You Talkin’ To Me? Seattle Tech Scene Takes on All Comers

8/3/09Follow @gthuang

Beneath the friendly, laid-back veneer, the Seattle tech community is a rough-and-tumble lot ready to throw down at a moment’s notice. That’s what you might surmise after the past week, anyway. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. (Though the heat wave might have had something to do with it.)

Here’s a quick update for those who missed the action:

—We’re getting pretty sick of being compared to Silicon Valley. Most of the time, we defer to the sheer number of startups, entrepreneurs, and venture firms in the Bay Area, taking solace in the quality of our talent and companies. But every once in a while, someone really stirs the pot, like UW TechTransfer’s Janis Machala did last week at a public forum on campus. She said Seattle pays a price for its laid-back, outdoors-y lifestyle, and implied that some of our entrepreneurs don’t work as hard as those in the Valley. To which many local observers, including Dave Schappell of TeachStreet, have taken offense (albeit respectfully), arguing that Seattleites work just as hard.

Silicon Valley readers apparently believe they can learn a thing or two from Seattle’s startup efforts. Case in point: Marcelo Calbucci of Sampa and Seattle 2.0 has taken considerable time and effort to blog about lessons learned from Sampa’s demise, and he’s getting a lot of readership in the Bay Area.

—And don’t even get us started on Portland, OR. We Seattleites hate to be ranked behind Portland in anything. Yeah, so they still have a pro basketball team, and a pretty good Japanese garden and bookstore, but that’s about all we are willing to concede, right? So when Entrepreneur magazine ranked Portland as one of the top cities for startups and snubbed Seattle (at least that’s how it was perceived), this meant war. Even though Gerry Langeler of OVP Venture Partners was quoted as saying Portland is “too small to have competing ventures,” and its entrepreneurs tend to lack a “killer instinct.”

TechFlash went on the offensive, calling out Portland for its relative dearth of venture capital and venture-backed public companies. The Oregonian and Silicon Florist came to Portland’s defense; blogger Rick Turoczy pointed out that Portland entrepreneurship is incredibly diverse, with startups not just in software and cleantech, but in food and drink, clothing, books, comics, and other creative arts. In short, Portland is a collaborative, entrepreneur-friendly town, and its culture is separate from Seattle’s. (OK, it’s not quite Red Sox-Yankees blasting each other in the tabloids, but you get the idea.)

Juda's Wake, Seattle-based metal band—I say we settle all this bad blood with a Battle of the Tech Bands: Seattle Vs. All Comers. Xconomy CEO and editor-in-chief Bob Buderi has already dropped hints that he wants to stage a Boston vs. Seattle band battle. Judging from the quality and tremendous energy of the bands we saw at the Pyramid Alehouse last week, it could shape up to be quite an epic. (See more photos from the Battle and WTIA party here, courtesy of Kevin Pedraja.)

I don’t know about you, but my money’s on this guy (left), Peter Dixon from the metal band Juda’s Wake (representing Microsoft), winning it all… You want a piece of Seattle? Come and get it.

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 or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.timreha.com Tim Reha

    Juda’s Wake ruled!

    Here is the Battle of the Tech Bands Seattle highlight video.

    http://bit.ly/1tm8fP

    Enjoy! Tim

  • http://www.teachstreet.com Dave Schappell

    Hey Greg,

    I’ll oblige with a response to your enticing title :-) The offense I took was just a reaction to a very broad statement (i.e. work ethic of Seattle vs. _______ location). That’s just a silly/uninformed opinion, and not one that you can possibly validate, in either direction. I’m a huge fan of the Bay Area, and really wouldn’t mind living there myself (I’m sure I’d enjoy the climate a bit more, and have a ton of friends there), but I’m not sure I’d be any more (or less) successful because of the geographic shift — it’s just that the dynamic would change. Maybe there would be more staff attrition? Maybe capital with different terms, and less/more hands-on assistance. Maybe easier partnerships, but more competition. In the end, I don’t think you’re losing anything based on where you live, as long as you have a strong representation of services (capital, technical talent, support services, media, colleges, etc.), and we most definitely have more than adequate supply of all here in Seattle, and then some.

    Personally, the Bay Area vs. ________ is a very boring topic, I think. I just get touchy when it’s broached (and covered in the media) by parties who aren’t really knee-deep in the experience in any meaningful way.

    Onward…

    Dave

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/ghuang/ Gregory T. Huang

    Thanks for the video, Tim!

    Dave, I understand what you’re saying. Also agree that Seattle vs. Bay Area can be boring—the debate doesn’t really go anywhere. We’re trying to promote constructive discussion around what factors influence the success of startups, and report on the innovation process using various angles and lenses. Your comments (and those of other readers) are a very important part of that, so please keep them coming! Thanks.

  • Ken Westin

    Seattle and Portland should unite and form a giant robot and invade Silicon Valley once and for all.

  • http://www.timreha.com Tim Reha

    Ken, We will need to get iRobot from Boston involved and also that Big Dog Beta.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4v3bl_bigdog-beta_fun

    Our wine is better anyways. :)

  • http://www.portseattle.org paul isaki

    Maybe Paul Allen might be coaxed to pick-up a Fender and jam in that competition?