How you can help create 10,400 new jobs in Washington State by 2020

I am for economic growth. Now, this shouldn’t be an earth-shattering surprise to you, few people are against growth. However, you might encounter people who are for economic growth, but against immigration. Here is why that is a juxtaposition.

In many ways, immigration equals economic growth. Don’t take my word for it, look at the facts:

  • 40% of fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children (source).
  • Immigrants start ¼ of technology and engineering companies in the U.S even though they only represent ⅛ of the population (source).
  • In 2012, immigrant-founded engineering and technology companies employed 560,000 workers and generated $63 billion in sales nationwide (source)

These are impressive numbers. To top it up, here are three concrete examples of successful immigrants:

  • Jan Koum, born in Ukraine, and co-founder of Whatsapp, which was recently sold to Facebook for $19 billion.
  • Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo and born in Taiwan. Yahoo’s market cap: $37 billion
  • Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google and born in Russia. Google’s market cap: $379 billion.

This country is built on immigration, our history and our heritage has created a culture and a narrative that is unparalleled by any other nation. The U.S. is where smart people from other nations come to prove themselves, and this brings economic growth for everyone. But, we don’t just need talented immigrants to start companies, we also need them to meet the huge demand from already established American companies.  

More than one-fourth of science and engineering firms already report difficulty hiring, and this is only going to get worse. Over the last 10 years, jobs in STEM have grown three times as fast as jobs in the rest of the economy, but the number of Americans studying STEM is growing by less than 1% per year (Source: ESA & McKinsey). The U.S. is facing a projected shortfall of more than 200,000 advanced-degree STEM jobs by 2018 (Source)

As a country, we can’t compete on salaries levels, but we can compete in terms of knowledge and innovation. Unfortunately, the current immigration laws are inhibiting our competitiveness. The latest round of applications for H-1B visas for high-skilled workers exceeded the annual limit within a week. 172,500 H-1B petitions were filed for 85,000 visas, the highest number ever recorded for H-1B demand (Source). Keep in mind, these are company-sponsored visas and thus a reflection of a real demand. and The Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) are working on convincing Congress to accelerate an immigration reform and keeping America’s tech sector competitive. As part of this effort, and PNAE are organizing 12 events all over the country during the last two weeks of April. Techstars Seattle is hosting one of these events.

Join us, and local entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders for a conversation on why immigration reform is critical to the tech and start-up communities in Seattle. The event takes place on Tuesday April 22 from 6pm - 8pm at 511 Boren Ave N, Seattle.  See who is on the panel and register here:

If you can’t attend, help us spread the word on Twitter (click to tweet), and if you are an entrepreneur or an investor, sign the letters urging Congress to advance immigration reform.

If we succeed, an expansion of the high-skilled visa program would create an estimated 10,400 new jobs in Washington by 2020.

- Andy

Haiku Deck & Techstars Seattle Summed Up

When Giant Thinkwell got accepted into the 2010 Techstars Seattle class, they were working on an idea that used celebrities as main characters in games. It turned out to be harder to convince celebrities to participate in this idea, than they had hoped. The Techstars program was going at full speed and they were running out of time. Despite not having any celebrities on board, the team decided to create a game loosely based on Lady Gaga and launch it. In just 24 hours they managed to get tens of thousands of users to play 500,000 times. Unfortunately, they also received a few friendly notices from lawyers. They had hit a road block and needed to come up with a different idea. 

Like many other Techstars companies they pivoted. Instead of making games, they decided to create a mobile presentation app, that was simple; beautiful; and fun. Haiku Deck was born.

Techstars Seattle created a deck that sums up what Haiku Deck and Techstars are all about. Check it out below.  

blogging at Lighter Capital

Phew, in case you didn't hear - TechStars demo day happened last week which was both an awesome event with a lot of great people and another great moment for Seattle startups. For me personally, it marks the end of 3+ months of hectic schedule balancing the whirlwind time I spend running TechStars here in Seattle with my ongoing work at Lighter Capital and Founder's Co-op.

Among the things that I struggle to keep up with (sleep, family time), it's harder for me to find time to blog. So expect me to get back into the swing of things very soon. But as we build Lighter Capital into a full fledged, web-based site, I plan to split my blogging time between here and there. There's stuff I write about here that wouldn't fit for the brand we're building at Lighter Capital, and vice versa. 

As such, today I wrote my first blog post yet on the Lighter Capital blog. Expect more to come, and it may not be of interest to you, but wanted to let you all know that there's now more literary gold from yours truly that you can find over at

My first post is about fighting financial fraud as a tech-enabled lender. Sound awesome? check it out over there.

My first experience of Quora was awesome

The following is a question and answer I found on Quora in the first 2 minutes of using the site. I am blown away by the quality of content and community on the site.  I am reposting but must attribute the content to Quora and Isaac Hall, Founder of Recurly. 

Question: Why is Dropbox more popular than other tools with similar functionality?

"As a co-founder of Syncplicity, a service that competes with Dropbox, this question has been on my mind for years. We launched within a few weeks of Dropbox, we had multi-folder synchronization & read-only sync, and we were a few years older than the Dropbox kids. I'm very proud of the service we put together and am happy to see the service shift towards businesses, yet Dropbox kicked butt. Here's why:

Before launching their service, Dropbox created a video that had tons of geeky references. It showed off a product that wasn't finished and had a few flaws. It showed a binary diff sync of an image... binary diff is great, but it only works if the file isn't compressed. So, it only works on bitmaps and who the heck is sync'ing bitmaps? The video spread quickly and got their name out before anyone heard of our company. Instead of making our own video, we were upset that binary diff wouldn't do anything for JPEGs or other compressed formats that consumers tended to use. Who the heck is sync'ing images saved from Microsoft Paint?

Next, we had issues getting the press excited at launch. We built a fantastic Windows client. 3 years ago, everyone was running Windows*. We were so excited to show the press, yet they *all* had Macs. Walt Mossberg wouldn't write about our product because it was PC only. Months after we hired our PR agency, we found out that they had never even used our product... because they too only had Macs. It's pretty hard to pitch a service when you haven't used it.

* Actually, I had a Mac and wrote all my code in a Parallels VM on my Mac. It always made me a little sad that we didn't have a native Mac client for a long time. Thankfully, the company has a Mac client today.

For a while, we couldn't believe Dropbox was so viral while we weren't. We opened our beta so anyone could sign up while people had to beg for a Dropbox invite. The closed beta worked incredibly well for Dropbox. We opened up our beta at the insistence of our PR agency -- "No way the New York Times will write about you if you have a closed beta". (It turned out that the NYT also doesn't write about you if you're PC only.) If your service is really popular, having a closed beta helps you create pent up demand and control the number of users joining on a regular basis so you can scale the backend appropriately.

In the end, it really came down to one incredibly genius idea: Dropbox limited its feature set on purpose. It had one folder and that folder always synced without any issues -- it was magic. Syncplicity could sync every folder on your computer until you hit our quota. (Unfortunately, that feature was used to synchronize C:Windows for dozens of users -- doh!) Our company had too many features and this created confusion amongst our customer base. This in turn led to enough customer support issues that we couldn't innovate on the product, we were too busy fixing things.

After I left Syncplicity, I ran into the CEO of Dropbox and asked him my burning question: "Why don't you support multi-folder synchronization?" His answer was classic Dropbox. They built multi-folder support early on and did limited beta testing with it, but they couldn't get the UI right. It confused people and created too many questions. It was too hard for the average consumer to setup. So it got shelved.

If you're starting a new company, the best thing you can do is keep your feature set small and focused. Do one thing as best as you possibly can. Your users will beg and beg for more functionality. They will tell you their problems and ask you to fix it. My philosophy is that they're right if their feature request is right only if it works for 80% of your customers. Until you have a lot of resources, stay focused on your core competency.

The best part about having a simple product is that it's easy to sell & easy to support. If your product is too complicated, you'll spend all day on customer support & bug fixing. I've been there -- it's no fun.

In closing, I want to give props to my previous Syncplicity co-workers. They worked their butts off competing against Dropbox. They're crazy smart and we built a great service together. They're still working on it and they've got a great business solution. As for Dropbox... Drew, Arash and the rest of the team are absolutely brilliant. Their success is no accident. File synchronization is incredibly difficult. Building a product that millions of consumers can easily understand without RTFM is even more challenging. They're my inspiration for my current company.

If you want to understand more, read everything you can about the lean startup movement. And have at least one seriously amazing product person on your staff if that's not you."

If you're mind isn't blown yet -- I don't know what will blow your mind in terms of first experiences. Go logon now to Quora

Comment lurkers playing SEO games

This comment came from Disney World Vacation Rentals:

  • "Its really good to see this blog,you have nice information about vacations at Disney.People who are looking for hotels there,you really have good material for them. I got valuable links. I will like too see this blog again."

For those of you who don't know -- this firm is trying got get link value from my blog to their website.  Yes their attempt is weak and I didn't publish their comment but the game they're playing is very real.

Typepad new implementation is very sharp and sexy

I was beginning to wonder what moveable type was doing. It's been a long time since I was impressed as a customer. I have to say that their most recent release is a vast improvement on their core product. It actually may save me from abandoning them for a new platform like wordpress. Features that I have caught my eye after playing with it:

  • The overall user expereince has improved. It's easier to blog and track your blog traffic. Every step of the writing process feels more intuitive than it did before.
  • Integration with twitter and facebook and a whole host of other platforms like dogster and amazon -- effectively they've implemented a feature that we at Judy's Book used to call write once publish many.
  • They've implemented a follow feature very similar to twitter. This makes the prospect of discovering other typepad blogs and other authors much easier.
  • They've introduced a question of the day which gives bloggers who don't know what to write about a suggestion of authoring. These questions of the day are sponsored by a company and include a link ot that sponsor. This is very smart revenue creation and allow them to sell unique content and links to lots of companies. This is powerful and smart -- and is also well done. 

Well done guys.  The changes make me happy to be a customer!

What I would splurge on this year to improve my future?

This question was presented to me by Typepad -- the blog platform that I'm still using even though I know I should switch to wordpress.

I'm playing with the Typepad new user interface and one of the things they offer is a question of the day to inspire a post. These questions are sponsored and have a built in link in them (i've include the exact text below):

"What's something you would splurge on this year to improve your future?

Presented by Intel, Sponsors of Tomorrow."

Pretty crafty SEO and monetization strategy -- nice job guys.  Anyway -- I digress. Back to the question of the day - things I'd splurge on:

  • More time -- If there was a way to buy more time I would buy it.
  • 4 romantic weekends (1 per quarter) with my wife: I'd go to London, Hawaii, Saigon, and Santiago. Oh -- and I'd teleport myself there rather than take the flights.
  • I'd get a personal trainer 3 x per week
  • I'd get a personal chef and shopper too. They would fold laundry when not making me tasty salads for dinner. 
  • I'd go to the magic house outside of LA with my son and I'd go to the best waterpark in the country wth my daughter (I believe it's in AZ).
  • I'd buy a convertible lexus
  • I'd buy health care for the US -- and introduce medical mal practice reform.
  • I'd buy peace of mind.

Tweeting vs. Blogging: you can follow me on twitter at @asackofseattle

I'm wondering if other people are considering tweeting as a viable and attractive alternative to blogging. In the last 30 days I've found the experience of tweeting to be easier and more engaging than blogging. I'm still blogging but the thought of just tweeting is attractive to me. In the end, I think the twitter medium and user experience is just lighter and easier than blogging. 
I suspect I'm not alone in considering a transition to tweeting. In fact, I suspect that there is a significant shift from blogging to tweeting and that this new form of microblogging is likely to far outpace the growth of blogging.
As a friend pointed out, I'm already a fan of the "short" blog post. I generally try to make a point and not belabor it in my blog posts.  If you read this blog, don't worry...I'm not quitting the blog. But I'm interested in my desire to tweet more over blog more and think there's something to the phenomena. I'd also suggest you follow me on twitter #asackofseattle

blog serendipity

Blog serendipity happens all the time but in the last 24 hours I've had three instances that made me appreciate it:

  1. I was contacted from someone who reads I learned that my friend Tom happened to be in Seattle for 6 hours. He lives in Denver but flew in from San Francisco. I only learned about this from a twit via Facebook.
  2. I was contacted by an entrepreneur in NYC who goes to the NYC Open Coffee organized by a friend of mine -- Nicholas Butterworth. He told her to read my blog and contact me. We had a good conversation about her potential business.
  3. I was contacted by a Tacoma, WA angel who is a fan of my blog.

Thanks to all of you for reaching out. I love to hear from my readers in blog comment or email!

web 2.0

I'm one of those conference attendees that tends to hang in the lobby. I hear that there's a name for people like me -- "lobby lurkers". I think that fits. I get tired sitting in the big rooms listening to lecture style powerpoint presentations. I much prefer the dynamic of interactive networking and think that lobbies and coffees are best for it. I'll be hanging in the lobby by the coffee pot at the Palace hotel -- home of teh web 2.0 conference.  Hey ....just saw John Battelle....gotta go.

Emotion, blogging, business

I just read a great post by a young entrepreneur / author named Ben Casnotcha. He's got a great blog here. His post about the lack of emotion in many blogs is excellent (like many of his posts. I encourage you to read it.

I've thought about this phenomena in the context of my own blog too. How much of my personal life to share ....not to share. At teh root of it, I've been reluctant to get into important life matters around marriage, sex, parenting, friendship, etc because blogs are inherently public and -- well-- I don't want to write something that I'd regret being public later.
That said I think there is a whole lot of undocumented and unshared wisdom in the minds of our elders about this thing called life and wish I could find more of it online and in blogs. If anyone has suggestions of blogs to read on the topic please let me know.

What's a blog?

We had friends in from out of town this weekend. They are a nice couple in their late 30's. The man is a real estate developer and the woman works for a non-profit. THey had heard about blogs but had never read any. I found myself explaining things I take for granted at this point:

  • what is a blog,
  • why people blog,
  • why I blog
  • how to find blogs you like

A few things surprised me:

  • I found myself saying that I get about 75% of my news from blogs. That after reading google news and CNN, I turn to my favorite 20 blogs for interesting reading each day. It's part of my ritual. They (and I) were surprised by this statement.
  • My answer to how to find a blog was -- Finding a blog you like is like finding a book you like....except it keeps living. I told them to check out technorati (which they hadn't heard of)
  • Talking to novices is fun