Are Startup-Hungry MIT MBAs Sleepless in Seattle?


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ecosystem.” A strong ecosystem is necessary to help entrepreneurs turn great ideas into great companies. At a high level, there are two major components: 1) the local availability of capital to invest in innovative startups, and 2) smart risk-takers who create teams of people willing to operate these startups.

Interestingly, Seattle has both: Madrona Venture Group is one of the premier venture capital firms in the Pacific Northwest (and probably in the country). They were one of the original investors in, and Tom Alberg—one of Madrona’s founders—still sits on the board at Amazon. I’m not a VC investor, but I’m willing to bet Madrona has huge stashes of capital ready to deploy for the next big idea (note: I spent seven years at Madrona-backed Impinj before coming to MIT). Another aspect I should mention is the startup incubators TechStars and Founders Co-op (or super angels, or micro-VCs—pick your term). Both are running strong in the Seattle area, and Andy Sack—also an MIT Sloan grad—does great work there.

The other component to the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” is the University of Washington. UW is considered by many a “public ivy” school. In fact, the Computer Science and Engineering program is one of the top 10 programs in the country (from which I am a proud alum—Computer Engineering class of ’01). The other engineering programs such as electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineering also boast high rankings (and on a side note, the UW recently started a $20 million fund to back university-related startups). So when it comes to hiring top-tier talent for any technology company, you’ll be sure the Pacific Northwest has the necessary “human capital” to turn your venture into reality.

If the dazzling array of tech companies isn’t enough, then let’s talk about what the Seattle-area geography has to offer. To the East are the Cascade Mountains. These are the same mountains that house some of the best winter snowboarding and skiing in the country (sorry New Englanders, but I’ve tried your resorts and they just don’t stack up). To the West is the Puget Sound, where bustling ferries take city dwellers to their nearby island retreats. And let’s not forget our Canadian friends to the North. Whistler Mountain is hands down one of the best places to ski/snowboard/hike/bike in the world. Not to mention the city of Vancouver, Canada, which is one of the friendliest places to visit. As far as Seattle-area neighborhoods are concerned, you won’t find many places that are safer to raise a family. Finally, look at the cost of living in Seattle. The cost-per-square foot of real estate is a bargain, especially when you compare it to West Coast metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

So, in closing, I challenge you—no, wait, I dare you to come out and see what all the hype is about. Sure, the rain sucks (and is a major motivator for getting office work done). But if you give us latte-sippin’, rock-band-lovin’ Seattleites a chance, then rest assured we will accept you with open arms. And I can guarantee some of these MBAs will be falling in love quicker than Tom and Meg.

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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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