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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

May 2, 2007 at 3:22 PM

Top 10 reasons to invest in Seattle: A Silicon Valley perspective

Here’s the list that Larry Orr, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, shared at today’s WSA Investment Forum.

Orr is managing partner at Trinity Ventures, a firm that made three notable home runs in Seattle by investing in BlueNile, Wall Data and Starbucks.

More recently it funded Jobster, PayScale, Wetpaint, Centeris and a fifth company that hasn’t been announced yet.

The list:

10. 39 flights a day from the Bay Area.

9. No need to pack sunscreen.

8. It’s the coffee, stupid. (He presented a graph showing that human enlightenment rises as the density of espresso outlets increases; the line began with the “rest of the world” then rose to Bay Area, then Italy and finally Seattle).

7. People can afford to live here. “This is on a relative basis,”‘ he explained, showing a supporting graphic with two houses: One was a 1,090-square-foot ranch house in the Bay Area selling for $889,000; the other was a two-story, 4,100-square-foot Seattle area home selling for the same price.

6. You can see an NFL playoff game. (This was accompanied by a photo of the Seahawks playing the Carolina Panthers). Orr added that in the Bay Area, you can see a Major League Baseball playoff game, a National Hockey League playoff and an NBA playoff.

5. Underserved venture market. “If you were to look at the average size of venture firms, funds here tend to be more modest in size.” Why don’t more Bay Area VCs focus on the Seattle area? They’re lazy or too busy; they don’t know the community well; and some Seattle companies seeking funding don’t seem as “packaged for VC consumption.”

4. Quality companies with domain expertise. Orr called out software, wireless and Internet expertise, and the confluence around those three areas.

3. Technical talent. “There is a deep bench for technical talent here, provided they’re not all hired by Google. There are few left to be hired by other folks.”

Engineers are also less expensive, compared with the Bay Area: Base salary for a software engineer with five to nine years experience is $92,000 down there and $79,000 in the Seattle area. “I think you get somewhat more bang for your engineer buck here.”

2. Great local partners. “We get a lot of referrals from people here,”‘ Orr said, explaining that investors in Seattle seem to “actively welcome” syndication and in particular we feel very welcome as a Bay Area firm.

1. Entrepreneurial values. The Seattle area “hasn’t gotten so big you’ve threatened to lose sight of some of these values.”

Those values include substance over form, referring back to the “packaged for funding” notion under No. 5. Another value is “relationship orientation” — companies recognize it’s a small world. The third that he mentioned is capital efficiency — “I think firms here do a better job generally keeping these rounds to a moderate size.”

Orr said he toyed with adding an 11th reason to his list: “The halibut at Etta’s Seafood.”

Comments | More in | Topics: Startups


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