With the glut of tech entrepreneurship events and support programs in the Seattle area, consolidation was inevitable.
Such as today’s announcement that the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) is acquiring the assets of the smaller, struggling Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN).
WTIA - the 30-year-old trade group for the state’s tech industry – will continue to operate the two marquee NWEN events, Entrepreneur University and First Look Forum.
But the events may not be limited to Seattle anymore. WTIA is planning to rotate them around the state to places such as Bellingham, Spokane and Richland that have lots of entrepreneurial activity but relatively few tech programs.
That’s a particularly good move for the NWEN events that tended to draw entrepreneurs from a range of industries and locales beyond software-centric Seattle. Entrepreneur University has been held in the fall but may happen in the summer, perhaps in Bellingham. The next First Look Forum may be held in Seattle in spring, followed by one in another city.
It’s not much of a stretch for the WTIA to reach other markets because most every company nowadays is at some level a tech company.
“You start a winery, you’re probably going to be using computing systems do to the job well,” said Michael Schutzler, WTIA’s chief executive.
Why couldn’t NWEN keep going? Schutzler said the challenge for smaller non-profits is having “enough operational scalability” to run programs such as Entrepreneur University.
“As a standalone n0n-profit it was a sketchy proposition,” he said.
In contrast, the WTIA has the backing of 700 dues-paying corporate members. That helps support a slate of more than 50 events a year.
WTIA employs 12. The last two employees of NWEN, which began offering educational, networking and mentoring programs for entrepreneurs in 1985, were laid off as of Dec. 31, according to Rebecca Lovell, a former executive director of the group.