Where to Startup: Seattle or San Francisco?

There is an ongoing debate about whether startups need to be based in the bay area.  Chris Dixon, who is a major leader in the movement to create a New York Startup Scene, wrote an entry titled It’s not East Coast vs West Coast, it’s about making more places like the valley.  But just this week, Michael Arrington made fun of Redfin, referring to Seattle as the minor leagues.

So, after my trip to San Francisco last week, do I feel the need to move my startup from Seattle?  Absolutely not.

Seattle is a fantastic city to launch a startup.  Here are some reasons:

  1. A supportive startup scene. There are successful startups in Seattle; many of their leaders go out of their way to be available to new founders.
  2. Many networking events. Weekly events include Open Coffee with Andy Sack and Hops & Chops with TeachStreet.  The Northwest Entrepreneur Network hosts classes, events, and even presentations to angel investors.
  3. Local Funding Options Abound. Microsoft made and still makes countless millionaires.  Seattle is also home to Amazon, Starbucks and Boeing.  There are plenty of venture capitalists and angel investment groups.
  4. Plenty of Talent: One of the biggest arguments for the Bay Area is the quality of engineers. But high-quality engineers and smart business managers are shipped to Seattle every day.  Seattle has a different type of entrepreneur; we are less likely to launch right into a startup after school.  Instead, we take a job at a large company like Microsoft or Amazon until inspiration strikes.  We learn until we have an idea we can’t let go and/or can’t take the corporate life any more, and then we are super motivated to build something for ourselves.  Believe me: we are motivated.
  5. Easy Travel to Bay Area: It’s a 1.5 hour, $180 flight to the bay area.  How often do you really need to be there, anyways?  Most of your time in the seed stage will be building your product.  Think about it this way: less distractions.
  6. Quality of Life & Cost of Living: Seattle is just a great place to live.  While I enjoyed my trip to San Francisco, I couldn’t stand how long it took to get around on public transportation.  In Seattle you can get a large apartment, cheaper office space, and even have a car.
  7. Productivity: It’s dark in the winter.  Personally, this makes me very creative.
  8. No shortage of really great coffee. I’m just contemplating my second cup of the day.

Seattle is a great option for startups.  I would not proactively pursue a move to the bay area unless it would have a huge business impact as we grow.  For now, I’m going to enjoy my 2-bedroom house that costs $1350/month, the views of water and mountains, my car, and the great outdoors.


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