UW’s Connie Bourassa-Shaw on the Genetics of Entrepreneurs, and Why Seattle Is Startup Mecca

4/16/09

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there is a basic desire to start something. Often these are people who feel they can’t work for anybody. If you look at the public as a whole, it’s about five percent, but in Seattle it’s higher. Seattle is a great place to be an entrepreneur. There are lots of resources here for entrepreneurs. I don’t see that changing any time soon. If anything, I see that becoming even more pronounced. Seattle will continue to be a startup mecca.

X: How do students benefit from the CIE’s competitions, like the 12-year-old Business Plan Competition (currently underway) and the newly launched Environmental Business Competition?

CB-S: One is this idea of entrepreneurship in a safe environment. Chances are, the business plan students start in college is version 1.0. But I can promise when they do version 2.0, they’ll be prepared. The other advantage is the visibility. When you’re a student, you really have a magic card. You can call almost anybody and say, I’m a student at UW and I was wondering if you could take 10 minutes to talk to me, and chances are people will, because they like helping students. We say, take advantage of this. Start building your network while you’re a student. And for the competitions, the judges are the people you need to know. That’s a tremendous resource.

The networking thing never goes away. I think there is a misperception of entrepreneurs as lone wolves or mavericks. Nobody starts a company by themselves. You need to know people.

X: Are you giving people different advice in this economy than you were a few years ago?

CB-S: I think downturns are actually a great time to start companies. Losing your job is one of the major impetuses in starting companies. People start looking at things like, what are my strengths, what am I good at, what am I passionate about, and startup ideas come out. Then there are also talented people out there looking for work, so it’s easier to find good people for your team. And space and equipment are cheaper. Investments are not impossible to find, but it is harder now. You have to have a good plan. But early-stage investors still like early-stage entrepreneurs.

Rachel Tompa is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. She can be reached at rmtompa@yahoo.com. Follow @

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