The Emerald City is not green when it comes to being a tech hub, in fact it's pretty firmly established. With two of the biggest names in tech (Amazon and Microsoft) and one of the biggest names in Aerospace (Boeing) in very close proximity, this bustling young city has some amazing tech endeavours founded and run by some incredible Seattleites.
These pioneers have shaped the world-famous tech landscape in Seattle and teach us more than a thing or two about running a successful business.
So, here's a rundown of 11 tech Seattleites that you absolutely need to know and the valuable lessons you can learn from them.
Julia Fryett - Founder of Aktionstart
A self-defined cultural entrepreneur, Julia has founded many projects, non-profits, and startups dedicated to advancing culture and art. One of her most intriguing endeavors being Aktionsart, a non-profit on a mission to cultivate entrepreneurial projects with a focus on design and technology. With a strong background in both of these subjects, Julia is uniquely positioned to lead this organization's mission to combine technology, design, and contemporary culture to produce ambitious art projects in public and private space.
Julia shows us that two disciplines, from seemingly opposite spectrums, can be combined to create unique, projects that can help to redefine the future.
Melissa has a background story that will surprise most people. This small business marketing coach and event planner started her career as an Olympic gymnast and figure skater. After playing in the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York, Melissa found a new passion - marketing and events. She had a role in planning the 2006 Torino and 2010 Vancouver Olympic games, as well as the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. After serving for two years on the US Olympic Committee, Melissa has gathered experience in planning events and building brands with some of the biggest names in the world. She then channelled her passion and set her sights on helping small businesses succeed.
Melissa teaches us that bigger is not always better, and that success isn't limited to one career path.
This member of the University of Washington faculty has had an astounding impact on the tech scene in Seattle, and deserves to be included. Ed arrived at UW 39 years ago as an assistant professor. Back then, UW only had 13 faculty members in Information Technology. Today, the UW technology program is one of the top 10 in the country, considered up there with the prestigious Stanford program. As chair of the University's Bill & Melinda Gates in Computer Science and Engineering, Ed has helped build facilities, recruit faculty, and change the natural order of the university. He has built a relationship with Jeff Bezos and convinced him to donate $2M to create professorships in the program. Recently, he was awarded the Seattle Business Tech Impact Awards, which was previously given to Steve Ballmer, ex-CEO of Microsoft.
Ed teaches us that with the right connection and enough determination, you can enter a brand new field, succeed in it, and help to shape it for generations to come
Bob Berry - Co-Founder and CEO at Envelop VR
“Virtual Reality is a technology that's been 10 years coming for 40 years,' is an apt description of Bob Berry's experience with this long-awaited technology. A serial entrepreneur who has seen a lot of success, Bob has worked on VR since the '90s, when a day of testing would usually end when the testers got nauseous. But, today, something he's been dreaming about for many, many years is finally here - VR is on the brink of explosive growth. Bob's goal is clear, he wants to lead VR from the fray and make his ideas and dreams come true for all to see.
Bob teaches us something simple, keep pursuing your dream no matter how far off it seems, or you'll never be part of its reality.
When you're passionate about something, you're going to find creative ways to do it. When your passion is creativity, this equation multiplies tenfold. For nine years James worked as the Director of Seattle's Office of Film and Music. When he decided to leave, it wasn't for some cushy position in a record company or movie studio, but rather to work with the startup ShareGrid, dedicated to helping photo and video professionals rent out their equipment on a peer-to-peer basis, kind of like Airbnb for creatives.
James teaches us not to be afraid of change. Following your passion doesn't have to mean sticking with it in a single form throughout your career.
Working in tech since she was seventeen, Laura has been an instrumental part of huge companies such as Twitter, Jawbone, and YouTube. Laura has seen many a talent come and go in each of these companies. So, she founded Atipica, a company dedicated to helping companies understand recruiting data in order to improve their talent and retention of talent over time. Basically, after working with and helping recruit the top talent in the world, Laura decided to put that experience to good use.
Laura teaches us that if you spot an issue, it pays to fix it - and quite often others will pay for the solution too.
Isaiah is one of those people that never stops. After an eight year career as an NFL linebacker, he decided, why not get an MBA from Harvard? But that wasn't enough either, Isaiah moved on to help lead MC10, a startup utilizing cutting edge digital technologies to revolutionize healthcare. As he says himself, “Healthcare+Technology+Research+Media+Biotech+Sports is how I roll.'
Isaiah teaches us to always look for our next challenge. Success isn't limited to just one field, as long you have energy and determination.
Much has been written about Jeff Bezos and what lessons businesses can learn from him, but there's something very specific to be shared about his story - his connection to the city of Seattle. When you build the next big startup, or as it was called back then, 'a dotcom company', you rarely want to do it outside of Silicon Valley, especially back in the late '90s. But Bezos, a proud Seattleite, decided to build one of the biggest companies in the world in his hometown and, as you can see, things have worked out pretty well.
What we learn from Jeff is simple, bucking a trend isn't always a bad thing (in fact, it's often the opposite). Go with your gut.
Greg isn't your run of the mill startup entrepreneur. A self-defined venture capitalist, Gottesman didn't actually found Rover, a very successful on-demand dog walking service, but rather conceived it and shepherded it to become a very strong company. Coming up with the idea, instead of pursuing it himself, Greg decided to hire the right team and let the project go. This strategy has proven itself as Rover is headed towards a very strong Initial Public Offering (IPO).
Greg teaches us that sometimes, if you love an idea, the best thing you can do is let it go and let someone else run with it.
David Shing, or as he is known, Shingy, deserves credit for his pretty awesome title alone. But the title is just the representation of something even more unique. In an industry built around building, thinking about, and figuring out the future, Shingy is one of the most prominent voices who talks about the radical changes that will happen in our everyday lives. His one major differentiator? He's not looking for just the bottom line, he is genuinely thinking about how our world will change, rather than how his prophecies will make a profit.
Shingy teaches us that the bottom line might not be the best thing to fuel our vision and that sometimes our vision will fuel the bottom line.
A member of Forbes' 30 under 30 list, and a former member of the Marine corps, Nick defines Plated's philosophy with one word: resourcefulness. His level of resourcefulness is due largely to his service in the Marine Corps but also to his ability in identifying what people need and giving it to them in a simple and efficient way. Plated is founded on sending people the exact ingredients and recipes to make home cooked meals - quickly and healthily.
Nick teaches us that some of life's biggest challenges, and hardest tasks, can be an opportunity for our greatest growth.
The most interesting thing about these Seattleite tech leaders is that each person has an interesting story to tell, and an interesting story about where they came from. Seattle seems to truly be the home of individualism, not only in music, culture, and coffee, but for tech as well.
The companies I mention or link to in this post are just examples that I thought you'd find useful - I don't endorse them or their services. I have no affiliation with them and make no representation about their services.