Creator of Seattle 2.0, Marcelo Calbucci, Looks to Build the Ultimate Resource Site for Startups

12/2/08Follow @gthuang

Are you a new tech entrepreneur in the Seattle area? Or interested in the workings of startups from a Northwest perspective? If so, you should check out Marcelo Calbucci’s “ultimate guide,” which he posted on his Seattle 2.0 blog yesterday. In it, he discusses the practicalities of starting a business, like office space, legal issues, networking, and useful local organizations. He also gives specific recommendations about which people to meet, which books to read, and which blogs and news groups to follow.

It’s all part of an ongoing facelift for the Seattle 2.0 site, which started in March 2007 and has developed into a resource site with links to local blogs, original content from prominent techies, execs, and investors, and a monthly “startup index” ranking the traffic of local tech websites. Calbucci was originally motivated by his own experience as an entrepreneur after leaving Microsoft in 2005. “When I got started, it was so hard, information was spread all over the place,” he told me. “Which events are targeted at entrepreneurs or not, which blogs should I be reading?”

I sat down with Calbucci last week to hear the latest on Seattle 2.0—and also on his full-time gig as founder and chief technology officer of Redmond, WA-based Sampa, a social website geared towards helping families and close friends stay connected. Just a few highlights here:

On the rising stars from last month’s Seattle startup index: “Every month, I have to tell three or four people why I Can Has Cheezburger [run by Pet Holdings] is on the list,” says Calbucci, of the website that has risen to #2 on his monthly index. “What people miss is how [owner] Ben Huh has executed the growth, getting more users, more readers. That’s really impressive. I think they’re about to peak.”

Another high-flyer is Widgetbucks (up 15 spots to #11), the online advertising network run by Seattle-based Mpire. (We’ve covered its strategy here.) Calbucci thinks the company’s performance validates the ad-network model. “Widgetbucks is the proof,” he says. “People are going to try more ad networks until they figure out, ‘This worked, this didn’t work.’ A few networks will survive, a few will die. The best ones will survive.”

On the business challenges of social websites: As of August, Calbucci’s startup Sampa had helped users create 100,000 websites. It recently began monetizing its sites through premium accounts (in addition to ads). But Calbucci cautions that revenue growth for this type of Web operation can be slow. In the meantime, Sampa is backed by prominent angel investors including Geoff Entress, formerly of Madrona Venture Group, and Alex Algard from WhitePages.com.

On the future of Seattle 2.0: Calbucci says he’s planning to roll out some new features on the site (which currently doesn’t make money) pretty soon. “We’re trying to do events, and let users comment on events. Like, ‘I attended this event last month and it was great,’ or ‘It sucks.’ The community is really active, there’s lots of opportunity out there. People need to filter it to know which events to attend,” he says. He also says he wants to put more media on the site—videos, photos, community posts. If all goes well, it sounds like Seattle 2.0 could become the ultimate gathering place for the innovation community.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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