Are Startup-Hungry MIT MBAs Sleepless in Seattle?


One of the most important decisions anyone makes is deciding where to live. Lucky for me, that decision has already been made. Since I’ll be graduating soon with an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, I thought it would be great to head out West to where the software revolution began: the emerald city of Seattle, WA.

Now, I understand what some of you may be thinking: why the heck would anyone want to live in Seattle? I mean, doesn’t it rain like 10,000 inches per year? And aren’t they just a bunch of granola eating, rock band wannabes? What kind of job opportunities exist out in Seattle anyway?

I recently had the opportunity to help organize a “Seattle Tech Trek” for some of my MIT classmates (as well as the Harvard Business School, who helped set up a “startup mixer”). While many of us have roots in the technology scene, a large majority are obsessed about tech startups. Most are interested in either a) working for a small technology company, or b) starting our own venture (and if anyone is looking for good talent, please e-mail me for a list of resumes). Approximately 30 of us made the trip from Boston out to the Pacific Northwest and toured some of the area’s premier technology companies, both large and small.

I realize some of you may be biased toward the East Coast, especially since the majority of readers reside in Boston where Xconomy got started. But, I want you to keep an open mind especially if you’ve never been out West before. What follows is my “elevator pitch” for those who are contemplating whether they should move to Seattle, post-MBA.

First, and probably most obvious, Seattle is home to some of the most innovative technology companies. Yeah, sure, there are the “old timers” such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia. I mean, everyone knows about those guys, right? Well, yeah—but there are also some up-and-comers which some of you may have never heard about: Impinj (RFID semiconductors), Farecast (travel, sold to Microsoft for $115 million), Isilon Systems (storage, acquired by EMC for over $2 billion), Big Fish Games (online games), DocuSign (digital signatures), AdReady (online display ads), Tableau Software (Web data), PayScale (salary data), Picnik (photos, acquired by Google), and Off & Away (travel deals). While the Bay Area may host its fair share of startups, rest assured Seattle is doing its best to stay in the running.

And, speaking of the Bay area, look at all the Silicon Valley companies who are opening offices in Seattle. Facebook recently opened an engineering center (currently the only other office besides its headquarters in the Valley), while Google, Cisco, Adobe, and all have satellite offices in Seattle as well. There’s probably a host of others I’m forgetting, but these stand out to me. (Side note: my MIT Sloan colleagues also put together a “Silicon Valley Tech Trek” as noted here by MIT Entrepreneurship Center director, Bill Aulet. )

Second, and probably most important, is the Pacific Northwest “entrepreneurial … Next Page »

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Ryan Thurston is an MBA student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He previously spent seven years as a software developer at Seattle-based Impinj. Follow @

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