10 Stories from Xconomy Seattle’s Early Days (With Some Added Perspective)
There has been plenty of tech-business news in the past week to put Seattle on the national radar. But it takes years to understand the innovation community here; I’ve only scratched the surface so far. So, in honor of my colleague Thea’s first week on the job, I thought it would be useful to look back at some of the more interesting stories I wrote (if I do say so myself) in Xconomy’s first six months in Seattle, back in 2008—and to think about what they mean now.
The stories span software and IT, advanced materials, energy and cleantech—and coffee. Many of you didn’t see them the first time around, but perhaps they’ve become more interesting with a couple years of hindsight. Here they are in chronological order:
This Seattle company has burst onto the scene in the past couple of years, with a method to produce a new kind of metal that could potentially disrupt the steel industry. Modumetal continues to grow, accumulate new customers and partners, and just closed a second round of venture funding this month.
My first sit-down with Nathan Myhrvold for Xconomy was an eventful one. He laid out his plans for Intellectual Ventures in great depth, showed me the company’s new lab, and talked about everything from the physics of ping-pong and quantum cosmology to “invention capital,” global expansion, and a nuclear power project (what would become TerraPower). In part two of the interview, he spoke for the first time about his team’s far-out approach to stopping hurricanes—and about new kinds of malaria intervention, and geo-engineering to combat global warming.
This is one of the fastest-growing and most successful startups that people around town need to know about. Tableau makes data visualization and analytics software for companies, organizations, and consumers, so they can make sense of increasing amounts of data and pull out useful trends and patterns. CEO Christian Chabot told me the story of the company and where it’s headed. So far, he’s been pretty much on target.
Obviously this was not one of our favorite stories. Nevertheless, this tragedy is part of the fabric of the innovation community, and we need to report this kind of news with urgency and sensitivity. Nick Hanauer and Michael Butler wrote in with their thoughts on Keith Grinstein’s passing.
An increasing amount of early-stage tech startup activity these days is centered around Seattle-based Founder’s Co-op, started by Andy Sack and Chris DeVore. In 2008, Sack told me about the goals of the group, and its plans to invest in small companies and provide mentorship to entrepreneurs. Founder’s Co-op is evolving now, perhaps becoming more of a micro-VC fund. It is also connected to TechStars and RevenueLoan, a couple of other intriguing organizations that have sprouted up in Seattle recently.
Geoff Entress has since become a venture partner with Voyager Capital, and a managing partner with Founder’s Co-op. He is one of Seattle’s most prominent angel investors in tech, and has studied the failures of startups carefully over the years. This story was a distillation of some of his valuable knowledge and advice for startups and investors, in bullet-point form.
This intriguing cleantech startup, whose initial venture funding news we broke in the fall of 2008, has been scaling up its production of materials for ultracapacitors. These are energy-storage devices that complement batteries and could be used in electric vehicles and consumer electronics. EnerG2 is based on technology from the University of Washington, and is one of the beacons in the Northwest energy scene.
It’s a perennial decision for a young startup—to take venture capital, or not? Hillel Cooperman from Jackson Fish Market and Tony Wright (co-founder of RescueTime) engaged in a bit of dialogue on the topic. Seattle-area entrepreneurs Christian Chabot, Josh Petersen, and Steve McCracken weighed in on the debate. In part two of the story, these entrepreneurs dished some more on the specific pros and cons of taking VC versus bootstrapping, based on their own experiences.
(I’ll let this one speak for itself.)
This was the talk from Second Avenue Partners’ Nick Hanauer that helped inspire our own 2010 event on breakthrough ideas. Hanauer, an investor in Amazon, aQuantive, and Insitu, laid out his contrarian thinking about what constitutes a breakthrough in business, and introduced the core idea behind Seattle-based Qliance, the healthcare-without-insurance startup that’s now backed by Jeff Bezos, Michael Dell, Drew Carey, and others.
And, lastly, here’s a bonus story (and Google map), on where to get the best coffee around Seattle—and which investors, entrepreneurs, and executives you might run into at their favorite café meeting spots. Yes, I’m going to miss the coffee here.