3 Big Ideas from Frank Artale: Seattle’s Startup Ecosystem, VC Ground Rules, & the New Inflection Point

7/15/11Follow @curtwoodward

One of the newer venture capitalists plying his trade in Seattle isn’t really all that new. How’s that? I’m talking about Frank Artale, who joined Ignition Partners earlier this year as a managing director.

Artale’s a pretty familiar face around the Puget Sound region, having worked at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) for nearly a decade—he was one of the general managers on a little project called Windows 2000. Artale kept a home base here after leaving Redmond in 2000, but focused his professional energies toward Silicon Valley in stints as an entrepreneur, executive, and investor.

Now that he’s back in one place, Artale’s leveraging his experience and connections to target cloud computing, security, virtualization, and storage investments for the $400 million Ignition Partners IV fund. But on top of just finding good deals for the firm, Artale says he also sees the job as a chance to help build up the entrepreneurship scene here in the Northwest.

“The thing that I felt I could add the most value to was in the area of building entrepreneurship in a place wehre the startup culture was still a bit more emerging as opposed to mature. And the Valley culture is a mature one,” Artale says. We chewed over that idea and lots more in a recent chat, and these were the three big takeaways for me:

Seattle Grows Up
Having spent several years in the thick of Silicon Valley dealmaking, Artale says he can see some of the things needed for long-term success developing back here in the Puget Sound region. Chief among those factors, he says, is probably the links between big tech companies and the startup scene, with VCs often acting as the bridge-builders.

In the Bay Area, that ecosystem is well-developed, with plenty of large companies that are accustomed to partnering with (and often acquiring) innovative small companies. It’s getting better in the Seattle area, Artale says, on both ends of the equation.

“The difference now … which has always been in existence in the Valley, is that there are more people at the larger techs that have specific responsibility for outreach, both to the venture community and the companies that venture supports,” Artale says. “When you have the larger companies putting their own resources specifically on working with early stage companies and their backers, that’s a key ingredient.”

Atale says that shift is noticeable even in the past year or so, and is catching on at companies across the Northwest, from Vancouver, BC, down to Portland, OR. What’s driving that change? The … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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