Give Seattle Its Due (And By the Way, It’s Not in Silicon Valley)

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A steady drip of headlines for the past week or so makes clear a certain Seattle-based tech giant is kind of having a moment. But the city that Amazon.com calls home? Not so much. Or at least, not as much as it should.

Though it has a presence in Silicon Valley thanks to facilities like its Lab126 research and design center, Amazon is headquartered in Seattle, which was ranked as the top tech city in the U.S. last year by The Atlantic. Yet as Amazon has given the news cycle a bear hug in recent days – thanks to everything from its price war with Overstock.com to President Obama’s visit to an Amazon warehouse in Tennessee to Amazon’s founder buying the Washington Post for $250 million – an oddity keeps reappearing.

The press keeps wanting to scoot Amazon south.

“Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million Monday marks one of the most significant media acquisitions in years–a new foray into journalism for one of Silicon Valley’s most admired and respected figures,” reported MSNBC.

Likewise, from CNBC: “Media junkies and analysts alike are pulling their hair out over what exactly the Silicon Valley billionaire plans to do with the Washington Post.”

Emily Bell of The Guardian began her take by noting how a “great American institution is bought by an internet entrepreneur, part of a Silicon Valley elite.”

It’s not hard to find Seattle techies who grudgingly concede the city at times seems to exist in the shadow of the Valley. But just because the latter enjoys its fair share of sex appeal for technologists, entrepreneurs, VCs and other industry players, that doesn’t mean Seattle doesn’t have plenty of leg to show.

Indeed, Seattle beat out cities like San Francisco, San Jose and Sunnyvale on the Atlantic list.

Amber Osborne, the CMO of new Seattle startup Meshfire, says she knows why. She keeps finding people who’ve gone to work for a company in the Valley and who a few months later have made the return trip back to Seattle. “It’s less hectic here, with a lower population, rent is moderately priced and it also seems less competitive,” she told TIME. “One of the reasons why Seattle is so attractive to our company is affordability for living and overhead costs, as well as accessibility to funding. I don’t feel like I need to take a number to see a VC here.”

Likewise, Andy Sack, managing director of Techstars in Seattle, also ranked the talent pool, employee loyalty and cost of living in Seattle as superior to the Bay Area. “San Francisco may be the best place to get your high-tech company financed but Seattle is the best place to build high-tech companies,” Sack told TIME.

There are 11 startups in the 2013 Techstars Seattle class, with the fourth edition of the startup accelerator under way now. Beyond that, the city’s tech industry topography includes names like Zillow, Cheezeburger, Moz, Apptio, and the game developer and publisher PopCap. There’s also Amazon competitor Microsoft, of course, based in nearby Redmond.

Bootstrapper Studios is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise cash to produce a short film called “We Make Seattle,” an ode to why the city is an ideal spot for entrepreneurs, creators “and makers of all kinds.” The film grew out of a Startup Roundtable convened by the mayor’s office last year.

During a recent GeekWire podcast and radio show, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer argued that “there is a value in being cut off from the mainstream by being in this corner of the world, which is the absence of groupthink here that dominates places like the Valley.”

Sack has a theory about why Amazon tends to get lumped in with the rest of the Valley: “It’s because of the way the company is disrupting industries the way Silicon Valley companies like Google and Apple have done.”

6 comments
RedRussak
RedRussak

Thank you for the love. Seattle is happy to be Silicon Valley's younger brother, sister or whatever. We're part of the same family and just like our sibling city, we have a tendency to disrupt industries (Big Data, Cloud, Travel, Real Estate, Hardware, SaaS, Health...the list goes on). Interestingly enough, quite a few Cali companies are moving up to Seattle (Twitter, Salesforce, Facebook, Google, Disney etc.) to tap into our insane talent pool. We have a lot of room for growth, but there's a lot happening here that simply needs more reporters like you to help spread the word :-) (ie. http://startupseattle.com)

mybmedia
mybmedia

Don't forget Tableau Software and the hundreds of other startups making noise here. And BTW, they're not all tech companies.

JoanneFleming
JoanneFleming

Shhhhh! Don't tell people these things....We'd like to keep the Californians IN California, please! :) 

ChetKittleson
ChetKittleson

@RedRussak Well said good sir, I couldn't agree more. We have everything that it takes as a city to continue growing as an amazing hub for startups in the US. (Resources, talent, mentorship, co-working spaces, accelerators, etc.) So proud to be a part of this city, and just as proud to be a family member of Silicon Valley's. :)