Seattle vs. The Valley

If you live in Seattle and work in or around the startup ecosystem, you’ll have heard the “why-can’t-we-be-more-like-the-valley” conversation plenty of times. The typical complaints are always the same:

  • It’s easier to get funding in the Valley
  • Rounds are better priced (meaning investors pay higher pre-money)
  • There’s a stronger culture of true 24/7 focus
  • The networking is better
  • It’s easier to sell your company for a quick flip / acquihire

Unfortunately, the flip side doesn’t get as much airtime, maybe because the underdog mentality is subsumed by the sarcastic, down-on-our-luck attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Seattle startup guy, so I’m plenty guilty of pouring this whine with my cheese, too. But, the more time I spend in both places, the more I’m seeing that Seattle has serious upside, too.

  • Employee churn is nowhere near as bad – in the Valley, it’s hard to keep great engineers/marketers/salespeople/ops folks/etc for more than a year. Seattle’s cadre of startup folks is far more willing to commit for multi-year stretches, particularly if things are going well.
  • Costs are 20-40% lower – rent, salaries, benefits, state taxes and contractors all have a Valley premium that Seattlites don’t have to pay.
  • Your work/life balance will be healthier (and I actually believe this promotes a better chance at long-term success; more on that in a future post)
  • There’s far less of an echochamber to deal with – in the Valley, it’s hard to avoid the 10 events each month you “should” attend for the networking and at every one, you’ll hear about the latest Stanford graduates backed by the big-name VC who’s going to crush your dreams.
  • No keeping up with the Jones’ – Seattle’s anti-public-displays-of-wealth can be of serious help after a trip to the land of Teslas, $150 tasting menus, jeans+tshirt ensembles that run $1,000 and million dollar homes.
  • However bad the “talent crunch” is up here, it’s way worse down there. Hiring’s hard everywhere, but in the Bay Area, you’d better be the hottest startup since Facebook or the CVs will be much fewer and farther between than in the Northwest
  • The spirit of camraderie and friendship in Seattle is different than the Bay. I’ve built a handful of authentic friendships in San Francisco and the Valley, but there’s a massive amount of “connections” formed for no other purpose than to “build your network.” Think of it this way – if your startup friend in Seattle is down on their luck, you’ll work hard to find them a new gig, help make intros, take ’em out to lunch or dinner or give ’em a desk at your office. In the Valley, there’s a palpable sense that if you’re not somebody, you’re nobody, and the only help you’ll get is when the other party thinks that favor will come back to them.

Want to create a startup that does more than a quick flip? Don’t join Tony.┬áDon’t get trapped in the bubble. Raise money in the Valley, but build it in Seattle. Your runway, your health, your employees and your network will all thank you. And so will I.

p.s. If you’re building something exciting in Seattle and I can be helpful, drop me a line. My schedule’s busy, but I meet every week with startup teams and founders and love to do so.