Techstars Seattle used to be located in the South Lake Union, surrounded by Amazon buildings, construction cranes, and food trucks. But in July, we cranked it up a notch, by moving into Startup Hall in the University District. Here is the story and vision behind Startup Hall and why this is the perfect marriage.
In the early beginnings of Startup Weekend in 2010 (Now UP Global) the passionate team lead by Marc Nager worked out of the same office as Founder’s Co-op and Techstars in Seattle’s South Lake Union. But as UP Global expanded, the team behind the success had to relocate. However, already at that point there was a mutual understanding that Founder’s Co-op, UP Global, and Techstars one day should share an office again. The three organisations are natural continuations of each other. Startup Weekend is where your idea is first tested, Startup Next (also by UP Global) helps turn your idea into a business, Techstars helps refine and accelerate your business, and Founder’s Co-op helps with Seed-funding. The three organisations are natural fits and the missions are aligned.
Fast forward to 2013. Chris Devore is invited to join The Economic Development Committee created by the Mayor and Seattle City Council in 2013 with the vision of “creating and maintaining an innovative economy”. On the committee is also Michael Young, President of University of Washington. When Chris and Michael compared notes, they started seeing an opportunity for establishing a partnership. Michael Young wanted to boost commercialization at the University of Washington, and Chris Devore, similarly, had the vision of creating a mini-ecosystem, where entrepreneurs could easily move from hatching an idea all the way to receiving funding. Chris envisioned an area with a high density of academic research, startups, and venture capital firms, not unlike that of his graduate school, Stanford.
Chris Devore, Dave Parker, Marc Nager and I knew we were taking a chance by moving Founder’s Co-op, UP Global, and Techstars away from South Lake Union, but the idea of becoming the first vertically integrated startup hub in the country, possibly the world, that caters to all stages of a business, was too good an opportunity to pass up. In only 8 months, Chris Devore, Dave Parker, Michael Young, and the University of Washington took it from idea to reality. The University of Washington really pushed its boundaries, and was incredibly helpful in making this happen. The University’s Real Estate department cleverly suggested using a, basically, vacated building on campus to create an entrepreneurship powerhouse - Startup Hall.
The 70’s brutalist style building isn’t an architectural gem, but like the startups that it will house, it is a diamond in the rough - a perfect space to get the job of generating the next generation of awesome companies to IPO in the Pacific Northwest. The space creates the perfect environment for startups, and even though it still needs the final touches, a lot has happened in a short amount of time. On the north side of the second floor, it is already buzzing with activity from UP Global and the new Techstars class, and on September 19, the south side of the floor will be rented out to startups.
This unique place will become a bridge between academic research and cutting edge technology, and the opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas creates a very powerful foundation for innovation. All thanks to Michael Young, Chris Devore, Marc Nager, Dave Parker and the University of Washington without whom, this vision would not have become reality.