StartupCity Connects Seattle Entrepreneurs, Looks to Keep Growing

6/15/12Follow @curtwoodward

In a city the size of Seattle, there’s still some room to spread out. And for startup companies, that can be a problem.

As entrepreneurs who move on to bigger cities often lament, there’s just not as much action crackling all around town. In Seattle, you still have to spend a little more time hunting things down.

Red Russak is familiar with this phenomenon. After bouncing around the Seattle startup scene for more than a year, he took over The Easy, a basement hangout and meeting space in the Founder’s Co-op building. Offered as free event space for technology-related events, it started attracting a steady stream of people. And those people had needs.

“Organizers were asking me constantly, ‘Hey Red, can you help me with an event? Hey Red, can you help me find a space for my event, or sponsors?” Russak says.

Russak

“So what I started realizing is, wow—there’s a lot more questions about getting help than one space could solve.”

His answer to all of those queries is StartupCity, a new website dedicated to connecting startuppers, investors, sponsors, and wannabe entrepreneurs with everything going on in Seattle. That means resources like a curated events calendar, and a blog of new projects and happenings around town. A recent addition is an index of the top 100 startups in the area, ranked by how much interest they’re generating online.

In other words, it’s something pretty reminiscent of Seattle 2.0, the community site formerly run by entrepreneur Marcelo Calbucci.

Calbucci, now co-founder and technical chief at Seattle startup EveryMove, ran Seattle 2.0 for about five years, building it into a hub for jobs, events, services, and more. But he couldn’t focus on it after getting into TechStars with EveryMove, and the site was acquired by local news service GeekWire last year.

In his blog post about selling Seattle 2.0, Calbucci wrote that he once had a dream of building the site into a bigger business. But in the end, he said, “I hated that business. I’m a product guy and that business was a services business. Despite the growth and early success, I was just not cut [out] to do it.”

I think you might say the opposite of Russak. Although he possesses some coding skills, Russak says his big passion is working with communities as an organizer and service provider (for a short time last year, he was GeekWire’s community manager).

It also helps that Russak been a fairly ubiquitous presence around town, and has connections in many different circles. Startup folks are too busy to keep up with the social scene by necessity—they just have too much to do. And, for whatever reason, there’s an independent cultural streak in the Northwest that means people can tend to drift off into their own projects.

That’s why Russak says he wants to be a “startup concierge,” connecting entrepreneurs, coders, investors and others to the parts of the larger community they may not know about. That also goes for people on the outside looking in, who may want to make the leap into a startup company themselves.

“What about everyone else on the fringes? The guy at Amazon who has this idea? There needs to be one location … where someone can go and get connected. That’s StartupCity,” Russak says.

Even the earliest responses to the site showed there was hunger for a lot more, Russak says.

“I started getting feedback like, ‘Hey, when’s the map? Do you have a map or a list of startups? Can you send us some information and resources about startups, like if I want to write business plan? Who do I talk to? Do you have templates?’” he says. “And I’m like, ‘Guys, this is a lot of stuff you want on my website.’”

There are bigger ambitions for the StartupCity site already, including the possibility of sharing the top-startups index with other cities, and a brand new map of Seattle-area startups, which was built with the help of three new interns and debuted Friday.

Microsoft BizSpark, the software giant’s startup program, is the key financial sponsor so far. Russak is looking for others, and says he only wants to draw a modest salary that will enable most of the money put toward StartupCity to grow its resources.

“I will publicly state I’m OK with making $50,000 a year, so long as I have $50,000 or more to give to the community. As long as I’m giving more than taking, that’s the perfect job for me,” Russak says. “While community does come first, I have a mortgage to pay. My wife and family have been supportive for a year and a half now, and it’s time for me to make this a real job.”

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

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  • http://twitter.com/RedRussak Red Russak

    Thank you so much for the kind words and helping share our story!

  • http://twitter.com/ubruni Dave Owen

    Red’s a great guy and a huge asset to the Seattle startup community. Excited to see where this goes.

  • http://twitter.com/bcrimmins Bob Crimmins

    Red, it seems like everywhere I look I see you helping entrepreneurs in all sorts of ways.  And I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of some of that help.  You’re adding a lot of value to the ecosystem here — keep up the good work!