Founder of nPost Puts His Finger on the Pulse of What Seattle Tech Entrepreneurs Really Need
Nathan Kaiser is connected. His office is wherever he feels like working. He walks into shared startup digs on Alaskan Way, and people flash him knowing hand signals. I probably shouldn’t even be talking to him, given my lack of an iPhone; my Nokia brick looks like it’s from 1998. (I’m 10 years behind when it comes to consumer tech—don’t ask.) We’re sitting in a Downtown Cups cafe in Seattle, across from the ferries, enjoying a nice latte (7.8 on the Huang scale) and iced chai, respectively (“I can’t drink coffee,” he says).
While I wolf down a sandwich, Kaiser tells me about his Seattle-based company, nPost, which runs a resource site for tech entrepreneurs. It is dedicated to promoting startups and matching up companies with talent via networking events, online interviews with entrepreneurs, and a job board that covers major tech centers from the Northwest to New York City.
Kaiser’s own entrepreneurial story is a good one. In the late 1990s, he studied microbiology at the University of Washington, then went into marketing at Medtronic. Around 2000, he began putting up online Q&As about the entrepreneurial experience, on the side—the genesis of nPost. “I started calling up CEOs, doing informational interviews. ‘How do you engage a sales team? How did you deal with restructuring the company as a leader?'” he says. “I found I had a passion for early-stage startups.”
Those networking chats with CEOs led directly to new jobs for him—first in Austin, TX, at United Devices. Then, in 2001, he went to New York City to join LinkShare. (He was a block away from the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, attending what he calls a “Web 0.0” conference, when he felt the impact of the first plane.)
In 2003, Kaiser moved back to Seattle, still running nPost on the side. Two summers ago he went full-time, bootstrapping the company and selling sponsorships. In February 2007, nPost started making money, thanks in large part to its job board. The company’s networking events have been getting “bigger and bigger,” says Kaiser, and now draw up to several hundred participants. The next big one is July 15 at the Columbia City Theater in Seattle.
So what are the tech trends Kaiser is looking at these days? A common lament among recruiters seems to be the local labor market. “Recently, recruiting has been really difficult,” he says. “It’s essentially a poaching market.” On the bright side, he’s seeing a lot of activity in two emerging areas: startups that use Web 2.0 tools to help large businesses connect with users and sell more products; and companies that filter online data, helping people and businesses manage their vast amounts of email, RSS feeds, and search information. What isn’t hot, at least for local Internet startups, is consumer retail and search sites. “It’s hard to make money until you get to scale. Advertising is really hard,” he says.
What Kaiser thinks the Seattle area needs most at this point is infrastructure to support risk-taking—lawyers with entrepreneurial expertise, and more depth in executive management talent, for starters. “It’ll take time, and we need to recruit people,” he says. It would also help, he adds, to build up collaborations in the Northwest, with places like Portland, Spokane, Boise, and Vancouver, BC—and to become more established as a tech innovation center for the region.
As we wind down, he leaves me with a page-long list of early-stage entrepreneurs and networking experts to tap into. “Just the tip of the iceberg,” he says.