraging us to bring TechStars to Seattle and working with Andy to make it happen.
There was plenty of other great press describing the event and the companies so I’ll leave it to you to look at it on TechCrunch, TechStars, BizSpark, and Xconomy. And, if you like interpretive dance as a way to understand the companies, take a look at the short video below.
Of course, the magic was in the 28 entrepreneurs that went through the program. To all of you, congrats on an awesome first year!